BWT Alpine F1 Team is comprised of many departments staffed by talented people with specialist skills, all of whom contribute to the overall performance of the team.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked is the office that is responsible for recruiting and looking after the needs of the 900-plus team members at the Enstone factory.
Sophie Baker, who has been at the team since the Lotus days, works in the Human Resources department at Enstone as the HR Business Partner – Wellbeing.
Ironically for someone now heavily involved in encouraging women to work in F1, Sophie initially didn’t know that she was destined for a career in motorsport.
“I did a college course in health and healthcare and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “I joined in 2014 as an Office Admin Apprentice. The role was advertised through a different company. I went for it, when I received more information & the address, I was surprised to see that it was actually here!
"I grew up in Enstone. I remember coming to visit Whiteways with a young farmer group for a tour back when the team was branded as Renault, so was aware that there was a team based here. I've always had a bit of an interest in F1, and my family watched it on TV but never expected to be working within the industry.
“I started as an Office Administrator and was then offered a role as an HR Administrator a year later. My next promotion was in 2019 as HR Projects Officer. I've recently been promoted to HR Business Partner, with a focus on wellbeing.”
When Sophie started in HR at Enstone it was a small department of just three people but Renault’s takeover at the end of 2015 led to an expansion in staffing levels that is still ongoing as the team continues to grow.
The HR department now consists of eleven people, with three focussing on talent and recruitment, and the other eight – including Sophie – involved more in the needs of current staff members, while she also has a remit to look after potential long-term recruits.
"My job is quite widespread,” she says. “I do the general HR day-to-day stuff, but my main focus at the moment is looking after our work experience programme. Last year we had 60 students, and we've got a few more this year!!
“I’m involved from the start of advertising to organising which department and role each student will work in to best help them in their future careers.
“I also spend a great deal of my time focussing on employee wellbeing, we've set up a new programme just to help everyone working here and aim to make it a better place for them to work, ensuring that they feel part of a team.”
Wellbeing is becoming increasingly important with every company having a responsibility to look after its employees. The world of F1 can be particularly stressful because of the commitment involved and the constant pressure to ensure that the cars are as competitive as possible.
“It's very hard work,” says Sophie. “Everyone who works here puts in a lot of hours. What you find here is that everyone's so committed to it. And they do it because they enjoy it and want to win. There are not many people that I think would work the hours our employees do!
“We support different wellbeing events throughout the year, focused on things like mental health, so we hold seminars, things like that.
“We have 19 mental health first aiders on-site, and I'm one of them. We're there if anyone needs to have someone to talk to, to guide them in the right direction, make sure they have the support. We all go through training to make sure we know the things to look at, and how best to advise.”
It's also important to ensure that staff members’ families feel that they are involved with the team, and Sophie arranges an annual event that is a highlight of the year.
“We have an open day,” she says. “We invite people to bring in their families and friends, and they can come and have a look around at what their relative does. We have lots of activities throughout the day.
“We have factory tours, we have department displays, we have activities going on with the children. People spend so much time here, it's nice for them to be able to show their families what we do.
“We're also starting to do more work with internal communications to raise awareness, and advertise things like people's anniversaries, how long they've been here, making everyone aware of what's going on.”
Last year the team launched the Rac(H)er programme, aimed at raising the percentage of female employees from 12% to 30% within five years. Sophie is closely involved in the project.
“We do some school events under the Rac(H)er umbrella,” she says. “In June for International Women in Engineering Day we had 29 female students from local secondary schools and a primary school come in and speak to some engineers and have a tour and do some tasks, and we had another one for International Women’s Day. I do the logistics side of the events, so I get in touch with the schools and arrange everything.
“We're always looking to get more women into F1 and into engineering, but it's also important to let people know that there's a job here in anything that you're interested in.
“If someone's interested in travel, we have a travel office, if someone's interested in marketing, there's the Marketing department, so they don't have to be an engineer. If you're interested in anything, there is probably a job here for you.
“I'm also involved in a girls’ mentoring scheme that we launched in April this year, and that is good to be a part of. They go through an application programme, they're all assigned to a mentor here, and they have regular check-ins, and the mentor is there to give them advice.”
Sophie has seen the team expand greatly over her years at Enstone with currently over 900 employees and rising as the team continues to build for the future.
“There was a time when you used to know everyone, now it's a bit harder,” she says. “But you do get to know a lot of faces, so even if you don't know names, you recognise them.
“I think because I send a lot of communications out and I do a lot of stuff people tend to know me even if I don't know them, so they'll come in and say, ‘I'm looking for Sophie!’”