Passion and talent accelerate a young aerodynamicist career The young Sevillian engineer José María Lassaletta has been very active in the Euroavia students group and now is highlighting as Head of Aerodynamics at Formula Club-E at Oxford

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ARIANA SHER

Jose Maria Lassaletta’s professional experience at only 23 years old is quite impressive. Having just finishing his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Sevilla; he is two months away from obtaining his Masters at Oxford where he currently studies.

His work in the field has not gone unnoticed as he is in the final selection process for a Formula 1 job at Ferrari and was just nominated for the Autosports Williams Engineer of the Future Award since being recognised as one of the top 5 students from Oxford Brookes University in Motorsport Engineering. The nomination entering him in yet another selection process to join the Williams Formula 1 team for an accelerated career development program. Actually he is currently working in the analysis and optimisation of a Le Mans Prototype vehicle of the LMP1 Class.

José María Lassaletta talks in Airbus Innovation Summer Academy (Delft, Netherlands).

Childhood and Inspiration

Lassaletta was born and raised in the city of Sevilla. Now at the age of 23 he has visited several different countries, especially while President of Euroavia (The European Association of Aerospace Students) Sevilla at University of Sevilla. He now lives and works in Germany until September. Although many of his family members have backgrounds in science he is the only one in his field.

His inspiration and passion for pursuing a career and education in Aerodynamics actually came as a surprise to his mother. As a child Jose wanted to be an inventor and never mentioned his interest in planes or race cars. Though just like an inventor what drives Jose is the challenge. For him the challenge makes it interesting, asking why does a plane fly and knowing the answer is complex creates a sense of excitement. During the entire interview his eyes were lit up as if speaking of discovering one of the wonders of the world. It is rare to find people with such passion. Paired with his talent, it is no surprise how he has gained so much valuable experience and knowledge at such a young age. Though with all the long hours and road bumps, not once did he complain. It was a beautiful thing to listen to someone describe their past experience with so much gratitude.

Simplified baseline (not the actual car under study for confidentiality reasons) of a Le Mans Prototype racing car, prepared by José María Lassaletta (LME-Germany UG).

Working for LME Germany

Now he is Head of Aerodynamics at Formula Club-E at Oxford. Though for the summer he is currently working for LME Germany (Liebl Motorsport Engineering) which he will be presenting his as Master Thesis in September. On a typical day he works from 9am to 9:30pm, or even 11:30, running simulations with the software OpenFOAM aiding in the creation of a competitive LMP1 car. He mentions how the company does give him flexibility but he chooses to work such long hours in order to make the most of his time and soak up as much information as possible. “When you are keen on what you are doing you don’t really have set hours for work because you are dedicated to the task at hand until in it is finished”.

Why Racecars?

Lassaletta’s first passion was planes. Though once he joined the ARUS Andalucia Racing Team at University of Sevilla he was quickly sold on the adrenaline and possibilities of race cars. “I have always been keen on aerodynamics, so when I saw the project I didn’t think twice about joining”. His experience there is what pushed him to move forward in automotive aerodynamics. “The feeling I had when I saw the car running after months of long nights and long days. The feeling when you see your work is come to life and it’s no longer an image on a computer, it’s an experience that words are not able to describe. It’s incredible what we were able to do there, it took my heart“. Another motivator in switching focuses was how it is hard to create in aerospace because everything is so expensive. With cars it is much easier to get the proper tools, to build, and to make changes. Automotive aerodynamics allowed him to be more creative.

Formula Student

Jose Lassaletta has worked on several large projects over the years. He joined Euroavia in his 2rd year at University of Sevilla and became president the following year. As president he got the opportunity to speak at international events and congresses in Turkey, Spain, and Belgium. Here he was able to hone his networking and organizational skills as a leader by stimulating contacts with people in the aerospace industry as the main organizer of the Electoral Meeting of the Euroavia Congress 2015 which was one of the association’s largest international congresses since its conception in 1959.

His first major project from design to racing the track was his first competition with ARUS, the Andalucia racing team, according to Lassaletta this was his most rewarding experience since it was the first time he was able to see his work actualized. He was not only an aerodynamicist, but he was also a driver and a presenter. Since then he competed with them three more times, twice in Hockenheim and once in Montmeló.

Last year in Hockenheim Jose described as one of his most challenging moments. “During the Formula Student competition in Germany we were competing and the car broke down [the day before the competition].We had worked so hard on it; it was so frustrating. Everyone thought we were out of the competition, [but] the team decided to try to solve it and get the car running the next day. At the end the car broke down 3 times. The day after when it was on the race track people kept asking how we did it and were so surprised to see it ready to compete”. Though this was a frustrating moment it did not bring Jose down. nor did it make him a quitter. As mentioned before, what drives Lassaletta is the challenge. “I know it is going to be tough. This is quite common in motor sports. Something goes wrong and you have to solve it in a couple days or even hours. If you have to spend a couple of nights without sleeping, in the end it is worth it when you see the problem solved, and [seeing] the car running its the most incredible sensation”.

Airbus Airnovation Summer Academy

Last year Lassaletta also participated in Airbus Airnovation Summer Academy, a program for the best students in aerodynamic engineering in Europe. He was one of the two students from The University of Sevilla, the second one coincidentally being a good friend of his. Each team had one week to create a project that had some relation to drones and could innovate the world. They needed to present a business plan and a prototype. “We were working with people from all over the world it was an incredible experience.”

Jose Lassaletta has also: been a freelance engineer data translator, an aerodynamicist for Oxford Brookes Racing, main coordinator and speaker at the X National Seminar of Avionics and Navigation and EMEAC Sevilla 2015. These are just some examples of the gifted aerodynamics experience.

José M. Lassaletta is passionate about engineering to improve the aerodynamics of cars and airplanes.

Through all of his work he has proven to be a wonderful leader and team player. After each event or competition he spoke about, he never failed to give credit to his team and speak about how grateful he was to work with them. He loves working in a team and says he couldn’t imagine another way of working. At first glance Lassaletta multiple leadership positions make him come across as naturally comfortable in that role, though he explains it was not always this way. “I have been the leader and the follower and I feels just as comfortable in each position… I was not very confident in myself when I was young, and it is something that has come with time. I was not the guy who always wanted to be in charge. I am very confident right now”. This is most likely why he is able to lead and step down when necessary. He explains how his confidence developed when he started going to English camp in 2007. “I always had the same people around me my whole life and suddenly there were people who didn’t know me or have preconceptions about me. I was able to flourish after a couple of summers there”.

His first leadership role was with Eurovia. “With Eurovia I saw that someone needed to step forward, and I knew it would help me grow as a professional. When I had to give my first speech I was so nervous, but I did it and it was very good for me… In FCE,” Formula Club- E where he is currently Head of Aerodynamics, “there were so many things to improve, the team manager asked me if I want to become the Aerodynamics Team Leader and I said ok and started to distribute the work”. From these roles he has been able to gain valuable experience and personal development which carries him forward in his career.

José María Lassaletta, first to the left, in Oxford together with the other Formula Club-E companions that appear in the image.

Future Goals

Looking down the road José María Lassaletta does not have a strict plan laid out for the next five or ten years, but he does know where he wants to go. Joining a Formula 1 team is his main goal, but he would be happy working in LMP1 before then. Mainly he wants to be somewhere he can learn and be innovative. “For now I see myself growing as an engineer in top level teams. I am just in the childhood of my career. I have been learning and studying for several years and now I am starting to get into the industry”. Perhaps down the line he mentions creating his own company “I have thought about starting something myself as well many times, and possibly in Spain. I think that overall the way of living in Sevilla and the way you fit with the people is so wonderful. It is something that is probably for the future; it depends a lot on how my career develops”. Though for now Lassaletta knows he still has much more to learn, and he is excited to do so.

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