From Pit Wall to Pundit: The Story of Bernadette Collins

Bernie Collins has made the move to our TV screens this year after her tenure as a strategist for McLaren and Aston Martin. In her new role, Collins demonstrates how her knowledge and experience in F1 make her a valuable addition to the Sky Sports presenting roster, whilst setting an example to women and girls.

Written by Tiegan Batchelor

July 1, 2023

Bernadette “Bernie” Collins made her television debut presenting at the Saudi Arabian GP on Sunday 19th March 2023, but she is no stranger to F1. For over a decade, Collins has had a stellar career, working for both McLaren and Aston Martin. 

Collins reporting for Sky Sports (Photo via @SkySportsF1 on Twitter)

2009 marked the start of Collins’ journey in Formula 1, participating in McLaren Racing’s graduate programme. The year-long program offered her the opportunity to gain experience in various departments of the team, including systems engineering, shop floor work, vehicle dynamics, and design.

 

Following the conclusion of the graduate programme at McLaren, Collins went on to join the racing team full-time in their design department, working on the design for the gearbox and later, suspension. To enhance her knowledge, she volunteered to join McLaren Racing at GT racing meets.

 

In 2015, she made the move to Force India Formula One Team (now Aston Martin), assisting the team to a 4th place in the Constructors’ Championship, just a year later. Having risen through the ranks at Aston Martin, Collins was promoted to Head of Strategy in 2020. The following year, the team assisted Sebastian Vettel in securing a P2 podium spot at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Collins while at Aston Martin (photo via @bernie_collins1 on Twitter)

While the promotion to strategist was welcomed, Collins found the transition into this role difficult. In 2018, she told Forbes: “In design, everything is very exact – things are drawn to a fraction of a millimetre. But in Strategy, there has to be a larger room for error that you accept […]. During a race, you don’t have all of the information, so you have to be approximate”.

 

In 2021, Collins decided that it was time for a reset. By the summer break of the 2022 season, she left Aston Martin. Her new role in F1 sees her taking on the role of commentator with Sky Sports, providing expert analysis throughout the season. 

 

Like Claire Williams, Bernie Collins has focused on fostering a more diverse space in F1. In an article written by Females in Motorsport, Bernie underlines the importance of representing the jobs available in motorsport, as well as being able to show how to do her job well to anyone who may be looking up to her. On the other hand, she is aware of how important representation is for a sport which is saturated by men. At the ground level, Collins is passionate about offering a variety of opportunities to girls from a young age.

Collins on the Aston Martin Pit Wall in her former role as a Strategist

Now, she believes it is essential to demonstrate to the younger generation how their school subjects can be applied to the real world. Collins continues: “It’s about getting involved and showing what it means in real life. Those things are vital to what we do”.

 

Overall, Bernie Collins promotes an ethos that centres on the importance of STEM roles in F1 and how they affect the sport. She has also mentioned that while her time in F1 was relatively short, she has observed a significant rise in the number of women getting involved with F1: “I might often be the only female engineer travelling to the races with our team, but about half the strategists in racing are now female, so that’s good!”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Racing has always been an interest to Tiegan, but more seriously over the last 3 years. She is solely interested in F1 and her favourite teams include Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. She also has a First Class Degree in International Business Management!

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