It is perhaps unwise to describe anything as complex as a human being in a single word but were one forced to describe Mike Krack in such a way, that word would be 'calm'.
Mike inhabits temperament's Goldilocks zone: a slight grin when the team does well; a small frown when things go wrong – and possibly a few words said under his breath. There are no wild celebrations in his pitwall seat when the team bags a podium; no histrionics when the day goes against us.
It's not, Mike insists, because he isn't feeling it – he's a proper dyed-in-the-wool racer – but rather that he thinks it's important to maintain a sense of proportion.
Before signing off for the summer break, Mike opens up about dealing with the weight of expectation after our strong start to the season, the progress the team has made on and off the track, Lance's comeback from injury, Fernando's total focus, and more.
Raw, unfiltered and as honest as ever. In the latest instalment of our UNDERCUT interview series, which asks the questions you want answered, Mike provides a frank assessment of the team's season so far and where the team stands on its journey.
The team sits third in the Constructors' Championship with six podiums to its name – but the last few Grands Prix have been challenging. Where are we right now and how should fans be feeling?
It's true that the more recent races have been more difficult, some of our competitors have taken bigger steps forward on track than us, and this underlines how important it is to enjoy the highs because they don't come automatically.
Nothing is given in Formula One, the competition is fierce, and this makes all that we have achieved so far this season even more impressive – it really emphasises how well the team has done.
Naturally, expectations have increased based on what we achieved, but I think it's important to temper them with the reality that we are still very much growing and developing as a team. We're still in a building phase – quite literally in many respects: just look at our new Technology Campus where only phase one is complete.
We've made great progress, but we've still got a long way to go. At the beginning of our journey, we said it would take several years to realise our ambitions – that doesn't change because of the achievements of the team so far this year.
Is the heightened expectation a help or a hindrance?
In football, you speak about the fans being like a 12th player on the pitch and I think it's similar for us: when people are there encouraging us, wearing the shirt, cheering us on, there's a subconscious boost.
People might think that in all that noise and drama, support from the grandstands or on social media doesn't matter but it does. It really does. It matters. We appreciate it and it helps us – and we never take it for granted.
There's going to be a lot of orange next time out in the Netherlands and a lot of red at the race in Italy after that – but hopefully we can spot the green in amongst it! We certainly did at the Spanish, Canadian and British Grands Prix – there was so much green and so much energy from our fans. It was incredible to see, and I want to see even more.
These cars are so complex that any change will impact other areas of the car – there are side effects. Very few changes you make to the car work in isolation.
Why have we dropped back from our strong start to the season?
We've lost small amounts compared to our competitors and as an engineer, that makes you disappointed, but it's the qualifying and finishing positions that give the perception that we've dropped back massively when in reality we haven't. Our competitors have just improved more than us and jumped into that gap between us and Red Bull.
We're constantly pushing the development, and these cars are so complex that any change will impact other areas of the car – there are side effects. Very few changes you make to the car work in isolation. We made a change earlier in the season and didn't anticipate it having some of the side effects that it did. It wasn't until after several races at different types of circuits that we realised how it was influencing the car.
The upgrades we have put on the car have worked, and the numbers are where they should be – but I think the results over the last few races are representative of where we are.
Events like Monaco and Canada were outliers – they masked the weaknesses – and because we did well in those events, expectations ramped up only for the disappointment to be bigger at Barcelona, Austria, Silverstone and Budapest when we couldn't achieve such top results.
The layout of the Hungaroring was expected to suit our car. How disappointed were you with that result?
Budapest was a reality check. We thought that we would be strong there and we weren't, but it made us take a zoomed-out view and look not at Hungary in isolation but see Budapest and how it relates to Silverstone, how it relates to Barcelona and so on. It's all important learning.
From the start of the season, I've been saying that these events are very dynamic, and with an upgrade it takes a couple of races to understand what the AMR23 is doing. After lots of analysis in the aftermath of Budapest we understand the changes we need to make.
We've improved less than the others so now it's up to us to improve more than them.
How can you be confident the upgrades will allow us to take a step forward?
Formula One is incredibly complicated. I don't want to over-promise; there could be some hidden things around the corner that we have not yet identified, but the early indications from our analysis are that we now understand more about our weaknesses and how to improve. I expect the second half of the season to see more close racing with the advantage swinging back and forth again.
If we have a bad day – and everyone does – it's important that I don't drag myself off the pitwall like a beaten dog.
How do you respond to a disappointing result or when things don't go to plan?
It's all about setting the right example. In good times you have to stand back, but in less good times you have to step to the front. Not to put people under pressure but to express the positive attitude and the competitive spirit – and to be there for them.
If we have a bad day – and everyone does – it's important that I don't drag myself off the pitwall like a beaten dog. You have to walk back to the garage and show everyone that we will fight back next time out.
What are your highlights from the first half of the season?
It's not necessarily the podiums. For me, Lance's comeback from injury and Fernando's special approach in Monaco are what stand out.
Lance showed what a fighter he is when he jumped back in the car with broken wrists and a broken toe. The heart it took to do that lifted everyone and got us going in a really positive frame of mind. Lance hasn't had a lot of luck this year: aside from his broken bones, a few things have gone against him that really weren't his fault. The championship table tells a story, but inside the team we know what really happens.
And with Fernando in Monaco, it wasn't the performance on track, it was the commitment, the desire, the total focus. He knew he had a shot and the approach, the dedication. I've never seen anything like it.
I'm not going to make a prediction about Fernando's 33rd victory, but we are incredibly determined to do everything we can to make it happen.
Has Fernando lived up to your expectations? When the team signed him, you called him a 'racing machine'.
He's exceeded my expectations – and I had very high expectations. It's not what he does on track – that I expected – but it's the way he has integrated into the team. He's been exactly what we needed him to be: constructive when you have to be constructive; challenging when you have to be challenging. Even critical when being critical is what will move us forward. Understanding that balance is more difficult than people perhaps credit.
The drivers jump out of the car, they're full of adrenaline and a microphone is shoved in their face. They talk to the media; they do their debriefs and it's difficult to always hit the right notes in those circumstances. In fact, saying the right thing is the exception rather than the norm. It's a tough thing to do. That's why I do not like to give interviews straight after a qualifying session or the race. I want to walk away for a bit and gather my thoughts. I don't envy the drivers.
Fernando is fantastic at that stuff. When he sends analysis, it's always positive, never a bad word: it's what he's discovered, what he feels, what worked well, what he'd like to try next. I'm not going to make a prediction about his 33rd victory, but we are incredibly determined to do everything we can to make it happen.
Away from the track, it's been a season of change for the team, with the first part of the new AMR Technology Campus opening. When will the advantages of that start to make themselves felt?
We're already gaining from it. We saw it when we were flat-out between the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix to rework parts and make changes to the car ahead of Spa. You could physically see it helping us work faster and be more efficient. Just looking out at the design office, there were people talking to each other, discussing the issues, looking at each other's monitors. These people would previously have been in different offices, and different buildings.
It's not a digital process: you can't chart progress from today to tomorrow, but you can see it happening. Obviously, the new campus isn't finished, we don't have things like the wind tunnel and new simulator yet, but when all this comes on stream, it's really going to help us take another step forward. We've made great strides forward, but we're still relatively early on in our journey and there's much more to come.
I've been telling everyone in the team that this is a time they'll remember for the rest of their lives because this is the start of something special.
Are you feeling a sense that the team is changing?
Things are happening. Yes, we've taken a step forward on the track this year, and yes, we've begun moving into our new campus but there's a lot going on beyond that.
We've announced our works power unit deal with Honda for 2026 which is massive for the future and means we will be able to exploit every technical area of the car. We've joined forces with nine new partners this season, which is a lot! We're making a mark off the track as well as on it: progressing our environmental, social and corporate governance agenda with initiatives designed to ensure we have a positive impact in the places where we work and race.
Our team is growing with a lot of talented people starting, and more to come, which is strengthening the excellent core we already have. And our fan base is growing too: all the metrics show a growing fan base; there's more and more green at the circuits; the city events we've been doing have been rammed; our social media presence has exploded, and all these things feed off each other.
The team is in a very interesting period right now, it's not something anyone is going to experience very often in their career, and it's a privilege to be a part of it. There is so much happening and perhaps we don't recognise it enough. I've been telling everyone in the team that this is a time they'll remember for the rest of their lives because this is the start of something special. I am happy to be part of it and look forward to what is coming next.
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