Sordo spent the past six seasons with McLaren's F1 team as head and director of vehicle performance and, prior to that, enjoyed 10 seasons with Red Bull.
Before that, Sordo had spells as a race engineer at Toro Rosso, at Jaguar and at Arrows.
Since last September, Sordo has overseen engineering at Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s new headquarters, and aims to bring over two decades of F1 experience to an IndyCar team filled with strong talents but which last won in 2020, despite regularly showing strong pace.
“What I've done so far is really create my vision,” he told Autosport. “Obviously, I spend a little bit of time with the guys and understanding what they do, how they do it, what tools they have. And then I put down my vision on how we can obviously improve the team.
“And that really covers all the aero of the car – how do we do windtunnel testing, how we go testing the car on track with the different sensors, how we use the tools and how we can improve the tools.
“I think a big push has to be on the simulation side, bringing the simulation to a level where people can rely a lot more on it. That will help you in a race weekend narrowing down changes on the car, and also starting the weekend in a better condition.
"It's really to put in the foundations on how we work at the shop, and how we're going to be working at the circuit.
“For me the big challenge is taking a team that, let's say it's midfield, which is a fantastic challenge. In Formula 1 the teams are massive – the smallest team probably has 450 people, so even if you are high in the organisation it's like steering a massive ship.
"Here, it's a smaller organisation and for the bad and for the good, I can have a more direct impact. Your work has a very direct, very clear impact on the results of the team. So that's really the challenge for me.
Stefano Sordo, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Photo by: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
"In Formula 1, your job gets filtered; you have so many layers of people. But there are other things that are very exciting in Formula 1.
"The technology is very high [and] the other challenge for me is to try to bring here the technology that I've learned in Formula 1. And we've already started to do that – to bring an IndyCar team to work similar to a Formula 1 team.
“You don't need a massive amount of money. You need systems, you need the instrumentation on the car, which we are going to have, you need to use the simulation. So there is some investment, but you don't need millions.
"The difference in Formula 1 is that each department has 50 people. But the simulation tools that we're using here are similar to what McLaren uses, for example.
"The difference is that in McLaren, you've got 10 people working on it, so you can develop quicker, but the framework… There is no reason at all why an IndyCar team can't work with the methodology that has been developed in F1.”
Asked what he was most looking forward to in the season ahead, Sordo singled out the Indy 500, but went on to explain that he will derive a great deal of satisfaction from working with the engineers in testing.
“I think working [at the race shop] is one thing, working at the circuit is another,” he remarked. “I always loved being at the track. I've been a racing engineer in F1 for seven seasons and then I stepped back and went to work in aerodynamics.
“So I was mainly following the weekend, because my job was to optimise the car at the race weekend, but I didn't have to go to the race.
"F1 developed that type of infrastructure, what we call Mission Control, that really made the integration between factory and track seamless. It’s incredible, and that is another technology that we can borrow from F1.
“It's fantastic what they built here [at the new RLL shop]. We need to use it cleverly, because the reality is that at the factory you're working much better than at the track."
Sordo stated that he was savouring the chance to deeply analyse car performance, given that it’s not unusual to find the top 18-20 cars in IndyCar covered by just one second.
“I think, as opposed to finding tenths of a second, you'll find half a tenth here, half a tenth there,” he acknowledged.
“It is a smaller margin, so the details make a lot more of a difference. I think that requires a bit of adaptation. Because there are a few things that in F1, you wouldn't bother about checking or understanding, while here every single little detail makes a difference. So that requires a bit of an adaptation to the things that you're looking at.”
Regarding ovals Sordo confessed they would be a challenge but he will tackle them undaunted because “physics is the same” and because he’s surrounded by strong personnel at RLL.
“We have lots of experienced engineers in the team that have been doing Indy 500 for 20, 25 years,” he said. “For me, it's taking that experience, translating it into, physically, what does it mean? And also using my experience.
“You know, whether a car goes around a flat track or an oval or the Monaco GP, the physics is the same. So it's about understanding where to bias, what you decide it's the most rewarding part of the car that can give you time benefit in it.”
Christian Lundgaard, who won 2022 IndyCar Rookie of the Year with RLL-Honda.
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images2023-01-31T14:52:08Z dg43tfdfdgfd