Understanding the motorsport industry

First day of school

My Work in Motorsport blog is a collection of tips and advice for people who want to get a job in Formula 1 or other motorsports.  I have worked in motor racing for almost my whole career and want to help other people onto the ladder.

In this post I talk about what it takes to get a new F1 car to its car launch and the first pre season test.

The past few days have seen most of the Formula 1 teams launch their new cars for the upcoming season. It’s traditionally a time for unrestrained optimism and big talk from team bosses and star drivers about what success the new season is likely to bring.

Launch of BMW Sauber car
Launch of BMW Sauber car

Photo Credit: Red~Cyan via Compfight cc

The ‘off season’ is generally thought of as being a quiet time in Formula 1. Friends and family have often asked me what I do to fill my time during the winter when there are no races going on. They are often surprised when I tell them that this period of the year is by far and away the busiest of the year and I work longer hours during this time than I do during the middle of the summer season.

As I talked about in my post “The job role of the Formula 1 Designer”, modern Formula 1 teams are not really racing teams, at least it isn’t their core function. The design, manufacture and development of racing cars is their core business and going racing at weekends is merely the time when they get to play with the car that they’ve created. It takes a great deal more time and resource to design and make a car than it does to go and race it.

Each year we design a completely new car and must imagine, draw, and then make each component part of it ready to be assembled in the week or 2 prior to the first winter test.  Many major components of the car such as the chassis and gearbox may be available late in the previous year but it is very common for the final assembly of the car to be very last minute and a very stressful but exciting time for the team.  Seeing the car come together for the first time,  only previously being a design imagined on paper or in a 3D CAD system is a fantastic thing to be involved in.  The car literally comes to life with the engine, fuel tank and gearbox, we can breathe life into it as the first engine fire-up is carried out, normally to a great cheer from the workforce.  The suspension, wheels, tyres and finally the bodywork are added and the car takes the shape that will carry the team’s hopes for the coming season.

F1 car and its component parts
F1 car and its component parts

Photo Credit: unclesond via Compfight cc

As with everything in Formula 1, the deadlines for the new car are pushed to the limits and it is not uncommon for the final assembly to carry on well into the night on the day before launch.  A few years ago I did not get home until after my family had had their breakfast on launch day which was effectively a 24 hour shift.  Tough work but incredibly rewarding to see the car through to its roll out to the trucks.

The anticipation of seeing the new car run and finding out about how much faster it might be than last years is what every racer in the team enjoys and the competitive element of comparing your car with the machines that the other teams have produced is where the immediacy of Formula 1 is most noticeable.  Already we are pouring over hundreds of photographs of our rivals cars, trying to see what secret mechanisms or aerodynamic tweaks they may have invented over the winter and hatching plans to copy or build upon those ideas.  The season may only officially start in Melbourne in March but for us, it is already underway and the development race is truly on.

As testing continues and the build up to the new racing season continues I’ll try and post more about what the teams are doing behind the scenes and what each team member is working on. Feel free to comment or ask a specific question and I’ll answer it in my next post.

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