Am I a Formula 1 person?
All kinds of people work in Formula 1. Some have degrees and PhD’s, others can’t even add up or spell. It takes all sorts but one thing you’ll see in almost every Formula 1 employee is a racer’s mindset.
Trying to define the racer’s mindset is difficult but it is fundamental to any discussion on working in F1. What sets Formula 1 and motorsport apart from ‘normal’ industries is not the technology, or the money, or the glitz and glamour. What sets motor racing apart is the work ethic and the competitive motivation that runs through its employees. To get a job in F1 you need to understand what this mindset is and be able to convince your potential employer that you have the work ethic they need.
A race against time
Imagine the scene, it is Saturday morning and you are 40mins into FP3 (the final free practice session before qualifying begins). The live TV feed on the monitors cuts abruptly to show a cloud of dust and bits of carbon fibre bodywork scattered through a gravel trap. Even before the dust clears the team manager comes on the radio to confirm that your lead driver has crashed heavily into a tyre wall and the car looks to be badly damaged. Qualifying is less than 2 hours away and missing Q1 means that you’ll start at the back of the grid(or not at all), a disaster for the championship. The car has got to be repaired and back out no matter what. Your call to action.
It’s a familiar story in racing and to the casual TV viewer the repaired car normally appears clean and polished for qualifying as if nothing had happened. Easy eh? Wrong, it’s far from easy, and it’s situations such as this when the Formula 1 mindset is most evident. What goes on inside those pit garages during times like these is truly, truly impressive teamwork.
Earning your money
The mechanics were probably up late last night building the very same car after numerous last minute setup and aero changes. They’ve been at the circuit since 7am and had too much to do to stop for breakfast. Their driver’s latest mistake has just written off any chance of a lunch break and they are faced with a massive task to get that car rebuilt and turned around reliably for qualifying. They can’t afford to leave a nut untorqued or an electrical connector loose just because they are under pressure. You cannot complain at this point as the job just needs doing. In any normal industry people would complain about being over worked and underpaid. In F1 the only thing on your mind should be the disaster that not making qualifying would mean for your championship chances. Even if your team only ever expected to qualify at the back of the grid, you’ve still got to want to get the car back out and everyone is relying on you to make the difference.
This is why it is so difficult to break into motorsport
If you are a team owner or team manager you need people of this mindset and calibre in your racing team. When the pressure is on, either at the racetrack or at the factory, nobody cares how many PhD’s or degrees you have as the people who make the difference are the people who are self motivated and determined to get the job done properly. F1 teams generally employ people who have already worked within the industry because they know that they will understand the pressures that the job entails and if they have survived for any period of time in another racing environment then they probably have what it takes to do the job. Taking on a newcomer has massive risks even if they are well qualified from school or college. You might be smart but how do I know that you won’t pack up your things and go home at 5pm when the car is still only half built? To be successful in racing you need to be someone that others can rely on and to get a reputation for that. This is why getting that first job in racing is so difficult but so critical. To break through this barrier you need to convince your potential employer that you have a Formula 1 type mindset but there are no universities which offer courses in this !
How can I prove myself ?
I’m probably not the only person who has told you this but the number one way of proving to a Formula 1 team that you are the right calibre of person is to get involved in racing. It doesn’t really matter what level that racing is, be it karting or GP2 even, but the experience and learning you get from actually being at a racetrack and feeling the pressure of time and results is something that no college book or school lecture can teach you. Just taking that extra step away from your standard education at school or college will set you apart from the vast majority of the people who you’ll be competing with to get a job in F1. I can’t emphasise this point enough. I found that being at a real racetrack and experiencing the adrenaline of the competition only increased my determination to reach my goals and work in F1. You will learn so much about the what motorsport is really like, something that watching on television or reading online can never teach you.
How can I get involved?
This subject is big enough and important enough that I need to split it in two. My next post will outline the best and most accessible ways of getting involved in racing before you try to get a job in F1.
Feel free to comment on what I’ve talked about here either on this blog or via my Facebook page.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of F1 testing.