Breaking down the barriers to Formula 1

Posted on Posted in Understanding the motorsport industry

Many people want to know how to get a job in Formula 1. The fact that there isn’t a simple answer to that simple question is the main reason why I started this blog.

Over the next few posts I want to talk about why Formula 1 teams often appear to be a closed door, open only to a select group of experienced motorsport people. I’ll also show why that isn’t always the case and how a newcomer to the industry can get themselves noticed.

The importance of recruitment in F1

Formula 1 is a highly competitive sport. As many people will tell you, it’s an even more competitive business. If a team does not remain competitive or cannot attract enough commercial financing then it will not survive. There is very little sentiment in F1 and even race and championship winning teams have been lost, forgotten and replaced as the show carries on. Survival is key.

Recruitment is one of the most important, in fact probably THE most important aspect of running a competitive Formula 1 team. High technology cars and super trick gizmos normally grab the headlines in the media but a team’s greatest asset is its people : their knowledge, experience, talent and their motivation to strive to innovate and win. If you make the wrong decisions in recruitment your team will struggle to survive.

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine you run the design office at a Formula 1 team. You have a big new project coming up so you need to recruit a new designer. You place an advert in your team’s website and in the motorsport press to which you get a lot of replies. Lets assume that we can summarise each applicant as being similar to one of these 3 people :

  1. An experienced designer with several years experience with another F1 team
  2. An experienced designer working for a large road car manufacturer
  3. A school/college leaver with looking for a first job in racing

Who are you most likely to employ? Be honest.

Most people will go for number 1, the experienced F1 designer, because they are more likely to know what they are doing, require less training and perhaps they will bring with them knowledge and techniques that can help the team’s competitiveness. When you are under pressure to make the right decisions, to ensure your project succeeds, this is the lowest risk option. This type of applicant gives you confidence. As a newcomer to motorsport, this is unfortunately what you are up against.

It’s all about trust and confidence

In a previous post I spoke about how people in Formula 1 develop an F1 mindset. People work differently in Formula 1 and motorsport compared to other industries. An individual’s passion for racing and their competitive instinct mean that they will go over and above what a normal employee is expected to do. When you assemble a group of individuals who have this passion and this inner drive, it’s incredible what can be achieved and this is very clear when you look at a racing team. These are exactly the types of people that racing teams have and the type of people that racing teams are looking for. When an application for a vacancy comes in, they are looking for clues as to whether that person has a Formula 1 type commitment and mindset. If a car needs to be built and finished by the morning then they need someone who will stay until the job is done, and take pride in what they do even if its 2am.

The difficulty that they have is that there are no university degrees or college certificates that tell you about a person’s attitude. When you see the resume of a newcomer to the sport, how will you know what this person’s attitude is ? Can they be relied upon? Will they be self motivated to work ? If you apply to a Formula 1 team you need to demonstrate that you have gone above and beyond, that you have put in more time than others and that you have used your initiative to find opportunities and experiences. Even someone who has top grades might well be overlooked if their CV shows only that they went to school, listened to the teachers and did the exams that they were told to do. There are a lot of clever people out there so what makes them different and worth employing ?

Recruiting from within the industry still has its risks and costs (and you can use these to your advantage) but if someone has held down a job for another racing organisation then its pretty likely that they are a reasonably committed individual. Its not a very intelligent decision to make but its a low risk one and so in order to persuade someone to employ you instead of an experienced individual you need to appeal to that design office manager’s risk taking side.

When I spoke about volunteering in motorsport, this is exactly the reason that I talked about it as being so important. A newcomer who has gone that extra mile, marshalled at their local circuit, helped build a neighbour’s kit car or been lucky enough to be able to race themselves in karting will stand out and make that design office manager take notice. Maybe this person can really be an asset and is worth having for interview. You need to do everything you can to make yourself stand out.

In my next post I hope talk more about the things that you can do to improve your visibility and to help you break down those barriers. I also want to talk further about how useful it is to imagine the person who you are applying to work with and to understand what types of pressures and commitments they are be under. You have to sell yourself as being helpful or even indispensable to that individual so if you are able to empathise with them then it will be an enormous advantage.

Keep in touch

Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on my home page to be kept up to date by email. I am hoping to put together a short guidebook with as much advice as I can gather on the best ways to get into F1 and where to look for further information. I will email this guide out to all of my blog followers so please make sure you dont miss it by signing up to follow my blog.

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

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