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What is an F1 engineer’s salary ?

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We all know that F1 cars cost a lot of money and that many of the top F1 drivers live the playboy lifestyles of the rich and famous. How much does the average F1 engineer earn though ? Do many F1 designers have apartments in Monaco and supermodel girlfriends…?

Playboy Engineers

Engineering is not known for being a high paying career. Despite there being a real shortage of qualified engineers in many European countries, the industry average salary is relatively modest in comparison to many other professional sectors. Formula 1 is exceptional in many ways however and the competitiveness of the sport means that F1 engineer salaries are considerably higher than the industry norms. There is no doubt about it, you can earn a fortune in Formula 1.

So just how much can you earn as an F1 engineer ? Well, if your name happens to be Adrian Newey then you can command a multi-million dollar wage comparable or better than half the drivers on the grid. If you have another name then you could earn anywhere from Mr. Newey’s salary all the way back to the minimum wage… It’s all about your worth or value to the team.

Formula 1 is a capitalist driven business. The rewards for success are large but the penalties for failure are very harsh indeed. Salaries for engineers are very similar in that the very top engineers can earn telephone number wages but very junior employees may be paid quite poorly. There is no pay structure or prescribed pay scales in F1, every employee is paid whatever they are able to negotiate and in many cases there is a large difference in salary between 2 similar people doing a similar job. This puts many people off but I personally believe that this right for Formula 1 and is the way to get the best out of people. Some may disagree with that especially in times of austerity but as I said earlier, F1 is an exceptional business and exceptional people need to feel that they will be rewarded for going the extra mile.

Its important to understand that this isn’t about fairness or equality, nothing in F1 is about equality, but it is more about reflecting a person’s true worth to a team. If you are reading this blog you will probably know that getting started in an F1 career is very difficult because a great many people want to work in the sport and are willing to do so for little or no financial reward. Teams therefore have the luxury of being able to pick the best people and have little motivation to pay high salaries if they can easily replace them with another willing volunteer.

How much does a Junior engineer earn ?

In truth, starting salaries for graduates in F1 are actually pretty good and comparable with other engineering sectors. There is no pay structure in the majority of teams and as team policies vary it is difficult to put a single number to it but I would suggest that the average graduate engineer or one with only a year or so of work experience would earn somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 depending on the position and their qualifications.

As your experience increases however, so does your value to the team and to prevent you leaving and taking what you have learnt to a competitor you will probably get a payrise. Middle ranking engineers may earn significantly more than a junior engineer after just a few years of work. It is definately a case of working hard and being patient in the early years of your career even if you feel that initially you could earn more elsewhere. It’s a cliche but part of the reward of working in F1 is the involvement in the sport and enjoying what you do and so even if you don’t earn Newey money then there is still a lot to be taken from a career in F1. If you do it just for the money then it is unlikely that you will enjoy it or stick at it in the long term.

Salaries as you become more senior

As your career develops you should become increasingly valuable to your team. One of the great things about the pace of F1 is that you will be exposed to a vast amount more in your early years in comparison to ‘normal’ industries. You might work on brakes one week and then steering the next or develop front wings, floors and barge boards all in the same year. You might be the only person in the team with significant experience of some particular aspect of the car and so if you leave, the team stands to lose that knowledge and expertise. Suddenly, your negotiating position is a lot better…

Many senior engineers are on multi-year contracts with their teams in order to ensure that they do not leave and take valuable information with them. Salary ranges for these types of people range are several times those of the junior engineers particularly those with a unique expertise or experience. With such reward however you will need to take on increased responsibility and handle the pressure of expectation. Senior engineers are typically responsible for complex areas of the car such as chassis structure, suspension design or aerodynamic performance of the front or rear wing assemblies. Each F1 team may have around 20 senior engineers, depending on the size of the company, so it is a competitive level to be at.

Managerial and Chief Engineer positions

Beyond the realm of senior engineer, many people move towards managerial roles such as a department head or potentially chief designer or chief aerodynamicist. At this point there is certainly no form guide for salaries but six-figure retainers are not uncommon in very demanding roles. To reach this level you need to be a very capable individual who is able to stay on top of a number of different projects and issues under pressure. This is the big time of Formula 1 and many engineers in upper reaches of this catergory are now household names. The role of technical director is probably still the pinnacle of F1 engineering, taking overall responsibility for aerodynamics, track performance and car design. Salaries are seldom revealed but during Williams F1’s flotation on the stock market, the IPO prospectus showed that the then technical director Sam Michael’s income was £469,000 per annum. This is still likely to be short of salary of the technical directors of the bigger teams such as McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes but clearly it is still a substantial sum.

If you reach those heights in your career then you are probably talented and confident enough not to be reading this blog ! Good luck and think about the start I gave you! Remember that none of this is a promise or a guarantee. As with everything in motorsport, reward goes to those that work hard and commit to their goals. Working in F1 is not an easy path to riches and is not for people who expect a 9 to 5 lifestyle.

You can find out more about the various job roles in a typical Formula 1 team and how much you might earn in those role by going to the Job Roles section.

If you want to know more about money in F1 and the business that drives it, I would recommend reading Performance at the Limit: Business Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing by Mark Jenkins. It gives you some great insight into the money and business that drives decision making within the teams.

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, check out my FAQ’s or read through some of my other recent posts. 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 hope to shortly post a series of job role descriptions, detailing what the day to day duties of a designer, aerodynamicist, data engineer and many other people who make up an F1 team really are.

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael April 5, 2013, 12:42 am

    Great read and absolutely fantastic blog! Can you share the same information about mechanics? I’m more hands on guy, loving to work on cars.
    What would be their start and on what position do they normally start in F1?

    • workinmotorsport April 5, 2013, 8:49 pm

      Hi Michael

      Hoping to cover mechanics, technicians etc soon – just need to find the time !

      Might start as apprentices, or come up from lower formula teams so starting salaries vary. If they travel with the race team they get generous allowances for being away from home so most would be on £40k+ and more for number 1 mechanics and chief mechanics. Its a good salary.

  • pitt0 April 5, 2013, 4:14 am

    Great post …Those figures are quite motivating!!!

    How do I send you a private message?

  • Simone Schwarz April 5, 2013, 12:45 pm

    What about mechanics and truckies? Compared to other categories, they do seem to have a lot more races and work to do. Do you always have the same mechanics on all the races? I can imagine they must be super tired after back to back races with all nighters repairing crash damage!

    • workinmotorsport April 5, 2013, 8:54 pm

      Hi Simone, mechanics & truckies work pretty hard and they do all of the races generally. The do get some time off during the season and in between races. They’ll also get an extended period off over the winter.

      Think about NASCAR mechanics as they do almost 40 races a year. They make F1 look easy…

  • Eamon Gavin April 15, 2013, 8:50 pm

    I’m new to this website and may i say the insight provided is exceptional, as a current mechanical engineering student at d.i.t and huge f1 fan this really gives me an idea of what to expect from the industry when i try and break in! thanks for the work that you’ve clearly put into this website. keep it up!

  • Zulfeqar May 21, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Brilliant read, just wondering, if i get a degree in Mechanical engineering would it help if i had a year or two of work experience from a company such as Rolls Royce. And does it matter what university you go to?

    • workinmotorsport May 27, 2013, 11:17 pm

      Hi

      Working at a larger firm such as Rolls Royce would be ok for a year or two but no more I would say. The pace of life at a large firm is very different to motorsport and its not very relevant experience. It is not looked upon very favourably compared to someone who has a motorsport background.

  • a4dym May 25, 2013, 8:00 pm

    A good book to read A Mechanics Tale book about schmachers old mechanic

  • Yashas Mohan June 4, 2013, 10:50 am

    Hey nice blog,
    what course am i supposed to take in engeneering if i have to end up in the f1 feild??

  • Nick June 7, 2013, 6:02 pm

    First of all, great blog for sharing that kind of info.

    Hello,

    I’m also a big fan of F1 and since long time ago I’ve been focused on perspective career in F1.
    Currently I’m a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering (Brunel University). I’m working on developing a sensing technology for analysing human motion. My work involves a lot of electrical and electronic engineering, automation, signal processing, data collection and analysing, mathematical modeling of forces, working with forces acting on the human body, biomechanics, etc. I am also specialized in 3D printering as we have this system in the institute where I work. As far as I know 3D printering is an important tool in motorsport for modeling parts of the cars (e.g for testing them in the wind tunnels). Currently trying to learn SolidWorks in details for modeling complicated parts, etc.

    At the moment I’m 26 years old and have another year of PhD but time’s flying. I’m wondering what should I focus on (apart from the PhD) now in order to improve my skills and knowledges for perspective work in F1. Also as I don’t have much professional industrial experience I’m wondering weather this is absolutely compulsory for F1.

    Would appreciate any comments and suggestions.

    Best wishes,
    Nick

    • workinmotorsport June 8, 2013, 7:08 pm

      Hi Nick

      Thanks for the great comments

      Your PhD sounds very varied – both theoretical and practical but I wouldn’t try to spread yourself too thinly. Being an electrical engineer or good at data analysis is very different to being a mechanical designer and being involved in manufacturing of parts. You could end up being average at lots of differnet things. Do you know exactly what you want to do in F1 ? It sounds to me like to need to focus on a particular job. Its a big mistake that lots of people make just to say “I want to work in F1″ but at what ? Have a read of my top tips to see why.

      http://jobinf1.com/2013/03/04/5-top-tips-for-getting-a-job-in-formula-1/

  • Nick June 10, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Thank you very much for the comments!

    I think you are absolutely right. I think my confusion is based on the lack of clear understanding the work involved behind the F1 scenes. I would like to work on the overall improvement the performance of the car (something which is more flexible and dynamic).. maybe my scope is too wide I understand. What I’m trying to identify is where my knowledge and skills will suit best the needs of F1. As I mentioned I have a big willingness to specialize in a particular area for doing this job. As you suggest in “the top 5 tips” a good understanding of motor sport would help us clarify our vision about working in F1. This is what I think I should start with.. :)

    Regards,
    Nick

  • Jamie December 15, 2013, 8:03 am

    Hi can you tell me about race and data engineers because my 15 year old son wants to be one?

    • work_in_f1 December 17, 2013, 1:13 pm

      Hi Jamie

      I have written a few posts about race and data engineers, see below

      http://jobinf1.com/2013/03/12/class-of-2013-who-are-the-f1-race-engineers/

      These days your son will almost certainly need a degree to be a race/data engineer. Normally this would be in mechanical or aeronautical engineering. At school he should study maths & sciences with Maths & Physics at A-Level.

      As you probably are aware, those roles are predominantly trackside roles so he would travel a lot. Traditionally race engineers would have gained their experience by ‘running’ cars in Formula Ford, F3 and other lower categories before moving up the ladder to F1. This is less common now and typically new race engineers are coming from F1 team vehicle dynamicists groups. The use of ‘mission control’ in an F1 team where several engineers analyse data back at the factory whilst the car is running allows teams to educate and give their junior employees experience of track running before they get a job as a data engineer.

      Hope that helps?