Working in Formula 1 is a dream for many people but it often appears to be a far away world open only to the privileged. The aim of this site is to dispel that myth and provide information and advice to make a career in F1 more accessible. In this post I want to talk about what is at the very heart of Formula 1 – the engines.
Are there really only 11 teams in F1?
If you ask the casual Formula 1 fan how many teams there are competing in F1 they will most likely say 11. To work in F1 therefore, you must need to have a job with one of these 11 teams right? Wrong.
F1 teams do not design and manufacture every component of their cars, they buy in a number of parts from outside suppliers and specialists. The most obvious and significant of these is the engines, as these are very different sorts of technology to chassis and aerodynamic components. The engines are produced and run by dedicated racing engine development companies. The existence of these companies provides a whole new set of opportunities to work in F1.
The heart of the F1 car
The noise, power and burning heat of any racing car is provided by its engine and so F1 engines provide the life blood to every car on the Grand Prix grid.
With the exception of Ferrari no team produces its own engine. The engine suppliers in 2013 are :
Supplies : Mercedes, McLaren & Force India
Based : Brixworth, England
Supplies : Ferrari, Sauber & Torro Rosso
Based : Maranello, Italy
Supplies : Red Bull, Lotus, Williams & Caterham
Based : Viry Chatillon, France
Supplies : Marussia
Based : Northampton, England
You might think that Mercedes produces its own engine in Germany but in truth it has simply bought and renamed the specialist engine firm Ilmor in Northamptonshire, England. This is a very different company to that which produces the Mercedes road cars and operates quite independently.
Despite marketing campaigns to the contrary, an F1 engine bears little or no resemblance to its road car cousin. An F1 engine is a unique purpose designed racing unit, smaller, lighter and more powerful than any equivalent capacity road car engine. Each engine company will design, manufacture and test its engine on its test beds and the complexity of this work means that they will typically have to employ as many people as the race teams themselves.
Job roles will vary from mechanical designers, test engineers & technicians, simulation and data analysts to machinists, engine builders and mechanics. The engine company will also supply trackside support crews to each of its teams, consisting of engine fitters, engine engineers and liaison personnel. These people are responsible for fitting each engine to the chassis, controlling fire-up, track running, reliability monitoring and fuel mapping. It is quite common for engine fitters to take part in pitstops too, making wing flap angle changes or wiping the driver’s visor. The people from the engine supplier are a critical and integral part of the team, even though they are not directly employed by it.
The importance of engines in 2014
As most people will be aware, there is a major rule change coming into effect in Formula 1 in 2014. The naturally aspirated 2.4litre V8 engine (which has essentially been the F1 engine format since 1989) will be phased out and replaced by a turbo charged V6 1.6 litre power unit. These new units are quite radical, encorporating both KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems) and also now WERS(waste energy recovery systems) coupled to a bigger and more powerful electric motor. The technical challenge is now to manage and extract as much energy as possible from a limited fuel supply and use it to race as quickly as possible.
The new technologies will require significant investments from the engine companies and have created a wave of new recruitment and opportunities for technical people from a range of backgrounds. This is great news for anyone wishing to work in F1!
A bright future
The new rules have also led to Honda returning to F1 with McLaren in 2015
Will supply : McLaren
Based : Tochigi, Japan
It is yet to be confirmed but it seems near certain that Honda will setup a new engine facility in England to build, sign-off and support the engines it supplies to McLaren. That too will create further jobs.
In the wake of the Honda announcement, rumours persist that both Toyota and an arm of the VAG ( Volkswagen Audi Group) may also be on the verge of F1 entry which would create a whole host of further jobs and leave that side of the sport in good health.
To find some further inspiration, perhaps you might like to read the story of motorsport specialist Ilmor Racing Engines based in Northamptonshire. This company designed, manufactured and developed one of the most potent and secretive racing engines in history and dominated the 1994 Indy 500 with Penske. Such was the dominance of that engine that it was banned after winning its one and only race, but the program launched a collaboration between Ilmor & Mercedes-Benz that would eventually lead to Mercedes winning the Formula 1 world championship.
Keep in touch
If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.
The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.
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Many thanks and don’t give up on your dreams – the chances are out there you just need to dig a little deeper.