The long F1 winter

Posted on Posted in Understanding the motorsport industry

It’s been a long time since I posted on this site. Too long really. I think it was June when I wrote my last post and so many weeks and many F1 races have passed by in the meantime. What have I been doing you might ask? Well don’t you know it’s been the Formula 1 winter !!?

Time for a holiday ?

Many people ask me what everyone in Formula 1 does in the winter “off-season” when there are no races. Do we go skiing, or go on exotic long haul holidays and lie on the beach to recuperate and generally laze around ?

No. We don’t. Definitely, definitely not.

Winter is the busiest time in a Formula 1 team BY FAR. Hard to understand at first perhaps but have a think about where those lovely shiny new cars that get rolled out at the beginning of each new season come from. Those aren’t last year’s cars with just a good spring clean and a new paint job. Those are brand new, bespoke and state of the art racing cars that have been designed & developed by a huge team of people over many many months of long days and late nights at the factory. Every last detail, every nut, bolt, wing, sensor, hydraulic pipe, fuel tank, insulation, cooling duct, structural element, crash zone and gear has been drawn, manufactured and assembled over the winter and involves an incredible amount of effort which is largely unseen by the casual F1 fan.

Winter this year starts before summer

A decade or 2 ago, the “car build” would start late in the season and carry on over the winter until the start of pre-season testing in January or February. Quite often the new car would not be ready until after the first few races of the new season had passed.

In modern F1 each team starts the season with its new car and the start of the car’s design has been getting earlier and earlier in the preceding year as the cars become more complex and have a greater number of parts and systems.

This year has been the busiest for quite sometime as we are preparing for a major rule change in 2014 with the introduction of a new generation of V6 turbo engines and some important aerodynamic changes.

For most teams, the “winter” this year started in May or June with smaller sub groups having been working on the 2014 car even before the 2013 car turned a wheel. It’s an enormous amount of work.

I’m one of that team. I’ve been burying my head in concepts, ideas, experiments and wholesale changes of direction as the car gradually takes shape. No time for blogs or career advice.

The new car is actually well on its way now. We know what the engine looks like, how much cooling it requires and where everything will go. We ‘think’ we know what tyres we’ll be running and so the suspension is laid out and we are designing the detail components that hold everything together. The chassis is underway and it won’t be too long until the first one is ready to be prepared for the build to start and the car moves from concept to reality. At some point around Christmas or just after New Year we will fit the starter and breathe life into the new machine for the first time – the “fire-up”.

I actually love this time of year. Few industries and jobs can beat the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you hear the engine of a new Formula 1 car fire-up and roll out if the garage for the first time. To see the result of all that hard work and graft come to life and scream its way down the pit straight is what life is all about. It might have been a long hard winter but you are naturally filled with excitement and optimism for the coming season and what your new car might achieve. YOUR new car, because you’ve had a huge input into it and your ideas and designs are what is helping it to power it’s way around those first few exploratory laps.

The new season is already underway

The 2013 season still has several races still to run but inside the teams the focus is already almost entirely on the first race of 2014. The public won’t get to see any racing until March but the competition to be the best is well underway and I’ve been putting in my pound of flesh and hard graft these past few weeks to make sure we are competitive.

Time will tell but when the cars line up on the grid in Melbourne you might see some very tired looking faces amongst the paddock as this will have been one of the longest and hardest winters in quite some time…

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.

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5 thoughts on “The long F1 winter

  1. Thank you, great post! I missed reading the blog.
    I just have one question. I’m currently studying energy engineering and I’m going to start focusing towards a career in Motorsport (eventually F1). This year I’ll be sending applications to F1 teams to apply to some of their industrial placements.
    My biggest concern right now is that I’m not sure if I should finish my 3rd year in Energy engineering and then, after carrying out an industrial placement, finish the E.Eng masters or if I should join a Aerodynamics/Aeronautical masters course after the placement to build up more knowledge related with the Motorsport industry.

    I would like to become either a race engineer or a design engineer for a team one day.

    Thank you again and please keep the posts coming!

    1. Hi Duncan

      Thanks for the comment

      First of all, I am not 100% sure of what Energy Engineering involves or covers. Perhaps that is my fault and not yours but if you were to assume that my knowledge of it would be fairly typical of other F1 engineers who might receive your CV then I would think you might have to do more background explanation to your degree than someone else who has been down a conventional Mechanical or Aeronautical degree route. This is perhaps harsh but probably truthful.

      From that purely unknowledgeable viewpoint, I would move to the Aeronautical masters course after you have completed your initial studies. It will be better understood and ultimately closer to the applied engineering that you would be doing inyour job as a design engineer or race engineer.

      Does that make sense ?

  2. Yes it does, I will try to get as much advice as possible in order to go the right direction.

    Thank you for your fast response and I hope that all the work your team has put in throughout the winter pays off!

  3. A nice post after a long time.
    Can you please list out the names of a few universities which are considered good by the F1 teams for a course in motorsport engineering. This would be very useful for all the followers of this blog.

    1. Hi

      Look at :

      Imperial College
      Bath Uni
      Loughborough Uni
      Cranfield Uni
      Oxford Brookes
      Newcastle Uni
      Southampton Uni
      Bristol Uni
      Cambridge
      University College London
      Manchester Uni

      amongst others.

      This is not a complete list. It all depends on the individual recruiters in teh individual universities but these institutions have good reputations and I know of people working in F1 who have earned their degrees here.

      Good research on :

      http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings?s=Mechanical%20Engineering

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