F1 Work Placements – too good to be missed. Part 1

Posted on Posted in Understanding the motorsport industry

The most difficult hurdle to forging a career in Formula 1 is getting that elusive first F1 job, that breakthrough step into the often closed world of professional motorsport. In this post I’ll describe why work placements are now the best opportunity to get your foot in the door, where to find them and how to make the most of them if you are lucky enough to be chosen.

A rare open door

As I discussed in my post on “Breaking down the barriers to Formula 1”, motorsport can often seem like a closed door and only open to those with prior experience. Getting a job in F1 or other types of racing can be difficult, but it’s not hard to see that as people move on or retire from working there must be a intake of new talent to the sport to stop the teams from shrinking and collapsing. In truth the number of people working in F1 is now expanding again and so there must be a way in. It is just a case of finding it.

For university students, predominantly those people studying engineering but also for management and marketing students the single most likely way to break into the sport these days is through work placements. Almost all of the current F1 teams take on undergraduates on long placement programmes (normally a full 12 months or more) and this is for a number of reasons :

  • Students are a source of relatively cheap labour
  • The programme allows a team to develop relationships with universities for research purposes
  • Student placements are lower risk than a graduate recruitment programme

The first two in that list are genuine plus points for the teams but it is really the last and final point that is the most relevant for those wishing to break into the sport. I am often asked where graduate vacancies are advertised, or where those jobs are that say “No experience necessary”. Bad news really, they are few and far between. Its all about risk and taking on inexperienced people carries significant risk.

Imagine a team wants to take on a graduate, or perhaps several. They might post an advert on autosport.com or on racestaff.com and receive hundreds of applications from interested people. Firstly they will have the not trivial task of sorting through those hundreds of applications and selecting the 5 or 10 resumes that look promising. They then have to invite each for an interview and they then have just an hour or so to find out everything about those people and decide whether or not they have a future with that team. Its a very difficult process (have you ever considered what it is like to be on the opposite side of the table during an interview?) and carries enormous risk. I was involved in choosing a new graduate at a previous team and the candidate I chose performed very well in the interview but was lazy, over-confident and a poor engineer when it came to working full time. A big mistake which we could not undo easily.

A 12 month job interview

The biggest advantage of a work placement scheme for an F1 team is that they get to see potential recruits working and developing their skills in the right environment over long period of time. It is in effect a 12 month long job interview and it’s normally pretty clear to a team after that period which candidates will make good F1 engineers and which will not. The students who are not suitable will go back to university finish their degree and will probably not hear from the team again. Those who performed well however are likely to be invited back to take up a full time job once their studies have been completed. This is the magic, or unseen graduate recruitment process in F1 and why the places are seldom or never advertised. Some teams do still recruit graduates fresh from university but this is the exception rather than the rule.

For university level people, this is as good an opportunity as you are going to get. Do as much homework on this as you possibly can by contacting the teams early and asking for details of their program. Leaving it until the months before your year out begins is much too late and will be a clear sign to the teams that you are not organised and not a serious candidate. Williams F1 for example are advertising for their work placement students now (September/October 2013) who will begin work in July or August 2014. This text is taken directly from the advert on their website.

As part of Williams’ ongoing commitment to support Universities in supplying the talented engineers to the Formula One industry in the future, we operate a 12 month student placement programme.

Student Placement Opportunities Available

The Company receives many applications from students who would like the opportunity to undertake student placements. Due to such high demand along with limited availability due to our company size, resources and racing commitments we are only able to accommodate the following opportunities each year:

 Maximum of 10 paid student one year placements

Students will work under the mentorship of an experienced team member, gaining significant experience, as well as invaluable information for final year dissertations / thesis. Along the way students will pick up a diverse range of new skills and competencies that can be universally applied in an environment that is constantly changing.

Throughout the duration of the placement, the student will have regular performance evaluations with the nominated manager to aid professional and personal development. The Company’s informal working culture will also allow the student to network with the full spectrum of people working within the team.

Only students taking part in the student placement programmes can be accommodated in our Aerodynamics, Design and Test Facilities Departments. We do not offer student placement opportunities on our Race or Test Teams.

Student Placement Application Process

When shortlisting student placement applications the Company generally expects students to be studying relevant subjects at university in subjects such as Mechanical Design and Aeronautical Design and have a minimum of two years experience at University before the placement starts. It is also essential that you should return to your course for a minimum of one year following completion of the placement. We are unable to accept applications from students in their final year of university studies.

In addition to the above, active participation in programmes such as Formula Student, F1 in schools may be an advantage as well as demonstrating an active interest in leisure activities such as go-karting, restoring or working on cars, building working models of cars and planes.

When applying for student placements opportunities, all students are expected to submit a covering letter along with a curriculum vitae containing the following information:

• Your current career aims and how you plan to achieve them
• Subjects that you are currently taking and plan to take
• Relevant leisure pursuits and activities
• Why work experience with the Company would be beneficial to you
• Demonstrate that you are the best person to be selected

Applications

Applications for the student placement programmes should be uploaded through our website by visiting www.williamsf1.com. Your application will be acknowledged within two weeks of you sending us the application. We will not accept applications which are not submitted through our website, any paper-based applications will be returned to the sender with a copy of this policy.

Too good to be true ?

When I was at school and even when I studied at University, opportunities like this barely existed. I wrote to every team asking for a work placement but without success. To have such an ordered and structured programme advertised with such a large number of placements available is a golden opportunity. This is exactly the kind of opening that you need to be ready for.

In the next part of this post, I’ll look at making the most of a work placement should you be lucky enough to be chosen, plus what to do if you are unsuccessful as there are potential many more open doors around, you just need to look a little bit further…

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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14 thoughts on “F1 Work Placements – too good to be missed. Part 1

  1. Hi,
    i was wondering if it was possible if you could help me out. Im a 17 yr old and coming up to finishing my second last year of high school. i have a huge passion for Formula One and have been watching it since i was a very young age. One day i would love to make my dreams come true and hopefully work in Formula One, the thing is i’m not very smart at maths or science. Is there any technical jobs that you know of in Formula One that you don’t need to be really smart in the fields in maths or science? or is there any jobs in the factory or office that you dont need to be required to be smart in those two fields? if it was possible that you could name some jobs in formula one that you dont need to be really smart in the fields of maths or science that would be really great and hopeful.
    Thankyou

    1. Hi Michael

      The only real areas you need to be good at maths & science are being a designer, development engineer, race engineer or aerodynamicist. If you want to be a mechanic, a machinist, lab technician or a laminator or something similar then you probably only need to pass GCSE maths to get started. Its more important in those jobs to be good with your hands, practical and willing to learn.

  2. Excellent editorial! We have also recognized the issues in Formula 1 where excellent candidates shy away from even approaching the industry due to the ‘mystique’ that surrounds it. Part of our mission is to help candidates navigate the territory and understand that Formula 1 is no different than any other industry, but that one needs to be of the right calibre to thrive. I look forward to the next installment on the subject.

  3. Hi Sir,

    Can Students who are on a one year masters course in uk can also apply for the work placements?? I did not do my undergraduate in uk so don’t get a chance earlier.

    1. Hi

      I have to say I’m not sure. I would think it depends on the team involved as many of them do not take overseas students for placements due to the extra admin (for full time employees it is different).

      It also depends on your visa terms and conditions but they best thing to do is ask the individual team your ate applying to.

      Good luck

  4. Hello,

    I’m a 22 years old Mechanical Engineering student. I live in Brazil and I really love Formula One and motorsports in general. I’m currently living 1600 miles away from my hometown, doing a work placement in a company that builds the cars from the largest motorsport category in Brazil. I want to have the opportunity to do such a work placement in a Formula 1 team, but I don’t know which experiences I should have on my resume to make it attractive enough for a Formula 1 team to call me to an interview. Since my university doesn’t have a Formula Student team, I joined the Baja SAE team for the past four years, and achieved good results besides acquiring valuable knowledge there. I also did one year of undergraduate research on Computational Fluid Dynamics in the college. Do you think that is enough for me to get a chance on a Formula One Team? Can you tell me what skills I should learn to have such opportunity?

    I also would like to know where you found the advert on Williams work placement opportunity. I looked on their website in the careers section, but was unable to find it. Can you give me some advice on where to look for those kind of placement ads? I think most teams don’t just post them on the careers section of their website.

    Thank you for your time and for this amazing blog! Your job here is really inspiring me to pursue my dream of a career in motorsports!

    Best regard,

    Rodrigo

  5. Hello,

    I’m a 22 years old Mechanical Engineering student. I live in Brazil and I really love Formula One and motorsports in general. I’m currently living 1600 miles away from my hometown, doing a work placement in a company that builds the cars from the largest motorsport category in Brazil. I want to have the opportunity to do such a work placement in a Formula 1 team, but I don’t know which experiences I should have on my resume to make it attractive enough for a Formula 1 team to call me to an interview. Since my university doesn’t have a Formula Student team, I joined the Baja SAE team for the past four years, and achieved good results besides acquiring valuable knowledge there. I also did one year of undergraduate research on Computational Fluid Dynamics in the college. Do you think that is enough for me to get a chance on a Formula One Team? Can you tell me what skills I should learn to have such opportunity?

    I also would like to know where you found the advert on Williams work placement opportunity. I looked on their website in the careers section, but was unable to find it. Can you give me some advice on where to look for those kind of placement ads? I think most teams don’t just post them on the careers section of their website.

    Thank you for your time and for this amazing blog! Your job here is really inspiring me to pursue my dream of a career in motorsports!

    Best regard,

    Rodrigo

    1. Hi again Rodrigo,

      It sounds like you have made good progress, with relevant experience in your university courses and a foot in the door at your current job.

      F1 should be reachable with that experience but clearly the more you can have the better. Ideally you would have some track experience or direct experience with a race team in Brazil, building your experience further. It’s hard to be more specific but almost any Motorsport experience is relevant. You need to be patient, take those stepping stones where you get the opportunities and keep applying to F1. A move to Europe at some point would be good.

      1. Thank you for the hints sir! After your advices, I’m in touch with some people in brazilian Porsche GT3 Cup, and I might get an opportunity to do some freelancer jobs on some weekends in the track. I already have plans to move to UK, as the Brazilian Government has a program to provide scolarships for brazilian students to study a year abroad, and I’m preparing myself to enter the program and perhaps going to UK.

  6. It is worthwhile noting that a number of F1 teams engage with certain universities. On Friday Stefan Strahnz of Mercedes-AMG F1 came to Cranfield University to present graduate opportunities to the Cranfield Advanced Motorsport Engineering MSc students. Likewise Paul Crofts of Mercedes AMG HPP attends Cranfield with a view to recruitment. Lotus engage in a similar fashion coming to the University to interview for positions. In a similar vein to internships Cranfield MSc students regularly undertake three month thesis projects with motorsport companies. Not only are they developing technical solutions, they are effectively on an ‘extended interview’. Both the year placements and the engagement Cranfield MSc students have help transition from education to employment.

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