In the first part of this post I discussed the value of work placements at F1 teams and why they are such a golden opportunity for would be F1 engineers. In part 2 I wanted to discuss more about how to find them, how to make the most of them and what to do if you are not successful in your application.

Get digging

F1 teams will not necessarily advertise their work placement programs. The human resources managers at each team are normally inundated with “Can I have a job please” letters and it can be very time consuming to filter through the hundreds and thousands of letters and applications. One of the best ways to filter out those who are not serious candidates is to either not advertise their programs or to only hold the details on their own websites. Only those candidates who are determined to get to F1 will find them and so it acts as an effective filter to reduce the human resources workload. Perhaps they will miss out on some very talented engineers or candidates but perseverance and going the extra mile is one of the core skills for anyone working in motorsport and so it’s an effective first test.

You can find all of the websites and contact details for each Formula 1 team on my Useful Resources page.

Making the most of it

Even if you are lucky enough to have been selected for your work placement, the battle is not yet won. As I suggested in part 1 a work placement is really a 12 month long job interview and you should treat it as such. It should not just be about those 12 months but you should see it as the opportunity to start a permanent career in racing. Here are some of my tips for making the most of it :

  • Pretend that you know nothing
  • There is nothing worse than a student or school leaver who believes that they know everything about Formula 1. The real business is rather different to that which you see on TV so do not expect to be an expert in F1 just because you read magazines and watch television. You will not be expected to have detailed knowledge of what makes a car fast and what doesn’t. You are there to learn not teach !

  • Fast out of the blocks
  • First impressions last and it’s important to get off to a good start. When you start your placement, it is likely to be the start of the main car design phase and many engineers will be working late to keep on top of the mounting workload. STAY LATE. I don’t mean just for the sake of it but show willing from the outset and work as hard as you can on whatever you are tasked with. You are likely to have been given access to the main drawing store with all of the 3D models of the components which make up the car. Use that and learn. If you put your coat on and leave the minute that 5pm rolls around you are not likely to come across as a hard worker or a team player. This need not be for the whole year but if you make this enthusiastic start then you will give an immediately good impression.

  • Ask questions
  • This is very similar to the first point but it’s important to ask questions and learn as much as you can. Your immediate report (boss) is likely to be a source of vast knowledge for you and so not only will asking questions bring you greater understanding but it creates a good impression for those who will be deciding if you come back to work at the team permanently !

  • Don’t overstep the mark
  • Most Formula 1 teams have a fairly flat structure in that everyone knows everyone and the team principal is often on first name terms with the cleaners and everyone in between. As a work placement student however you should not expect to sit and have a coffee with Adrian Newey or knock on his door for a chat anytime you feel like it. It’s amazing how many students think that this is a good strategy. It isn’t! Concentrate on making good relationships with your immediate colleagues and they will make sure that the people who need to know are aware of all of your good work.

  • Keep the prize in mind
  • It’s incredible to think but I have seen several work placement students get bored, think that the work they do is below them or spend their days on Facebook or Twitter in full view of the technical director. F1 is not tiddlywinks, it is a highly competitive sport and a poor attitude will not sit well with your potential employer. If you are serious about making a career of this you need to grasp the opportunity and work hard the whole year round. A sense of fun and social interaction is all part of it, but remember that you are on trial and a fantastic career is potentially at the end of it.

    Don’t stop at Formula 1

    Stiff competition means that you may well end up not getting the work placement that you really want. I didn’t but it hasn’t prevented me from getting the career that I craved. Formula 1 teams now have structured work placement programmes but similar placements are possible in many other areas of motorsport

    As I have mentioned several times in other posts, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to focus purely on Formula 1 and so miss out on many other good and relevant experiences elsewhere. MotoGP, World Rally Championship, NASCAR, IndyCAR, Touring Cars etc etc are all very high profile motorsports where work placements programs exist. They will probably not be advertised but you should contact as many teams, manufacturers and constructors as you possibly can and offer your services. It only takes one interested person and suddenly you have your foot in the door and a career in motorsport has begun. Experience gained here will be perfect to build up your CV for a time when you want to move across to Formula 1. Don’t ignore opportunities just because they are not in F1, there are more open doors than you may think but you’ll need to go looking for them.

    For other ways of getting that first step into racing take a look at my earlier post on 5 ways to get a job right now.

    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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