20140320-215236.jpg

F1 takes all sorts. Adrian Newey and his boffin like compatriots might get a lot of the headlines but in order to make a team function properly and get a competitive car on to the grid you need people with all kinds of skills and attributes. You may not have a PhD but you could be an essential part of the team behind the scenes. Where do you think you might fit in?

Just do it

It amuses me sometimes when I hear people talk about Formula 1 and how it all works. At the end of the day, F1 is a show and TV coverage is there to make the sport and the participants look glamorous and exciting. Often what is portrayed is very different to the reality and what people assume is all ultra efficient and high tech. It is anything but.

If you get the opportunity to work in racing or in F1 you’ll probably realise pretty quickly that the whole sport exists in a constant state of panic and lack of preparation. It’s what gives F1 much of its character but it really is constant chaos behind the scenes. Parts shortages, mistakes, unforeseen mishaps, crashes, things not working as they are meant to, cars being illegal, failing crash tests, I could go on and on but they are all part of the day-to-day normality in F1. Team principals are great actors when it comes to hiding the stress and chaos of reality when the TV cameras arrive.

In this kind of environment, Adrian Newey and his PhD friends are not best placed to keep the show going. They might be inventive and analytical but these sorts of people tend to be slow and methodical too. Not always what is needed.

In our team, and most others up and down the pitlane we have a wealth of people who are just brilliant at getting us out of sticky situations and seemingly pulling us out impending disasters. These people are not called Ross Brawn, Eric Boullier or Christian Horner. They are called Dave, Bob, Dibber or Tricky. Ordinary folks doing extraordinary jobs. F1 teams desperately need people who “just do it”. They are real do-ers behind the scenes.

Australia is a long, long way away

The first race of the season is always a tough time as there is so much in the way of new things to deal with. In 2014 that was more the case than ever. Throw into the mix the fact that race 1 takes place about as far away from base as is physically possible without leaving the surface of the planet and you have a real recipe for disaster. This is where the real heroes of F1 earn their money.

Imagine it is Tuesday, a few days before free practice begins. The chief mechanic calls you from Australia and tells you that a critical part of the fuel system has broken and won’t fit on both cars. There are no spares at the circuit and the car won’t start without them. Deep trouble.

First thing to do, check in the factory stores. Nothing.

Are there any nearly finished in the machine shop? No such luck.

A few calls later and you find that a subcontractor has some part finished but it’s 4pm and they knock off at 5. It’ll take 5 hours minimum to get them completed. You’ve got to call them and ask their guys to work into the night to finish them. Never an easy conversation. They do it because you know them and sent them a bunch of free team gear last Christmas but someone still has to go and get the finished parts. You need the team’s van driver back in but he has already done a full day’s work and gone home. Another favour from a friend and he’s on his way but doesn’t get back to the factory until 1am with the parts. You’re there to meet him.

In the meantime, you’ve had to organise getting them out to Australia. Regular air freight would never make it in time but all of your race crew have already gone. Only one option and that is to buy a ticket to Melbourne and hand carry them out. One of the apprentices is super keen to go so 30mins later you’ve got a ticket and she has been home to get her passport. Back in at 4am, she picks up the parts and gets a taxi to the airport. You finally get to go home 12 hours after the original phonecall. A long day.

The apprentice on the other hand doesn’t get to Australia until Thursday night with the time difference and the car build is well behind. The curfew has to be broken and the car isn’t finished until nearly 6am, just a few hours before practice starts. The mechanics catch 2 hours sleep at the hotel if they are lucky, before a full day of track running and then another long night at the track. If you turn on the TV all you’ll see is the car out on track just as you expect, but the very fact that the engine has even fired on time is a minor miracle. The work done behind the scenes by those ordinary people.

What has this got to do with me?

That story might sound far fetched but this kind of thing happens constantly in F1. Whether it’s shipping parts, assembling them, making them or designing them, when things are not going to plan an F1 team needs people it can rely on to get them out of sticky situations. You need calm but fast and methodical reaction from your team and the right sort of people are critical for that. You can’t get a degree in this kind of thing.

When you apply for a job at an F1 team, the interviewer is probably trying to imagine how you will react under pressure, will you stay late and sort things out when they need you to or will you leave it for someone else to pickup the pieces? Does this applicant give me any evidence of them being a quick thinker, resourceful or have they been in situations already where they can demonstrate that they have the right attitude? Anyone can say they do but can you convince me of that?

That interviewer will be looking for reassurance that you will fit in, looking for someone they can rely on and depend upon when the next mini-crisis hits. They’ll be asking “Have they gone out and done things for themselves, have they sourced and arranged their own work placement, have they volunteered somewhere or approached a local racer and offered their services?” Too many people have just toed the line, followed the crowd and expected the “system” to provide them with a career. When I get these sorts of CV it’s nearly impossible to distinguish one person from another because they have all followed the same route. Even if you have good grades then F1 teams won’t be interested in you if you can’t demonstrate initiative and drive. They need forward thinkers not followers. No grade or degree in the world can teach you that skill, which is just as well because not everyone can have a PhD but just about anyone can make a difference with the right attitude.

Keep in touch

I’ve been quite poor at keeping up the blog over the winter but something had to give whilst we were getting the new car ready. I’m hoping to have bit more time over the next few weeks so expect a good many more posts on various topics. There are lots of things I still want to talk about but feel free to leave a comment and ask about something specific.

If you want to keep up with those future posts you can follow my blog using the box just below this post, and join my ever increasing band of merry followers ! I’m amazed how many people have been keeping up with my ramblings, we might have enough to start our own team soon ! Why don’t you join in?

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1 where I post my tips and tricks or links to job postings and relevant articles around the web.

Best of luck and here is to a good result in Malaysia!!

23 Comments

  1. i will love to work in the F1 or Gp2
    just to gain experience my dream is to end up in F1 so i will do enythink for my dreams shall travel whear ever and 24/7 of my time and i am a go gogeter and never give up no mater how bad it gets just whant the chance to proove my self so i can be a aset to eny team ps.ish
    ish

    ismail patel
  2. Hello sir.,

    Thanks for your effort sharing all this infos, it’s a really unique blog. As a suggestion, I would like to see a post of a typical day of a F1 engineer (if such a day exists). Also an update of the job roles page would be nice.

    Best,

    Alex

    AlexG
  3. Hello sir. You’re doing a great job by writing this blog and its helping us aspirants a lot. 😀 Well, I just had a couple of queries.
    Number 1: What should I take as my degree course? Mechanical Engineering, Automotive Engineering, Motorsport Engineering or Aerospace Engineering? I was thinking of taking up mechanical as my Bachelor’s course and then specialising in Aerospace/Motorsports by doing a Master’s course.
    Number 2: Which universities in the UK are best collaborated with F1 teams? Also, apart from Formula Student where would I be able to help and gain experience?
    Eagerly waiting for your reply.

    Nikhil
    1. Thanks for the comment Nikhil

      I’m hoping to write some posts on university choices soon. It’s not as critical as you might think although there are definitely do’s and don’ts. I normally recommend a ‘plain’ mechanical or aero degree(if you want to do aero) from as reputable a university as you can get into then consider a Motorsport specialism later. There are pros and cons to each and often it depends on a particular team and even particular recruiters which they prefer so it’s hard to give a blanket – this is the way type answer

      Several unis have collaborations with F1, almost too many to mention but Oxford Brooke’s, Cranfield, Bath, Loughborough, imperial college and Southampton spring to mind as some I am aware of. There are others

      Experience from any real world racing is valid and probably more so than F Stuudent these days. This again is something I want to talk about in a future post

      work_in_f1
    2. Hi

      1) mechanical engineering or aeronautical if you want to be a stress engineer or aerodynamicist. Good idea to specialise later in Motorsport
      2) many uk universities deal with F1 teams. It’s difficult to say which ones have an advantage

      work_in_f1
  4. Hello again, i’m curious to know what kind of a future these new V6 turbo engines have?

    I know it’s early days but from your exposure to the new regulations do you think V6 engines and ERS will be here to stay “long term” ?

    Somewhere down the track F1 will need to tested again, which direction can they go.

    I just wished the V6 turbo engines were still 150Db.

    F1-Career
    1. I think they are here to stay for absolute minimum 5 years , probably a lit linger but perhaps with some modifications. Engine companies have invested millions and millions of dollars in them so can’t throw that away.

      work_in_f1
  5. Great article – I’m a finalist trying to get into motorsport. What little exposure I’ve had to the ‘real’ face of racing has proven to be far more exciting and volatile than the press makes it out to be!

    Chris Beck
  6. Thank you for sharing this information. My dream is finally coming true.

    Luis
  7. Greetings from Santa Ana CA. U.S.A. Thank you for startng this information thread. I have a queastion regarding scholastic qualifications and requirements. What is the grade point average requirement needed to be able to have a job in Formula 1. Is there an age limit acceptance? Would i be required to live in europe for the season? Thank you so much in advance. Kind regards.

    -Luis Gomez Bahena

    Luis
    1. Hi yes you definitely need to live in Europe , not just for the season but all year long. There is no minimum points requiremts or age limits, just your experience and suitability for the job in question

      work_in_f1
  8. very good info. i am a go geter i like to be in the worst problems and get my self out and make a diverance for a team my love for F1 runs deap in my blood since a child just whant the chance self tort machanic love engines will do enythink to prove myself in this field of work night after night to make a diverance in a team is dream i have no phd or engernering degree. but my hands and mind is my skills thanks for your right up it has help my understanding in what F1 whants. pray for my dream to
    be true 1 day ish

    ismail patel
  9. Hello again! :)!

    Well, being totally honest with you, I really don’t know how to show that I do know how to be efficient under pressure. Sometimes I think I’m an “F1 Joe” (if I’m lucky enough…), and have all these aspects needed to convince an F1 team to believe in my CV. I mean, for example, in competitions of BAJA SAE, from the universities around the world, usually I’m the guy who is responsible for the tools and pieces management, and in a situation like when the car breaks on track, when all the team come to me (all of them almost flipping out), I can handle the pressure, give them what they need calmly and rapidly, and even help to fix/put the car back to track.

    Another example is when we are late writing reports of project or tests to the competition’s organization. – Sometimes it happens because my Uni doesn’t support the baja project too much (So, we need to have the usual study, and after, project, build and test the car). – I usually give the results needed on time, and normally I tend to not lose quality (at least I try hard).

    Actually my CV shows this information above, in the “crowd-way”. But I’m about to start my own project car, and start contact for being a volunteer in a local race team of sand cars.
    And just by the fact this is exactly what you say an interview would like to see, I started to doubt myself if I’m really pulling out the “crowd-way” of showing infos.

    So, do I keep showing my skills by this model or should I change something?

    Thank you for your time!!

    Talisson Figueiredo
    1. Sounds good so far, just keep doing more and honing those skills

      work_in_f1
  10. I’m feeling free to ask about something specific.
    I am doing my Master Thesis on Computational Fluid Dynamics, so I am curious on what’s the workflow in the aerodynamic’s department of a team. How do they combine wind tunnel experiments with CFD simulations and data acquired in test days like Jerez? How many different models do teams test during the pre-season period? And I have many more questions.
    And not only external aerodynamics, but also internal flows, like the airbox and exhaust design.

    Thanks in advance.

    Pablo
    1. Hi. I don’t normally discuss technical aspects of how my team operates. It’s confidential I’m afraid.

      work_in_f1
      1. Nevermind, I understand. Good thing is that I just came across a 4-page article in Racecar Engineering (March 2014) on wind tunnels in Formula 1. For the moment, his will satisfy my curiosity on the subject.

        Pablo
  11. First off, thanks for your effort for this blog. There are so many good posts and insights to F1 that can be found here.

    Besides being an aerodynamicist, what other technical roles are there for an engineer graduate that joins an F1 team? I’d also been reading up on your last posts, and its a fact that most universities affiliated with F1 are from the UK, Europe or the US. Are there any universities or education institutions that you are aware of, that are having close ties with the sport (racing motorsport in general) out of Europe and the US?
    I’m 21 this year and I’m keen to know and learn more about the sport.

    Welcome in advance, to my country next week 🙂

    Jumper123
    1. I don’t believe that any universities are affiliated with F1. It is simply that teams are more familiar with universities in their locality. By this notion it is unlikely that any teams have close ties with any universities outside of Europe as this is where all the teams are based

      work_in_f1
  12. Hi,
    It is very inspirational to read what you are posting here!
    I’m working with a racing team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and it’s interesting to hear how the “panic behind the scenes” affects very professional teams as well.
    Despite all of the stress, I think that having to deliver impressive results under pressure is what makes this sport so exciting!
    Optimizing flow through the intake manifold with an abrasive paper at 5 am is probably one of my greatest memories.
    Keep the great content coming and good luck in Malaysia!
    / Håkan Richardson

    Håkan Richardson
  13. I was just wondering if you suggest trying to find a job in a lower formula like GP2 or something equivalent just to gain experience instead of just jumping straight into F1. Also,side question I was wondering why towards the end of the race the engineers tell the drivers to short shift? Thanks!

    Jackson Foley
    1. Short shift saves fuel and increases engine durability. & reduced water temps etc. definitely recommend lower formula experience. Very few people actually get straight into f1. Taking steps is normal.

      work_in_f1
  14. Thanks for the insight! Sometimes I believe that F1 is not that far from Formula Student.

    Really nice to hear “we suffer” the problems F1 teams face.

    All the best,

    Gorka

Comments are closed.