Formula 1 is the self styled pinnacle of motorsport but how much do those in the industry value experience from other forms of racing? This weekend’s Le Mans 24hour race is one of the most famous events in the world for racing enthusiasts but how relevant is it to F1? In this post I’ll tell you why you’d be stupid to pass up opportunities in endurance racing and how you can easily get involved in this type of racing and use it as a stepping stone to Formula 1.

The religion of motorsport

There is something very, very special about Le Mans. The popularity of endurance racing has varied over the past few decades and for a time it looked as if this category of racing may fade into the history books. In recent years however we have seen a resurgence in the popularity and spectacle of this most classic of races and it is once again a firm fixture on the world motorsport calendar.

To go to Le Mans is something of a rite of passage for die-hard fans of motor racing. Along with the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix it has a certain must-see aura about it that draws in spectators from far and wide. I keep a secret list of races I want to see before I die and Le Mans was very close to the top. Having been lucky enough to go I can see exactly why fans are drawn there year after year and how it has become a near religious pilgrimage for many to make the journey to La Sarthe at least once in their lifetime. There is nothing else quite like it.

A race for all-comers

Whilst the very front runners at Le Mans have always been some of the most professional teams of their time, one of the key attractions of an event like the 24hour race is the diversity of cars and teams down through the lower orders. In years gone by you would have seen gentlemen drivers (non professionals) occupying many of the cars through the grid as enthusiasts were allowed to take part in the race provided they could help to finance a car to complete the event. Cars in the lower classes would be run by very small groups of amateurs with everyone mucking in to help keep the car running, many of whom would be volunteers rather than paid employees. This is still the case today with smaller outfits needing to draft in extra help for the big event even though the level of professionalism of the big teams is arguably on a par with Formula 1.

One of the most common mistakes made by people seeking a job in F1 is to just look for a job in F1. From outside the sport F1 can appear like an impenetrable club where no one ever hands out invitations. You can wait an awful long time for a job advert to appear which says “no experience necessary”, in fact I doubt whether you will ever see that at all. Typically, people will become despondent and disenchanted as they see no way into the club and will walk away and get a job elsewhere blaming the sport rather than themselves for the failure. Paralysed by tunnel vision, they will have failed to see the wealth of openings and opportunities that were presented to them because they simply looked straight ahead rather than turn their heads and open their eyes to look for a way in. Reading this however you will not be making that same mistake.

The WEC or World Endurance Championship is currently a very popular and successful form of motorsport. Factory teams such as Toyota, Audi and Porsche are spending significant sums on this form of racing as they believe it to be much better value for money than the drastic expense of Formula 1. Porsche’s return to the sport this season was preceded by a large recruitment drive in Stuttgart and no doubt it has significantly increased the number of people working on its WEC program since.

Such is the technology of these endurance hybrid cars that Formula 1 teams would be extremely interested in employing people with relevant experience in the WEC. Indeed, the Williams F1 offshoot company Williams Hybrid Power (now GKN Hybrid Power) provides the flywheel regenerative braking system that Audi has used to win the event many times in recent years and so there is already a large crossover between the 2 sports. Whilst it is not easy to get a job at this level of the WEC it is not nearly as competitive a job market as that of Formula 1 and in this form of racing you may well find that elusive “no experience necessary” vacancy that you crave. Once you have a foot in the motorsport door then Formula 1 is not very far away and you have every chance of making that transition which had previously looked so unattainable. What to many looks impossible is in fact achievable with only the very smallest of detours. Once involved, you may even enjoy endurance racing enough that F1 no longer appeals but at least you will have the choice and a long and successful career in motorsport can be a reality for you.

Look further down the order

The factory LMP1 teams may steal the headlines but in 2014 no fewer than 55 (yes you read that correctly) cars qualified for the race. A full range of road car manufacturer backed and small motorsport specialist entries are evident all the way down the order and for someone wanting to break into racing they represent a golden back door into the industry. Rebellion Racing, Zytek and Prodrive(Aston Martin) to name but a few are all highly respected motorsport specialist companies which design and manufacture their own Le Mans and WEC cars and yet will not feature of the target list of 90% of F1 job seekers. Companies such as these struggle to attract candidates of sufficiently high calibre and qualifications and yet they can teach you every one of the necessary skills that are required in modern day Formula 1. If you cut your teeth in an environment such as this then F1 teams will take notice when your application arrives and you will sit far and above fresh graduates or those working in general automotive or other industries. The opportunities are golden and it is here where you should be spending your research time and watching the job market because for 90% of F1 workers this was the place where they got their break. I like many of my colleagues started my career at an “unknown” engineering firm, not a racing team, but a company which was well known and respected inside the industry. I did my research and when I got my job I was one of only a handful of applicants because so few people knew the opportunity existed.

Looking beyond F1 and understanding the wider motorsport industry is critical to your chances of getting a job in F1. Endurance racing and the Le Mans 24 hour race is only one of the many ways to break into the industry but given the popularity and current health of this area of the racing then it represents one of the best and you would be crazy to ignore it.

My recommendation is to research, research and further research the companies and race teams that make this amazing area of racing work and target every one of them for work placement or permanent jobs as soon as you can. It is always wise to keep an eye on the opportunities coming up in F1 but the WEC, Le Mans and other race series like them are far more likely to provide you with your way in to racing and those who understand that and act upon it are the most likely to succeed in their quest for a job in F1.

Keep in touch

The 2014 season is well underway now and despite reservations about the sound of the new cars and doubts about the new technologies I think F1 has proved that it can still provide as much thrill and excitement as it has at any time in its history. I’m already working on our 2015 car (can you believe it?) but should have time to keep the blog up and write about some relevant topics.

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 followers ! You’d be joining a group of nearly 1000 other F1 hopefuls in getting the latest and most relevant advice when it comes to making your career in F1.

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 the next Grand Prix.

12 Comments

  1. Hi!

    Thank you for the excellent information and all the effort you’ve put into this website. Now, I wouldn’t be here reading and commenting if I didn’t just get the brilliant idea of trying the impossible, and getting into this fast-paced world myself. Never even seriously considered, until I heard that a new US team in forming, not far from me in NC.
    I’m also an engineer, but not mechanical, but in computing. While your main focus is of course the other aspect (and of course more important one) of engineering in F1 – I’d like to know how much different it is to try to get a position in this supporting role. You may have very little insight as to what kind of actual systems computer engineers use/build on in an F1 team, but I’m actually more curious whether there is any computer engineer who travels with the team to the races, who is responsible for making sure that the technical background is working as intended during the race weekend. Is the structure of the IT engineers the same as the development team? (junior/senior/chief… etc.)
    And another question: would it help or hurt if I tried to use some kind of connection to the team when applying? I have lots of computer engineering experience, but none of that in racing world, but I just happen to know someone in a sister-sport whom I could ask to try help me with this new team. Could this be a legitimate “backdoor” or would it be frowned upon?

    Thanks!
    Greg

    Greg
    1. Hi Greg

      Thanks for the comment. It’s a good question. There are IT/computer engineers who travel with the team as there is a large amount of computer and network machines to keep running during the weekend which is critical to the team’s function. Typically though there is only one or a maximum of 2 of these IT infrastructure type of people working at races. The company structure of an overall F1 team is such that IT is relatively small and there would not be a true junior/senior type structure.

      As I understand the new team will be very closely related to Gene Haas’ NASCAR team so it may be possible to get some recommendation or back door route. It is not frowned upon, in fact it’s quite common in this industry as in many others. To pretend it doesn’t happen would be a lie but to be truthful it will always happen and if you have the opportunity to use connections then you should.

      I hope that helps-good luck

      work_in_f1
  2. Hi, I’m writing this to ask you to write a post i think many people are looking forward to: Put in order of demand the different branches of engineering in formula 1 and a brief description of the role and the amount of demand. For example (I’m going to make up all the information):

    “Most demanded engineers in formula 1
    1. Mechanical engineer: Around 25% of engineers in Formula 1 are of this type. Its the easiest way to get into formula 1. You are going to work as blah blah..
    2. Aeronautics engineer: Second most demanded engineers. Blah blah..
    Etc…”

    I hope you can do this as i think many people are in my situation, they want to study engineering and to work in Formula 1 but don’t know the most demanded jobs. Sorry for the bad grammar, my main language is not english. Thanks for reading and keep up the good work!

    alberto
    1. Hi Alberto

      Thanks for the comment. Your English is very good by the way.

      I think a post like this already exists.

      Take a look at :

      http://jobinf1.com/2013/02/25/what-degree-do-i-need-to-get-into-f1/

      I haven’t included info on what is level of demand for these degrees but it’s pretty much 40% mech. and 40% aero then the remaining 20% a mixture of other degrees such as electrical and materials etc etc. in truth the choice of degree is quite straightforward. Aero if you want to be an aerodynamicist or mechanical for most other roles. Very few people have degrees in anything other than these 2 subjects unless they are a real specialist like a metallurgist or computer software engineer etc but it depends on where your interest lies.

      Hope that helps

      work_in_f1
      1. Thanks for answering!

        I hadn’t found that post before and yes, that was what i was looking for. Just a question, don’t you think the number of electric and electronic engineers required will increase with the recent (and future) changes in Formula 1?

        In my case, I’m pretty sure i want to study electronic engineering but i don’t want to shut my options to work in Formula 1 (its my dream). I’ve been searching and there are many teams looking for electronic engineers in the internet so I’m not sure.

        alberto
        1. Yes you may find more opportunities at the engine manufacturers Merecedes, Ferrari, Renault & honda compared to at the teams themselves. This is definately a growth area

          work_in_f1
          1. Ok thanks!

            I think ill study that then.

            Alberto
  3. I couldn’t agree more, and I have made that point many times in my own blog as well. I was working at Le Mans this past week and compared to 1997 when I worked there the first time the professionalism among the teams is through the roof. Even though F1 is my bread and butter I much prefer endurance racing as a spectator sport when you are there live. All aspects are far more accessible at 20% of the cost of a F1 race. Also, apart from a certain ‘McDreamy’, most drivers are very happy to stop and sign autographs and have a chat. One of our guests got a selfie with Mark Webber!
    Further to your comments about stepping stones to F1, I just placed a candidate from one of the big three Le Mans teams in a F1 team. That is how you do it; earn your wings and grab the opportunity when it comes.

    /Christopher (RIMS – Resources In Motorsport)

    Christopher Lembke
  4. I have 2 questions for you. A: after the recession in 2010, how adversely are job opportunities affected in motorsport ?
    B: If i graduate from a reputed university in UK, what are my chances of entering the motorsport industry?

    Archit
    1. Recession affected racing a little but not as much as other industries. Right now it is quite healthy in terms of employment as teams have become more cost efficient. It’s very hard to answer your second question. Getting a good degree from a uk university is the right thing to do but it alone cannot guarantee a job in motorsport industry

      work_in_f1
  5. Another important advice about opportunities in motorsport. Thank you for all the comment.
    Can I still wait for an answer of my comment in the post: “Winning in F1 – what it’s all about”?
    I did a lot of questions about which university should I study, post-graduate or undergraduate and my age. Your advices are pretty important to guide my next steps.
    Thanks one more time

    Tamires Lustosa
  6. I want to work for a racing team

    Romy

Comments are closed.