I’ve written elsewhere about the “Formula 1 Mindset” but it’s something that I wanted to talk about a little bit more.
From the comments on the blog I know that several people have asked whether they should go and work in general industry first in order to build up experience. This post outlines the differences between large mainstream industries and the racing industry and why I don’t recommend you spend too long in general industry if you are serious about getting to F1.
What’s wrong with big business?
As I have detailed elsewhere, I’ve worked for a few large businesses and corporations and didn’t enjoy it. In the automotive industry, new car projects take around 3 years to complete to production and involve coordination of many different groups of people. Communication is difficult and so good project management is essential. Attitude to risk is very cautious as one failure can damage a company’s reputation and can lead to large losses. It is similar to being on the crew of large container ship which is an impressive vessel but takes huge effort to stop or change course.
In racing, the deadlines and timescales are much shorter. F1 teams produce a new car every year and bring updates and developments to nearly every race. Fast turnaround and the ability to react to problems with your car or a development brought out by another team is essential. Instead of years to develop something, we work in weeks or even days.
If a car breaks down in F1 the process to fix it starts almost immediately. The data engineers can probably predict what has happened from the telemetry so when the car is recovered back to the garage, the mechanics will be able to dismantle the affected area and find what has broken. The designers have probably gone to the factory while the race is still on so when photos of the broken parts are emailed through they can see them almost as quickly as the engineers at the track. A fix can be in place even before Monday morning has arrived.
The ability to react to problems quickly is critical to a racing team and is essentially what sets it apart from a normal business. When a working day is 24hrs instead of 8hours and you put your blood, sweat and tears into it, it’s incredible what can be achieved. In racing, if you don’t do it nobody else will and so it’s unusual to see individuals dodging responsibility. This attitude is usually missing in larger industries as there is often a system or procedure in place to relieve you of responsibility. Someone or something will often pickup where you left off and it is easy to hide and put off work to later.
The reason I recommend you NOT to pursue a career in larger industry as a route into F1 is because these slow and system led working practices are the polar opposite of the work ethics required by F1 teams and will normally put off a potential employer from interviewing you. From experience of hiring people with more than a few years experience of larger industry, I would say that they are less adaptable and find the fast changing world of F1 difficult to handle. Many stay only a short while and return to their former company or industry for the ease of the 9 to 5.
If you need a job (who doesn’t ?) and get the opportunity then you can take it but start looking for an alternative immediately. Don’t stay more than 2 years if you can help it as even if you are still enthused by the idea of racing, your CV will start to look stale and boring and F1 and other race teams will overlook you in favour of those who work in the wider motorsport industry or other high tech areas.
What is the alternative?
If big business and the general automotive industry is a bad idea for getting into F1 where can you gain suitable experience outside of F1/racing?
High technology small and medium sized businesses of any sort are good experience for F1 especially in the automotive or high performance sector. I know someone who worked for a company developing high end mountain bike components with just a few employees who made the switch to F1 and fitted straight in because he was used to carrying responsibility in a number if different roles and pushing to meet impossible deadlines.
An individual who can demonstrate that they have innovated, pushed, taken the road less travelled will always win over the individual who has only followed the system, done what they were told and followed the system or procedure. There is no fixed route to winning in F1, you need to find it. Likewise there is no fixed route to getting a job in F1 and demonstrating individuality, showing determination and standing out from the system, from the crowd and from the background is the way to show that you can succeed where others fail to see the way. If you can do this, you can probably find winning ways in F1 too and so you will be just the sort of person that the F1 teams want to employ.
As I’ve said elsewhere, I worked at a Motorsport supplier in the UK before moving to America to work in IndyCar before I got the chance to work in F1. Not a direct route by any measure but it showed that I was determined and resourceful and that counted for a lot when I eventually got my chance to apply to an F1 team.
This blog aims to help you in your own personal quest but ultimately it is up to you to find your way to F1.
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Best of luck and here is to a good result in the next Grand Prix.