How to have a career in top level motor sport – learn from my experience

I am keen to get other people who work in the F1 industry to share their experience and tell the story of how they got to work in F1 as I think it would provide some inspiration for others and open people’s eyes to just how you can get a foot in the door of a motorsport career.

Darren George is not somebody I have worked with but he has posted his story via the Motorsport Graduate Engineers group on LinkedIn. For those of you not familiar with LinkedIn it is a social network of professionals where you can network and make contacts but where individuals can also post questions and answers via group discussion. I wrote an earlier post on doing career research and looking for inspiration from others stories here.

Anyway, Darren George has posted his own career story on LinkedIn and for me it is the perfect example of how to get into F1 via the back door or stepping stones as I like to call them. Often the best way in is via relatively obscure or less well known motorsport companies XOR supplier chains and Darren’s story is a great example.

The original article is posted via the link at the bottom but I have reproduced the text here in case that is ever lost. Enjoy and take notice !

Darren George :

I’ve just joined the group and seen that there are lots of requests from keen young students for roles in motor sport, so I thought I’d share with you my experiences, given that 20 years ago I was in exactly the same position.

I was born into a family that were motor racing participants. At 13 I had to choose the subjects to study at school for my GCSE exams. My Grand father felt I should aim to be a designer. At the time John Barnard was the number one designer in F1 and he became my idol. So I wrote to all the F1 teams asking for their advice on what to study and what further education to to do in order to achieve my goal. Without exception the advice was to study maths, physics and computer science and to work towards an Engineering Degree like aeronautical etc.

Around the same time I read Jackie Stewart’s autobiography, the basic message of which was how to succeed you needed to live, breath and sleep motor racing. That’s exactly what I did and I guess that I was lucky to have a family involvement that allowed me to immerse myself in that world.

Once I got my degree I naively felt I was ready and qualified to go straight into a racing team and contribute, how wrong was I! I spent 10 months applying for every job in every race team that I could find without any luck. Eventually I was sent for an interview with a racing suspension company by a recruitment consultant I’d signed up with. I can’t tell you how dis-interested I was in the company and job, it wasn’t racing after all. My dad basically forced me to take the job. This was probably the most important moment in my career looking back now.

This little suspension supplier had 14 people and most of them were ex-Lotus F1 personnel. They were all really experienced and prepared to share their knowledge. On the first day I realised that I knew practically nothing when it comes to what’s required to do a job of work, University doesn’t teach you those things. It’s at that moment when you realise why experience is so important to employees.

I took every opportunity to soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible from the people I worked with and I will be forever grateful to my boss of the time for the extra time he put into to explaining all sorts of things that I’ve used in my career since.

That company expended very rapidly to have around 75 employees within 18 months, and as I had joined when it was small I naturally grew with the expansion, and eventually I looked after all the design work for the F1 dampers we supplied, which had expanded to be around 25% of the grid. This allowed me direct contact with designers in each team, and I developed good relationships with all of them.

When I saw a job advert in Autosport magazine for a designer working for the UK arm of Prost Grand Prix I already knew some of the guys that worked there as I was looking after the damper design for that team. So I spoke with my contacts and sent them my CV to passed to John Barnard on my behalf. I got the job!

I can still remember the feeling of using the toilet at the same time as John and thinking how surreal it was to be in that situation with my idol! We did 3 cars for Prost and lots of design projects for other teams after Prost ended.

I realise that it is so important to learn your trade properly. Look for ways to educate yourself completely, accept work in small dynamic companies and commit to learning everything you can. Hang around club/national racing events and get the feel for the grass roots of motor sport, keep an eye out for all the different solutions to the various engineering challenges even from the oldest race cars. Make sure you subscribe to the industry magazines and try and really understand the articles, there is a difference between reading something and really understanding it!

At some point you’ll get opportunities that will allow you to develop your career, and you need to be ready to take them.


Learn from YOUR experience

I would love to post similar stories to Darren’s on this site and so if you do or if you have ever worked in F1 or other high level motorsport and want to share your experiences then please get in touch with me either via the comments section here or via my twitter feed @Work_in_F1.

I would love to hear from you.

Join over 1000 other future F1 team members

Advice, tips and inside guidance

Join 5,711 other subscribers

Join the team!

Get on the startline

Join 5,711 other subscribers

10 thoughts on “How to have a career in top level motor sport – learn from my experience

  1. Sir, How about the rise in data analytics teams in motors ports. Are there any specific universities where companies hire such engineers?

  2. As far as stepping stones goes, how would service in a branch of the United States Military working on aircraft look on a CV?

    1. Aerospace & military in particular is good experience. Better than general automotive as it’s closer in precision and discipline.

  3. I’ve had my eyes on a job in formula 1 for some years now and live Motorsport myself, I understand a lot of universities compete in formula student and f1 teams offer placement years, are these sufficient experience to get a job in f1?

  4. Thanks for sharing,
    I don’t know why but my comments are not coming up and bcoz of that I can’t get your opinion on my problems.

    1. There is a big backlog of comments I haven’t replied to because I don’t have much spare time to lend to this blog. I get hundreds of comments to deal with so please be patient – they only appear when I have approved them because many are spam or such like.

  5. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to you for spending your time and efforts on this blog. For the engineers, whose dream is to work in F1 it is a beam of light in darkness. Thank you for inspiration!
    I’ve already have a Master degree in automotive engineering, but I received it in one university in Russia and of course there is no hopes that my knowledge is relevant and useful at the moment for working in F1. But I’m high self-motivated and may be finally I will find the way to get a job of my dream.
    For understanding what is the concrete dream, which I will be following next years, I’d like to ask you some questions:
    1.As I’ve noticed the majority of Junior vacancies are relevant to 3D design (using Catia V5). Is the working process look like: engineer receives the drawings of a new part from the designers and creates a 3D model in Catia? How strong you should be in the material composition in this case?
    2.Are there any real needed work for juniors in the area of testing? The most preferable tasks are about suspension optimization. Is it a separate task for engineers or that is a part of aerodynamic department’s goals (as I’ve read in one article). What do you use for finding the best design and parameters for suspension? Do you use only simulation tests or also road experiments? Do you use for simulation any well-known software or specific unique products?
    Sorry, if my questions are stupid or not clear, I’m doing my best to improve my English. But I will be happy, if you can find a time to clarify some points for me.

    1. Hi

      Sorry for the delay let me try and answer your questions:
      1) The Engineer is the designer. You are expected to invent, design, 3D model, draw and oversee parts or solution to a problem. Need to have good understanding of materials to do this but most teams have metallurgist or materials experts who can be consulted.
      2) Many juniors work in testing / R&D it’s very common. Suspension is heavily influenced by aerodynamics but designer needs to produce best suspension possible within those constraints. Most suspension development is done by modelling or historic understanding. Teams generally have their own full vehicle models both on-car and in simulation. Road simulation is limited to races and a few tests as we cannot run the car outside of these or do tyre testing

      Hope that helps

      Your English is near perfect by the way.

Comments are closed.