I know through the many hundreds of comments that I have had on this blog that a great number of its readers live outside of Europe and that several live on the opposite side of the world. The blog is written and hosted in the UK which is considered by most to be the heartland of F1 due to the fact that so many of the teams are based here. F1 is however now also a very international sport with many drivers, sponsors and of course the races themselves being held all over the world. The question is therefore, is it possible to work in F1 if you live and have grown up outside Europe and the UK? In this post I will discuss the difficulties and opportunities that this mix of local and international origin presents and the best ways that you can increase your chances of a successful F1 career starting from the other side of the world.
F1 is a global sport
F1 may have its origin and heartland in the countries of Western Europe but increasingly the sport is spreading its reach across the globe and courting new fans from previously untapped markets such as China, India, the Middle East. Although F1 has been to America many times in the past, it has never been particularly successful or popular but the Circuit of the Americas at Austin has proven to be a huge hit and F1 appears finally to be getting a good foothold this time around. A brief look at the F1 calendar will show that there are now races on almost every continent in the world. F1 is truly a global sport.
Drivers too have come from many, many countries across the world with past world champions from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Finland, Australia, Austria, France, Italy, United States, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. As fans follow their heroes, sponsors and backers from those home countries will also get involved and increase the international feel and mix of the sport’s make-up. Up and down the pitlane you will see and hear people of all different nationalities and backgrounds no matter what country that race is being hosted in.
There is however one area where F1’s European roots still maintain a vice like grip and for those aspiring to earn a living in this sport it potentially presents a huge hurdle. F1 may be an international sport but the teams themselves are all based in a very narrow and concentrated group around the UK and Western Europe. Whilst the majority of F1 is forever expanding its global presence, this nucleus of F1 constructors seems rooted to the spot. For aspiring F1 people from other countries it will almost certainly be necessary to leave home and travel to this F1 heartland in order to start your career. If that was not difficult enough, there are numerous practical and legal barriers that make that transition much more difficult than for people who have been lucky enough to grow up in Europe.
In a post from 2013 I spoke about why F1 constructors and employers remain so tightly packed in the UK and Europe and for those reasons I do not expect that situation to change any time soon. You may hope that one day a Formula 1 team might decide to setup in your home town or country but in the current climate I think that is highly unlikely and you certainly should not rest your hopes on it. If you want to make it in F1 from outside of Europe then there seems little option other than to prepare yourself to leave your home country and make your way to Motorsport Valley.
Red Tape and Visas
Leaving your home country, family and friends is no easy step to make and I don’t envy anyone who has to make that choice. Whilst I left my childhood home to pursue my career I always had the option of popping home and seeing my family whenever I wished. Moving to a new country, a new culture and a new way of life comes with many challenges but I am not here to make this decision for you, or to help you decide whether or not it is for you. The personal challenges are not your only hurdle however and unfortunately even if you are sure that the move to Europe is the right one for you then it is not that simple.
From within the European Union(EU) there is freedom of movement and employment so it’s should be relatively easy from an administrative point of view for somebody growing up in Spain for example to apply for and begin work in the UK or Italy. The challenges of getting qualified and experienced enough to convince a team to emply you of course is a different matter but that is not point of this particular post.
Immigration into Europe from the rest of the world however is a highly political subject and most, if not all countries within the union have strict conditions for immigrants from non-European countries. This means that you are not automatically eligible to work in Europe even if you are qualified and personally ready to take up that role. The rules are complex and I won’t for a second pretend to be an expert as it is not an area I have had much experience of. The rules differ in the UK from other countries within Europe and I’m afraid that it is well beyond the scope of this site to provide full and proper advice on immigration rules. Rules are different for migrants from different countries too and at all times they also subject to change so you should always check the latest advice before committing to any decisions about your future. I will attempt here to give you an idea of what might be required and the various ways to make the application easier but I cannot advise you on legal matters.
In the UK at least, unless you have any family ties you must essentially be sponsored by a UK company who has a specific need for a highly skilled migrant worker that cannot feasibly be filled from within the EU. That means that if a job could easily be done by a resident of the UK then the company is not allowed to offer that job to someone from outside of the EU. Bad news I suspect but it’s not quite as bad as it may at first appear. Each role is graded in its skill level and generally speaking, the more skilled the role the more difficult it is to fill.
Luckily for you, F1 and motorsport are highly specialised industries where the skills and experienced required are much more difficult to come across than for many other industries. In order to offer a job to an non-EU applicant, the employer or company involved much justify the difficulty that they are having in filling the role locally. Clearly for almost any role there will be somebody somewhere within the EU who can do the job but finding that person who is ready and willing to take up the role is not so simple. That search cannot feasibly go on for ever without an impact on the team’s competitiveness and so at that point an application can be made to hire somebody from outside of the EU.
In reality, this process does not even have to take a great deal of time. If the job is advertised internationally and an outstanding candidate is found who requires an immigrant visa then that justification can normally be made against a comparison of the other applicants received and provided that the candidate is well qualified then this justification can normally be made quite easily.
This is evidenced by the fact that there are a significant number of migrant workers within the F1 industry already and many if not all of the teams are used to applying for the necessary licences to employ and sponsor them. Mechanical Engineers in the product design area of the automotive industry are currently on our government skills shortage list and so some of the requirements that migrants workers would ordinarily have to meet have been relaxed or abolished, at least temporarily.
There is no rule that says teams should only recruit from the UK or Europe, they are only interested in getting the best possible talent they can, wherever that may come from. Any sensible team will invite applications from all over the world to give it the choice to recruit the very best people. If this means they have to push the laws on immigration then they will. A competitive advantage can be gained by getting the right people into the job and ultimately that is all that they will care about.
Up against a similarly qualified or comparable EU candidate you will always be at a disadvantage, this is unfortunate but inevitable but with a genuine case and if you are truly the best person for the job then there should be no reason why you cannot be a contender for a job in F1.
For the UK, the government provides a full set of guidelines at its own website which can be found at :
If you are serious about coming here to work you should read this information carefully and consider seeking advice in your home country.
The higher education system in the UK is well regarded across the world and many international students come here to learn and take advantage of the research opportunities. Immigration laws from students are different from those for full-time workers because you will not typically be paid during your time here and your stay will be limited to a fixed period of time based on your course. It is in general much easier to get a study visa than it is to get a long stay paid visa.
On the face of it this might not seem to be a good solution to the problem of making a full time career in Formula 1 but it actually offers many very valuable opportunities that should not be ignored. Of the overseas people I know in F1, a great number of them have studied in the UK before they settled to work.
Studying in the UK offers numerous advantages compared to studying in your home country as follows :
- Cultural and linguistic skills and familiarity
- The chance to network and make contacts with UK based students and employers
- Voluntary and work experience opportunities
- You will possess a familiar and recognised qualification from a known institution
- The chance to immerse yourself in the motorsport scene outside of your studies
- You are located in the UK for potential job interviews and face to face meetings
- Potential employers will recognise your sacrifices and know that you are familiar with and comfortable with UK society
Whilst a degree or equivalent qualification from a UK university will not guarentee you a permanent stay in Europe, it will put you well ahead of others who have never spent time in this part of the world for a number of different reasons. When a potential employer picks up your CV or resume and sees that you have spent time here already you are much more likely to be considered as you will be less of an unknown quantity to them. As I explained in a previous post on choosing the best university familiarity plays a large part in any recruiter’s sub-conscious decision making and right or wrong it’s something you need to be aware of. If something significant on your CV is familiar to the recruiter then you will stand a much better chance of being noticed or considered as you will be better understood.
Not only this, but many UK universities have strong links with industry which allow to learn about and potentially gain employment whilst you are studying which is an easier route than applying cold from outside of the country. Motorsport specific courses such as those offered by Cranfield University have excellent industrial relationships with not only F1 but also many other companies within motorsport. Several of these companies offer industrial talks and mentoring for students and it is an unparalleled way to make contacts and forge relationships in the motorsport community. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.
This article follows Sarvesh Yuchery who was born in Mumbai, India but has worked his way into an influential position at the Force India F1 team in the UK. He came here via study at Cranfield.
Of course, studying abroad is potentially much more expensive than studying at home and comes with all of the same cultural and emotional difficulties that moving for work would entail. It is certainly not an easy move for anyone. It is however a slightly less permanent and more well trodden move than moving only for work and on many campuses there is a thriving international community to help you settle in. The universities themselves are very familiar with the visa situation and most will help you to understand the requirements and then what implications it may have for your future. The rules from the UK government can be found here :
As always, none of these options is easy but if it were me the study route is something I would consider very seriously. From my observations it is a route that can work and allows you time to make an informed and empowered choice about your career.
I cannot pretend that you are not at something of a disadvantage if you have not grown up in a country where motorsport and F1 in particular are not commonplace. You will have several hurdles to get over in order to fulfil your dreams but be sure that it is possible and you should not give up without a fight. Very often, those who start from behind build up the courage, strength and determination to win as a result of their disadvantaged starting position. Too often, those with the best opportunities will squander them as they do not appreciate how lucky they are until those opportunities are taken away or wasted. You need to be there to pick up the pieces and make your success in their place.
The only thing for certain is that you can only guarentee failure by never trying in the first place and so make the most of what you do have and aim for the top.