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What is really behind the latest F1 career academies ?

When Susie Wolff hung up her racing helmet at the end of 2015, she immediately set about trying to put something back into the sport in which she had made her career. Her aim was really to maximise opportunities for young women and girls to get involved in motorsport, and potentially achieve more than she herself had managed in her time in Formula 1.

“Dare to be Different” is an initiative focussed on getting girls interested in motor racing, both from a driver’s perspective but also introducing them to the wealth of career opportunities as engineers, mechanics, marketing and sponsorship people than the industry offers. Motor sport has always been a male dominated arena but there is little or no reason why it should be in the future and a notably increasing numbers of females now make up the ranks compared to when I started my career.

Dare to be different is affiliated with the RACMSA as an educational initiative but it isn’t associated directly with any teams or companies within the industry. Several other schemes have popped up over the past few years however as motorsport and in particular Formula 1 have become aware of the need to promote themselves and make it easier for young people to enter the sport. Compared to when I started my own quest for a career in Formula 1 this is great news and a change that I fully support.

The Formula 1 teams are also getting behind existing initiatives much more than they have done in the past. Mercedes AMG HPP and Renault/Infiniti F1 are big supporter of the UK Formula Student program and have not only contributed financially but also have a very visible presence at the competition itself. For the last few years, Mercedes have had a large marquee with a Mercedes F1 car and F1 engine on display. Their staff have been on hand to give out information and to explain a little bit more about what they do and how newcomers might get involved.

The rapid rise of the F1 in Schools initiative has also grabbed the headlines in recent years and Williams F1 Team and their partner Randstad have aligned themselves closely with the World Finals competition to promote their own Engineering Academy program. Williams have taken on students during their university studies and several have now I believe gone on to take up permanent roles at the team after first getting involved through F1 in Schools and the Randstad Academy.

Renault F1, again through their partner company Infiniti, have held a Engineering Academy for several years. Initially promoted through Red Bull in 2014 / 2015, the Infiniti Engineering Academy again offers a 12 month work placement for successful students partly based at the F1 Team and partly at an Infiniti road car development centre. Since the relaunch of the works Renault F1 Team last year this same scheme has now moved under the Renault branding but essentially works in the same way. The scheme is truly international with regional finals taking place all over the world and giving students from outside the traditional F1 centre of the UK and Europe.

The emergence of these schemes is a fantastic opportunity for young people and students to get a break in motorsport. Whilst the opportunity is welcome, they have however also created an impression that starting a career in F1 is a competition and that inclusion in one of these schemes is essential to getting your career off the ground. The promotional aspects of these schemes should also not be ignored, they are very much sponsorship and marketing exercises for the companies involved and the main reason they exist is to spread brand awareness amongst young people. In the second part of this post I will discussing how much time and focus you should really be spending on engineering academies, what less well promoted alternatives exist and how they compare.

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6 thoughts on “What is really behind the latest F1 career academies ?

  1. The key is for any initiative to have support from the motorsport sector, itself. There are a number of organisations that have emerged, some referencing academy or similar, but do they have connections to motorsport? Have they an alumni network working in the sector? At Cranfield we have long established links and our programmes are managed through an industrial advisory board which includes alumni.
    As of January 2018 the composition of the Cranfield University Motorsport Steering Committee is:
    • Adrian Reynard, Director – ARC, Cranfield University Honorary Doctorate and Motorsport Visiting Professor to Cranfield University (Chair of the Panel)
    • Paul Crofts, Motorsport Consultant (Deputy Chair of the Panel)
    • Chris Aylett, Chief Executive – The Motorsport Industry Association (MIA)
    • Rodi Basso, Motorsports Director – McLaren Applied Technology Group
    • Simon Blunt, General Secretary – The Motor Sports Association (MSA)
    • Owen Carless, Head of Stress, Rear of Car – Red Bull Technology
    • Jamie Dye, Managing Director – Fortec Motorsports
    • Jane Gilham, Head of Human Resources – Xtrac Ltd Jane Gilham
    • Ian Goddard, Head of Technical Partnerships – Renault Sport Formula One Team
    • John Grant, Chairman – British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) John Grant
    • Sylvain Filippi, Chief Technical Officer, Virgin Racing Formula E Team
    • Ron Harvelt, Managing Director – One Group Engineering
    • Rob Kirk, Head of Motorsport Electronics, Cosworth
    • David Lapworth, Technical Director – Prodrive
    • Cristiana Pace – Motorsport Consultant
    • Mike Pilbeam, Director – Pilbeam Racing Designs
    • Stuart Robertson, Head of Circuit and Rally Safety, FIA
    • Neil Spalding, Director – Sigma Performance and Technical Consultant Moto GP
    • Stefan Strahnz, Chief Engineer – Business Process Transformation – Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team
    • Pat Symonds, Technical Consultant – Formula One Management and Visiting Professor to Cranfield University
    • Christopher Tate, Motorsport Consultant
    • Iain Wight, Business Development Director -Williams Advanced Engineering

    Cranfield University is a member of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) and is supported by the Motor Sports Association (MSA). Its Motorsport MSc students assist the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) with respect to the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone. The Advanced Motorsport Engineering MSc programme is linked to AVL through AVL’s University Partnership scheme. Students have access to AVL Boost software.

  2. Hey, I just wanna thank you for getting up a blog like this !! I have always dreamt of working in F1 and your blogs are perfect answers to every question!!

  3. This is a brilliant short piece, and it makes me incredibly excited for the future of women in motorsports. As someone who has been struggling to get her career in F1 off the ground for over a year, initiatives like D2BD have never been more necessary. It’s promising to see that the industry is slowly starting to realise how important a female’s perspective can be.

  4. Hello
    This might sound preposterous but what are the possibilities for anyone from Latin America to get a job in F1?
    I´m currently studying mechanical engineering in my native country (Mexico), I do plan to study a degree or something else in the UK, however, Is it strictly necessary to be British or German or European at least? Or is this a myth?

    Thank you. 🙂

  5. Terrific insight and reminder on F1 career academies and their risks.

    The Infiniti Engineering Academy has been held for 5 years in China and is seemed one of the best opportunities to Chinese students as it is the only platform which allows us to compete with other F1-hopefuls on a similar education and language background. However many in China still have a large myth to treat the IEA as the only way to break into F1 overnight.

    Part of that is only because it’s the only opportunity annouced and it sponsors a working visa, but another factor is the lack of racing teams, which means most students believe they would not benefit from such a experience and make a useful connection to the European racing world and F1 unless they get picked in IEA or get admitted into a renowned motorsport engineering course in the UK. In fact, it’s a huge mistake and I suppose it’s especially worth notifying to readers outside Europe and in a much less developed motorsport environment. You should always make that additional step and get some real knowledge and mindset outside school no matter how far it seems to be from your ultimate goal, especially when that’s the only thing that’ll make you exceptional when everyone else in your country is trying to show the IEA judges how well they did in FSAE.

    As a result, I feel extremely previliged to have found your blog, read through your insights and happliy discovered that nearly every single piece of your advice makes an on-time hit on my myths. I’m still an undergraduate freshman from China and is now studying Aeronautical Engineering in the United States, but your passages have encouraged me to reach out and get in active contact with people in the motorsport industry, from which I’ve already achieved an extremely precious co-op opportunity. I’m looking forward for your next analysis about F1 academies which will potentially help me see what else I can do other than a general motorsport mindset. Thanks a lot and wish you all the best for the season opener in Australia.

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