5 common myths about working in Formula 1

Working in Formula 1 is hard work but incredibly rewarding. A lot of people think they know what Formula 1 is like but a lot of myths exists about the sport. Here, I try and dispel some common myths that I hear about working in F1.

1) You can’t get a job in F1 unless you know someone at the teams
Nonsense. Networking is part of every industry and people often call upon ex-colleagues, friends or contacts to get references for potential applicants but this only accounts for a very small number of jobs that are taken in Formula 1. For junior or first time jobs this is rarely the case and jobs will go to the most suitable and best qualified applicants.

2) You have to work 7 days a week
You have to work hard in Formula 1 but very few people, if any, work 7 full days a week. The majority of shop floor staff will work a normal 9-5 type day, 5 days a week with overtime being expected during busy production times. Design office staff and engineers are expected to work long hours and some weekends during the winter car design and build period but during the season the demand is much less. The majority will tell you that they would far rather work hard in a job they enjoy than short days in a dull job that they hate.

3) You don’t get paid well in Formula 1
When breaking into Formula 1, many people will volunteer or work for low wages to gain valuable experience. Until you can prove that you are a valuable team member then pay in Formula 1 teams is generally only in line with industry norms. As you gain experience and become more senior you can expect your salary to move well ahead of the average and the pay is actually very, very good. Many top Formula 1 people will earn well above £100,000.

4) You need a degree to work in Formula 1
This is a very common misconception and it is certainly far from the truth. Certain technical jobs in aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics will always require degree qualified candidates but a huge number of other roles at the teams will not, including the majority of race team positions. Read my full post on this subject here.

5) You never get to meet the drivers or see the cars
One of the great things about working Formula 1 compared to normal industry is how close you are to the cars that you work on. Most Formula 1 factories are still very small and you can walk through and see the cars being built and the individual parts being made in the machine shops. Drivers will often visit the factory for meetings or to use the simulator and you will pass them in the corridor and sit with them in the canteen. You will often know who next year’s drivers will be well before the press do if you spot them in the car park…

My “Job in F1” blog aims to offer advice, tips and motivation on how best to go about getting a job in Formula 1. If want to make a career in racing you can look at my list of frequently asked questions, follow me or read through my archived posts. This blog is still a work in progress but if there is something I haven’t yet covered or you have a specific question then feel free to add a comment and I will respond personally. Formula 1 is a fantastic career and is not certainly beyond your reach if you are determined to work for it.

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5 ways to get a job with an F1 team straight away

“How do I get a job with a Formula 1 team?” It’s a simple question, but it isn’t such a simple answer. F1 teams often seem only to want to hire people who already have experience in the industry and so it appears very difficult for an industry newcomer to break through. In this post I will discuss what you can do to get noticed and get that crucial first job in Formula 1.

Getting a job in Formula 1 is not easy but getting your first job in Formula 1 is perhaps the most difficult step of all. As I explained in my last post, most teams are tempted to only employ experienced staff to minimise the risks that they face during recruitment. Clearly though, the teams must hire inexperienced people from outside of Formula 1 because otherwise there would not be many people left working in the sport in 10-15 years time ! This post discusses the most common ways that inexperienced people can start in F1.

The following list covers the main ways that you could realistically get “F1” on your CV without any motorsport work history :

  1. Apply for an advertised job and prove yourself to be the best candidate
  2. Apply for a place on a specific graduate scheme
  3. Apply for an apprenticeship
  4. Apply for work placement during a university or college course
  5. Apply for work experience

1) Advertised jobs

Route number 1 is normally as far as many people look. I’ll be honest and say that for someone fresh from school, college or university with no experience other than their exam certificates it is unlikely that you can compete with established candidates from other teams. It may seem unfair but that is the economic reality. Most people will cry foul at this point and walk away claiming that it is impossible to get work in Formula 1 and the sport is somehow corrupt !

You need to be cleverer than that however. There are circumstances where you might be able to apply for such a role and be successful but I can talk about that at a later date. We ought to move further down the list where we might have better opportunities.

2) Graduate jobs & schemes

You might not have seen many of these advertised but they do exist. Team policies vary and change year to year but several teams have had or do have graduate intakes and use them to bring on inexperienced newcomers. This tends to be the larger teams, Mclaren in particular have had an established scheme in the past although at the time of writing they have stated that this will not run in 2013 and will be replaced by individual adverts for graduates in areas that require them.

I don’t want this site to be a recruitment or job agency so I am hesitant to point people at particular companies or promise to alert anyone to suitable vacancies. I think that responsibility should lie with the reader but what I will do is attempt to point people in the right direction, tell where best to look and how to find opportunities. Engines and engine manufacturers in motorsport will be the the subject of at least one post in the future but if you don’t believe me that you can get a graduate scheme in Formula 1 then please visit :

Mercedes AMG graduate scheme

or watch the video !

It’s worth looking just that little bit further beyond the usual places.

3) Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are coming back into fashion in the UK and have been heavily backed by the government as a way for young people to learn a trade or skill whilst still earning an income. They were common in engineering companies several decades ago but fell out of favour during the 80’s and 90’s when the UK government policy tried to encourage more young people to stay in education and aim for a university degree.

www.apprenticeships.org.uk/

Apprenticeships are most suitable for candidates who have not followed a heavily academic route and want to become either a mechanic, machinist or technician in Formula 1. They typically last 2-3 years and in a Formula 1 team you would get to experience real work situations in various departments and quite possibly in car build and even on the race team. Several of the teams have active apprenticeship programs but normally they take on only a handful of people each year. It is best to contact the individual teams for details of their programs as soon as possible but this article in the Telegraph newspaper shows how keen teams are to take on good, inexperienced young people yet incredibly they actually struggle to find enough quality applicants !

4) Work placements

Year in industry work placements are now very common within the structure of engineering degrees in the UK and securing a 12 month work placement can give students a very good beginning to their work histories.

Formula 1 teams routinely take students on work placements during their degrees. It has a number of advantages for the teams as it is effectively a 12 month job interview with no commitment beyond the end of that particular year. In teams where I have worked, there may be 5 or 6 student placements each year, then 1 or 2 of these people may return to work as graduates after they have finished their studies. It’s another low risk recruitment method for the teams.

As with graduate placements it is worth contacting the teams and asking about details of when you can apply for work placements. They may or may not advertise the opportunities, several teams have prior agreements with specific universities to supply their placement students but these are subject to change on an annual basis. A good candidate would never be ignored but it would be good research to contact the teams to ask which universities they have taken placement students from recently and use this as you consider which course(s) to take. The contacts that institutions have with the teams are crucial and you should do as much research as you possibly can.

5) Work experience

Work experience placements tend to be much shorter than university placements and are most suited to school aged candidates. Again, team policy varies but it is common for schools in the local area to a particular team to be given priority and so opportunities are limited unless you are lucky enough to live nearby. Given the short term nature of the placements they are probably of least benefit to a long term career of any of the options listed here.

Keep in touch

Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on my home page to be kept up to date by email.

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

Breaking down the barriers to Formula 1

Many people want to know how to get a job in Formula 1. The fact that there isn’t a simple answer to that simple question is the main reason why I started this blog.

Over the next few posts I want to talk about why Formula 1 teams often appear to be a closed door, open only to a select group of experienced motorsport people. I’ll also show why that isn’t always the case and how a newcomer to the industry can get themselves noticed.

The importance of recruitment in F1

Formula 1 is a highly competitive sport. As many people will tell you, it’s an even more competitive business. If a team does not remain competitive or cannot attract enough commercial financing then it will not survive. There is very little sentiment in F1 and even race and championship winning teams have been lost, forgotten and replaced as the show carries on. Survival is key.

Recruitment is one of the most important, in fact probably THE most important aspect of running a competitive Formula 1 team. High technology cars and super trick gizmos normally grab the headlines in the media but a team’s greatest asset is its people : their knowledge, experience, talent and their motivation to strive to innovate and win. If you make the wrong decisions in recruitment your team will struggle to survive.

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine you run the design office at a Formula 1 team. You have a big new project coming up so you need to recruit a new designer. You place an advert in your team’s website and in the motorsport press to which you get a lot of replies. Lets assume that we can summarise each applicant as being similar to one of these 3 people :

  1. An experienced designer with several years experience with another F1 team
  2. An experienced designer working for a large road car manufacturer
  3. A school/college leaver with looking for a first job in racing

Who are you most likely to employ? Be honest.

Most people will go for number 1, the experienced F1 designer, because they are more likely to know what they are doing, require less training and perhaps they will bring with them knowledge and techniques that can help the team’s competitiveness. When you are under pressure to make the right decisions, to ensure your project succeeds, this is the lowest risk option. This type of applicant gives you confidence. As a newcomer to motorsport, this is unfortunately what you are up against.

It’s all about trust and confidence

In a previous post I spoke about how people in Formula 1 develop an F1 mindset. People work differently in Formula 1 and motorsport compared to other industries. An individual’s passion for racing and their competitive instinct mean that they will go over and above what a normal employee is expected to do. When you assemble a group of individuals who have this passion and this inner drive, it’s incredible what can be achieved and this is very clear when you look at a racing team. These are exactly the types of people that racing teams have and the type of people that racing teams are looking for. When an application for a vacancy comes in, they are looking for clues as to whether that person has a Formula 1 type commitment and mindset. If a car needs to be built and finished by the morning then they need someone who will stay until the job is done, and take pride in what they do even if its 2am.

The difficulty that they have is that there are no university degrees or college certificates that tell you about a person’s attitude. When you see the resume of a newcomer to the sport, how will you know what this person’s attitude is ? Can they be relied upon? Will they be self motivated to work ? If you apply to a Formula 1 team you need to demonstrate that you have gone above and beyond, that you have put in more time than others and that you have used your initiative to find opportunities and experiences. Even someone who has top grades might well be overlooked if their CV shows only that they went to school, listened to the teachers and did the exams that they were told to do. There are a lot of clever people out there so what makes them different and worth employing ?

Recruiting from within the industry still has its risks and costs (and you can use these to your advantage) but if someone has held down a job for another racing organisation then its pretty likely that they are a reasonably committed individual. Its not a very intelligent decision to make but its a low risk one and so in order to persuade someone to employ you instead of an experienced individual you need to appeal to that design office manager’s risk taking side.

When I spoke about volunteering in motorsport, this is exactly the reason that I talked about it as being so important. A newcomer who has gone that extra mile, marshalled at their local circuit, helped build a neighbour’s kit car or been lucky enough to be able to race themselves in karting will stand out and make that design office manager take notice. Maybe this person can really be an asset and is worth having for interview. You need to do everything you can to make yourself stand out.

In my next post I hope talk more about the things that you can do to improve your visibility and to help you break down those barriers. I also want to talk further about how useful it is to imagine the person who you are applying to work with and to understand what types of pressures and commitments they are be under. You have to sell yourself as being helpful or even indispensable to that individual so if you are able to empathise with them then it will be an enormous advantage.

Keep in touch

Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on my home page to be kept up to date by email. I am hoping to put together a short guidebook with as much advice as I can gather on the best ways to get into F1 and where to look for further information. I will email this guide out to all of my blog followers so please make sure you dont miss it by signing up to follow my blog.

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

Class of 2013 – Who are the Race Engineers at Ferrari and Red Bull ?

In this series of posts I’ve looked at the careers of each of the race engineers who will line up for the 2013 Formula 1 season(See parts 1, 2, & 3 here). These 22 men are the cream of the crop of race engineers in motorsport, but in this final post we look at the very best, or at least the most successful in terms of points finishes from last season, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Guillaume Rocquelin with Sebastien Vettel

Guillaume Rocquelin with Sebastien Vettel

FERRARI

Rob Smedley

Race Engineer for car 4 – FELIPE MASSA

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 39

Rob Smedley is one of the most familiar characters of the F1 race engineers. He has reached something of a cult status amongst F1 fans for his uniquely close relationship with Felipe Massa and for some of the radio conversations they have had in recent seasons. It’s well worth looking up on you tube if you haven’t heard some of them.

Rob Smedley with Felipe Massa

Rob Smedley with Felipe Massa, courtesy of http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk

Rob studied Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough University, before going on to do a Masters degree. He began his working career in touring cars, first at Peugeot then at the Williams Renault team before entering F1 with Jordan. He finally joined Ferrari in 2003 as a track engineer on their test team. He has been Felipe Massa’s race engineer since 2006.

Andrea Stella

Race Engineer for car 3 – FERNANDO ALONSO

Nationality : ITALIAN
Age : 41

Andrea has a long career history with Ferrari having joined the team in 2000. He first moved on to the race team to be performance engineer for Michael Schumacher, enjoying a number of wins and world championships. He was also data engineer when Kimi Raikonnen won his world championship in 2007. He was promoted to race engineer in 2009 and began working with Alonso in 2010.

Andrea Stella

Andrea Stella, courtesy of http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk

Andrea has a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Rome.

RED BULL

Simon Rennie

Race Engineer for car 2 – MARK WEBBER

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 33

Simon is new to the Red Bull Racing team this year having previously been a track engineer at Lotus. He is now famous for being on the receiving end of Kimi Raikonnen’s angry “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” radio message

Simon started at the Renault F1 team in 2004, acting as a data engineer through the Alonso world championship winning years of 2005 & 2006 with Rod Nelson. He was finally promoted to race engineer during Alonso’s second stint at Renault in 2009 and was initially implicated in the infamous crashgate scandal involving Nelson Piquet Jnr. He subsequently engineered Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld and Raikonnen before leaving for Red Bull at the end of 2012.

Guillaume Rocquelin

Race Engineer for car 1 – SEBASTIEN VETTEL

Nationality : FRENCH
Age : 41

Guillaume or “Rocky” as he is generally referred to at Red Bull, studied engineering at École Polytechnique de Grenoble. He began his serious motor racing career in America however, working as a track engineer in CART / IndyCar racing for PacWest with Mark Blundell and then later at Newman-Haas.

After initially believing that he would not ever make it back to Formula 1, Rocky has now won 3 world championships in a row and his team and driver are tipped as favourites again for the 2013 season.

Keep in touch
Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on my home page to be kept up to date by email. I am hoping to put together a short guidebook with as much advice as I can gather on the best ways to get into F1 and where to look for further information. I will email this guide out to all of my blog followers so please make sure you dont miss it by signing up to follow my blog.

Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

Class of 2013 – Meet the Race Engineers at Mercedes, Lotus & McLaren

Formula 1 race engineers might not quite have the glamorous lifestyles that their drivers lead but unless you are gifted enough behind the wheel then it is probably the closest that anyone can get to being a Formula 1 driver. In this third post on F1 race engineers we move further up the grid and meet the men in the hot seats at Mercedes, Lotus & McLaren.

 

MERCEDES

Peter Bonnington

Race Engineer for car 10 – LEWIS HAMILTON

Nationality : BRITISH

Pete will take charge of Mercedes’ latest star recruit, Lewis Hamilton having previously worked with 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher in 2012. Pete has been a race engineer at Mercedes since stepping up to the role from data engineer in the middle of 2011, when he took over from Lotus bound Mark Slade.

Pete Bonnington with Lewis Hamilton

Pete Bonnington with Lewis Hamilton, courtesy of http://www.f1aldia.com

Pete started his Formula 1 career as a data engineer with Jordan back in the early 2000’s, working with drivers such as Giorgio Pantano & Timo Glock before joining the then Honda team as an understudy to long time race engineer Jock Clear. Pete has inherited the nickname “Bono” in Formula 1 courtesy of his surname.

Tony Ross

Race Engineer for car 9 – NICO ROSBERG

Nationality : BRITISH

Tony Ross began his career at Austin Rover in a completely non racing capacity but took a vital opportunity to switch across to the British Touring Car championship with Nissan in the early 90’s. From there he made a switch to the Williams engineered Renault Laguna squad, still in the BTCC. Some good work there got him noticed by the Williams F1 management and he made the switch to Formula 1 at the end of 1997.

Tony Ross(l), with Sam Michael and Rubens Barrichello

Tony Ross(l), with Sam Michael and Rubens Barrichello

Tony worked with Heinz Harald Frentzen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Nick Heidfeld and eventually with Nico Rosberg. The partnership with Nico took Tony to Brackley in 2011 at Nico’s request, where they took their first F1 victory at China in 2012.

LOTUS

Ayao Komatsu

Race Engineer for car 8 – ROMAIN GROSJEAN

Nationality : JAPANESE
Age : 36

Ayao grew up in Tokyo, Japan and studied there until he was 18. He then left home in 1995 to come to England to pursue the dream of working in Formula 1 by enrolling in the Automotive Engineering course at Loughborough University. During his studies at Loughborough, Ayao worked with fellow countryman Takuma Sato as he tackled the junior formulas. As Takuma graduated to the British F3 championship, Ayao continued to work with him, learning the vital skills of the race engineer.

Ayao Komatsu with Romain Grosjean

Ayao Komatsu with Romain Grosjean

Ayao’s first job in F1 was at BAR Honda in 2003 before he moved to be a tyre engineer at Lotus (then Renault F1) in 2006. He has since progressed to the race team and has been race engineer for Vitaly Petrov and now Grosjean.

Ayao is an occasional twitterer at @AyaoKomatsu

Mark Slade

Race Engineer for car 7 – KIMI RAIKONNEN

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 46

Mark Slade became Kimi Raikonnen’s race engineer for the second time when he joined Lotus last season. Mark engineered Kimi throughout his time at Mclaren and came close to winning the World Championship with him in 2003 & 2005. The partnership has been re-united in the hope that such success can be repeated.

Mark Slade with Kimi Raikonnen in 2005

Mark Slade with Kimi Raikonnen in 2005

Mark graduated from Herriot-Watt University in 1989 with a Batchelors degree in Mechanical Engineering. He joined Mclaren and quickly rose to be a race engineer with them, staying in that post for an incredible 18 years, including a spell working with World Champion Mika Hakkinen. Mark finally left the team to join Lotus (Renault F1) in 2010, left after a year to go to Mercedes, then returned to be restart his partnership with Kimi.

McLaren

Andy Latham

Race Engineer for car 6 – SERGIO PEREZ

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 34

Andy had been Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer since 2010 when Phil Prew moved up to be Chief Race Engineer. Prior to that he was the data engineer on McLaren’s other car, looking after Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso.

Andy Latham with Lewis Hamilton

Andy Latham with Lewis Hamilton

Andy decided to take 3 races off last season as he became a father for the first time. Data engineer Mark Temple stepped up to the top job to cover.

Dave Robson

Race Engineer for car 5 – JENSON BUTTON

Nationality : BRITISH
Age : 37

Dave joined McLaren as a graduate engineer fresh from University in 2000. He initially worked as a stress engineer, calculating the strains on materials in each component and deciding if they were strong enough to go onto the car. He moved to the test team in 2005, before heading up to the race team in 2008 as a Data Engineer. He became Jenson’s race engineer when JB joined the team in 2010.

Dave Robson with Jenson Button, courtesy of www.vivaf1.com

Dave Robson with Jenson Button, courtesy of http://www.vivaf1.com

Dave grew up in Stockton-on-Tees and studied at Oxford University. You can follow him on Twitter at @DaveRobsonF1

Keep in touch
To finish this series of posts on the 2013 crop of Formula 1 engineers, I’ll finally cover the 2 top teams and the race engineers at Ferrari and Red Bull.

Keep checking my blog for the next part of this series or you can follow me via my home page and receive email updates for every new post. I am hoping to put together a short guidebook with as much advice as I can gather on the best ways to get into F1 and where to look for further information. I will email this guide out to all of my blog followers completely free of charge so please make sure you dont miss it by signing up to follow my blog.

Alternativley you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.