Why the idea that F1 isn’t as good as it used to be, is actually very good news for you

Formula 1 is the most expensive, highest technology and widely followed form of motorsport in the world. That’s a fact. The question many ask is whether or not Formula 1 is better for it or does this commercial drive mean that the sport isn’t as good as it used to be? It is an argument that is heard over and over again but the end result may mean good news for those wanting to earn their living in Formula 1.

A success for everybody? Probably.

F1 is a global success story. It is broadcast in almost every country in the developed world and love it or loathe it, most people that you speak to will know what Formula 1 is and what it means. Is it the holy grail for those who work in racing though and is it the target you should be aiming for?

It’s a popular pastime amongst those who work in racing to put Formula 1 down as a sport, say it’s spoilt, not as good as it used to be and that it’s a business not a even a sport at all anymore. It is certainly different to how it used to be but has the F1 really suffered that much?

Puritans think back to a ‘Golden Era’ in the 50’s and 60’s where privateer teams could buy a car, drive out to a circuit somewhere in Europe and take on the might of Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes. So many romantic stories come from that time, the little men taking on the big guns and winning, tasting champagne and their moment of fame. All you needed was a leather cap, goggles and a cheeky spirit to rock the establishment. Oh, and a private fortune… I say that because these were the days before sponsorship and so F1 really was the reserve of the rich and privileged.

Today’s F1 costs even more however and is now only affordable for sizeable corporations. Entry is limited to 24 cars and the championship entry fee alone is unaffordable by any reasonable measure. There is no way that enthusiasts can hope to take part… That era is long gone. Or is it?

Formula 1 for everyday people

Despite the relentless march of the commercial F1 machine, the fact is that far more “ordinary” people take part in Formula 1 today that at any time in the glorious past. Some of the romance may have gone but the success and expansion of the Formula 1 business has opened doors into the sport that were firmly just a few decades ago.

The average team in the 1960’s consisted of 10-20 persons and even the big factory constructors would have employed barely a fraction of the people that they do today.

The complexity of the cars has only increased the diversity of the skills required and so more doors have opened to more varied types of people. There really has not been better odds on you being able to earn a living in F1.

If you are still a romantic

I asked earlier on whether or not F1 was the pinnacle of motorsport for those lucky enough to earn their living there. F1’s success is undeniable but it isn’t for everyone. Other forms of racing are smaller and less corporate and many people find their ultimate goal is outside of F1.  That goal may be in rallying, historic racing or stock cars for example. I’m lucky enough to have spent the early part of my career in the US, working in different series there and I can tell you first hand that the experience is very different to Formula 1. I must say loved it and really enjoyed being involved in different aspects of the team and seeing so much first hand of what it takes to run a small racing team. We had some success too, which I felt a real part, not that I don’t in F1 now but it is easier to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond when there are only 10 people on the team !!

Ultimately it depends on what you want and how hard you want to work to get it. Despite a great experience, I decided I still wanted to work in F1 because it was what inspired me to work in racing in the first place and commercial or not it has a magnetic draw as being the best of the best. The good news is there are more opportunities for you whatever you choose with expansion into new markets gathering pace those opportunities are only likely to get better. That is good news for everyone.

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.

The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.

If you have read the blog but there is still something specific you want to know you can always add a comment to this or any other post. Please bear in mind however that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions, particularly if they have been asked before or have been discussed in previous posts. Please check my frequently asked questions or other people’s comments as your query may have already been answered.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

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The long F1 winter

It’s been a long time since I posted on this site. Too long really. I think it was June when I wrote my last post and so many weeks and many F1 races have passed by in the meantime. What have I been doing you might ask? Well don’t you know it’s been the Formula 1 winter !!?

Time for a holiday ?

Many people ask me what everyone in Formula 1 does in the winter “off-season” when there are no races. Do we go skiing, or go on exotic long haul holidays and lie on the beach to recuperate and generally laze around ?

No. We don’t. Definitely, definitely not.

Winter is the busiest time in a Formula 1 team BY FAR. Hard to understand at first perhaps but have a think about where those lovely shiny new cars that get rolled out at the beginning of each new season come from. Those aren’t last year’s cars with just a good spring clean and a new paint job. Those are brand new, bespoke and state of the art racing cars that have been designed & developed by a huge team of people over many many months of long days and late nights at the factory. Every last detail, every nut, bolt, wing, sensor, hydraulic pipe, fuel tank, insulation, cooling duct, structural element, crash zone and gear has been drawn, manufactured and assembled over the winter and involves an incredible amount of effort which is largely unseen by the casual F1 fan.

Winter this year starts before summer

A decade or 2 ago, the “car build” would start late in the season and carry on over the winter until the start of pre-season testing in January or February. Quite often the new car would not be ready until after the first few races of the new season had passed.

In modern F1 each team starts the season with its new car and the start of the car’s design has been getting earlier and earlier in the preceding year as the cars become more complex and have a greater number of parts and systems.

This year has been the busiest for quite sometime as we are preparing for a major rule change in 2014 with the introduction of a new generation of V6 turbo engines and some important aerodynamic changes.

For most teams, the “winter” this year started in May or June with smaller sub groups having been working on the 2014 car even before the 2013 car turned a wheel. It’s an enormous amount of work.

I’m one of that team. I’ve been burying my head in concepts, ideas, experiments and wholesale changes of direction as the car gradually takes shape. No time for blogs or career advice.

The new car is actually well on its way now. We know what the engine looks like, how much cooling it requires and where everything will go. We ‘think’ we know what tyres we’ll be running and so the suspension is laid out and we are designing the detail components that hold everything together. The chassis is underway and it won’t be too long until the first one is ready to be prepared for the build to start and the car moves from concept to reality. At some point around Christmas or just after New Year we will fit the starter and breathe life into the new machine for the first time – the “fire-up”.

I actually love this time of year. Few industries and jobs can beat the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you hear the engine of a new Formula 1 car fire-up and roll out if the garage for the first time. To see the result of all that hard work and graft come to life and scream its way down the pit straight is what life is all about. It might have been a long hard winter but you are naturally filled with excitement and optimism for the coming season and what your new car might achieve. YOUR new car, because you’ve had a huge input into it and your ideas and designs are what is helping it to power it’s way around those first few exploratory laps.

The new season is already underway

The 2013 season still has several races still to run but inside the teams the focus is already almost entirely on the first race of 2014. The public won’t get to see any racing until March but the competition to be the best is well underway and I’ve been putting in my pound of flesh and hard graft these past few weeks to make sure we are competitive.

Time will tell but when the cars line up on the grid in Melbourne you might see some very tired looking faces amongst the paddock as this will have been one of the longest and hardest winters in quite some time…

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.

The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.

If you have read the blog but there is still something specific you want to know you can always add a comment to this or any other post. Please bear in mind however that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions, particularly if they have been asked before or have been discussed in previous posts. Please check my frequently asked questions or other people’s comments as your query may have already been answered.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.