Who is F1 Joe ? A typical Formula 1 team employee.

F1 is a diverse and wide ranging industry but what is a typical F1 employee like and what is their background? In this short post I want to draw a picture of “Average F1 Joe”, what he(or she) does and how they got to work in Formula 1.

As average as F1 can get

Formula 1 is anything but average but most people who work in the industry have similar interests and backgrounds. I know that many of you are keen to know what subjects to study, what university to go to and what extra-curricular activities to get involved with so I thought I would describe an “Average F1 Joe” character who would be a typical employee of an F1 team. He may be someone who you can relate to in some way. He could of course easily be a she (F1 Jo?) but for simplicity I’ll be referring to Joe only as a male during post. There might even be a little bit of me in there…

F1 Joe’s early days

F1 Joe has been interested in F1 and racing cars since he was very young, perhaps even before the age of 10. He would likely have been the sort of child who enjoyed building things from bricks, Lego or bits of cardboard to make planes, trains & spaceships. A fascination with how things work is normally what drives invention and creation in Formula 1 people.

As Joe grew into his early teens he would probably been good at maths, problem solving and sciences, perhaps opting for woodwork and design classes.

It’s likely that he would have pestered his parents enough (or the parent of a friend) to take him to the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone where a first hand look at racing and machinery will have only strengthened the desire to get involved in racing.

An F1 education

Typically F1 engineers of all kinds study maths and physics to pre-university stage. These are pretty fundamental subjects for engineers of all kinds to understand. They are not special or glamorous and F1 has no more particular needs than any other job would do. It is not exceptional in this case.

At university, F1 Joe would most likely have studied Mechanical or Aeronautical Engineering. Again these are fundamental subjects (Aeronautical being more suitable for aerodynamicist but either is equally valid). He will have likely studied at a top 10 UK university or the equivalent in his home country were he a non-UK citizen. There is no special F1 qualification that he followed, but more likely it is his approach to his subsequent career that set him apart.

Out of school

Away from the classroom most F1 engineers will have been big racing fans, watching on TV and attending smaller club races at a nearby circuit. Joe will probably have had some involvement in racing directly, helping a friend run his kart or helping a friend’s dad rebuild an old car or engine. All this hands on experience is invaluable and will have looked very good on a his CV or resume. He might have even raced himself, many F1 people have done so in some capacity, and so he built up that competitive instinct and that hands on knowledge of what motor racing really requires. The television coverage of Formula 1 portrays most teams to be incredibly organised and confident but normally they will be hiding a number of problems, difficulties and handicaps that must be managed over a race weekend. Handling this pressure and instinctively knowing how best to deal with it can often come from racing yourself. F1 may be the pinnacle but in many ways it is the same as any other race series.

Entering the world of work

During his degree, F1 Joe may well have applied to F1 teams for a work placement. There is every chance that he was not successful. He was not put off however as it is only a very small number of people who get this chance and there are many more ways into the sport than that.

Joe is more intelligent than that and has applied to a huge number of companies which he has researched as being relevant to the motorsport industry. Many people may not have heard of them but he gets a work placement at Zytek working on mechanical design of engine components for their Le Mans sportscar prototypes. He gets thrown in at the deep end, but comes out of it with more knowledge of racing engines that he could have ever expected. He gets to make the trip to Le Mans in June of that year and is hooked on racing more than ever.

After graduating, he again applies for work at an F1 team but even armed with the experience from his work placement he is unsuccessful. Undeterred he applies for yet more jobs in racing and lands a role at Ray Mallock’s (RML) again working on their sports prototypes, this time in chassis engineering. He spends a year developing software for the vehicle dynamics department, building the software models that the race engineers will use to help setup the cars at the race track. This involves a few more trips to the track where he gets to see the car in action and shadowing the race engineers. He is involved in many of the driver debriefing sessions, familiarising himself with driver feedback, with the data and how to analyse it, feeding that back into his model and thus having a positive input in the performance of the cars.

The chance he has been waiting for

After 2 years at RML, a job advert appears at a Formula 1 team for a data engineer on Autosport. It specifies minimum 3 years experience in F1 or other high level motorsport (the usual barrier to F1) but he applies anyway. Luckily, the senior race engineer who is interviewing has also previously worked in sportscars and at RML and has a high opinion of them. He and Joe get along well and the team is very interested in the modelling and software work that Joe has done with tyre life and preservation for endurance racing. Even though engineers from other F1 teams are interviewed, he is offered the job.

Joe accepts and so gets to go to every F1 race of the following season building up a wealth of F1 specific experience. After 3 seasons as a data engineer on the number 1 car, the race engineer of the second car leaves and Joe is the most experienced and well regarded member of staff for that role in the team. He steps up to race engineer and is now well established in that role, one of the chosen few.

Looking back at Joe’s career he has not stood out as a genius at any point, he has not followed a magic lesson or university course and he has not found an easy way in but what he has done is do his research, been patient and realised that F1 is attainable for those who are ready to persist with it. Many of those other people who wanted to work in F1 with Joe will have fallen by the side along the way, become comfortable in another career somewhere and decided that because F1 has not given them an immediate opportunity then it is an impossible dream. They will tell you that it is open only to a privileged few who know people in the business. They will be the ones who tell you that you can’t get a job in F1 unless you follow the ‘right’ path and work for no money at all. They will be the ones that you should not listen to at all.

Not unusual

Joe might be a fictional character, and in this case he works as a race engineer but this kind of career path is not untypical for an F1 employee. My post on stepping stones emphasises how it is not always possible, in fact not generally normal to step straight into an F1 team from school or university. If you wanted to be a professional footballer you would not expect to play straight away as centre forward for Manchester United or Real Madrid would you ? You would build you skills in a lower team of division and take your place at the top when the opportunity arose.

The key is simply to think more broadly, consider how many opportunities exist OUTSIDE of F1 and then gradually build your experience to the point where it is relevant and attractive to F1 teams. I have said elsewhere that I did not get a work placement in F1, I did not get a job in F1 straight from University and in fact it was 5 years before I first stepped through the door of my first F1 team employer. My career path is not exactly the same as Joe’s and in fact I spent some time working in the US in several race series there to build my experience for F1. This was not very typical for someone from the UK but it worked for me and so keeping your options open and working towards your ultimate goal means that you can get there by any number of average ways. You can research some of these by reading my recent post on using LinkedIn.

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.

What is the difference between an F1 Mechanic & an F1 Engineer?

So many people want to fulfil the glamorous life of F1, hanging out with the drivers, making pitstops and being on the grid before the start. Who are these people and what is the difference between an F1 mechanic and an F1 engineer ? Its a common question and so this post runs through what each of these people do and why they make it to F1 and how you can do the same.

A privileged bunch

The start of a grand prix is one of the biggest and most compelling spectacles in motorsport or even in all sport worldwide. The crew who get to stand on the grid and work on the cars as this most dangerous of events draws nearer are generally the mechanics and engineers of the teams involved. What is the difference though and how would the career paths of an engineer and a mechanic differ to bring them to this same envious place ?

The term engineer is widely used. It can mean both the guy who comes to mend your washing machine and also the guy who designs the space shuttle at NASA. That’s a big difference. In truth the guy who mends your washing machine is not an engineer at all. He has a great many skills and probably a great knowledge of how things work but to make the distinction between these two sets of people would you get on a plane is you did not think the person who designed it was fully qualified? I should hope not !

Not everyone who works in a hospital is a doctor and similarly not everyone who works with machinery is an engineer. In F1, there are lots of engineers who perform different roles, not all of whom will go to races and stand on the grid. The engineers are the people who design the car, the ones who analyse the data from the loggers and the ones who study the computational fluid dynamics that dictate the aerodynamic development. The engineer will calculate the stresses in the suspension and judge whether it is strong enough for the wheel to stay on through the fastest corner. They are the boffins of F1 if you like. At races, a small number of engineers, normally called the race, performance or data engineers, will oversee the running and setup of the car, using the computer simulations and data from the cars instrumentation to make setup decisions and decide the strategy that they will use during the races. Engineers are the number crunchers, the men at the computer screens and the ones who will be closest to the drivers to respond to their demands. They will not generally be getting their hands dirty (but often do) or taking part in pistops and putting fuel in the car. They decide which tyres to use and HOW MUCH fuel to put in if you see the difference.

Mechanics on the other hand will be right at the coal face, carrying out the physical work at the car. The mechanics in F1 are incredibly skilled. They work under an enormous amount of pressure, assembling the car and setting it up exactly as the engineer would like. They will be the ones doing up the nuts and bolts, adding the oil and fuel and repairing the damage when driver crashes. They will have great experience in putting together complex machinery quickly and accurately with an vast knowledge of how a car works.

F1 mechanics also get to perform one of the most iconic jobs in racing – the pitstops. It is the guys who worked into the night to get the car ready who will put on the overalls and the helmets and wait patiently for their driver to arrive. It takes a nerve of steel to stay calm and focussed as a racing car and racing driver approach you at 80km/h, on the limit and to still stay composed enough to change the wheels in less than 3 seconds. This is an incredible and well practiced skill which many of the engineers, including myself, could never do. This is where the guys earn their money.

Away from the circuit, the mechanics will be responsible for stripping the cars down for checking and then rebuilding them in time for the next race.

Brains and the Brawn

In summary, if you are a thinker, an inventor or a boffin then you are most likely to want to be an engineer in F1. If you are practical person, someone who can make things work or fix them where other fall short then you are likely to be a F1 mechanic. Each role has their privilege and glamour but they are generally 2 distinct groups of skill sets who complement each other to produce a working race team.

The engineers will normally be degree qualified, studying at university whereas the mechanics will have a more practical background, often having been to college but will normally have to build up their experience in other companies or race series prior to getting involved in F1.

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 other recent posts. Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on the home page to be kept up to date by email. I have started to publish a full list of F1 job role descriptions, detailing what the day to day duties of a designer, aerodynamicist, data engineer and many other people who make up an F1 team really are. If there is something specific you want to know, add a comment to this post. Just bear in mind that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions. 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.

Why it might be better to call a Formula 1 car, a Formula 1 plane.

Most people know that Formula 1 is all about aerodynamics. Low drag is what makes the cars go fast on the straights and high downforce is what makes them go fast round corners. What people might not appreciate however is that a Formula 1 car has much more in common with a plane than just its reliance on aerodynamics. If you want to get a job in F1 it might be an advantage to look to the aerospace industry rather than the motor trade.

Planes on the ground

The aerodynamics around a Formula 1 car are extremely complicated, in many way they are even more complicated than those of a passenger airliner or a fighter jet. The interaction with the ground and the numerous other forces acting on a Formula 1 car make it an incredibly complicated aeroplane that just happens to have 4 wheels attached to it.

In one of my previous and most important posts, I talked about Stepping Stones to F1 and how important it is to think about the road to F1 as a slightly longer journey where it is often unrealistic to think that you can get to the final destination in one big step. The motor racing industry is quite unique, and F1 teams will always look to people who have experience in motorsport as they know that these people are most likely to have the right skills and attitude.

Many people have asked me whether I think it is a good idea to get a job in the wider automotive sector, working for a road car manufacturer or consultancy. My normal answer might surprise you as I generally recommend against this route as the F1 and racing community do not respect the experiences that you get in this industry. Road car development can often be high technology but development is slow and the companies are generally very large. It may be car related but it is not very relevant to F1.

Think skyward

The aerospace industry on the other hand is much more closely related to Formula 1. As I said earlier, it is not just a reliance on aerodynamics that makes this so. Formula 1 teams use many aerospace derived materials, analysis techniques and softwares in their design process and the complexity of the cars systems are much more like a fighter jet than a family car. It is very important in the aerospace industry to design lightweight components that are often delicate and require great skill to manufacture and assembly. They are generally very expensive to produce and require regular maintenance, checking and servicing by very skilled technicians. An average road car however is very cost driven, using much cheaper materials that can tolerate being damaged, abused and repaired by cheap corner garages and the owners themselves and yet still continue to function.

If you are looking for relevant experience for Formula 1, the aerospace industry actually has very similar skills to the motorsport arena and there are numerous people throughout F1 that started their careers in aerospace, either civilian or military. The areas of stress analysis, design, assembly, inspection, NDT or non destructive testing and maintenance in Formula 1 all follow what is done in aerospace companies and we are constantly looking that that industry for new ideas and technologies.

Useful Links

This post was inspired just an hour or so ago by my stumbling across a couple of websites who provide information about aerospace and manufacture. The “Take Off In Aerospace” campaign in the UK is a non-profit organisation which is aiming to encourage young people to consider manufacturing and aerospace as a career, and have provided a wealth of relevant information. As I have said above, many of the lessons provided for aerospace will be relevant for F1 and so it is well worth a read through. If you do land a career in aerospace it might well be a great stepping stone to F1 and other motorsports and I would definitely recommend it as a good route to F1.

http://www.makeit.org.uk/

http://www.aerospace.co.uk/projects/asce2/skills/take-off-in-aerospace

Best of luck.

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.

Moving the World Champions

I never intended jobinf1.com to be a recruitment site and as such never intended to post job adverts on here but I get so many requests for examples of non-engineering jobs that I didn’t want to let this pass.

A number of you have asked about site management and logistics jobs, with background in haulage, the armed services etc. so I wanted to show this current add for a vacancy at Red Bull Racing :

http://motorsport-jobs.autosport.com/job/220/red-bull-technology/vacancy/520/transport-manager

TRANSPORT MANAGER
HR22101301
WE ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING TO RECRUIT THE FOLLOWING POSITION AT RED BULL TECHNOLOGY:
We are seeking a unique and dynamic individual to head up our Transport Team and ensure that the business’ logistical needs are met smoothly and efficiently.
As part of this role you will be responsible for:
• Controlling, managing and implementing effective maintenance
programmes for all fleet vehicles and ensuring all safety and legal requirements are adhered to.
• Heading up a team of experienced drivers and ensuring they are clear on destinations and schedules as well as managing holidays to ensure adequate van driver cover.
• Managing the delivery and collection of goods and materials for all departments as required, and establishing clear priorities & timings so that all vehicles and drivers are efficiently utilised.
• Arranging couriers as and when appropriate and coordinating the dispatching of overnight packages.
• Coordinating daily morning and afternoon ‘milk rounds’ to
local areas.
• Planning the delivery and collection of travelling staff, guests and drivers to and from airports.
• All matters pertaining to the operation of Fork Lift Trucks within
the business.
• To assist with the planning and project management of new truck builds and refurbishments for the Race/Test Team.
• Managing the tachograph analysis.
The successful candidate will have the following:
• Proven experience within the Haulage, Transport or Logistics industry.
• Possess a sound knowledge of both UK and EU Transport Law.
• Be experienced in managing a flexible team and being able to optimise several logistics challenges concurrently.
• Have a self-motivated and proactive attitude, excellent communication skills and the ability to work to very tight deadlines within a team environment.
• Hold a National and International Certificate of Professional Competence of Road Haulage.
• Be IT literate and competent in systems such as Telematics.
In addition to the above this role requires natural leadership skills, the ability to adapt to multiple changes and new challenges on an hourly basis. The ideal candidate will consistently recognise the importance of this service function to both internal and external customers.
To apply for positions at Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Technology, please visit the job section on our website
http://www.infiniti-redbullracing.com
Closing date for applications – 15th November 2013
PLEASE NOTE: No Agencies please.

No more than that today but hopefully this will be of some interest to the non-engineers amongst you !!

Good luck as always.