As the second half of the Formula 1 season kicked off in Belgium and Italy last month, and continues tomorrow in Singapore, one question sprung to mind – how do you get in on the action and become a Formula 1 engineer?
The UK is a hub for F1. Most of the teams are based here with specialist universities to support the future development of the sport. But, before that, what do race engineers actually do?
A Formula 1 Engineer – The lowdown
If you’re a fan then you’ll probably already know the overall role objective – to achieve the best possible performance from the car and driver. A Formula 1 engineer will be expected to analyse data and make informed decisions about the set-up required to generate optimum car and driver performance. Not only that, but it’s essential to conduct pre-briefings and post-race debriefs with the driver in order to obtain vital performance information that can then be relayed to design and vehicle dynamics professionals.
Skills and Attributes
Interested in the above? Feel like an aspiring race car engineer? Well let’s find out what you need to do to get there.
Firstly, you’ll need a degree or equivalent in mechanical or automotive engineering. Most UK universities offer mechanical engineering courses and this should enable you to study vehicle dynamics or mathematical modelling such as MATLAB (matrix laboratory) or SimPack – essential knowledge within the role.
It’s also a good idea to enhance employment opportunities after graduation. You can do this by trying to secure a motorsport-related work placement as part of your degree, whilst others opt to volunteer for race teams for free in their spare time. Marshalling can also be a good option, as it gives paddock access, making it possible to experience F1 life close-up.
Obviously, it isn’t always possible to walk into a race engineer role straight after graduation. Most race engineers will have worked their way up to the position, and usually after having worked as a vehicle dynamicist and a data engineer, whether in F1, rallying, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) or similar. Alternatively, you could work in junior race teams as a data analyst and develop ‘on the ground’, the skills required to graduate to race engineer.
- Quick thinking
- Passion for racing
- Excellent communication skills
- The ability to work well in a team
- Excellent problem solving skills
What career prospects are there?
Beyond the senior race engineer, possibilities for career development include senior managerial roles such as department head or chief aerodynamicist.
The pinnacle of F1 engineering, however, is the role of technical director, who have overall responsibility for track performance, aerodynamics and car design. At this level, salaries are upwards of £450,000 per year.
Therefore, if you have the passion for racing, the academic qualifications and the attributes required of a race engineer, then a race car engineer role is surely the ultimate job for you.
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