Interview with: AN AERO PERFORMANCE ENGINEER

Our ‘Interview With’ series speaks to people in varying careers to ask about their role and how they got there, to inspire others who may be at the stage of picking a career or switching up their current one.

This week, we interviewed an Aero Performance Engineer to hear what it’s like working behind the scenes in an F1 racing team…

WHAT IS YOUR JOB TITLE?

F1 Aero Performance Engineer

  • HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING SINCE LEAVING FULL-TIME EDUCATION?

3 years

  • WHAT ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR IN YOUR ROLE?

The group that I work in is the cross-over point between the Aerodynamics Department (that design the external surfaces of the car), and the Race Team. We are responsible for ensuring that the F1 racing car is performing optimally from an aerodynamic perspective during the race weekends.

F1 cars are covered in hundreds of sensors, measuring all sorts of data. My main responsibility during races is ensuring that the aero sensors on the car are working as expected, so the data is as accurate as possible. I also carry out analysis of the car performance, focussing on the correlation to data from the wind tunnel and computer simulations. Any spare time between races is spent developing software tools to help with the data analysis.

  • WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORKDAY LOOK LIKE?

One of the great things about this role is that no two days look the same. Most of this job is based around a two-week cycle: one week preparing for the race, the race weekend itself, and then one week to do any follow-up analysis and software development. However, every circuit is unique, each requiring different preparation and different methods of analysis to make the car go as fast as possible. The car design is also constantly being updated throughout the year, and so there is always more to learn about how the car performance is evolving.

  • WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

The team spirit where I work is amazing, and so motivating. Everyone is working towards a common goal of making the fastest F1 car on the grid, and ultimately aiming to win races and world championships. 

I also love that my job is really close to the racing, and I get to hear all the behind-the-scenes conversations on the team radio. Nothing beats the excitement of the last few minutes of a qualifying session, or first lap of the race!

  • WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE LOOKING TO GET INTO YOUR INDUSTRY?

Make sure you are prepared for the level of commitment you will need to have to this job, as you will work approximately 20 weekends per year. Sometimes you can end up doing long hours during the week as well, as there are tight deadlines leading up to each race.

You have to be mindful of your time management, otherwise you won’t be left with much time for life away from work, but if you’re passionate about it, it will be a very rewarding experience!

  • WHAT ARE THE MAIN QUALIFICATIONS NEEDED FOR YOUR ROLE/INDUSTRY?

Most F1 teams will look for someone with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering for this role, however some will also take applicants with a Mechanical or Automotive Engineering degree.

It can be quite competitive trying to get a job in F1, as there are a limited number of teams, but don’t let this put you off! There are many industrial placement and graduate programmes on offer, which are a great place to start if you don’t have any prior experience… and is actually how I got into F1. Recruiters sometimes have to look through hundreds of CVs for just one vacancy, so try to make your application stand out – although it should still be fairly professional, aim to include something that shows your personality.

  • WHO WAS YOUR ROLE MODEL GROWING UP?

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a pilot, and I was inspired by my great-uncle who was a very successful pilot in the RAF. My dad used to take me to air shows at Duxford and Eastbourne, which really fuelled this passion. Unfortunately, I get really bad motion sickness, so I decided this perhaps wasn’t the best career choice for me, and maybe I’d be more suited to designing the aircraft instead of flying them.

  • IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ANY ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Don’t take life too seriously! There’s nothing wrong with working hard, as long as you make sure you have time for hobbies and hanging out with friends too. Looking back, you’re much more likely to remember all the fun things you’ve done, rather than the results you got on a piece of coursework, or how well a presentation went.

PAY RANGE IN £ (TOTAL PACKAGE): 

A = up to 20k
B = 21-30k
C = 31-50k <<<<<
D = 50-70k 
E = 70k +