This is a question I get asked on an almost daily basis, so I thought it was time to get it down in writing.
I hope this article is relevant for both young students and the more mature amongst you looking for a career change.
Do I need a degree?
It depends on the role you want in motorsport. If you want to be a race, performance, simulation engineer or similar then almost certainly yes. If, however, you are more of a ‘hands on’ person then definitely not. For example if your interests are in welding / fabrication, wiring harness building, composite trimming and layup etc etc then these areas depend more on your manual dexterity than academic success. Many race mechanics will not have a University degree, they often work their way up through different race series to get where they want to be.
So, what type of job in motorsport do you want? A good place to start is to decide if you want to work Trackside or Factory.
If you want to work trackside (Race mechanic, Race engineer, Performance engineer etc) then you will be travelling to each race with the team. This means often being away from home which can be great depending on your time of life, it is more difficult if you have young children for example.
Factory based jobs are, of course, based at the teams factory such as design, composite manufacturing, machining, 3d printing, wind tunnel, assembly etc.
You will often find that your ideal job in motorsport is not in the town you live in, possibly not the country or even continent you live in so it would mean relocating and you need to be prepared for that.
You could also work for the large amount of companies that supply products into race teams such as titanium exhaust systems, fuel cells, electronics…
If you choose the University route there are plenty to choose from in the UK, Europe, US and around the world. You may choose a University based on its location, reputation or what it really specialises in such as the University of Southampton for aerodynamics as they have their own wind tunnel.
There are also various online options including the National Motorsport Academy where you can study for a degree online and with assistance from them to gain some hands on experience.
How do I get experience when no-one will give me a job because I don’t have experience?
Very good question and I’m sure that motorsport is not the only industry that struggles with this issue.
There are some well established schemes with the larger teams for industrial placements / internships and the teams will advertise these on their website and social media but, inevitably, there is not enough opportunities for all so what else can you do to ‘get your foot in the door’ ?
Whether you are still studying or are wanting to transition from another industry the advice is the same. Volunteer with local teams or go to race meetings with some business cards and ask if you can help out. This is also a great way to help you find the area of motorsport that interests you the most.
Remember: “Fortune favours the brave” Get out there and knock on some doors, someone will say yes and then you are on your way.
If you do volunteer be passionate, be enthusiastic, be professional. Turn up on time, every time. We all have a reputation, you can’t see it, you can’t taste it but it follows you around wherever you go and motorsport is a relatively small industry so you better build a good one. Go the extra mile, stay late, brush the floor, make the tea and whatever you do – don’t be arrogant.
Comment from an F1 team's HR department:
"Competition to get into the F1 teams is very high, applications for positions can sometime exceed 500 people, by underpinning their application with work experience with other series or attaching examples of their working to this application may help"
Below is a list of the categories that we list vacancies in, I thought it might help you to find your area of interest;