The Running of the Business That Is Formula One

We thought we’d start out looking at the functions within the teams that don’t ‘touch the car(s)’. This refers to all the support functions that makes the business end of Formula One or any other motorsport team go round. These include:

  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Finance and accounting
  • Facilities (reception, security, maintenance, etc.)
  • Executive Management
  • Administration

Now you are thinking that since these positions don’t have anything to do with developing the car, motorsport experience is not essential. You would be correct to a certain extent, but it is an unfair world that we live in and as with any job, employers give preferential treatment to candidates with industry experience. It is a also worth mentioning that any position in any of the functions rarely make it on to the open market as people tend to move from team to team, i.e. positions are marketed by word-of-mouth.

So now that we have painted a gloomy picture, is it a lost cause for anyone without motorsport/F1 experience to get through the door? Of course not! I think it is true with any industry that you have to look at the core skill set or job function and ask yourself what skills you have that would transfer well into a new industry. For example in motorsport marketing you would have to deal a lot with events with VIP guests, merchandise, social media, sponsorship management and sales etc. With this as a base you would be well served to look at entry points that have comparable environments, e.g. functions in other sports, smaller motorsport teams, music, film, entertainment, etc. Teams will also look for candidates who have cut their teeth in environments that will allow them to hack it in motorsport. With this I mean that it takes a certain personality to work in motorsport, you have to have thick skin and be passionate and devoted to the ’cause’, i.e. winning every day of your career. Also keep in mind that many people in motorsport have very strong personalities so anyone who have dealt with most celebrities will know what to expect.

I am not going to spend much time talking about the executive management level jobs (CXO level) as this comes through, in most cases, having been groomed during your whole career by investors and owners of teams or have a strong and distinguished career in motorsport. Exploring how to go about that successfully would be a whole book in itself.

Needless to say, it would behoove anyone trying to get in to any of these functions to attach themselves to people in the industry to find out about positions that come available and then go for it full force. One way (here comes the plug) is of course to work with a recruiter/headhunter such as ourselves at ‘Resources In Motorsport’ as we talk to people in the industry every day and know about movements sometimes before anyone else.

I hope you have enjoyed this short analysis and that I have given you some food for thought. Happy career management and have a great week ahead until next time.

Feature series on the inner workings of Formula One

Formula One is an industry with companies that compete for position in the market. As it happens these companies are teams and the market is the grid, the race and the championships. So, is a Formula One team different from any other manufacturing business on the inside? If so, what are the differences?

Anyone on the outside of Formula One that has a keen interest will have a vision of mystique when it comes to the inner workings of the teams. I hate to break it to you, it is not like Willy Wonka is to candy lovers, there are no grid girls on roller skates serving you refreshments nor does the day consist of tinkering on and test driving the car. It is a hard-core seriously scientific business. Think about it, you have 250 to 500 people employed to (simply put) manufacture two cars that go racing a 20 odd times per year! Every one of them fulfill an integral part in making these teams work and succeed. Now it is true that teams more often than not are suppliers of technology or manufacturing to other teams or businesses as well, so it was truly ‘simply put’. However, you will see that it is true that it is an exciting and invigorating environment that challenges you to be the best every day you show up for work. As a matter of fact most of this is true for any seriously committed race team, whatever format they may be engaged in.

Each team have departments to develop various aspects of the car from concept design, through testing to manufacturing to running the car in competition. During the next few weeks we will take a look at these different departments, their structures and functions to give anyone with a desire to get in to the sport an idea of how it works and how you can set up a strategy to build a career in Formula One. If we are lucky we will hear from insiders as well.

Along with these installments we can recommend that you catch up with Peter Windsor on ‘The Racer’s Edge” (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) to get further in-depth information about Formula One and the science behind it. It is a show that has run since the Australian GP this year, so it will give you a library to go through when the abstinence sets in after Interlagos.

Good luck to everybody for the last GP of the 2013 season and bon voyage to the V8, you will be missed.

The Big Catch-22

“You don’t have enough motorsport experience”; how many times have you not heard that? This is the big catch-22 for anyone trying to get into motorsport; you need to have motorsport experience to work in motorsport. Most people that make a career in Formula One, Sportscars or any other motorsport teams typically start out in any of the many internship or graduate programmes that teams offer, but the problem is that it is extremely competitive, only the very very best are accepted. The ratio between applicants and successful candidates vary but 200:1 is not unusual.

We also see many extremely well educated candidates with PhD, MSc’s etc, who also struggle to get in because it is the WRONG degree?!? The issue from the teams point of view is that their business models do not allow for candidates not to be able to produce results on day 2. This holds more true the more senior the position is. Depending on the department, teams prefer candidates with degrees in engineering as opposed to science or the other way around and thesis work should primarily be geared towards motorsport. It also comes down to showing a real passion for the sport, if you don’t have that you will not make the cut. As ‘cultish’ as it may sound, your life should revolve around motorsport.

The third group of problems come down to the right education, but the wrong experience. So, you have a MSc with specialty in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and Aerodynamics, but your work experience is in rotor blades on a helicopter you may not be the right fit. You will have to be pretty senior in your current field to make it in to a junior position in Formula 1 for example.

So now, how you get in to motorsport if you have not been fortunate enough to set yourself up on the right path, but have some serious skills? First action is set your mental determination, you really will have to want it and are ready to work towards it. You may have to take a step or two back in terms of your ‘title’ and be at peace with that.

Next you will have to figure out how far from the core of motorsport you will have to find your entry point. As en example we imagine that you have a background in NDT (Non-Destructive Testing), which typically is a good case of a field that translates well from most industries to motorsport. However you don’t have experience in composite carbon fibre materials, nor do you have qualifications in any testing techniques nor any experience with Ultrasound testing. With these short comings you will have to find an industry/company that will offer on the job training in the areas you lack experience and sponsors your pursuit of getting qualified. This could be an entry-level position in aerospace or with a composite consultant company supplying motorsport.

Finally, you tick all the right boxes apart from that elusive motorsport experience. You should immerse yourself in the world of motorsport; get involved in club racing, formula student programmes, etc. and offer up your expertise. Also, find employment with a company that supplies services to motorsport that will allow you to build your skill levels in motorsport while using your expertise.

Quite a few candidates that contact us will have heard from us that they need an entry point to work in motorsport and it is the reasoning above that is the basis for that. We aim to always respond to anyone who contacts us with constructive feedback as to what gaps they need to plug or how they should go about finding entry-points. Sometimes we go as far as telling people to go back to school to get their degrees and thus reset and start all over. It all comes down to the candidate’s determination and dedication.

What is all this blogging malarkey about?

Good Afternoon Motorsport Fans!

The primary purpose of this inaugural posting is to give everybody who’s interested the opportunity to sign-up to subscribe to our new blog. We will (try to) write updates once a week covering subjects such as: motorsports current affairs, tips and insights into motorsport careers, manufacturing and design, etc. The topics will typically relate to recent news events, jobs that we are recruiting for or perhaps case studies relating to competencies/job roles in motorsport. We will also showcase challenges in motorsport design and engineering. Our resident HR expert, Donna Biskup, will occasionally also write on HR related issues and how they specifically apply to motorsport.

This first month since launching Resources In Motorsport has been a complete whirlwind, but the response has been tremendous. We have gained the support of quite a few teams in Formula One and candidates have really taken a liking to our approach. We hope to publish some statistics over the next couple of weeks to back those facts up. However, we want to thank everybody for their support of Resources In Motorsport, thank you!

We expect to issue the first ‘real’ installment of this blog next week, so for now we wish you all happy and safe racing! Keep watching this space.