And In The Beginning They Were … Apprentices. Or: An Exploration into Apprenticeships in Formula One.

Kid on computer

Even though testing is going on in Bahrain, I figured that this might be a better time than during the build-up to a race weekend to publish some insider material from Formula One. According to Apprenticeships.org.uk (part of HM Government’s ‘Skills Funding Agency’) there are some 22.000 apprenticeships available at any time in England. You need to be 16 years or older and not currently be in an educational programme. An apprenticeship is a true door opener as you get to learn a job while making some money; a win-win situation for employers and candidates alike.

Apprenticeships in Formula One

As with anything in Formula One, it is tremendously competitive to get in to an apprenticeship with a team. Most of the apprentice opportunities are in the manufacturing side of the business. Unfortunately Teams will only be looking at candidates with a college degree, but that is not to say that all is lost if you do not qualify for an apprenticeship in Formula One, but I will go in to some early career strategies further down. Typically Teams recruit candidates for their apprenticeship programmes directly from colleges or from a ‘Registered Training Agency’, which, unfortunately, RIMS is not one as of yet. Normally you would spend up to 3 years on fixed contracts in an apprenticeship before entering a fully skilled role. You would be placed in a host department and then would be rotated to different functions. As you can see apprenticeships are great opportunities to be exposed to and gain experiences in a variety of jobs. Hence, it is a good idea to set your aims at Teams and organisations that have a variety of departments and functions that you can rotate through.

Apart from the ‘hard’ skills, i.e. academic qualifications, Teams are looking for the usual ‘passion’ for the sport and a high level of mechanical aptitude in successful candidates. They would like to see candidates that have shown interest early. Hence if you are 12 years old and reading this blog I would, apart from wondering what the heck you are doing on the web, suggest you get to it and try to find mentors in the engineering and manufacturing sectors to spend time around the process. Of course you will not be able to operate machinery, but you get the idea, demonstrate REAL passion and drive.

Career strategy advice

I’ve said it many times before and I will continue to harp on it; find your entry-point! If F1 is your bulls eye and you have not been successful getting in, go to the next layer: suppliers of F1. Especially as an apprentice candidate you have a real incentive to offer the employer, remember the win-win from above? Make a list of 50 companies that supply F1 Teams with services and start calling and sending in your CV, it’s called networking and if you’ve read my previous articles you understand how important that is. Then you spend three to four years working with F1 parts and prove yourself; suddenly you are very attractive to a Team. If you do not have a degree from a college, you may have to start a little ‘further out’ and work your way in to your entry point, it will take a few more years, but at least you are on the right track.

I suggest you take a look at http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/ as it has a wealth of information and positions available to research. Well, that is all for this time. I hope you got some useful insight and I wish you all the best in the pursuit of your dreams.

Model Cars For Grown-Ups. Model Making in Formula One.

ADM from photopolymer resin

It has been a while since our last edition of our series of ‘The inner workings of a Fomula One Team’ articles, but there is actually some research that goes in to it; we want to be thorough and correct! Again the information is based on interviews with people working in the pertinent field.

This time we are taking a look inside the Model Making department and how (in general terms) they work . As you may know models in F1 are used for wind tunnel testing and experimental aerodynamic testing,  validation and data generation through telemetry. As opposed to the testing using CFD, they actually have to build a physical model of the car with all the intricacies that exist on F1 cars these days. Some teams use ‘smaller’ models, i.e. 40% scale of the full sized car, but they will always strive to test on at least a 60% scale model for more accurate results. Even though Teams are having to rely more on CFD than wind tunnel testing going forward due to regulations, wind tunnel testing remains an integral part of a Team’s process of achieving their goals on the track. A typical ‘model shop’ will consist of manufacturing and assembly groups. They manufacture the parts in many different materials from aluminum, carbon fibre, steel to the various metals and resins used in ADM, Advanced Digital Manufacturing or ‘Rapid Prototyping’. In the olden days they actually used wood and would have to rely on chisels and gouges to achieve the right shapes and angles. These days they use CNC machines and 3D printers using resins and metals cured with lasers, all fed instructions based on the designers’ specifications in the CAD generated drawings. Times have changed, haven’t they?

Essentially the designers will give the group the CAD from which they manufacture the parts for the model. Considering the can be up to 1 000 design changes per week during the season, the pressure from the design department is tremendous. Once the parts have all been made, the model is assembled and a test session is run. The wind tunnel is operated by wind tunnel technicians, which typically have and electronics and instrumentation background. The test is run by an Aerodynamicist who works with the model makers to make changes to the parts and to make sure the data is collected for analysis. This data is in turn interpreted by the Aero and design departments to make a case for implementing the design change on the full sized car. And around it goes again.

This department has traditionally been a great entry-point in to motorsport for apprentices, and still is. However, due to the lack of apprentices, as seen in the news lately (e.g. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lack-apprenticeships-holding-back-uk-3187201), candidates are sourced from other functions.  I actually spoke to a candidate the other day that started out as a cabinet maker before ending up making models, which does make sense really. Obviously CNC machinists/programmers, composite pattern makers and anyone with experience of 3D printing technologies have a natural fit in the manufacturing process. A degree from university is not necessary, but many times apprentices are brought in from Motorsport programmes from colleges, so it is competitive despite the diminishing apprentice pool. In terms of transferable skills you would be able to move to any function as a CNC programmer/machinist or composite pattern maker, depending on your function. However, you are also able to move in to operations management, e.g. production manager, if this is the direction you want to go. Key in this as many other areas is to keep yourself up to date and trained in new technologies as they move very fast.

The rapid prototyping element of model making is becoming increasingly common in all types of industries and even in manufacturing processes and thus it is a burgeoning market for good model makers. Hence it is certainly a skill set worth investing in for a life long career.

Below I have picked out a couple of videos to explain the technology and also give a glimpse in to the wind tunnel process.

As usual, keep an eye out for opportunities for model makers, CNC Machinists, Pattern Makers, etc on our website: http://www.resourcesinmotorsport.co.uk. It is also worth pointing out that this week, 3/3 – 7/3-14, is National Apprenticeship Week, to find out more follow: http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/awards/apprenticeship-week-2014.aspx

How’s it flowin’? Working In Experimental and CFD Aerodynamics .

Thank you for bearing with us while we have been off celebrating Christmas, bringing in the New Year and researching for this blog post. As many of you have seen we have also started working with two new clients that both on the forefront of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and Aerodynamic research; TotalSim and Wirth Research. With these two new clients it was only natural for us to write a piece on the subject.

For the purpose of this article, we will look primarily at the structure and functions of Experimental Aerodynamics and CFD Aerodynamics in a Formula One Team. For the purpose of this article we will refer to the former as ‘Aerodynamics’ and the latter ‘CFD’. Of course teams are going to differ, but the analysis below will give you a general overview that applies to all teams with some variations. Specialty companies such as TotalSim and Wirth Research will also use different terminology and we will take a quick gander at that towards the end. The general common goal of both the Aerodynamics and CFD functions is to improve airflow around the car and to reduce drag. Once you’ve read to the end of this article (if I haven’t put you to sleep already) you will realise that there is a natural rivalry between those that work with Aerodynamics and those that work with CFD. The reason for this is primarily because Aerodynamicists rely on testing data that is generated by running, in most teams, a 60% model of the car in a wind tunnel, while CFD will use models built in a software environment and run simulations on High Performance Computers (HPC). For those of you who are avid F1 fans and follow such experts as Craig Scarborough on the technical side of the sport know about the restrictions discussed in wind tunnel vs. teraflop (a measure of computing speed equal to one trillion floating-point operations per second) usage. This where the ‘animosity’ between the functions is going to increase quite a bit; teams will have to sacrifice wind tunnel time for running CFD simulations and vice versa depending on where a Team think they can get the best data from. The initiated people that we have spoken with say that there will be a greater emphasis on CFD and that Aerodynamicists will have to spend more time doing CFD analysis as opposed to wind tunnel analysis. Hence, a recommendation for someone looking at a career in Aerodynamics is to pay very close attention in their CFD modules at University!

One aspect that never ceases to amaze is the vast number of titles/functions within these departments. Tell me if you can distinguish between this sampling of titles: CFD Engineer, Aerodynamics Engineer, CFD Aerodynamicist and Aerodynamics Designer. Tricky isn’t it? I think as a rule of thumb is probably that someone working in CFD has an emphasis on computer programming as well as building models for testing in CFD software, while an Aerodynamicist is focused on designing for fast prototyping (think 3D printing) using CAD software as well as building and using software for analysis of how the model car behaves in the wind tunnel. CFD Engineers have a bias towards computer programming, scripting in the CAD software that is used to run the tests and collect the data (Catia v5 and Unigraphics NX 7.5/8.5 are most prevalent in most teams). Aerodynamics Engineers, as it has been explained to us, is a cross over function that does both Aerodynamics and CFD testing. The gist is that in either case a model has to be designed and built, a programme told how (environmental factors) to test the model and data has to be collected and analysed. Every step in process has its specialists that perform the functions. Of course, we shan’t forget the Aerodynamicists that work on the ‘full-sized’ car, either in the factory or track side (or both). These functions collect and analyse data from tests and the races from the actual car.

I think it is fair to say that Experimental Aerodynamicists and CFD Aerodynamicists in Formula One are ‘brought up’ working on individual pieces of the car (e.g. left side of the front wing) graduating to sections of the car and then on to overseeing the whole car. The bigger the Team the more specialised the function is, smaller teams will give more opportunities to work on several areas of the car. If you are looking to work on a broader range of projects and follow the project from start to finish, you are probably more likely to want to seek a career with companies such as TotalSim or Wirth Research.

In Formula One you would enter your career as as a ‘graduate’. This is a ‘test’ position where you are first given a 3 month contract, then if you successfully pass that you are given a 6 month contract. If you are on top after 9 months you will be given the opportunity for a 12 month contract in a ‘graduate position. You are expected to within 21 – 24 months be ready to move in to a ‘junior’ position, where you would probably spend another 2 years before being a fully fledged Experimental or CFD Aerodynamicist! Depending on the team the hierarchy below the deputy heads of department is no less confusing. Below is a run down of the leadership positions in order of seniority:
Principal – is in charge of the development of the whole car or in some teams half the car.
Project – is similar to a group/team leader, but could work on, e.g, developing future cars.
Group/Team Leader – runs a team that develops a section of the car.
Senior – a senior member of  a group or a team.

Above these positions you will have deputy heads and heads of departments, typically the person at the top is the Head of Aerodynamics to whom other heads will report, e.g. Head of CFD, Head of Aerodynamics Operation, etc. This is a bit of a sweeping statement as teams are not all set up the same way, so if it works differently in your team and I put you lower on the totem pole than you actually are, please don’t take offense as none is intended.

Ok, so what does an employer expect of someone working in Experimental and CFD Aerodynamics? Apart from the typical buzz words, like ‘organised’, ‘good team player’, ‘excellent communicator’, etc, you have to be very good with computers, and that is putting it mildly. As a base you have to have excellent skills in CAD software and knowledge in theoretical Aerodynamics. For some positions you need to have strong programming skills (C++, C#, scripting in CAD software, etc.). You also have to have strong analytical skills to understand the data that comes out of the testing and how to apply changes to improve the model. As these qualities aren’t enough you should have top grades with a degree from a top University (think Russell 25). Pay close attention to your math and physics modules (and show them in your CV) because they matter greatly. If you want to work in motorsport you should involve yourself in every opportunity you have to gain practical experiences in motorsport. Formula Student programmes are excellent forums for this. Anyone considering a career will also have to be prepared to put in the hours, there are high expectations to dedicate yourself to the success of the team. Other businesses also expect you to apply yourself, but are slightly more similar to ‘normal’ companies, but don’t expect ‘9 – 5’.

So if you made it this far without falling asleep, you’ve done well and are obviously a big fan of Experimental and CFD Aerodynamics. I hope we’ve opened the door slightly for you to give a glimpse in to the inner workings of Formula One. Keep an eye out for our next installment.

I leave you with a pretty cool video clip where Martin Brundle explains the Aerodynamics of a F1 car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYaIXWNOa_A

Ah, These Young Ones With So Much Hope And Enthusiasm!

Last time we talked about the functions that do not ‘touch’ the car, i.e. more business administrative roles within the Team. This article will attempt to tackle and, in some respects, generalise another collective group spread across many department; Newbies. This would refer to anyone in a graduate, apprenticeship or internship programme. These programmes are vastly different but have one primary commonality; they are entry points to working in a team. These are extremely competitive programmes and being selected is an achievement in of it self lest we forget about actually completing any of the programmes. Key to succeeding will of course be to performing well in your job, but there is more to it than that. Teams will be looking for candidates that apply themselves and are loyal. Hence, as the old cliché goes, be the first to arrive and last to leave every day. This is also an opportunity to network, learn and ask questions as you will be exposed to more than one discipline in a team. Can I just mention networking again? You will find that it is as much about what you know as who you know in this business.  There are too many examples where candidates superbly competent do not get called up because they are not ‘known’ in the business, start building those relationships early!

Internships are programmes that run for a specific period of time during an interns studies at university. Teams will announce them during a limited time during the year. This will be the lucky few’s opportunity to connect theory to practice, but also to get a feel for the environment. Most teams have internship programmes; they allow teams to take a first look at the potential starts of tomorrow that might come back as graduates. They also tie up relationships between teams and academic institutions to allow teams to gain access to recruit the best graduates. Every intern’s objective should be that when they put in the application for a graduate position the hiring manager says to him/herself “I remember this guy/girl, that was the intern who….[insert positive aspect of your internship]”. If that happens you probably proved yourself and stood out from the crowd and made a point to make yourself known to the managers (without being blunt about it!). By the way, don’t expect to get paid for your internship, you are there to learn, especially if it is part of your educational programme.

Apprenticeships are similar to internships as they run for a specific period of time, but with the objective to lead to permanent employment. These programmes tend to run in the more mechanical/manufacturing aspects of the teams. An apprentice will also have completed his/her studies and will be expected to start contributing to the success of the team relatively soon after joining the team. You will not be earning much money as an apprentice, but you will have the opportunity to learn the ropes and be exposed to different functions within the team. If you are successful in your apprenticeship you will be offered a full-time, permanent position.

Graduate positions come up continuously throughout the year and you can think of them as entry-level positions with caveats. They are proper jobs where you perform a function, but have the opportunity of learning the practical side of what you’ve studied academically. These positions are typically tied to the more technical functions in the team. The demands for a strong academic degree are high. A graduate employee will be contracted on a 3 month period to begin with, then another 6 months and finally a 12 month contract is offered to the successful graduate. If you get this far you will be promoted to a junior position, i.e. you will be a graduate trainee for 21 to 24 months depending on the circumstances before being ‘hired’. It is tough and harrowing as you do not have much time to prove yourself and you have to very quickly figure out what it is that you have to do to prove yourself.

A couple of final notes and advice to anyone in either of the three programmes above; while at work, turn off your phone, your private e-mail, your social networking sites and anything else that does not involve you furthering your career with the team you are at!

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.