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

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.