David Massegur: F1 Lead Aeroelastician

David Massegur is a talented and experienced Aeroelastician with over 12 years experience within the Motorsport industry. Most recently, David has worked as the Lead Aeroelastician at the Williams F1 team before departing earlier this year to pursue a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. In this interview, David shares his profound love of Motorsport whilst offering a fascinating insight into his long and prosperous career.

Introduction

My name is David Massegur, I am from Girona, one of the four capital cities in Catalunya. I have more than 12 years of experience in Formula 1, specializing in Aerodynamics, Structures, Aeroelasticity, Conjugate Heat Transfer and Methodology.

As an Aeroelastician I was responsible for the whole Aeroelastics area of the team. Aeroelasticity is the science to enhance the Aerodynamics performance of the car via structural deformation of wings and other key components. Therefore, my tasks consisted of undertaking projects for the structural optimization of front wings and other components, confirming their performance in CFD, building up the CFD-FEM coupling processes, assessing the deflection effects on the car performance in the Wind Tunnel and at the track as well as liaising with Aerodynamicists and Structural Engineers to come up with beneficial Aeroelastic phenomena.

Early Opportunities

I became passionate about Formula 1 at the beginning of High School. This is why I chose to study Engineering at university. Gradually, I became more and more interested in Aerodynamics and then in Aeroelasticity and its importance when applied to F1. Hence why at my fourth year of university I got awarded a scholarship to study Aeronautics in Italy.

After finishing my university degrees, my career started off in Composite Production at Ferrari F1 to then become the Aerodynamics team leader of the Ferrari road-car section. Then, I decided to move to the UK, where I am currently based, in order to become a CFD Aerodynamicist and Brake-Cooling specialist at Renault F1.

After 3 years, I joined the Caterham F1 team as a CFD Engineer in charge of the front area of the car. My next career step happened when I joined Williams as a Senior Aerodynamicist 8 years ago. After a long stint in the Aerodynamics department, I then became a Structural Engineer for a year before being promoted to the lead Aeroelastician within the team.

Just before the Coronavirus outbreak I decided to put a pause on my Motorsports career to study Artificial Intelligence and set up my own consultancy business. Indeed, I am just starting my PhD at the University of Southampton.

Career Highlights

The best part of my role is definitely testing and developing an idea you have thought of and it being successful! The pride you feel and the motivation to explore even further to make the car faster is so fulfilling!

I can think of several successful projects throughout my extensive career. I hold a special fondness for the revolutionary brake-disc designs I developed ten years ago that had a big impact on brake-cooling management and were the precursors of the current discs currently used. Another more recent breakthrough was when I invented and I designed an aeroelastically tailored front wing that provided a significant performance boost on track during the difficult 2019 season.

Moreover, on the personal side there are also proud memories, such as the moment when me and my family met Frank Williams in person. He is an institution within F1 and being able to talk to him on so many occasions is really special!

The Key to Longevity and the Importance of Education

The key is enjoying what you do and in the challenge of having to solve difficult technical problems. The motivation to get the most out of yourself to achieve the best possible results in your projects. Working well and being successful in your tasks will then allow you to progress in such a competitive world.

A strong academic background is essential for having the criteria to come up with and develop successful ideas. In my case, I strongly believe in multidisciplinary design: to make the fastest car, the best interaction amongst the sciences, including Aero, Structures, Thermal and Vehicle Dynamics, is crucial. The fastest car will not be the one with best Aerodynamics but the one with the best compromise. And I actually gained this multidisciplinary conscience at university. Hence why I have been able to work on different types of roles throughout my career.

Advice to future engineers

Study and work well. I always recommend getting the most out of your studies as this is the best opportunity to be as best prepared as possible. Having a proper theoretical background is essential to succeed in your career and will then allow you to continue learning, albeit more based on experience.

Therefore, study a good university degree and also be keen to travel abroad to boost your CV and learn new cultures and approaches. Also, the big advantage nowadays compared to back when I was a student, is having access to fit-for-purpose online courses that help you deepen in the fields you are interested in, such as those offered by Motorsport Engineers Network.

In addition, I also recommend yoga and/or meditation to help you keep a good mental health. In such a competitive and fast-moving world, a good physical and mental condition is essential to handle the stress and the pressures at work!

A massive thank you to David for sharing his wealth of knowledge and advice with the Motorsport Engineers Network!