From The Motorsport Engineers Network, we are extremely pleased to begin a series of testimonial blog posts from students who are involved in Formula Student.
Today we release this post, written by Miguel Eslava, from ETSEIB Motorsport in Spain.
The perfect start to a career in Motorsports
Starting a career in Motorsport is not an easy task, not only because is an extremely competitive world, but also because of what it means in terms of personal sacrifices. One of the best ways to have a quality experience and clear out any doubts about being able to deal with the hard work and requirements of this industry, is to get yourself into a Formula Student team.
Formula Student is an international student engineering competition. Student teams from around the world design, manufacture, build, test, and race a single-seater. These cars must follow strict regulations and later on will be judged not only in dynamic events, but also in static ones by professionals from the sector.
For a young student who is busy with university commitments, being in a Formula Student team will give you the closest look inside the motorsport world that you can have. Tight deadlines, intensive R&D, and lots of pressure among a large number of hours required. It may sound like an awful experience, but it is one of the most inspiring and rewarding challenges you can find.
– About myself
My name is Miguel Eslava. I am a postgraduate student of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and former Head of Suspension & Performance Engineer in ETSEIB Motorsport. I specialised in advanced vehicle dynamics and data analysis.
I am a young and passionate engineer whose core purpose is to develop a career in the motorsport world, and as I transition from university to the industry, here are a few tips that might help you on next steps.
– Find your team
Finding a Formula Student team is an important task that needs to fit with your personal circumstances and needs. In the case of Spain, there is almost one team in every province.
Before deciding on a team, it is important to think about what role you would like to play in it and, above all, what category you would like to compete in. Being a member of a IC car team is not the same as working on an electric or a driverless car team. Some teams have more than one car and compete in different categories.
Another aspect that is important to consider is the track record of the team. It is not the same to enter a team that has only built one car or is creating its first one, than one with 12 cars on their back like ETSEIB Motorsport.
Also, not all teams work the same way, nor do have they the same structure. Find out in advanced what you are passionate about and whether you will able to perform your desired role within the team (resources, options, availability, etc.)
One piece of advice that I think is important in your research stage is to stay in touch with different teams. Show them your interest in becoming a member and get information about entry requirements. The vast majority of teams look for candidates on their second or third year at Uni and some knowledge of your field of interest. Although, the vast majority assume that you have no advanced knowledge of vehicles, and you will acquire it once you are part of the team.
As in F1, WEC, WRC or Formula E, every team is divided into sections that specialise in different areas that make up the car. One of the best aspects of the motorsport world is that it needs talent from all different disciplines and working in the same team.
Any engineer can fit in a Formula Student team. From engineers interested in management, to those interested in aerodynamics or mechanical engineering. To help you understand where you could fit in, this is how ETSEIB Motorsport team is structured.
- Aerodynamics: responsible for the design of the entire aerodynamic package of the car, which includes the front and rear wings, the cooling and the under tray, among others. As in any motorsport’s category in which regulations allow aerodynamic development, they are a key part in the team. All the efforts that the “aeros” make, are focused on increasing the aerodynamic load generated by the car while reducing its air resistance.
- Chassis: its main function is to design and manufacture the monocoque and ensure the ergonomics of the car, as well as all the safety components that must protect the driver. In case of dealing with a tubular chassis, they would be in charge of designing, calculating and welding it.
- Vehicle dynamics: in charge of every element that surrounds the dynamic aspect of the car, such as tyres, steering, suspension, transmission, and brakes. They are responsible for maximising car’s performance.
- Electronics: in charge of the design, programming and implementation of the ECUs. They also design and manufacture their wiring harness, implementing telemetry and the entire interface of the driver’s screen.
- Management: here, duties range from contacting sponsors, treasury management, to team marketing. They are also in charge of creating and editing all kinds of audiovisuals, website designs and social media accounts management.
- Powertrain: depends on the category in which the car is competing. On the one hand, for an IC vehicle, they would be in charge of the tuning of the engine, fuel tank design, exhaust system, etc. On the other hand, in an electric vehicle, they would be in charge of the HV and LV accumulator, wiring, etc.
- Vehicle controls: this section may just appear in some electric car teams. Their main goals are the design and implementation of the torque vectoring, traction control and the power control.
- Driverless: the case of driverless teams is peculiar and in them, you could find sections such as autonomous systems or actuators design, among others.
– Find your role
As in any motorsport team, in a FS team there is a hierarchy. Each member has a unique and equally important role. Being able to find the spot that most closely matches your style, your needs and interests will ensure that the overall team performs adequately.
with certain responsibility. These are called Team Leaders and their work entails considerable organisational commitment – meetings sponsors, setting deadlines for the season, and so on) In many cases, they are former members of technical sections, so although their technical workload decreases, their experience and skills are invaluable for the team.
Also, it is common to find a chief engineer for every section. This person duties range from leading the section to representing it in front of the professors for organisational matters.
Every section is different, but they are mostly characterised by having a horizontal structure. The chief can be chosen by different means. In many cases it is just for meritocratic reasons. The level of involvement experience are important reasons for choosing the correct representative.
Finally, when you trying to work out what position suits you, remember not to be selfish and decide with the team in mind. Think about the consequences of your decision and how this will affect your teammates. After all, camaraderie is what will lead you to success.
One thing we have in common is that we all love racing. For FS teams, the competitions are the cherry on the cake after a year of hard work and sacrifices. Looking at the car you have been working so intensely competing against at the track is a one of a kind feeling.
There are competitions all around the globe, and at different times of the year, so every team can prepare a calendar that fits they uni schedule. However, not everyone can compete in them. To earn a spot, your team may need to perform well at the qualifying quizzes. Every competition has its own quiz format, but your main focus should be on questions concerning rules, general engineering problems and race or vehicle-oriented topics.
A FS race event is mainly divided into two areas. On one side, the dynamic events. They are by far the most interesting ones from the point of view of racing. In them, teams are able to test the performance, endurance, and reliability of their single-seaters.
However, as it is an engineering competition, if you want to win you will need to pay attention to the static events. Here, your team will be tested on challenges such as design, cost or business plan presentation.
Attending competitions is crucial for obtaining basic skills needed in the motorsport world. It teaches you how to cope with pressure and problem solve while trying to maximise the result for the team. They allow you to realise about the importance of being versatile, adaptable and working as part of a team.
On a personal note, the feeling I got after attending an event can be described by the following quote from Aristotle:
“The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know”
In some events you will face questions from some of the most experienced and respected professionals of the motorsport industry who will be there as judges. They will be ready to interrogate every aspect of your car and will not be satisfied with a simple and non-elaborated answer. They will also help you understand every single key aspect of the development of a race car. The design event, in particular, is an incredible boost in motivation in which you will improve your knowledge and feel more prepared to face the same judges next year.
Finally one of the most important and inspiring assets of a FS competition is the community. Sharing experiences with international teams is an enriching experience. In addition, it gives you the chance to analyse different team designs and concepts.
– Why FS is important for your future career
Time is your most valuable asset. Use it wisely and you will differentiate from the rest.
Formula 1 teams are really interested in students that have been involved in FS. They know that young engineers who have had this experience are capable of working on tight schedules and perform well under pressure. Successfully completing a BSc/MSc degree while dedicating most of your spare time to the car is not for all.
Although, this is not the only reason why it provides added value to the student. When you finish a Formula Student program, you not only know about the theory behind motorsports, electronics, vehicle dynamics and so on, but you have hands-on experience in building and dealing with the problems you will be facing in the future. Furthermore, you will develop the soft skills that are required in as a professional.
As former Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 engineer and founder of The Motorsport Engineers Network, Gerard Torres, wrote in one of his articles: “In a world where you can rarely go alone to succeed, any jaw-dropping technical skill set or ability will be worth close to nothing to any employer if the person is not able to work collaboratively and as part of a team. “
In a FS team, you will be surrounded by classmates and friends, for an incredible amount of hours, working all together in the same direction to achieve the goal of creating a competitive race car.
Another important asset is the opportunity for self teaching in an environment fed by passion. In many teams there is not much support from professionals or people that have specific knowledge on the subject, so you will learn by doing things yourself.
Joining a FS team is the first step into a career in motorsport. However, this is not guarantee of success and pursuing specialised education from a leading institution can make a difference.
Currently, said education can mainly be sourced from a number of German, Italian and British universities, which are the ones with the largest number of success cases. Unfortunately, tuition fees in these institutions are extremely high. And here is where the Motorsport Academy comes into place.
Learning your area of interest à la carte by professionals with extensive experience in Formula 1 and at a fraction of the cost is a unique opportunity. This is a one of a kind project, directly aimed at those with no fear of challenges and those who want to boost their careers in an exclusive and revolutionary way.