Working in motorsport is something many people dream about but not everyone is aware of how hard you have to work to get into the industry.
Determination and many years of hard work are what have made Gerard Sabaté get where he is today, one week away from starting a graduate engineering position in Formula 1’s top team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas.
"Try to convince them and yourself that you are not applying because you want ‘a’ job but you want ‘this’ job, that will set you with the right mindset to tune the documents for the applications."
Please Introduce yourself
My name is Gerard Sabaté and I am from Barcelona, although currently based in Oxford. I am an Industrial Engineer with a specialization in Motorsport, having studied at UPC ETSEIB for both my Bachelor and Master in industrial Engineering and then Oxford Brookes University for the MSc in Motorsport Engineering.
In parallel to my university studies, I joined the highly intensive project of Formula Student at both university teams for a total of 4 years. Evolving from an aero design member focused on a single component design to the aerodynamic section lead at both teams.
After the first Formula Student stint, I got my first working experience in the CFD department at a Spanish automotive company where I run multiple aerodynamic simulations as well as geometry modifications for their first electric car.
It was after I finish the MSc at Oxford Brookes where I had my first taste of Formula 1, designing multiple composite components for an acclaimed F1 team from a design supplier company, BoldValuable Technologies.
In a week’s time, I will be joining Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team as a Graduate Aerodynamic Design Engineer in Brackley.
What does your future role at Mercedes entail?
My role as an aerodynamic design engineer mainly consists of creating CAD surfaces for new concepts, working closely with the aerodynamicists as well designing scale model components for the wind-tunnel testing. All of this in a fast-paced environment where planning and releasing the part to manufacture to a tight schedule and providing support information for the members preparing and testing the model component.
There is also a high responsibility to keep developing the capability, methodology, and processes to always be at the cutting edge of technology as well as a continuous raising in quality from the lessons learned from previous designs.
What is the best part of this new role?
It is very exciting to be part of a talented group of designers, aerodynamicist, CFD engineers as well as the manufacturing members at the machine shop, a group in which collectively bring performance to many areas of the car. On top of that, do it in a fast-paced environment where deadlines are tight and components need to be fault-free gives you a constant challenge to look forward to every day!
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
No doubt Formula Student was my initial breakthrough to Motorsport, it gave me the perfect opportunity to test myself into a real engineering challenge, go the extra mile in education as well as incorporating intensive experience in race car design, manufacturing as well as many important aspects as cost, planning, car build process. Although I believe the key factor of Formula Student is related with soft skills, like learn to work as a team, improve your communication and interpersonal skills. Those are mostly forgotten during the academic years at university but at the same time are a must for work in any engineering project, let alone work in a motorsport team. I would 100% recommend this experience to any aspiring engineer.
On a similar note, working at Bold Valuable Tech has been my breakthrough to F1. It has given me the chance to work with a dynamic team of like-minded and hardworking colleagues in the design of multiple composite components for one of the iconic teams in the grid. The fast pace environment created by the tight deadline and the attention to detail has been an absolute thrill and has raised me to the next level of engineering and design skills in a very steep learning curve.
How important was education in helping you achieve your professional goals?
I believe education like a technical degree is crucial as an engineering foundation but not enough to achieve strong professional goals. It is a combination of education and other experiences outside university i.e., Formula Student, internship, and specialized courses which make you a more complete engineer and in the end, make you stand out in the highly competitive application process for Motorsport jobs.
Although, it is also important to remind yourself that the time you invest in education the first formative years will reflect in your future career, thus it is worth not underestimate the effort required to do well at university as your grades and average can be pretty much the only thing you can show in your first internships or jobs applications, which can give you a solid start and open further opportunities down the road.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in Motorsport?
It all started very earlier, although not because of my family, as nobody watches F1 at home except me, unfortunately… but because of the golden era of 2005 and 2006 winning days of Fernando Alonso. Those years F1 was a huge thing in Spain, and as a 10-year-old kid, I was just caught up by the passion and technology of the sport. I remember asking if someone could make a living out of this sport, and over the next years I was gradually discovering the exciting opportunities that could suit better my skills. Then I ‘just needed’ around 15 more years of hard work, perseverance, and sheer determination to make it, so I feel like a kid’s dream made true!
What has been the most helpful resource or advice you’ve received when applying to your current role in Formula 1?
It would not be fair and difficult for me to point only one resource, as I have been collecting much little but important advice over the years from professional experts in the Motorsport industry which have gone through this process before, career advisors from university as well as online resources. But I could sum them up with the importance of personalizing the CV and CL to each job application you prepare. Don’t use a standard one as this is the first symptom that you are not pushing 100% to get this job opportunity, keep it simple, clean, and very organized, and finally try to convince them and yourself that you are not applying because you want ‘a’ job but you want ‘this’ job, that will set you with the right mindset to tune the documents for the applications.
What do you believe are the benefits of doing a Motorsport Engineer Course? Would you say additional courses are a must for engineers trying to get a job in Formula 1?
One key support I got over the past two years has been through the Motorsport Engineer platform. Firstly, it was a great experience and addition to the CV to undertake the trackside Aerodynamics course, learning in-depth knowledge from a Williams F1 Engineer with a personal approach through the assignments and questions I had over the course. Secondly, and even more importantly, it has been a truly personalized coaching and mentoring service that allowed me to improve my CV and CL with the adequate format to fit the specific requirements of Motorsport job applications. Rounding it off with personalized mock-up interviews to be spot-on in the job interviews, which subsequently helped me secure my past and current job in F1.
I would strongly recommend to any aspiring engineer to try and find the most relevant course from Motorsport Engineer as you can get direct contact with current and former F1 engineers with a bast experience, knowledge, and tips from the industry. In a way, through ME you can find a bridge between formal education and motorsport professionals from the pinnacle of the sport.
In that sense, I would like to personally thank Gerard Torres (Motorsport Engineer Founder) for his time and support and to enable many students and professionals to network in this excellent platform of passionate motorsport engineers.
In light of the challenging time globally, what advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
I graduated from university in 2020 in the middle of the Pandemic, and like many other classmates, I saw with fear the global scenario and the very few job opportunities that were available at those initial pandemic months. I try not to worry too much though, as you cannot do much about things that are outside of your control, instead, I tried to ‘make the most of the situation’ and as for example, expand your network of contacts and companies through LinkedIn and other motorsport web sites, or to do a specialized course about specific software or topic that you have been wanting to add to your CV, but you have never had time to do it. This approach could be summed up very well with a sentence that I find very trustworthy by Ross Brown’s life mantra commented in his book Total Competition: ‘luck is preparation waiting for an opportunity.
After all, something I learned it is highly likely you might need to take a detour from your ideal career journey at some point, but your approach shouldn’t have to change much as with determination and perseverance I believe it’s a matter of time that some opportunity will come across your desired path.