Jobs in F1: How to Become a Formula 1 Aerodynamicist

  • What is an Aerodynamicist?
  • What does an Aerodynamicist do?
  • What skills do you need to become an Aerodynamicist? 

Introduction

Aerodynamics; a hot topic in the world of Motorsport. To the uninformed, aerodynamics can seem like witchcraft, used to keep the car glued to the surface of the track. In reality, it is a complex form of fluid dynamics that can be learnt and developed into a performance-enhancing asset. 

The industry of Formula 1 offers a magnitude of career paths and journeys in order to work alongside the elite. F1 is the highest echelon of motorsport, so you should expect each of these paths to be fiercely competitive. 

There is no easy way into F1, but, if you have your heart set on working with aerodynamic features, then this article will explain exactly how you can find yourself in one of the most heated teams within F1. 

What is an Aerodynamicist?

Described by a top-level space programme, an Aerodynamicist investigates the interaction between solids and the air around them. With reference to F1, it is the relationship between airflow and the car body. 

The objective of the aerodynamicist is to create a car that will aerodynamically stick to the ground through corners but will also have the ability to glide through the air on straights. This constant battle between downforce and drag requires intricate designs and an eye for finite detail.

Within a formula 1 team, the aerodynamicist will sit alongside the aerodynamics development team, reporting to the senior principals within the aero department. 

As an Aerodynamicist, your work will be largely simulatory, creating models using CAD (computer-aided design) and then testing these models using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) tools. 

Aerodynamicists will usually work with hands-on 3D models also. These models will be used for real-world testing.

                                                                                    Wind tunnel development is part and parcel of an aerodynamics role, 

with teams investing millions into its analysis. CAD models are often created and then tested using either part-size or full-size tunnels.

What does a Formula 1 Aerodynamicist do?

As an F1 aerodynamicist, you will:

  • In a nutshell, develop aerodynamic ideas and solutions for the racing car that create an on-track performance.

  • As mentioned before, CFD and wind tunnel test processes will be commonplace within this role. This includes creating your own CAD geometries, submitting CFD cases, and defining and implementing wind tunnel tests.

  • Continual research of aerodynamic structures and behaviours around the car. Contributing to collaborative discussions and efforts that improve whole-car performance, offering ideas and taking on board a lot of feedback from other teams.

  • You will be required to work both alone and in a large team, in a high-pressure environment. The role is critical to the performance of the vehicle and plays a large part in the success of the team.

  • Be able to communicate effectively with other groups such as model design, model shop, aero technology group, CFD group, aero production and wind tunnel systems group and be willing to have a flexible attendance and attitude to work, both in line with the requirements of the role and any specific requirements of the projects

.

What are the Requirements Needed to become an Aerodynamicist?

As this role is highly computational, an exceptional background in maths, physics, mechanics or fluid dynamics is recommended. 

Depending on the seniority of the role applied for, previous working experience in either F1 or other high-level motorsport teams is usually required. However, aerodynamicists are lucky in the fact that there are other positions available in other industries that work under the same title. 

For example, aeronautical aerodynamicists (aeroplane engineers) and astronautical aerodynamicists (space engineers) can both suit as previous work experience, however, understanding of wind tunnel development accompanying these roles will be needed. 

Furthermore, aerodynamicists who have significant history in wind tunnel development alone may also be appropriate for an F1 position. For example, working with vehicle OEM’s.

Do you need a Degree to be an Aerodynamicist?

In almost all cases yes. A STEM-based degree with a bias towards fluid dynamics is almost always required.  

A job advert by Alpha Tauri for a Junior Aerodynamicist position stated that the right candidate would need a “strong aerodynamic academic background of minimum degree level” accompanied with “solid relevant working experience”. 

Many F1 teams do offer graduate programmes for the aero department but candidates are warned that these can be fiercely competitive. Applicants with a strong bias to fluid dynamics and CFD projects are preferred. 

The Best Skills and Experience Needed to be an Aerodynamicist

Like with all roles in F1, confidence and the ability to work well within a high pressure, team environment is critical to the role. 

The success of the car and team is largely reliant on the aerodynamics department. The role can be hugely rewarding but also very hardworking. Alongside this, the ability to be flexible with your work life is essential due to the dynamic nature of formula 1. 

As well as the socially demanding side of work, your academics need to shine, showing proficiency in maths and science-based courses and projects. 

Previous motorsport experience is not always required but will be hugely beneficial to an application. With wind tunnel experience further boosting your proposal. 

Being able to demonstrate examples of projects that required fast-paced problem-solving skills in a leadership position will help you rise above your peers and/or including references to a passion for motorsport will also help your application. 

As mentioned before, the Aerodynamicist role can be hugely rewarding when done right. CFD and wind tunnel experience is almost always required, so get in any work experience you can to show an aptitude and willingness to learn.

Scroll to Top