Jobs in F1: How to Become a Formula 1 Aerodynamics Design Engineer

 

  • What is an Aerodynamic Design Engineer?
  • What does an Aerodynamics Design Engineer do?        
  • What skills do you need to become an Aerodynamics Design Engineer?

Introduction

Formula 1 is an incredibly fast-paced and rewarding industry to be a part of. There is a multitude of paths you can take to be involved with the sport, however, be under no illusions;  all of them are fiercely competitive. 

If motorsport is your passion and you have set Formula 1 as your goal, then you must create your own specific Formula for your route to the top of motorsport. Nothing comes easy in F1, but if you are hard-working, diligent, and proactive then you will stand a chance for your place in one of the top teams. 

To get within the F1 sphere, the traditional first steps into the sport start with your education; from a Secondary School level, through to University. Critical to this are the courses you decide to take as a student. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are core to getting you on your way. 

If you have particular skills in 3D modeling and analytics then look no further. In this article, Motorsport Engineer explains exactly what makes a successful Aerodynamics Design Engineer and how you can become one.

What is an Aerodynamics Design Engineer?

An Aerodynamics Design Engineer is responsible for creating theoretical Aerodynamic concepts and turning them into credible engineered components.  

The Aerodynamics Design Engineering role can be all-encompassing within its coverage of component design for the car, ranging from barge boards, front wings, and splitters. The role requires significant integration with other departments such as the materials department and machine shop. 

The role of an Aerodynamics Design Engineer is an incredibly fast-paced and rapidly evolving environment. Whilst most mechanical and electrical components on the car stay the same during the season, a lot of the aerodynamics do not. The key to success within this role is your time management skills and problem-solving. Often parts will need to be rapidly prototyped in between race weekends or even during a weekend to be sent to the team. 

The Aerodynamics Design Engineer role will be mainly computer-based, however, there is an opportunity as you grow within your department to complete wind tunnel testing, modeling, and chances to work trackside. 

What does a Formula 1 Aerodynamics Design Engineer do?

As part of the role, you can expect a diverse range of tasks, all of which will contribute to the design and performance of the vehicle body and chassis. 

Some of the key tasks included within the Aerodynamics department include:

  • A direct contribution to the performance of the car, with successful designs forming a key part of your personal growth within a team 
  • Largely computer-based 3D modelling, using software packages like CATIA V5, NX, and will require a basic understanding of CFD and wind tunnel development programs. 
  • Modelling of full-size aerodynamic surfaces that and wind tunnel model components 
  • Generate component drawings using GD&T and in accordance with BS8888
  • Be able to understand and ensure adherence to all FIA regulations and department quality standards at all times of development
  • Lead and provide direction to assembly technicians regarding your components
  • Provide hands-on assistance to wind tunnel testing which may include data analysis

As a daily task, you will be required to dive deep into CAD-developed components and understand what is required to improve aerodynamics in an efficient, manufacturable manner. 

What are the Requirements Needed for an Aerodynamics Design Engineer?

The Aerodynamics Engineering department is a demanding team. With a lot of moving parts and multiple ongoing projects. In almost all roles, it is important to be a strong communicator and have exceptional organisational skills. 

Creating designs keeping in mind principles such as DFM (design for manufacture) or DFA (design for assembly) will be an essential task for the role, so relevant experience or projects that you can present solving such problems will be a necessity. 

As mentioned above, experience using 3D modeling software, such as CATIA and NX will be essential for this position and quite often basic training for such software, at this level of employment, will not be available except for entry-level positions.  

A basic knowledge of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) will also be required. CFD in this context is the analysis of airflow using numerical solution methods. Using CFD, you are able to analyze complex problems involving fluid-fluid, fluid-solid or fluid-gas interaction.

Do you need a Degree to be an Aerodynamics Engineer?

In almost all cases you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM subject. Masters degrees and PHD’s are significantly favoured in relevant courses or modules. 

Junior or Graduate positions are often given to those with relevant degrees and some experience in a motorsport environment. It is also key to show that you have gone the extra mile and learned the skills needed for the job on your own or with courses. 

This is not the only way to reach this position however, apprenticeships in automotive engineering and or aerospace can get your foot in the door. Movement around teams and departments is not unheard of in formula 1.

Some relevant research into career paths in F1 can show many employees taking multi-functional routes within specific teams. So it is always sensible to enquire with Formula One recruitment teams. 

The Best Skills and Experience Needed to be an Aerodynamics Design Engineer

Previous motorsport experience is not always required for Formula 1 roles, however, it can be preferred if you display high-level experience such as LMP, F2 or F3, WRC, etc.

Furthermore, experience in the arts of wind tunnels in conjunction with CFD (computational fluid dynamics) will be significantly favoured. 

A creative and methodical thinker will do well in a design environment. Being a forward thinker and providing evidence of interesting and innovative projects will aggrandise your application.

Experience does not always need to be automotive however when it comes to Aerodynamics. Most aerospace and even nautical/marine engineering can come in handy if previously performed at a high level. 

To succeed on this mission, Formula One teams are looking for talented individuals who share a real passion for racing and competition. It is shown to be a stimulating and rewarding place to work with pure racing being the ethos of employment. As an Aerodynamics Design Engineer, you will play a key role in the success of the team, so you should strive for greatness and have a willingness to win.

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