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

  • What is a Composite Design Engineer?
  • What does a Composite Design Engineer do?
  • What skills do you need to become a Composite Design Engineer?

Introduction

The world of motorsport is fast and furious (excuse the pun). Not only are the drivers under immense pressure, but the teams and workers are required to work and play just as hard. 

Formula 1 is the “top of the ladder” when it comes to the motorsport industry, so you can expect all career paths to be closely fought and competitive. There is however one saving grace; Formula 1 is an incredibly diverse and opportunistic industry, with literally thousands of potential roles and opportunities. 

Within this article, Motorsport Engineer brings you the Formula 1 Composite Engineer; everything he or she might do, and the exact requirements it takes to land yourself within this tricky job title.

What is a Composite Design Engineer?

A Composite Design Engineer is one of the core members under the “race car design” group. They will design and engineer the carbon fiber components which will eventually make their way onto the racecar.

A composite material is a combination of two materials with different physical and chemical properties. When they are combined they create a material that is specialised to do a certain job, for instance, to become stronger, lighter, or resistant to electricity.

As a design engineer, it is your responsibility to create new and improved parts using 3D modeling and CAD-based tools that will add performance and reliability to the racecar. 

A Composite Design Engineer will be largely office/factory based as the majority of the work will consist of the development for future components. This being said, there is also an opportunity to analyse current issues with the car and to make fast-paced decisions on improvements and resolutions on failing or low-performing components.

Composite Design Engineers are critical to the future development of the car. They are innovative thinkers and are industry leaders in composite component design and manufacture.

What does a Formula 1 Composite Design Engineer do?

Composite Design Engineers are fairly unique to engineering, they will not spend much time in one place. Within a composites role, you can be expected to create designs using a computer, improving moulding methods in the factory, and create models for the testing labs. 

A composite engineer’s main tasks however will include the

                                                                 design of composite components for the race car and the jigs and fixtures to make them. 

As a team, you will cover everything from structural parts like the monocoque, chassis, and wings, to non-structural parts, such as the bodywork, floor, and brake ducting.

The composite teams will work closely with the Stress group to validate and optimise parts and laminates. 

Normally liaising with the aerodynamics department, you will aid the design of aerodynamic surfaces (external shape), and split the car into several parts, taking into consideration aspects such as weight, stiffness, manufacturability, modularity, and serviceability.

As mentioned before, CAD and Modelling tools are essential to this role, including programs such as CATIA, FibreSIM, 3DX, and others. FEA (finite element analysis) which is a way of simulating stress and movement within parts will also be an important duty of the job.  Will also have to be conversant with Geometrical Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) to create engineering drawings.

Moulding and Manufacturing strategies along with Material choice and optimisation is part-and-parcel to the role.

Apart from the design work, you will be responsible for working within a close-knit team on complex components, but will also be required to work individually on smaller, less complex components. Being a true team player, like in all F1 careers, will be crucial to the role. 

What are the Requirements Needed for a Composite Design Engineer?

As a basic requirement, a high-level understanding of composite materials, with their manufacture and moulding methods must be demonstrable. 

Furthermore, a strong background in using CAD tools with experience in FEA methodology will be a necessity when applying. Most F1 teams will provide a training and development structure for use of new CAD systems, however, basic knowledge and use of CAD will still be required.

To further aid your application, an understanding of vehicle performance, particularly in a motorsport setting, such as previous work for an F2, F3, WEC or WRC will help candidates stand out from their competitors. 

Do you need a Degree to be a Composite Design Engineer?

In most cases, yes. Masters degrees in a Motorsport Engineering, Composite Engineering, Materials and Manufacturing, etc will be highly desirable, however, equivalent experience and or qualifications can also be accepted. 

A lot of employees who make it to Formula One teams come from a mixture of backgrounds and can often move within the teams to new positions. This being said, you could join a Formula One team without the aforementioned degrees and still make it into the composite engineering department.

The Best Skills and Experience Needed to be a Composite Design Engineer

Due to the unique nature of the role, demonstrable work history in composite design, particularly in an automotive/motorsport setting will be highly advantageous to your application. 

Showing experience in composite moulding and design is not only a necessity but must also be demonstrable at a high level. Being able to demonstrate a history of innovative thinking and fresh designs within the composite industry will not go down a miss. 

In an interview with a current Composite Design Engineer, it was mentioned that a design and development history with an artistic bias played in their favour when applying. So having experience in 3D modeling or other related artistic courses could go in your favour. 

As mentioned before, being a team player and confident communicator within a team setting will be crucial to the role. In this same interview, the designer mentioned one of the best parts of the work was the team, so being social, hardworking and competitive will aid you in fitting with this environment.

Like with all roles within formula one, showing a true passion for motorsport will always be favourable, understanding the team, their work ethic, the ethos of motorsport, can significantly improve your application, so do your research!

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