Jobs in F1: How to Become a Formula 1 Control Systems Engineer

  • What is a Control Systems Engineer?
  • What does a Control Systems Engineer do?
  • What skills do you need to become a Control Systems Engineer?

Introduction

With the popularity of F1 growing, the desire to become part of the sport grows also. Motorsport enthusiasts around the world would love an opportunity to be part of a successful race team. 

With hundreds of possible career paths and choices, it’s often difficult in a crowded workspace to find the right role for you.

Within this article, Motorsport Engineer will cover exactly what is required to be a Control Systems Engineer and what an average day might look like for them. 

For the automotive, tech-orientated geeks out there, this could be the position you need.

What is a Control Systems Engineer?

A Control Systems Engineer is responsible for the monitoring, development, and improvement of the electrical and physical vehicle systems.

In other words, they spend the majority of their days, checking and improving the racecars onboard systems. The brakes, differential, gearbox, suspension, steering wheel, clutch, and more. 

With a bias towards electronic systems, a Control Engineer will be heavily data-driven and will closely monitor telemetry and other data acquisition software platforms.

As a Control Engineer, you may find yourself either at the factory or in a travel-based role depending on seniority. This being said, however, the positions are usually computer-based and do not involve much physical, hands-on work. 

The Control Engineer is responsible for monitoring car performance and system health, particularly the electronic systems related to them, Traction Control, Torque Vectoring, Active Aero and ABS are all common examples. 

To be a successful engineer in this field, you must be able to relay and collaborate information productively with other teams and the driver, as the success and health of the car’s systems rely heavily on the Controls team. 

What does a Formula 1 Control Systems Engineer do?

As an F1 Control Systems Engineer, you will:

  • Monitor vehicle system performance and collaborate with Race and Performance Engineers to instruct and coach the driver on best practices 
  • Vehicle and part testing including software analysis and development, CAN configurations, MATLAB and Simulink are all daily tasks
  • Work to FIA regulatory demands and ensure the legality of the vehicle and systems is met
  • Systems tuning and development through direct feedback from the Driver and in-the-loop simulations
  • Depending on your particular role, you could be either factory or travel-based, going to test sessions and race weekends with the team
  • Ensure all additional sensors, logging requirements, test requests are supported to the highest standards including correct calibration and operational processes (e.g. zeroing)

The majority of the role will be;

                                                                       Computer and data-driven, with a bias towards electronic systems management 

What are the Requirements Needed for a Control Systems Engineer?

If you haven’t gathered already, the role is highly technical and requires a keen eye for data-driven detail.

As a lot of your time will be spent developing software and testing applications, a relevant programming background is generally preferred.

For example, RedBull offered a Control Engineers position and explained that “coding and programming using MATLAB and Simulink” was a daily task. In conjunction with “testing control systems code on a dSpace HIL (hardware in the loop) Rig and driver simulator”.

Real-time models for vehicle development within the automotive sector are used with the mention of ASM.

ASM is a tool suite for simulating combustion engines, vehicle dynamics, electric components, and the traffic environment. The open Simulink models are used for model-based function development and in ECU tests on a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulator.

It is also important in the role to have the flexibility and willingness to travel and be social. F1 teams are large organisations with fast-paced, dynamic working environments. The ability to adapt and work under pressure is a necessity. 

Do you need a Degree to be a Control Systems Engineer?

An engineering or software and or programming degree is highly advantageous and it is rare for someone to fall into a Control Systems Engineering position without one.

The level and orientation of the degree is less important however the significance of having one, combined with a placement or work experience will shine amongst competitors.

The Best Skills and Experience Needed to be a Control Systems Engineer

As mentioned throughout this article, experience with programming, software development, and coding is critical to this role. The use of MATLAB, Simulink, CAN, and other applications will be highly desirable. 

Like with all F1 positions, trackside and Motorsport experience will be favoured but not always required for control systems positions. F1 teams like to see a passion for the sport, so being able to show this through personal affairs will definitely give you an edge. 

Furthermore, team leading and management is a useful skill to have, as often you will be the POC between race and performance engineers as well as liaising with the driver to review and develop vehicle systems. 

Experience with automotive control and electrical systems will be a huge advantage but not always necessary for junior and entry-level positions. This being said, candidates can find themselves in a control engineering position by working within the F1 team business from a coding or programming perspective.

Formula 1 teams require the highest level of achievement, so personal success stories, either professional or personal will shine amongst other candidates.