Martin Buchan is a highly motivated and determined Aero Design Engineer with several years experience within the automotive industry. In this interview, Martin shares his fascinating journey into the heart of Formula One whilst providing invaluable insights to aspiring Motorsport Engineers.
I’m Martin Buchan and I’m from Berlin, Germany. I live in Milton Keynes, UK and I worked as an Aero Design Engineer for Force India / Racing Point for the last 3 years.
Journey Into Motorsport
I have been karting since I was a child and was active in Formula Student during 3 years of university. During this time, I was responsible for the aerodynamics, cooling, and bodywork of the car (and I was one of the drivers!) I even wrote my Master’s thesis at McLaren about the development of the current Formula E battery!
I became a professional car mechanic first and studied automotive and aeronautical engineering afterwards. At the same time, I used my free time and holidays for internships in various departments of car manufacturers. Working as an intern helped me a lot as I developed a good understanding of the car as a whole, rather than just becoming an expert in one area.
Understanding how suspension works, how a cooling system works etc, helped me to design better aero surfaces that had enough clearance at the right locations but not more than necessary.
Breakthrough Into Motorsport
After I finished my study, I worked as an aerodynamicist and cooling engineer for AUDI and worked in a VLN Endurance Racing Team in my free time, again being responsible for aerodynamics, cooling, and tyre changes during pitstops.
It always seemed impossible to reach a career at the height of Motorsport but after I achieved all my goals in road car development, I decided to focus on a career in F1 as the series is the ultimate engineering challenge for an automotive engineer.
After being rejected three times, Force India (now Racing Point) finally invited me to an interview. I was able to impress them with my previous experience within the automotive industry and they gave me the job offer on the same evening.
That moment opened the door to F1 and a new level of engineering for me.
As an Aero Designer, I was responsible for designing rear wings, endplates, T-wings, engine covers, barge boards, sidepods, and cockpit features.
My role entailed surfacing the first ideas for CFD analysis, analyzing results, turning them into producible model parts, making sure they were produced in the most efficient way possible, and ensuring they could be produced for the full-size car.
The best part of being an Aero Designer was certainly the process of shaping the car and seeing your work on TV. You get to see how your work contributed to the progression of the team.
The greatest achievement of my career so far is that I have been able to achieve my goal of reaching Formula One, as well as learning a lot from the process. The highlight for me was certainly working in F1 aerodynamics, shaping the car, and becoming an expert in this area.
Monaco 2018 is a great memory because we decided three weeks before the race to have a new Monaco spec rear wing. It was just before going into administration (as Force India) and we had to work as efficiently as possible. We only had one shot.
We had never developed a rear wing that fast but we knew we could make it work and in the end, its performance was even better than expected, so we ended up using this wing in other races too.
Advice to Aspiring Motorsport Engineers
Education and working experience have been key factors in the progression of my career so far. I would also give the following advice;
· Use the time to learn as much as you can
· Try to understand everything
· Stay curious
· Ask questions
· Set yourself high goals
Thank you Martin for sharing your inspirational story with Motorsport Engineer!
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