The road to becoming a Motorsport Engineer can often seem like a difficult and endless journey. With limited positions available and high competition, perseverance can make all the difference.
Formula 3 Hitech Race Engineer, Finn Macpherson stands as proof that perseverance, hardwork and dedication can reap its rewards within the competitive world of motorsport. From nearly giving up on his dreams, to a placement with Force India, Finn has worked hard to forge his own path within the sport he loves.
In this interview with Motorsport Engineer, Finn shares his inspirational journey whilst offering sage advice to aspiring engineers, hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“For sure the best part of the job is winning”
Please introduce yourself to Motorsport Engineer, what is your history within the motorsport industry?
My name is Finn Macpherson, I am originally from New Zealand but have spent most of my life in the UK! I live in Buckinghamshire and work at Hitech GP who are based at Silverstone.
My journey into motorsport started when I was eleven as I was introduced to it through a friend at school. From there I worked hard to try and get into the sport in anyway possible! I spent a week’s work experience at Sky Sports F1 and McLaren on top of working for four years part time at DK Engineering, a Ferrari restoration and servicing company.
From there I went to university and in my second summer studying, I landed a placement at Force India (now Aston Martin F1), working in their Aero Design department. I spent four months working on the wind tunnel model and aerodynamic development with the Force India designers. A year later, I worked for a similar period at KWSP, an engineering consultancy that specialises in applying motorsport engineering experience to projects in a number of different industries.
Following the completion of my degree in 2019, I landed a Design Engineering role at Hitech working in the Hitech Technologies branch with Mark Smith, former Jordan, Force India and Red Bull Technical Director. Soon after starting, I was offered the chance to work as a Race Engineer in the F3 Asia Championship and this has progressed to where I now work as a Race Engineer in the FIA F3 series.
What does your current role entail?
My role is mainly focused around maximising the performance of the car and driver at a race weekend. This is made possible by undertaking plenty of analysis and planning before a weekend to arrive in the most competitive position we can. This analysis includes looking through previous data from past events to help us improve from where we were to where we want to be.
During a weekend, I also work with the driver to help them get up to speed with the demands of the circuit for the next race. Hopefully, this gives us a good starting point and from there we can really fine tune the car and help maximise the driver’s performance over the course of a weekend.
In addition, I also work with some of Hitech’s younger drivers in the Asian and British F3 series on the mental and physical performance aspect of the sport. Working with our trainers, I provide support and cognitive coaching to help them develop their performances to assist in their transition from karting to the tougher feeder series in motorsport.
What is the best part of your role?
For sure the best part of the job is winning! There is little better than working so hard for months to arrive at a track and see your driver and car finish on the top step. It is what we all get into motorsport for right? Competing against other drivers and teams who are all working to achieve the same goal as you is incredibly intense and tough but enjoyable.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
I think my breakthrough moment (and one I am very grateful for), was achieving my role at Force India.
I had my eyes set on a job in F1 for a long time and was rejected by companies in the sport who went for other students, this was hard to take after spending the best part of a decade working to get in. I lost faith in myself and in motorsport which led me to look elsewhere for experience. However, Force India clearly thought otherwise and gave me the chance to be interviewed for a summer placement.
I had been offered two other placement roles at automotive companies but turned both down before my Force India interview as I knew I had to push hard for this last shot at working in motorsport. It paid off and I felt right at home and confident again from the start of my interview and haven’t looked back from that placement.
My placement with Force India opened many doors for me and I am immensely grateful for the chance they offered me to work in motorsport.
How important was education in helping you achieve your professional goals?
Education is very important, not for the direct knowledge it teaches you, but the skills and lessons you learn that help in many more ways than remembering the quadratic formula does!
Getting the educational results is definitely needed, however education opens doors but the doors it opens are down to the individual and what they learn alongside their courses, both inside and outside of educational institutions.
What sparked your interest in engineering? And what made you decide to pursue a career within Motorsport?
As mentioned, witnessing motorsport for the first time showed me the ‘cool’ side of engineering by combining it with sport.
That being said, I don’t have a huge interest in industrial mechanical engineering simply because for me it lacks what motorsport has, which is a core principle of problem solving to compete against others instantly.
This is the fun part and what I witnessed as a kid over a decade ago.
What are your proudest memories of your time with Hitech so far?
My first day race engineering was a proud moment. The fact the car came back with all four wheels and hadn’t run out of fuel with a happy driver was a relief!
Also, the first win in British F3 last year was good. In our first year in the series to get what was my first win on my car and the teams first win was a proud moment.
What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career so far?
I think believing in myself to find the right career path is a good achievement. I was torn in a lot of ways about where I saw myself in motorsport and didn’t just want to follow an easy route.
I have always wanted to try new things and continuing to do this and say yes to opportunities that arise is an achievement I am proud of and hope to continue to do.
What advice would you give to aspiring engineers during these difficult times?
At this moment I can imagine it is incredibly hard for the next generation of Engineers to get a foot in a company or see where opportunities may come from.
I think in these moments it’s best to step back, accept that it is hard and think what can you do that will help you stand out from the crowd. It sounds like a cliché, but not enough people actually go through with it. Keep educating yourself in as many ways as possible, rather than just sending CV’s. Find some free courses on software you know companies use, contact teams at any level rather than just teams at the top.
Now is the time to explore as much as possible, you have very little to lose, so try new things and find what you enjoy, it will help further down the line.
Thank you Finn for sharing your story with Motorsport Engineer, we wish Hitech GP the greatest success for the 2021 season!
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