In the world of Formula One, fans get to be part of the excitement and fervour of being in the paddock during a race weekend to get a sneak peek at the lives of F1 drivers. Now, in the age of social media, drivers are able to share aspects of their lives with their fans, unless you are Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and prefer privacy. But have you ever wondered what life is like for the men who are not behind the wheel? Below is an interview with a Formula One race mechanic, who’s identity will be withheld for professional reasons. He will take us deeper into the action, by not being directly part of the action.
What exactly is your position in the team?
Trackside sub assembly; building wings, brakes and dampers for the cars. Also work all round the car during running sessions and flap adjust in pit stops.
What did you want to be when you were younger/When did you know you wanted to work in Formula One?
Didn’t realise I wanted to work in F1 until I was about 16, when I started my motorsport engineering course at Brooklands college. I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but my stepdad played a big influence in where I am today, as he has always been a huge F1 fan.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Everyone believes that working in F1 must be the most glamorous job available, but it is a lot of hours, and you see a lot of airports, hotels and racetracks. But the feeling of your car finishing the race with a good result makes it all worthwhile. I’d also say that one of the best parts of the job are the friendships and camaraderies you make with your colleagues. In the 6 years I have been in F1 I have made friendships for life. The best thing to come from my job, is that I actually met my wife at an event and we haven’t looked back since.
Are there any specific subjects and courses that you had to take to be in a position to join Formula One? (e.g. GCSE, A-Level/Apprenticeship/BTEC/
I took pretty standard GCSE subjects, luckily I enjoyed science and maths which made my college course a lot easier. I studied BTEC National Diploma in Motorsport Engineering at Brooklands College, which was a 2 year course. I was then offered a fantastic opportunity at a reputed F1 team. I completed 2 year apprenticeship in their model shop, and stayed with them for a further 2 years before moving to my current team.
Did you have any work experience? If so, where was the placement(s) and did you enjoy it?
During year 11 I completed work experience in a couple of garages as I knew I wanted to work on cars if not in motorsport. Then whilst at college I spent 3 weeks with a GP2 team to gain more experience. I loved every minute of my work experience, learning everything I could about racing from the short period I was there. Which for sure helped set me up with my apprenticeship.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Personally my biggest challenge was adapting to the travelling life style and workload of being in the pit lane. It took a little while to adjust to, and I don’t think your body truly ever gets used to it.
What other jobs did you have before your current role?
At my first job, I was a model maker, which involved building the wind tunnel models and then working on them in the tunnel. I would spend 2 weeks every month working in Cologne. I also spend a small amount of time with their race team at the start of 2015.
I started at my current team in December of 2015 as ‘UK Parts Coordinator’ as I had spent the last 4 years of my life travelling and fancied some time at home. I then moved to ‘Trackside Parts Coordinator’ with them from Barcelona race in 2016 and then at the end of 2016 became ‘#2 Mechanic’ for them. Admittedly I did miss travelling whilst I was based in the UK hence why I went back trackside mid-season.
What was the best thing you ever did to help you get to where you are today?
The best thing I ever did was keep my head down at college and produce the best work I could. I had heard of potential scouting from Brooklands College for a top F1 team, so I always had this in the back of my mind and made sure that I worked hard and that I was personable. It worked when I got a phone call in the summer asking if I wanted to go for an interview and work trial with them.
If your younger self could have asked your current self anything at all, what would it have been?
Sorry I can’t think of anything for this one. I know what I’d say to my younger self, and that would have been to work harder in secondary school as knowledge is everything, but when you’re 13-16 you don’t think about that at all.
What would you say to inspire someone to follow their dreams?
Opportunities are out there, you have to make yourself known and also build a name for yourself. Never give up on what your dreams are, although you may get knocked back a couple of times, you will make it if you fully commit yourself. Nothing is impossible!
Any other comments or advice?
F1 is a relentless and ruthless business, first of all you need to be 100% sure you want to enter it. It will be tough and you will have to adjust the way you think, the way you live, the way you work. It is an environment like no other. With this being said, it is completely worth it for the rewards you receive out of it. F1 will also be able to offer you jobs for life! It is very easy to get pigeonholed into a specific area but keep your mind open and learn as much as you can along the way. Take it from my experience, this I my 7th year in F1 and I have performed 5 different roles over my time, along with all sorts of extra training courses, just constantly adding experience and “strings to my bow”. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience in F1.