How to Become a Formula 1 Engineer

image of red bull racingThe Formula 1 engineer is the royal class of automotive engineering. Even the smallest improvements in aerodynamics, engine performance, traction or durability can influence a team’s success or failure. Each of the F1 teams have a large number of highly qualified engineers working on each part of the car to improve its overall performance. Where do these engineers come from? Is there a given educational path a person should follow to get a chance to work for an F1 team? Next to a sound engineering education and the right motivation and will, probably not. But there are some initiatives that are helpful on the way to the automotive engineering summit. One of them is Formula SAE/Formula Student.

Formula 1 and SAE

The idea of the Formula SAE/Formula Student was born in the early 1980s in the United States. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) created an initiative through which students could gather race car design and production experience as well as the business aspects of race car creation. In a fictitious production company, participants work to produce the ideal car inside the rules of the competition. There are a number of factors that play a role in this: good performance on the track, aesthetics, comfort and the usage of common and easily available parts.

Nowadays, Formula SAE/Formula Student is an international event with more than 400 teams taking part in several race events around the world. If you want to know more about Formula Student, their website is a good start.

Don’t assume that this competition is simply a somewhat-more-serious soap box race. The teams are highly professional, with dedicated functions like marketing, finance, design, etc. They are working with the best materials and methods available, using the most professional techniques and tools during the design phase. Not surprisingly, one of the things they use throughout the development process is engineering simulation.

Obviously, since this is a student initiative, the teams don’t run on a huge budget. So they depend on sponsors who help them out. ANSYS has sponsored a number of teams in the last few years, providing them with software licenses, training and support for the use of simulation in their car development process.

We are very proud when teams that use our solutions are successful in the competitions (which happens more often than not), but we see the sponsoring involvement from another angle. As simulation grows more and more important in today’s real-life product design and development process, supporting students to get in touch with simulation as early as possible is going to help them in their future careers — maybe in a Formula 1 team like Red Bull, where simulation software helped to win the championship in 2010 and 2011.

Take a look at the following video from the “Running Snails “ team of the University of Applied Sciences Amberg-Weiden to get an impression of the Formula Student.