“What Recruiters Really Want to See to Help Your Land a Formula 1 Team Job”

Motorsport Careers

This is a transcription of a live interview between Mike Coraluzzi of MotorSportsCareerAdvisor.com and Christopher Lembke of Recruitment in Motorsports.

Mike: Hey guys, this month we have a Christopher Lembke, the Managing Director of the U.K. based company Recruitment In Motorsports (RIMS). Christopher is a Swedish national who has always been intrigued by global business and thus has lived in several different places, such as Spain, New York, London, etc. Christopher started out in motorsports 18 years ago and has successfully placed key candidates in a number of Formula 1 teams. RIMS has relationships with several Formula 1 teams to support them with their recruitment consulting needs. RIMS also offers a wide range of services to assist job candidates to obtain a job in a Formula 1 team.

Mike: Ok, so let’s get right into it. Christopher – welcome! Let’s start off with this first question: what types of jobs are available on a Formula 1 team?

Christopher: Hi Mike! Glad to be here. To answer your question, it’s a wide variety. I mean, you can see Formula 1 teams as microcosms of normal business. You look at some of the bigger teams like Mercedes and Red Bull; I mean, they have about 550, 650 employees, and their sole purpose in life, really, is to put two racecars on the grid and get them to win the championship. So if you look at it from that point of view, it’s kind of a ludicrous business model, but obviously works. They have budgets up there Five, Six Hundred Million Pounds a year. So you have all the typical support functions, in terms of marketing, personnel, administration.

Obviously, engineering is a core competence of these businesses; they are engineering businesses, and that’s kind of how you have to look at it. You have the different departments to see if the aerodynamics, which where you have computational fluid dynamic engineers; they can both be on the operation end and on the programming end. So they program their own modules to be able to run aerodynamic tests on the car in a computer environment.

And then you have aerodynamicists, which are more hands-on, working with models and so forth, and understanding more the practical application of what the computer model says. And they work a lot with the wind tunnel technicians, where you then have people that work with a wind tunnel that, in their turn,work with the model department where they build models of the car to run in the wind tunnel to see how the car reacts to certain wind flows, and so forth, and to look at vibrations in the car and so forth.In the model workshop, you obviously have CNC machinists, which you also have on the production end, where they produce the actual parts for the car, but they outsource a lot of things as well, and I’ll go into that a little bit further down the line.Also, if you look at the CFD side, a supporting function to that, like software engineers, you have HDP…I’m sorry, HPD. What is it?

Mike: I don’t know what that is.

Christopher: It’s high-performance computing.

Mike: Oh, okay, never heard of it.

Christopher: There are a number of these hyper computers in the world like those that make Toy Story and all those animated movies are now made in high-performance computing environment.

Mike: Okay. I didn’t know that.

Christopher: Every Formula 1 team has one of these computers, that’s the level you’re working at. And I think you probably only have 30 or 40 of these high-performance computers in the world, and so you have a lot of supporting functions there, maintenance and so forth. And then going into you have simulator engineers that work with the simulator and sets up the simulator. There’s a lot of custom made programs for every team. They have their own simulators; they have their own kind of programming interfaces for the computer modeling, for the CADs, And so forth. And then, of course, on the operations side, you have workshops that have CNC machines that manufacture these parts and pieces for the car in titanium and aluminum and so forth. And there, you have the inspection departments and so forth.

Also, you have the composite department. Again, you have the patternmakers; you have the trimmers, and the people that make the different composite parts. And then all those parts go through inspections as well, and you have something called a NDT inspection department, that nondestructive testing.

Mike: Okay, yes, I’ve heard of that.

Christopher: Yeah. So they test with edi currents and all these different kind of technologies to ensure that the parts are good to be put on the car.

And then, obviously, these facilities have to be maintained, managed, protected. So both on the IT and the fiscal side, you have people that work a lot with security and protection on the facility; obviously, you have maintenance people and electricians. So as you can see, it is really a proper business with all different…

Mike: It’s a company. Some people open the doors every day; want to clean the floors, but maintenance at the facility. Who knows, they might have a cafeteria on-site, but it’s a company.

Christopher: Absolutely. All of them have cafeterias, so they typically bring in catering businesses for that.
But I would say there are few functions that wouldn’t fit into that Formula 1 team that you wouldn’t have in a normal business. I mean, some of them have investment advisors; you have finance people, obviously, CFO, and so forth.

Mike: Right.

Christopher: Some of the specialty functions, you have travel coordinators, event managers, brand management is obviously, very, very key part of the business model to make money. So very competent marketing people and brand promotion people and event management people.

Then outside of that, if you look at the race team in itself, most teams have kind of two teams of race engineers. You have one that is for test and for kind of, shall we say, show, where they go and do sponsor appreciation days and stuff like that; they have one team that manages the car that stage. And then you have one team that goes to the races. And on those teams, you obviously have two cars, so you have two sets of these different mechanics and engineers.

And then at each race, you have kind of a mini-reflection of the factory. So you have a trackside aerodynamicist, you have a trackside software engineer; you have a trackside systems control engineer, and so forth and so forth. There are communication systems that have to be managed. So the radio communication between the car and with the driver to everybody on the team; then also, you have the telemetry systems that have to be managed so the information being fed back to the team from the car, I think each car probably has 20 different sensors to send back telemetry information during the race, practice, or the whole time. And then just to make it a little bit more complicated, all that data is then fed back into the high-performance computer at the factory, processed, and then fed back.

Mike: Amazing.

Christopher: So you obviously have a very, very high spec link between the team at the race and the factory, because that happens continuously, throughout the race weekend. So if you’re on a race team, you can be race mechanic, you can be IT person, you could be hospitality, you could be marketing because all these functions, obviously, happen on the ground. These people travel about 220 days a year, so it’s not a good job to have if you’re trying to have a family life.

Mike: Sure.

Christopher: But for a lot of people, it’s very exciting. I mean, I, myself, go to a lot of races abroad and work at the races, and there is a certain mystique about it. So it’s something that works well for a lot of people, and then they try to get back to a factory-based position. So there are a lot of different positions in Formula 1. And unfortunately, if you look at marketing, for example, which one would perhaps think is the easiest one to get into; those positions rarely get published because the candidates are kind of passed from team to team, so very much word of mouth to get into those kind of positions.

Mike: That’s interesting.

Christopher: That’s not unusual within the administrative support functions within the teams. So often you find that those positions never come on the market, they get appointed before they even come out there.
Do you feel that covers kind of the types of jobs done for Formula 1?

Mike: That’s great. I mean, essentially, I can’t say anything, but depending on your discipline or specialty, don’t count yourself out if you’re someone looking to get in; there’s lots of opportunities.

Christopher: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we’ll go into that a little bit later, I think, but absolutely, there’s a place for most people in Formula 1, or most sports, in general, because even though Formula 1 is probably the, if you look at the business aspect, probably the biggest motorsport entity out there; you do have other series of formulas to have same setup, smaller version of it.

Mike: That’s awesome. Let me move onto the next one. This is a really subjective question: How competitive is it to get a job on a Formula 1 team, depending on what it is, I’m sure, but it’s a very general question. Maybe you can give a general answer because a lot of people, obviously, that might be the goal, what they want. Is it within reach or, you know, I don’t want to turn them off, but what do you think? It’s a tough question.

Christopher: Well, it’s not really a tough question, it’s extremely competitive. So, again, it depends on the position and depends on opportunity. I know in November last year, Red Bull, I think they were looking for 150 contract design engineers who would hoover up the markets for those kind of people. So then in that situation, it’s obviously easier to get in, than if you look at other positions. Well, it does depend really, what position it is.

If you look at aerodynamicists, for example, they are very competitive, those positions. I think more than anything, it comes down to your academic credentials and that you can showcase your dedication, and in reality, obsession with motorsports because you have to show that you spend all of your spare time, really, dedicating yourself to being in a career like that. So you can’t suddenly, when you’re 40-years-old wake up one morning and say, “Hmm. I’m an aerodynamicist working with trucks in France or something, and I think I want to work in Formula 1.” That wouldn’t work.

Mike: There goes my point. Okay. It’s all right.

Christopher: Exactly. So you typically, have to kind of start out showcasing that you have an interest and you want to pursue this line of work, and I’ll explain a little bit about enter points at a later point. But no, it’s very competitive, and you’re looking on the graduate level here in the UK, for example, the teams typically, only accept graduates from Russell 25 universities, which are equivalent of the Ivy League in the U.S., and their favorite ones are University of Southampton, Oxford Brookes, and so forth.

And also depends what position you’re looking to go into. If you’re looking to go into CFD engineering, for example, they want you to have Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science. Sometimes they require you to have either Master of Science or a Ph.D. If you want to get into more engineering, kind of the more mechanical side, they want you to have Bachelor of Engineering or Master of Engineering.

If you’re pursuing a motorsports program at the university, take a look at what part you want to take in your career because it does matter a great deal, if you do a B Eng., or you do a BSC.

Mike: Okay, gotcha. Is it possible, oftentimes in the U.S., we want a high profile job, there’s a target there, you really don’t have the proper experience, you might go into the company in a different position, more of a lower level support, something more entry level, and then work your way around in the company; is that possible with these teams?

Christopher: Absolutely. You typically have two types of programs there. It’s the graduates program that I just described to you, which is highly competitive. You usually have about 300 very, very competent applicants per position, and each kind of group would have somewhere between 2 or 3 graduate positions available every year.

There’s a lot of apprenticeships on more of the manufacturing side. And then the apprentices do tend to kind of have their main department that they are attached to, but then they’ll work in different departments throughout the internship. Then if the team is happy to keep them, there’s a discussion what department they would prefer to continue their apprenticeship and training in. So there’s absolutely those kinds of entry level positions.

Mike: That’s what you call, “Get your foot in the door,” kind of strategy.

Christopher: Absolutely. I think if you are mid-career or you have already done say, 3 or 4 years in the workforce outside of motorsports and you realize that this is something you really want to get into; you really do need to look for, as I mentioned earlier, entry points.

So obviously, these behemoths of Formula 1 teams, they will look at candidates that have worked. For example, if you’re a CNC machinist, if you come from just a box standard kind of turning washers for the automotive industry, you might not be interesting, but if you go work for a professional engineering firm that supplies Formula 1, you work with Formula 1 parts and understand the quality objectives and all these things for a period of time, then you have created yourself entry points because then you go prep your CV with the appropriate skills.

And this applies to a lot of other sides as well. Aerodynamics, you have companies…well, there’s one company, Anglo American called TotalSim, you have Wirth Research, and they do basically, these kind of CFD analysis of vehicles, racecars as well as normal vehicles like trucks, could be boats, it could be airplanes, what have you; they’re subcontractors of race teams in other businesses. So you want to find yourself a subcontractor that has an element of motorsports and try to work on those projects.

And then, of course, you always have the other side, which is working way up through other things. So you could work as a mechanic for a club racing team, then work your way up to perhaps touring cars, or something like that, then move into more bespoke things like sports cars and then go in, so that way, you can get in. I mean, I’ve placed people from the CFD from top sports cars into Formula 1. So there are different ways of making your way in there, but you do have to be very specific about what you want to do, and that kind of sets out your career path and really be strategic about it. As I said, you can’t just wake up one morning and say I want to work in motorsports and go forth and conquer, it really doesn’t work that way.

Mike: We’ll go deeper into entry points later, as you mentioned, but I imagine part of what your job is helping people to develop plans to get their positions or to get into doing it; I mean, that’s part of what you do, is that correct?

Christopher: I think as a recruiter, it’s one of these unfortunate things because the big part of the business would, of course, be in that, the candidates don’t tend to have the personal budgets to pay consultants like me to help them kind of set up a strategy and so forth. So what I do, when I write articles and stuff like that, I try to give general advice, and sometimes it rubs people the wrong way because they’re like, “Oh, well, I wouldn’t be able to do this or I wouldn’t be able to do that,” and my answer to them is, “Well, then clearly, you don’t have enough of an obsession to get into motorsports and the Formula 1 team wouldn’t want to have you anyway.”

Mike: That’s right. That’s part of being…

Christopher: It is a very harsh environment; very competitive. It’s quite cut throat, but I always try to give any candidate that comes to me a realistic kind of view of what their opportunities are if they are completely wrong for the environment, I say that, because I don’t think there’s any point in giving people false hopes; or I say, “Listen, here’s the number of companies that I think would be appropriate for you; why don’t you go and talk to them,” if I don’t have the contacts myself.

There’s one guy who used to be on the police force here, who has this target determination, and slowly, but surely, he’s just taking whatever job is available in that sport, and he’s now slowly, but surely, making his way into working in motorsports. Granted, that level of positions are more like support positions as general laborer or something like that, but at least he’s doing it. He’s prepared to take 5 steps back to take 6 forward. And you do need to have that, as I said, obsession with motorsports and really, really want to work in it to kind of swing around your career like that.

Mike: That’s great. My next question was, and you touched on this already, but I want to see what we can do with it; what types of technical criteria are the teams looking for? Technical criteria, I don’t really know if that’s appropriate, but you mentioned education, but is that a question you can answer?

Christopher: Absolutely. If you’re mid-career, you really need to be able to hit the ground running. You need to have fairly immediate impact on the performance of the car, and that kind of reflects on you need to know the software they’re using; you need to know the technology that the team is using, both on the hardware and the software side. You do need to understand the dynamics of a race car. A lot of aerospace people come into Formula 1 and be quite successful because essentially, a racecar is an airplane set upside down when you look at aerodynamics and all of that.
But one complaint a lot of motorsport teams have about people that work in aerospace industry, for example, is that they’re used too much, much longer lead times. An airplane takes perhaps 7 to 8 years to develop and test, while a Formula 1 car, to look at one particular part, you might have 2 days. So they’re looking for the personal characteristics, of course, in terms of being able to work quickly and be accurate.

On the technical side mid-career, you have to know your programs, you have to know your hardware and so forth, and understand the dynamics of a racecar. Entry level, I think they’re looking much more on shall we say the academic prowess. Do you understand the philosophies or dynamics behind aerodynamics? Do you understand the different materials? The various composites compounds? So they’re looking much more on those kind of things, and do you have the basic mathematical…well, not basic, I mean it’s a very, very high level, but you need to essentially understand if a program tells you here’s your results, you need to understand how the program derived at that result in order to analyze it. So a lot of teams will say that on the entry level, the mathematics is very important, and that’s on the software side, the aerodynamics side, the wind tunnel side, I mean, all across.

When it comes down to production, it comes down more to handling the machinery. Have you dealt with the program on the Haas CNC machine? Are you used to Heidenhain controls? And so forth and so forth. For example, if you’re a quality inspector, you will typically be asked to show your expertise in PC-DMIS software.
And if you look at designers, that’s a whole another thing I forgot to mention on the first question; you have the whole design department, obviously. But if you look at the design software, they typically use CATIA V5, which is quite important that you know.

So yeah, there’s a very long list of different technical criteria that one has to meet, but again, to a certain extent, it does vary from team to team. Some teams will use Open Source software for structural testing, for example; other teams will use the typical Nastran and those kinds of softwares. So I think if you have a broad base within your function area, you’re off to a good start.

Mike: What about you see these jobs on TV where you’re actually seeing the guys there changing tires, or staging the car when it’s in the pit getting ready to come out, or this guy’s standing around; what about those jobs? They’re probably not software guys. What are they doing and what’s their requirements? Are they engineers or are they not?

Christopher: Well, those are the traveling race team positions that I spoke about earlier. So the guys you see are doing the tire changes, the holding of the lollipop, and all that; they all have dual functions, so they’ll be race mechanics, they’ll be garage technicians and so forth. And then, of course, you have the hierarchy; you have number 1 mechanic, number 2 mechanic, number 3 mechanic, then you’ll have your chief race mechanic, your chief mechanic, and so forth and so forth, and so all they have dual positions on the team, in terms of before and during the race. And then, of course, you have the people that drive the trucks, they might be changing tires as well. So they’re all kind of cross-trained on different positions.

Mike: That makes sense if you have one guy, Al, for a day or something, and you can’t have the show spot, they’re cross-trained a little bit. All right, so that’s technical criteria.

So we talked about this one earlier, my question was what about personal characteristics, what are teams looking for in candidates? You talked about as far as academic credentials, and kind of like a burning desire to be on the team, I guess you could say that. Could you expand on it or did we cover that, personal characteristics of someone wanting to get in; can we expand on that or what do you think or no?

Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. You have to differentiate between the factory-based personnel and the traveling race team personnel. If you’re on the traveling team, you do need to be able to get along with everybody on the team. I mean, you never hear about it in the media, but there are always law scruffs, and stuff like that. It’s not often that people end up with black eyes and stuff, but you know, these are Type A personalities. A lot of people in Formula 1 are Type A personalities, they’re highly competitive, and they want to win at all costs; that’s the motivation you have to have, that’s the mentality you have to have in order to be able to perform that job. So it doesn’t mean you have to have a personal characteristic, be a jerk, but you have to have the mentality of a winner, and basically, do what you can within the framework of the laws and regulations, of course, to get to the podium and get to win.

Then, of course, the desire to solve problems is a big one because a lot of that job is about being posed with problems and finding solutions to those problems quickly, because you may have 20 minutes to find a solution to a very technical problem; otherwise, you end up like Marussia well, Manor F1 they’re called now, their first race in Australia they sit in the garage, and that is tremendously embarrassing for the team when they’re at the race, but also in the media and the public. It’s not like you can kind of hide these things away, so that’s why you have to be able to solve the problems. Then, of course, there’s burning desire to be in motorsports and be surrounded by and really work within it. I think those are three very key characteristics that you have to have.

Mike: I’m sure there’s a lot of people wanting to get into this sport that already have it.

On a side note, I’ve always wondered, you see a car come out of the pit, and then the back tire mechanic messes up the nut on the axle, and you know it’s on wrong, and the next thing you know the driver’s got a problem with the back tire; I often wonder what happens to that poor guy, does he taken out back or shot or something? In the axle nut, it was simple, something was misaligned, and man, I can’t imagine that.

Christopher: No, it is one of the things that can, unfortunately…

Mike: Things happen, yes?

Christopher: Well, unfortunately, even though there’s a lot of people working in motorsports, in the grand scheme of things, it is a very small world. When I recruit for positions in Formula 1, I can get a list from the hiring manager saying, “Don’t talk to these people.”

Mike: That’s it.

Christopher: I don’t want them. And something like that, if you mess up one too many times like that, you could essentially, hurt your career because it is so visible. Everybody sees it and it has a huge impact on the team. I mean, a) you get a penalty; b) you’ve lost the race.

Mike: Yes, I guess it’s like anything else. Let’s see, there’s a couple more questions here we want to circle around.
So you’ve definitely touched on how it’s competitive, you need to have technical skills, you need to be driven. I know a lot of people who are reading this or listening to this have those and are ready to roll with that already.
So we know about some of the tougher things; can you provide a couple of success stories of candidates, a couple of examples of actually landing a job? Take us through maybe 2 people being place and maybe what it was like so readers of this can get it in their minds how to do it or how the process works?

Christopher: Absolutely, and I’ll look at primarily, 2 candidates who come to mind. Obviously, people moving between teams are not going to be that interesting because I’m not sure you’re going to have that many existing Formula 1 people reading this article.

One person that I already talked a little bit about, is the guy who worked for a sports cars company, a CFD engineer and I recruited him into one of the Formula 1 teams, and he’s now already moved onto another Formula 1 team as a CFD engineer. The key aspect with him that made him really stand out was that he had a particular knowledge with an Open Source module for the CFD program that is commonly used. And the Formula 1 team was specifically looking for…well, it wasn’t on the first draft or when you look at the job ad, it wasn’t on there, it was something in the back of their mind, so when I found this guy and presented him, it was something that jumped out at them, and they said, “Oh, my God, we really need this.” And I was like, “Why didn’t you say that before?” And so it took them about 5 days to decide, “Yep. Cool. We want this guy.” And then it was just a matter of tying up the deal. But he had essentially come up through the ranks of motorsports from kind of the basics of the club racing, and so forth, and worked his way up in sports cars and then in Formula 1.

I should say that when I talk to my Formula 1 clients, and it might be something that they find very annoying, but some positions, because they tend to have very much tunnel vision when it comes to the candidates. “Oh, they have to come from another team,” because it’s kind of a feather in the cap if they steal someone.

Mike: They want experience.

Christopher: Yeah, but also, it’s a bit of, I suppose, a feather in the cap if they steal someone else from another team, so they do tend to get very focused on that. But, of course, they do want them to have the experience working with the team and understanding the dynamics of it.

But this position, it was a software engineer that a team needed, and I found this guy in Niort in France, working for Renault Trucks, and basically, had all the criteria, and when the hiring manager first saw the CV, they were like, “No. No. No, this guy hasn’t been in Formula 1, he’s not interesting.” I was like, “No. No. No, you got to take a look at this guy. He’s like severely good at the software end of the electronic control units and all that.” So they took a second look at him and, “Okay, we’ll take him in for an interview.” And he was the only candidate they would consider after that. So there are examples if you are the best in your category in your industry, yes, Formula 1 wants you, that’s for sure, even if you have no motorsports experience. I mean, he really didn’t have any dreams about going into Formula 1, or anything like that. So there are exceptions to every rule, and that’s kind of why I wanted to showcase with that, but you do need to be able to show that extra little shona c’est quoi to be able to do that. So those are two good stories.

And, I mean, things happen very slowly or very quickly in Formula 1. Last year, I had two assembler positions, one supervisor position, one kind of line function position. The supervisor position I worked on for about 8 months before I…well, I found the guy immediately, and then it took them about 8 months to hire him. And then one of the guys he was supposed to manage the vacancies, I found the guy on Monday, on Wednesday he was hired. So, you know, really, when you apply for a job in Formula 1, you just have to be very, very patient. Unless it is an immediate fit, you have to be patient and not get frustrated and just keep at it.

Mike: This is a tough question that I’m going to bring out of this. You mentioned the equivalent of a Russell, what is it, 015 or Russell…

Christopher: Russell 25.

Mike: Twenty-five. There it is. I can’t read my own writing, kind of like our Ivy League schools. Is it safe to say that if you’re up and you have spent time in the motorsports industry on some decent teams, that’s just as powerful, depends on the position, I guess, as a graduate level; are they looking for academics more than experience on a motorsports team or you really can’t say, depends on the position? What do you think?

Christopher: Oh, absolutely, it wholly depends on the position. You know, if you look on the manufacturing side, you have people that have high school diplomas and have worked their way up as apprentices, and they end up being heads of departments, so it just tends to take a little longer.

When you talk about some of the more scientific or technical positions, then academics do play a big part, but it could also be like the guy I recruited. He was actually an electronics engineer, wasn’t a software engineer, sorry. He had normal education, just the normal school, but he proved himself in his position and his job. You have to show that you have that mentality of innovation as well; problem solving innovation, if you can show that, then you will add that additional value to the team. Because if you go to a team like Williams, for example, the Formula 1 team is kind of a business that’s supported by all their other businesses. So they do a lot of other automotive related or aerospace related work, so they can use whatever you develop for the Formula 1 team, they can exploit in the other businesses and commercially, take advantage of it.

Mike: I didn’t know that.

Christopher: You go to McLaren, for example, you obviously have the super car McLaren Automotive, but then you have something called McLaren Applied Technologies, and that’s an integral, but separate business where they develop electronic control units. If you look at a Formula 1 steering wheel, for example, you have this screen where you get all the information, telemetry and so forth, most of those are manufactured by McLaren.

Mike: I didn’t know that.

Christopher: So a lot of parts of Formula 1 cars are manufactured by another team, a lot of times. Obviously, the engines, I talked about a lot, so you have Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, big manufacturers that supply customer teams. But then you have these other teams, like if you take 3 years ago, 4 years ago, the energy recovery systems they used were manufactured by Lotus, for example. So they do have these kinds of sub-businesses that use the technology from the Formula 1 car and apply it to real world. If you ride a bus in London, for example, one of these hybrid buses, the fly-wheels are all manufactured by Williams.

Mike: Oh, cool.

Christopher: So you kind of look at it from a more zoomed out view. You realize, “Oh, there is actually an application in the real world for whatever they’re doing on the teams.” So, yeah, back to the question. Yes, if you can show that ability to innovate, that’s also a strength.

Mike: Well, that ties right into my next question I’m looking at. You’ve already provided tons of background information, personal characteristics, technical; one seemed to stick in my head, as like “a regular guy.” I have an engineering degree, but if I was going to try and get on a team, in my head it was stuck, “Just get in the door.” So, I don’t know, that would kind of be my strategy, but I don’t have a Ph.D. in aerospace, wind tunnel, and all that stuff. So it’s different if you’re, for lack of a better term, “a regular guy,” what I’ve taken away from it is try to look what’s available and get in and use your motorsports experience and be efficient; that kind of ties into my next question. Since you are on the inside and you know all this stuff, you know what the teams want, and we talked a lot about this, you may have already answered it; since you’re on the inside, can you give us a couple tips that would help candidates that maybe they didn’t know about it, they didn’t probably know about most of what you talked about, but any other special tips? If not, that’s fine.

Christopher: Yes, I’m just going to take a second to think about it. I mean, the kind of way of getting in, it’s not that technical, I suppose. It really comes down more to your strategic planning. If you are fortunate enough to realize when you’re 6-years-old, “I love motorsport,” and you just hang around teams all the time, and you help them out with the mechanical issues, whatever, and you kind of grow up in that environment, then you are very much well prepared to kind of go into a position like that. Because then you’ve started out at an early age and shown your dedication, so a team that looks at you is going to go…well, they may have seen you on the track or someone they know have seen you in a team or something, so then they understand you have the same mentality as they do.

So in terms of tips, I think if you look at the interview and the résumé, just taking the kind of base tools for applying for a job, you do really need to pay attention to how you structure your CV. I wrote an article about this about a year ago, and I do send that to a lot of my candidates because CV writing is a skill that few possess, I think, and they do pay a lot of attention to that. A lot of hiring managers get very bored reading 2,000 CVs, and you really need to grab them within the first paragraph and make then understand why you should be pushed onto the next step.
In the interview, depending on the position, if you take more scientific positions, they will throw kind of, shall we say, mathematical problems at you that you have to solve on the spot. You have to explain how you would attack a problem. Give you a problem and say, “Okay, how do you attack this?” And you have to explain and go through it. Just put yourself in that mindset. A lot of people go into these interviews thinking it’s going to be like a meet and greet and get to know you and that’s not the case. So those are some of the things that you really need to think about because most of these teams don’t have a lot of time to spend on recruitment, that’s why they use recruitment agencies such as us, to narrow it down and find the top of the pile. So don’t waste their time. Even if they can be harsh sometimes in how they give you feedback, take it to heart and apply it.

Mike: Yes, it’s all for improvement sake. That’s good. That’s a few things I didn’t know about. You mentioned earlier, we talked about academics and personal characteristics, but one of your things that I’m pretty sure you could give good advice on is entry points, you mentioned; what does that mean and what are types of jobs all kinds of companies can be found? Can you expand on that, the entry point strategy?

Christopher: Yes. So what you want to look at is businesses that support or supply motorsport teams or look at motorsport teams in kind of lower down in the rankings. So as I said before, you may want to look at British touring cars, Formula Ford, Formula Renault 3.5, and so forth and so forth. I mean, you have the same kind of, I suppose, you would call them farmer teams, and try to get into those and learn the ropes, learn the basics, understand the workings of a team, the dynamics of a racecar, understand the principles of aerodynamics, understand the principles of mechanical aspects of a racecar. How does a turbo work? What are the weak points in a drive train? All of these basic things are the same, whether you’re driving your Volvo to work or you’re racing around in a Formula 1 car.
Another thing, just as a side note there, go and drive go-karts at your local racetrack. Set it up as your hobby. Because then you will understand also how the racing mentality works, and how this car is used on the track. It goes a long way to understand the characteristics of a racecar.

So the entry points are basically, if you look at a dartboard, you have the bullseye, so you have to start at the outer rings and work your way into the bullseye. So the entry points, when I use the terminology “entry point,” it’s where do you start on the outer ring on the dartboard.

Another strategy that I’ve suggested to people in mid-career, and that’s typically someone who’s in similar kind of business, they might be in aerospace, or something like that, and this might sound very drastic, but to move to an area where there’s a lot of race teams. For example, I live in what they call Motorsport Valley, Caterham…well, what used to be Caterham is based 5 minutes west of me, Lotus is based 10 minutes east of me, and I have Williams about 15 minutes south, then we have Red Bull and Force India about 40 minutes from here, and McLaren is down in Surrey, which is about an hour or so. Obviously, a lot of businesses around here of suppliers to the race teams, and there are obviously, a lot of other race teams around here that don’t compete in Formula 1, they compete in other theories, but you are in the midst of it, you’re in the thick of it. So work in a business that might not supply it, but go and spend time, work as a volunteer with a race team every weekend. Go travel with them. Attach yourself. That is also another entry point, but work in a business that has an application in Formula 1 or in motorsports. So it all comes down to immersing yourself in the environment and putting yourself in a function that is applicable to motorsports or Formula 1.

Mike: I can’t say it’s all the same, it’s not, but it’s experience in motorsports, and they’re going to look to that, and similar function should translate over to Formula 1. While you were giving that answer, I thought of something called apprenticeships; I don’t know if the teams have them or businesses have them, but is there something official when it comes to apprenticeships or is it starting at a lower level or does that ring a bell or not really?

Christopher: Apprenticeships, oh absolutely. As I talked about before, the graduate positions and the apprenticeships; an apprenticeship used to be that, well here anyway, you completed secondary school and then you could go into an apprenticeship, you’re like 16-years-old or whatever. When it comes to Formula 1, and actually, I did write an article about apprenticeships last year as well, in this series I wrote about the inner workings of a Formula 1 team. It has become so competitive today that they typically, even the apprentices have college degrees, but it might be a lower one. It might be more of the old polytechnic equivalent, but like a HMD or a GBQ qualification, so it’s more of a high school qualification, but with a technical focus. So they do look at the academics for the apprentices as well.

But yeah, they do exist, and typically, it’s a good way to get in and get a feel for the team because you are moved around to different departments, even though you’re attached to one department the whole time, but you get to move around and test different functions, different jobs and so forth.

Mike: It’s experience. Yeah, it’s good.

Christopher: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mike: All right, so the last question here we have: What would you, for lack of a better term, watch out for in Formula 1 or drawbacks; can you expand on that?

Christopher: Well, I suppose I should be a little careful since someone of Formula 1 might read this. No. If you’re of a sensitive personality, shall we say, I’m not saying everybody in Formula 1 is mean and horrible, because that’s absolutely not the case, but even though these businesses have to follow the rules and laws in a country when it comes to work environment and so forth, it tends to be a lot more cutthroat. So if you are more, shall we say, you don’t really like the environment, even though you might like racing, then I’d probably stay out of Formula 1, because there are many other formulas. I mean, sport cars is really coming on strong with the FIA WC; they have exactly the same setup as a Formula 1 team. You look at Toyota, for example, down in Germany; they have exactly the same setup as a Formula 1 team would for aerodynamicist and all this. So then I would probably stay away from Formula 1 and go and find a job with one of these teams instead, which could be equally rewarding and equally challenging.

Also, if you think of going to work for on the traveling race team, you really have to think hard and long about it because, as I said, it’s 220 days a year they travel, so it doesn’t lend itself very well to a family life, so if you have kids and so forth, it might be very tough to deal with, so that’s something to consider. You could always try, and if it works out for you, then it works out for you, but it’s something to consider. And if you’re coming towards a race weekend and there’s a problem with a car, it’s not like you can leave at 5 o’clock in the afternoon after working for 8 hours. You might be working for the next 24 hours. You work till the problem is solved. So you do have to have very strong work ethics and be a bit of a workaholic where you don’t give up until the problem is solved; if you’re a 9 to 5 type of person, motorsports is not something for you.

Mike: It’s a harsh reality, but I think if you’re going to do something great, if you’re going to do something serious, it’s serious stuff and it’s good for you. A little rough criticism, so you take it to heart, it makes you better, that’s the way I look at it.

Christopher: Absolutely. And I’m a workaholic myself, so I enjoy that kind of environment. But I know a lot of people, they like to get to work at 9, do their job, go home at 5; that’s not the kind of person I am, so everybody’s different. But working in motorsport, you have to be able to actually look forward to kind of solving a problem, irrespective of how long it takes to solve it.

Mike: This is all great information. I’ve learned a ton myself. I want to wrap this up. We are running out of time.
Christopher, to your website, what’s the address on your website? And what should candidates, people interested in the sport look for there? Anything there that they can download or take back and continue the learning?

Christopher: Absolutely. It’s http://www.recruitmentinmotorsport.co.uk. Even if you type in recruitment in motorsport.com, you will get to the webpage, so that’s fine. And on there, we do list our own vacancies from kind of the core of our business is bespoke recruitment, so a lot of our positions aren’t listed because the teams don’t want them to be visible and we basically headhunt. But we do have the positions now publicly posted on there, but we also back feed with Indeed and Career Builder positions in motorsports, searchable on the website as well. And then, of course, you can post your profile and your CV. Because of the nature of our candidates, if you look at the traveling race teams and so forth, they only work on mobile devices and so forth; so for example, when you come and you want to put in your profile in our database, all you’re going to do is import your profile from LinkedIn, for example. We do a connection there and it fills it out for you, and then all you do is upload your CV, and as they say in East London, ’Bob’s your uncle’. You’re done. You save it. It’s very simple.

I would recommend go and look in the blog section under About Us, where we do write pieces on different suggestions and recommendations, but as I said, we had the theories about the inner workings of a Formula 1 team. We do write about the different departments, apprenticeships, graduate positions and so forth.
I am starting a new series now, “The Inner Workings of a Sports Car Team,” and basically, why I do those articles is I do the interviews with the team principals, or technical directors, or heads of departments and write articles based on that, very similar to what we’re doing now.

Mike: That’s great.

Christopher: Yes. So I’m going to start with that series, but that keeps a lot of the information there. So yeah, there’s a wealth of information and you can set up your job alerts. So if you’re an aerodynamicist, whenever we post a position or vacancy for an aerodynamicist, you get an email and so forth, so we have some of those tools to help you out as well.

Mike: Well, that’s great. That’s definitely something to do, because if I was looking for a job, I’d want to talk to or learn from the resident expert who has the ear of the teams and communicates. The average prospect or candidate can’t just call up and talk to Ferrari or Mercedes F1 and just talk about things.

Christopher: Well, they can try.

Mike: You get the front desk; I don’t know what that’s going to buy you. But yes, this is definitely a huge resource for candidates, I’m all for it.

Christopher: Absolutely. And I would suggest, in terms of learning more about it, go to our blog section and kind of read through all the material there. And then post your CV, and as long as I have your CV and your profile in the database, I can approach you if I have any positions available, or when I post something on the website, you will get an alert about it, so it’s all very virtual.

Mike: Well, thanks Christopher. This has been a fascinating interview. I’ve learned a ton, and I imagine everybody listening will have as well.

Christopher: Thank you Mike!

Mike: And remember folks, head on over to http://www.recruitmentinmotorsport.co.uk and mention that you listened to this F1FA Expert Interview!

Christopher: Yes. Excellent.

Mike: Bye now!