Tim, Aerodynamicist, Lotus F1 Team


  • Tim

    MEng Aeronautical Engineering (2010)

    Aerodynamicist, Lotus F1 Team

     

Since leaving Bristol...

Being determined to work in Formula 1 I had no firm offer of employment when I left Bristol. That said, I did have a rough career plan in mind and managed to secure work as a Design Development Engineer just a few months after graduation (testament to the 'employability' of Bristol graduates). The company I joined was small, with around 200 employees in total. At the time this didn't feel like much of a step towards my ultimate career goal, however I felt that any relevant engineering experience I could gain would put me in good stead. As it turned out, working within a small team allowed me not only to put my theoretical and practical engineering skills into practice, but also gain further engineering skills which are not as prevalent in Formula 1.
 

This combination of a highly-regarded engineering education and 'real world' practical experience was crucial to my securing a first Formula 1 role in 2012, with both being discussed at length during interview.

In my current job…

I currently work as an Aerodynamicist in the front wing group of Lotus F1 Team. Using computational design and fluid dynamics software (CFD), my primary role is to develop aerodynamic concepts and evaluate whether they will bring performance to the race car.
 

Having completed conceptual development in CFD, promising schemes are rapid-prototyped (3D printed) to 60% scale and tested in the team's windtunnel facility. Being responsible for planning and conducting windtunnel tests, this is one of the more intense parts of my job; mistakes made during testing can be incredibly costly! Following a successful test, parts which made an improvement to the aerodynamic model are released to full-scale design for manufacture and implementation on the race car.

The development cycle in Formula 1 is short-lived and relentless, but it is because of this demanding atmosphere that I get to share an amazing team spirit and the camaraderie which hard work brings. The F1 community is incredibly tight-knit and down-to-earth, so despite the inevitable downsides, such as long working days and night shifts in the windtunnel, I can honestly say that 'going to work' rarely feels as such.

Having a UoB degree...

As engineering students we were continually reminded of how highly respected a degree from Bristol is within industry, but it wasn't until going out to make use of it that I discovered how true this is. My Bristol education allows me to talk confidently on many aerospace subjects, and often in more breadth and depth than colleagues with different degree backgrounds. Being accredited by the engineering council, a Bristol degree also allows for continued professional development as I work towards becoming a chartered engineer with the IMechE.
 

Aerospace education aside, I have no doubt that the varied co-curricular activities on offer at Bristol left me with a host of transferable skills – something which gave me a clear advantage as a jobseeker. Be they the organisational and communication skills gathered as captain of the Engineering Society football team, or experience in leadership and problem solving from my time with the University Air Squadron, it is often these personal and unique experiences which generate the most interesting (and advantageous) talking points during interviews.

Towards the end of my time at Bristol, I also made use of the University Careers Service. Not only did they give me advice on how to write a good-looking CV, but they also arranged one-to-one meetings to review my job applications and share interview tips. Be sure to make use of this valuable resource!

Hints/tips…

My advice to anyone looking for career in motorsport is not to give in! You will lose track of how many job applications go unanswered, but remember it takes just one to get noticed and kick-start your career.
 

More generally, follow up any applications made with a phone call to the team (the online 'Autosport directory' is a great source of contact information in this respect), and be savvy about how you make prospective applications. Unsolicited emails to HR departments will at best be responded with a kindly note to apply for an advertised position, so do your research and get the names of technical managers who might have a say in hiring you. Personal email addresses can easily be guessed if required!

Knowing what I know now, one thing I would have done differently as a student is try harder to gain industrial experience with a Formula 1 team or another within top-level motorsport. Most established teams run summer or industrial placements, and any exposure you can get to the industry (even just a few weeks) will give a huge advantage when it comes to applying for a full-time position. Many of my current colleagues began their careers in this way, including some from Bristol.