Aerodynamicist, Scuderia AlphaTauri
What do you do in your job?
An Aerodynamicist’s time at Scuderia AlphaTauri is split between time in the Design Office and the neighbouring Wind Tunnel, with both aspects aimed at improving the race car’s aerodynamic performance on track.
Whilst in the office, much of my time is spent designing variations on the car’s existing configuration and coming up with new concepts that manipulate the air around the car in a favourable manner. Once new geometries have been designed, I run Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations to assess the impact of the changes. CFD is a very powerful tool that allows for high fidelity analysis of many dependent variables such as in-plane pressure measurements and skin friction along surfaces.
Geometries that appear to provide the greatest performance potential are then put into production to be tested on the scale model in the Wind Tunnel. A short time later, I will be on shift in the tunnel testing those very same parts that were designed a few days earlier, along with geometries produced by other members of my team. This is the sharp end of aerodynamic development and in my opinion, is the most exhilarating and rewarding aspect. The aerodynamicist on shift is responsible for the accuracy and quality of the model, and must make decisions on future direction quickly after data is available for analysis.
What did you want to be when you were younger/When did you know you wanted to work in Formula 1?
For quite a while, despite a keen interest in the sciences and practical experiments, I had a career in Maths and the financial sector in mind, mainly because pure Maths had always come most naturally to me. It was not until I began my A-levels that I quickly began to realise what suited me best, and the life of engineer would present daily challenges to make each day more interesting than the last.
I did not know which particular field would be the best fit, but the overarching appeal of seeing your work produce something tangible on a regular basis was very appealing.
I had followed Formula 1 since I was young, really enjoying watching all the races on television with my Dad. For years, it seemed like the prospect of ever working in such an industry was an unattainable goal, with the required technical understanding surely being beyond my reach. So, it was when I started to take a look at all of the placement opportunities on offer during university that I really started to believe it was possible, and I still don’t think I have had a better feeling than when I signed my first contract with Toro Rosso as an Intern. I don’t think that my younger self would have believed me for a second!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Not a day goes by when I do not learn something new from one of the many fantastically talented people within my team. Being able to translate that knowledge into my own work, building on it with my own discoveries, before seeing the tangible results within a few days of making that first discovery provides such excitement to me and personal satisfaction that I genuinely look forward to going into work every day, knowing that something unexpected is just around the corner.
What subjects and courses did you take?
At GCSE, I did Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, English Literature, French, German, History and Latin.
I enjoyed A-Levels more as it allowed me to dedicate my time to the subjects I found most rewarding, and I studied Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry.
Alongside my A-Levels, I completed an Extended Project Qualification where I investigated the impact of two contemporary innovations in Formula 1 – the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). At the time, these had been a part of the sport for one season and I was able to analyse a great deal of data along with technical research to not only further my understanding, but also enhance university applications and potential job prospects within the F1 industry.
I completed my degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, starting in 2012 and graduating from a five-year sandwich course in 2017. The modules involving Aerodynamics, Control Systems, and Vehicle Engineering were the most enjoyable for me, though the best part of the whole experience was my 12-month Industrial Placement at Scuderia AlphaTauri.
Did you do any work experience?
As I mentioned, I was fortunate enough to secure a year-long placement at Scuderia AlphaTauri in 2014/15, working in the group that looked after the middle portion of the car. Despite being the toughest part of my academic and working life up to that time, it was by far the most rewarding and the amount I learned during my 12 months there was vast.
My biggest challenge was the incredibly steep nature of the learning curve between my university studies and the intense, fast-paced nature of a Formula 1 team. Due to the nature of my modules up to that point, I had only learnt enough about Aerodynamics to give me a solid grounding and to understand most of the principles. The chasm of knowledge between myself and established members of the team was clear from the early days, and closing that gap in order to make a valuable contribution was a task that I relished but was tremendously difficult.
What was the best thing you ever did to help you get to where you are today?
Without wishing to repeat myself, the attitude with which I approached my placement at Scuderia AlphaTauri is the most important reason that I find myself as a full-time Aerodynamicist today. I am very glad that I recognised the opportunity that had come my way at the time and put every ounce of effort into gaining as much from it as possible. Never has it been more appropriate to say that you get as much out of something as you put into it.
What would you say to inspire someone to follow their dreams?
By realising that a career in Formula 1 is what you want, you have already made that first step. It is an industry that is always on the look-out for bright and budding minds of the future to spawn new ideas and drive the sport on with your enthusiasm. Those of you who share these aspirations stand every chance of achieving your dream to work in F1, and there really is no reason that makes this an impossible goal.
At the end of the day, as is the case with every industry but perhaps more so in Formula 1 than most, don’t get too downhearted should you not succeed at the first attempt. It is not easy to do, but finding that resilience to try again is essential and will make the final reward all the more meaningful.
Any other comments or advice?
The best piece of advice I can give you is to immerse yourself in what interests you about the field, and never stop wanting to learn more. I am sure that all of you reading this have the aspirations and capability to gain excellent grades at school and higher education, so to set yourself apart, really focus on being able to display your passion for Formula 1 and Aerodynamics to potential employers. Demonstrate that you are up to date on the latest components that various teams have brought to the race track, propose theories about what flow behaviour they may be encouraging, and read some of the plentiful information and media available on the subject.
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