Alpine F1 Team
Due to the current global uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and the interruption to studies for so many students, we decided to reach out to the F1 family for some motivation and inspiration.
Here they share their experiences about their own route into the industry, and their life during lockdown.
— What is your name and job title?
My name is Karel Loos and I’m a Race Engineer for Alpine F1 Team.
— Could you give me a summary of your job role?
As trackside race engineer I’m responsible for maximising the performance of the car and the driver at the track. This is done through data analysis, optimising the car set-up for the track and the driver, making sure the car runs on time by managing run timings and a team of mechanics but also by giving sufficient information to the driver.
— What did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional football (soccer) player. I’ve spend a lot of time on football but I’ve tried to never let this interfere with my education.
— What’s the best thing about your job?
The fast paced environment continues to challenge me every single day. There is never a dull day in the office and I feel I learn something new almost every day. Obviously, working with these high-tech cars is pretty cool and exciting.
— When did you know you wanted to work in Formula 1?
Although most of my efforts were on becoming a professional football player I did always have a passion for engineering and cars. When I wasn’t playing football I was most likely doing something related to cars. Playing F1 on the playstation was one of those activities. I was about 14 years old when I felt setting up the car in the game was fascinating but it was several years later when I started volunteering in race teams that the drive to get to the top of motorsport really kicked in.
— What subjects and courses did you take?
Before specialising at Cranfield University as a Master in Motorsport engineering and Management, all my education was done in Belgium. In secondary school I follow a science based course which contained plenty of maths and physics which helped me along my studies at university. At university, as I was still very occupied with football at semi-pro level at that point, I went through a few different courses at the KdG University College in Antwerp. I started off with a BEng in Car Technology and followed that up with a BSc in electro-mechanics before doing a MSc in Automotive Engineering and heading of to Cranfield to do their MSc in Motorsport Engineering and Management.
— Did you do any work experience?
I did plenty of volunteering for race teams in lower categories. My experience was mainly in GT racing before I joined Enstone in 2011. I worked in most areas in the teams and did most jobs from cleaning the car, being a mechanic and doing pit stops to becoming a race engineer running a GT1 car in 24 hour races.
— What has been your biggest challenge?
Probably getting into an F1 team was quite a challenge as you would expect. After complete the course at Cranfield it took me a lot of application letters and phone calls before I got an interview. Maybe I was a bit too ambitious or picky with the jobs I was applying for. If I had the same choice again I would be less scared to go for different jobs within the team as any experience is a bonus and I like to think that if you want it enough you will be able to move to different departments/jobs within the team with extra experience gained.
— What was the best thing you ever did to help you get to where you are today?
I would highly recommend volunteering/working for teams in any category of motorsport. It will help you understand what it is to work in a team and how it operates. You will learn about the car/motorbike and the engineering behind it. I combined this with my studies, which are very important too, and felt it gave me a good theoretical and practical basis to work on and it has helped me to progress within my current team.
— What advice would you give to someone who aspires to do what you do for a career?
Combined with the volunteering the course at Cranfield University was excellent and the reputation of the course will help you to start your career.
— Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had their studies interrupted and are unsure of how it will affect them in the future. Are there any words of advice or inspiration you can share during such a challenging time?
There is so much information out there online, in books, magazines… Think back to the moments at school were you felt you something wasn’t 100% clear and try to understand it better. Learn something new or expand your knowledge on a topic that interests you even if it is only for a couple of hours a day the knowledge or the process will help you in the long run.
Another way of spending some time could be to read other people’s profile’s on Formula Careers and understand what different options are available. Think about which ones excite you the most. Make a rough road map of how you think you could end up getting there. You almost certainly won’t end up following it exactly because life will always throw some curves along the way. However, it will help you think about what you need to do to achieve your goals.
My final advice may sound a bit strange, but it is not often you get to spend time in such a relaxed environment so enjoy it and spend time with family. It is amazing how fast the next few years will go!
Although tailored to the current situation I believe the above advice is true of summer holidays as well.
— How are you coping with the lockdown?
It is a nice break from a very busy schedule and I spend plenty of time with my family which is great. I do try to keep my brain going by learning some new things or refresh my memory on others for at least an hour a day to make sure I’m ready for when we can start again.
Thank you Karel for sharing your journey with us!