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 Martin Wahl and I work at Pirelli as a Trackside Engineer.
— Could you give me a summary of your job role?
To work with a team of highly skilled engineers at Motorsport events.
— What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember watching my first F1 race when I was around 5 years old. It was that year’s Monaco Grand Prix and I have been hooked ever since. At that stage I didn’t know I wanted to work in F1 but my passion was growing, I was always talking about F1 at school. People kept saying it’s great if you can turn your passion into your career and that’s where I first started to think it’s what I wanted to do.
— What’s the best thing about your job?
This is my first season with Pirelli, but from what I have experienced so far, I think being part of a small tight knit group of highly skilled engineers will be a very rewarding experience. And being on the grid and in a garage for a Formula One event is going to be very exciting.
— What subjects and courses did you take?
For GCSE I took:
- English Literature and Language
- Design and Technology
For A-Level I took:
- History (AS Level)
For my degree I read BEng Motorsport Engineering at Oxford Brookes University with a sandwich year at Williams F1.
— Did you do any work experience?
Yes, I did work experience at Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), BRP Composites and Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit as well as volunteering at Brooklands Museum (mainly focusing on the restoration of a Hawker Hurricane). All these roles were very different with engineers in different stages of their careers teaching and advising me, which allowed me to learn a lot of different techniques and skills.
— What has been your biggest challenge?
A Levels were my biggest challenge. I found the step from GCSE to A Levels hard and some of my teachers thought at points I may struggle. The most important thing I was able to learn was that as long as you want something enough, work hard and listen to the people that you trust and are close to you, anything is possible.
— What was the best thing you ever did to help you get to where you are today?
The amount of work experience I did helped me be sure working in Formula One is what I wanted to do. I could use the dream of working trackside in F1 as the motivation to keep going when I was finding it difficult. I think more importantly though it allowed me to meet people who had already been in my shoes and were able to advise me shaping my university choice.
— 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?
I think one thing that is useful for any engineer to be able to do in top level motorsport is make the tasks that you repeat quick and reliable and often the best way to do this is to use Excel or a coding language. Excel is a great place to start as most people have access to it and have some understanding of how to use it. If you feel you are confident in making spreadsheets, then using the internet to learn basic Visual Basics will also be very helpful. There are lots of very good free internet resources and forums out there that can be informative. It will be hard, but it will help when it comes to university modules.
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’s not been easy – coming from such a fast-paced way of life and having to slow down was at first difficult. However, I enjoy keeping active by cycling and walking, these have allowed me to keep fit and active which is important to me. Using the time to explore avenues I wouldn’t have had a chance to do otherwise has been interesting. These have led to ideas I hope to take into my work when this is over.
Thank you Martin for sharing your journey with us!