Jamshid Sabirov >> Vehicle Dynamics
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team

We have entered the Industrial Placement season for 2022/23, and with the application window currently open students across the world are excitedly preparing their submissions in the hope of spending a year on placement with a Formula 1 team.  But what is really like to be told your application is successful, and what is the whole experience actually like?  We thought it was a great time to find out, and so we caught up with some students currently on placement to get the inside track on life in Formula 1.

Hi Jamshid, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your university course, and how your passion for F1 began

My name is Jamshid, and I am a Vehicle Dynamics Industrial Placement Student at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Originally from Uzbekistan, I am currently undertaking a Master’s degree in Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Automotive engineering wasn’t my first choice however. I always wanted to study Aerospace Engineering and to pursue a career in the space industry because I really admired its philosophy: trying to get the best out of technologies that exist and push physics to the limits to achieve unbelievable goals in space discovery.

In the third year of my undergraduate Mechanical Engineering course I had to specialise, and naturally I decided to pick aerospace engineering. Unfortunately, this dream was cut short, because during a careers talk by engineers from ESA (European Space Agency) and DLR (German Aerospace Centre) which introduced us to the space industry, I learned that it is strictly regulated. As I come from Asia it would be hard for me to get an exciting position where I am exposed to sensitive information. That pushed me to switch to the automotive engineering course, and after some vehicle dynamics lectures and some motorsport case studies from my textbooks, I started to realise that the underlying principle of motorsport is very similar to aerospace engineering in pushing technologies to their limits, and this ignited my passion for Formula 1.

I started to watch Formula 1 in 2019. Initially I considered it just as a hobby, but as I read more about the technology behind the cars, I realised that this is probably the perfect industry for me to work in. A constantly changing technological environment and a mission to push engineering technologies to their limits sounded exactly like what I would love to do.  I started questioning how best to get a career in this sector, and after weeks of searching I found that Formula 1 provided a lot of opportunities for students. I decided to apply, and the rest is history…

How did you find the process of applying from outside the UK?

Coming from outside of the UK it was quite challenging to find an opportunity in Formula 1. Most of the teams don’t accept students without a right to work in the UK, but Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team was one of few exceptions. Furthermore, with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit I was unsure if my application would even be reviewed, but Mercedes ensured the application process went extremely smoothly, and they did not have any problems with me being an international applicant.

Did you find it particularly challenging applying for placements due to the pandemic?

I expected it to be very challenging but as mentioned before Mercedes handled it well. The application process was very well organised, and I had no issues with the interviews. Brexit on the other hand brought more challenges, and since the situation was still very new it was quite time consuming and difficult to get the documents processed so that I could get a visa and work in the UK.

Was the interview process all you expected it to be?

To be completely honest I didn’t have any expectations for the interviews, I was just sure that they would ask unusual questions! I went through the application/interviewing process for three different teams and in my opinion the one at Mercedes was by far the best experience. The process was very personal, and the staff spent quite a lot of time and effort to make you comfortable. This was all done despite the pandemic, and I am very thankful for it.

How did you feel when you found out your application was successful?

I am generally a very quiet person, but I think this was the first time I screamed! Working in Formula 1 always seemed like an unattainable dream and the world of high-performance engineering seemed very far away. After realizing I got the position, I couldn’t believe it! It felt like all the hard work paid off. To be completely honest, I still struggle to believe I am working in Mercedes. Walking through reception every day and seeing a Formula 1 car sitting there… I am not sure I will ever get used to it.

What was your first day like?

The first day was not the one I expected! Coming from Germany I needed to quarantine before I could start working, and due to visa problems I couldn’t come early enough to end the quarantine before my first official day. This meant that for my first day (and a couple more) I was working from home. However, my predecessor was very well prepared for the handover and I was able to have productive days remotely, learning a great deal as well. After sending my last PCR test to the lab, the only thing that was keeping me home was the result of the test. As soon as I received the negative result I immediately went to the office. It was 2pm, in the middle of the day, and extremely spontaneous, but the long-awaited moment finally came. It was fantastic to be in factory for the first time and to meet everyone in person, and it was a day I will not forget.

What does a typical day involve for you?

I am working in the Vehicle Dynamics group, specifically in the simulation department. My main task is to run and develop the simulation process, especially for on-event and post-event simulations, which help race engineers understand how to set up the car and get the best out of it. What I really enjoy is the breadth of understanding required to be able to do this job, from the aerodynamics of the car to how the tyres behave in different conditions. Every possible engineering area is covered in the simulation process and I need to apply a lot of concepts from my studies, but it doesn’t matter how good you were at university. At some point your knowledge is not enough and you start learning something new, and that is a big part of my day. Apart from routine work and studies there is a lot to learn, and I really like this.

As a Vehicle Dynamics Industrial Placement, I also have the privilege of participating in every race weekend from the factory by being in the Race Support Room (RSR). The best part of this is that you can see the effect of your contributions to the performance of the team during the weekend. Having access to the internal communication also makes me feel like I am sitting next to James Allison or Toto Wolff!

Has the level of learning been as you’d expected?

The level of learning here is enormous, but what is great about this team is that everyone is very supportive and if needed will take the time to explain anything you need help with. Everyone understands that students don’t know everything and it’s great to see that everyone is happy to help me to develop my conceptual understanding. Every week I feel like I learn so much that there can’t possibly be anything more to learn, but the next week is different and you are introduced to completely new ideas and concepts. I feel like I will never stop learning something new here.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since your placement began?

Ask questions. It was very hard for me at the beginning to ask someone for help because I always felt like I would disturb people from their important work with my silly questions, but it isn’t true. Everyone is happy to teach me something and asking for help develops my understanding, allowing me to work more efficiently and to contribute more to the team.

What’s been your favourite part of the placement so far?

My first win as part of the team after the Russian GP. That is an unbelievable feeling, and it’s great to see these results after so much hard work. Being in the factory and helping the team during the event made the day very special. As well as this, after the race most of industrial placements went to the pub, and while we were walking over a lot of people were congratulating us on the streets! They were total strangers! It felt very good.

Any particular extra-curricular activities you’d recommend to students wanting to work in F1?

Experience is very important. It doesn’t matter how much you learn in lectures if you can’t apply it. I would recommend everyone to get as much real-life engineering experience as possible. This is very valuable and working on projects helps you to understand how the different engineering disciplines from university interact with each other. Aside from your technical knowledge, it helps to develop various soft skills, which are very important especially when you work in such a fast-paced environment.

What role would you like to do after finishing university?

This is not the first time I have worked with simulations. My bachelor’s thesis was also about numerical simulation, and I think this is exactly what I would like to do after I graduate. I like how you need to know all about the theory of what you are trying to model to be able to simulate anything. Apart from that programming is also a very interesting part of simulation process. Every time I want to code something new it is a new unique challenge and finding the solution is a very satisfying feeling!

Any other advice you’d like to share?

Never be afraid of trying something you want to do, even if it is completely new to you. I stick to the statement of Henry Ford – “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. So, if you want to apply for Formula 1 job but you are not sure if it is possible, just go for it. The worst that can happen is that you won’t get it, but you also won’t get it if you don’t try. Coming from Uzbekistan I never thought that I would one day work in a Formula 1 team, but it happened, and it only happened because I kept trying.

Connect with Jamshid on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamshid-sabirov-963189152/ 
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