Welcome to the Aerodynamics Department
Motorsport aerodynamics is the study of how air flows around a race car and how it can be manipulated to improve its performance. In Formula 1, aerodynamics is one of the most critical aspects of car design, and it can make all the difference between winning and losing a race.
If you’re passionate about motorsports and want to pursue a career in this field, this guide will provide you with an overview of job opportunities, work experience and educational paths.
Let’s talk about careers in aerodynamics
What traits does an aerodynamicist typically have?
An aerodynamicist should have a deep understanding of fluid mechanics, vehicle dynamics, and other related fields. They need to be able to work well in a team, have excellent problem-solving skills, and be able to think creatively to come up with innovative solutions.
Attention to detail is also critical, as even the smallest design changes can have a significant impact on the car’s performance.
Typical aerodynamics roles in F1 and the wider motorsport industry
Typical job roles within motorsport aerodynamics include:
- CFD Engineers
- Wind Tunnel Technicians
- Data Analysts
Each role plays an essential part in the development and optimization of the car’s aerodynamics.
What to study
If you’re interested in a career in aerodynamics, here are some study paths that you can consider (note, the qualifications listed are based on the UK education system):
- Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Design and Technology
Developing a strong foundation in these subjects will be valuable for pursuing a career in aerodynamics.
- Mathematics and Physics
- Further Mathematics, Chemistry, and Design and Technology can also be useful
Having strong A Level qualifications in these subjects will help prepare you for further study in aerodynamics.
- Pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, or a related field
- Look for specialised courses in motorsport engineering or aerodynamics, which can provide valuable knowledge and skills specific to the field
- Consider a postgraduate degree in aerodynamics or aerospace engineering if you’re looking to advance your career or pursue research in the field
Remember: This information is designed to be helpful and should not take the place of professional careers advisors.
What does a career in aerodynamics look like?
Aerodynamic specialists in motorsport employ cutting-edge technology to assess and enhance the vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency. Collaborating with fellow team members like engineers, designers, and drivers, these experts fine-tune the car’s aerodynamics to suit the unique demands of each racing scenario.
A selection of universities in the UK which offer a relevant engineering programme
Imperial College London
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
University of Glasgow
University of Leeds
University of Manchester
University of Southampton
University of Strathclyde
University of Surrey
University of Warwick
Queen Mary University of London
University of Bath
University of Birmingham
University of Edinburgh
University of Liverpool
University of Nottingham
University of Sheffield
Let’s talk about work experience and extra-curricular activities
Gaining work experience and participating in enrichment projects can be valuable ways to develop your skills and knowledge in the field. Here are some ideas:
- Internships: Many motorsport teams and engineering firms offer internships for students and recent graduates. These can provide valuable hands-on experience in aerodynamics and related fields.
- Formula Student: Formula Student is a global engineering competition in which university teams design, build, and race their own single-seater race car. Participating in Formula Student can provide a wealth of experience in vehicle design, aerodynamics, and more.
- Aerodynamics clubs or societies: Joining an aerodynamics club or society can be a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and gain experience in aerodynamics through projects and activities.
- Personal projects: Simulating aerodynamic concepts using software, can demonstrate your passion and dedication to the field.
Some ideas of where to look for work experience:
- Motorsport teams: There are many teams in many series not just in the UK but all over the world. Oftentimes you will have more luck finding work experience with a team in a lower series than an F1 team. Try everywhere, don’t limit yourself to only gaining experience in F1.
- Automotive Engineering firms: Companies such as McLaren Applied Technologies, Ricardo, and Lotus Engineering provide engineering services for the automotive and motorsport industries and may offer work experience opportunities.
- Aerospace engineering firms: Companies such as BAE Systems and Airbus may offer work experience opportunities in aerodynamics, which can be applicable to motorsport.
Remember, gaining work experience and participating in enrichment projects can be really valuable for building your skills and knowledge in aerodynamics. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities and don’t be afraid to take on challenging projects! These experiences can set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs in the future. Good luck!
Case studies and further information
Dr Kathryn Richards
Wind Tunnel Test Technician
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team
I ensure the wind tunnel runs smoothly and efficiently so that the aerodynamicists can develop and improve the performance of the race car. My duties also include monitoring and reporting on the performance and health of the wind tunnel itself, so it always remains in tip-top condition. Keep reading…
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.. Keep reading…
Competition Car Aerodynamics
A Practical Handbook, by Simon McBeath – This book provides a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of aerodynamics in motorsport. It covers topics such as aerodynamic principles, wind tunnel testing, and computational fluid dynamics.
Race Car Aerodynamics
Designing for Speed, by Joseph Katz – This book provides a detailed overview of the principles and practices of race car aerodynamics. It covers topics such as vehicle dynamics, wind tunnel testing, and data analysis.
Aerodynamics for Racing and Performance Cars
By Joe Katz – This book provides a practical guide to the fundamentals of race car aerodynamics, with a focus on performance optimisation. It covers topics such as vehicle design, wind tunnel testing, and computational fluid dynamics.