Useful degrees for life on the fast lane

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It’s the revving of engines, the smell of burnt rubber on tarmac, and the exhilarating rush of cars at full throttle. Behind the champagne-popping glitz of becoming king of the podium, Formula One (F1) racing is an entire industry filled with talented minds who keep the business running. You don’t have to be a Schumacher to make your mark; plenty of jobs in F1 don’t involve racing at all.

So how do you go about landing one? For starters, the right qualification helps. F1 is the world’s most expensive sport: it raked in over two billion US dollars in revenue last year. Maintaining a billion-dollar elite sports business requires many hands, and although it’s exciting to watch new star drivers like Max Verstappen dethrone Lewis Hamilton, F1 is also about the engineers, the pit crews, the marketing mavens, and the handy mechanics.

Popular degrees to help you land jobs in F1 

Automotive engineering

To state the obvious, fast cars require ingenious minds who can design, manufacture, and assemble them to be foolproof on race day. You can even choose to specialise in motorsport in some universities. A degree that gives you hands-on knowledge to build a single-seater race car from the ground up puts you miles ahead of everyone else.

Apart from the standard fare in a general automotive engineering degree, the focus on motorsport typically involves additional modules like the aerodynamics of high-speed vehicles and high-performance engine design. Since universities with this programme route often have strong industry links, you can even intern at household names such as Mercedes-AMG and McLaren Automotive. Universities that offer them are mostly in the UK, such as the University of Hertfordshire and Oxford Brookes University.

Mechanical engineering

As many as 15 to 20 engineers are hard at work on the race tracks, and that’s not even counting the ones behind the scenes. Those who’ve secured jobs in F1 in various roles largely come from a mechanical engineering background. That’s how you become a race engineer, according to Dominic Haines, who currently holds the position at Haas F1 team.

Degrees for jobs in F1

From fluid mechanics to simulation, engineers are crucial to all aspects that contribute to a driver’s performance on track. Source: Andrej Isakovic/AFP

Haines leads the engineering team in charge of Nikita Mazepin’s car, and communicates with the Russian star directly when he’s on track. That’s a huge responsibility to shoulder for sure when everything is on the line. 

His advice for aspiring race engineers in school? “Subjects like maths and physics are key, as well as anything practical with technology-based courses,” he explained. Experience is an asset, and even better if it’s honed on the tracks. “Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter but it all makes a difference.”

Business and marketing

Not a science student? Then roll up your sleeves and get ready to shake hands to score big bucks. Someone needs to catch lucrative deals to bankroll your team and its star drivers — that person might as well be you.

Victoria Johnson, Marketing Director of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team, has a thing or two to say about that. Just about everything from sponsorship to branding and the nitty-gritty details of hospitality are under her purview.

“Our sponsors are a crucial source of revenue and technology for our team —continuing to build strong relationships with our sponsors — making them an integral part of our motorsport family,” said the business graduate from Oxford Brookes University.

It’s a daunting task for the iron lady to helm a ship with many crews in 23 race locations worldwide, but the payoff is worth it. “[My] favourite part of my job is delivering results, watching a project from the initial idea or brief through to the delivery is very rewarding.”

Sports science and psychology

It’s one thing to reach the top, but maintaining your crown is a different game altogether. That’s why drivers need sports performance coaches to keep them in shape mentally and physically. Famed coach Michael Italiano, who has been working with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, described the importance of his role best in an interview with CNN.

“It could be making sure his laundry is getting done, or even making sure he’s having breakfast on time, or just cleaning up the room and making sure his backpack is packed and ready to go,” he said. “Little things like that really add up […] giving him a schedule so that he doesn’t have to think […] kind of running his week so he can just focus on racing.” 

Far from just fitness trainers, performance coaches take an all-encompassing approach to athletes’ wellbeing so they can stay on course and keep winning. If that sounds like something right up your alley, many top-ranked institutions like the University of Edinburgh and the University of Nottingham offer sports performance and psychology courses to equip you with the tricks for peak athletic coaching.





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