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For many engineering students, working for an established F1 team is a lifelong ambition. Although the pay is variable, all F1 teams promise prestige, travel opportunities, and the opportunity to be part of one of the biggest racing spectacles in the world. So how much do Formula One engineers earn?
Salaries for junior engineers at an F1 team are relatively low at $40 000 per annum. In comparison, senior engineers and FIA engineers can earn upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Championship teams like Red Bull advertise a median salary of $80 000 per annum.
F1 engineer salaries, while decent, are rarely as competitive as the salaries of engineers at equally prestigious businesses and establishments; however, the perks of working for an F1 team and the lifestyles associated with Formula One engineers remain its main selling point.
How Much Do F1 Engineers Earn Per Year?
The varying salaries earned by different F1 engineers are relative to an engineer’s experience, qualifications, seniority, the F1 team they work for, and the engineering sector in which they work.
Generally speaking, the average salaries for different F1 engineers (circa 2018) were as follows:
- Recent/graduate engineers: $30 000 to $40 000 a year plus benefits,
- Junior/associate F1 engineers: $40 000 to $85 000 a year plus benefits,
- Senior F1 engineers: $85 000 to $150 000 a year plus benefits,
- Chief/head F1 engineers: Over $250 000 a year plus benefits.
F1 bonuses include, but are not limited to:
- Travel and accommodation costs to every venue in a calendar year,
- Full medical/dental insurance,
- Pension plans,
- Discounts on F1 merchandise and tickets,
- Team performance bonuses (usually monetary payouts per win, fastest lap, etc.)
- Shares in an F1 team/company.
Although salaries for F1 engineers are decent, they are considered relatively low when comparing the salaries offered by similar engineering sectors, such as “big tech” software, aeronautical businesses, or commercial car corporations.
The reasons for relatively low salaries are the high demand for entry-level F1 engineers and the high turnover rate of engineers, given the intensity of the career, the stressful team environment, and lengthy periods of travel over a calendar year.
Why Should You Choose To Become An F1 Engineer?
While the salaries of F1 engineers may be considered mediocre in comparison to the industry standard, the lifestyle of F1 engineers is the driving force behind choosing to become an engineer for a Formula One team.
F1 engineers are responsible for the performance of Formula One cars, the safety of F1 races, the holistic innovations F1 brings to other motorsports and commercial cars, and the strategies employed across all motorsports.
Therefore, unlike other engineering careers, which are purely commercial and often solitary in nature, F1 engineers are usually fans of motorsport or F1 and consider being part of a team sport as the primary motivator for joining F1.
Other benefits of being an F1 engineer include the opportunity to travel, meet drivers and principals, and be at the front of motor vehicle innovation for commercial and sporting cars.
This innovation is far-reaching, allowing various engineers to find their niche in an F1 team, including chemical, aeronautical, software, mechanical, and electrical engineers.
All these above-mentioned sectors work in collaboration with each other, other teams, and the FIA to produce cars that maximize performance, safety, usability and complement tracks and regulations to produce an exciting spectacle.
Another benefit of becoming an F1 engineer is that the prestige of working for an F1 team allows for the ease of movement into other recognized corporations. Should an engineer wish to work for Formula One on a short-term contract and consider, more lucrative job offers following their completion with a Formula One team.
F1 itself is a billion-dollar industry, meaning that opportunities for leadership positions, shareholding, or insider knowledge of the sport are all attractive choices for engineers looking to shift into business-minded positions in the future.
How Do You Become An F1 Engineer?
Unlike the structure of most other businesses, professions, or industries, simply having an engineering degree and working for F1 does not automatically make you a “Formula One Engineer.”
The reason is it is common for most employees in a Formula One team or in the FIA to have engineering degrees, including but not limited to pit crew members, mechanics, safety crew members, FIA officials, and even media personalities!
Generally speaking, those wishing to become F1 engineers begin their careers by showcasing exceptional grades at an advanced level in school, wherein STEM subjects like Maths, IT, Design, Physics, and Chemistry are crucial.
Once completing high school, students should either look to complete their engineering studies through a University/College or by taking up an engineering apprenticeship (although the latter is challenging to secure without some engineering studies or experience).
Because of the competitive and specialized nature of F1, students are usually expected to complement their engineering degree with a specialized master’s degree in fields such as aeronautics, mechatronics, programming, or design.
Further to completing formal studies, experience is Vital. Possible choices include joining an F1 Student Team (almost exclusive to Ivy League colleges in the United Kingdom such as Oxford), landing a vacation/shadowing job, or providing services at racing events free of charge.
While racing events need not be strictly F1 in nature, it is advisable to choose an event that follows F1 rules as set out by the FIA and typically acts as training grounds for F1 employees (such as Formula Karting, Formula E, or Formula Two).
In conclusion, while not the most profitable position for engineers, being part of an F1 team as an engineer puts you front and center of vehicle innovations while offering unparalleled traveling and networking opportunities!