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Interview

How to become a Controls Engineer in F1 - Qualifications, skills & more

We spoke to Haas F1 Team's David Sloan to find out what a Controls Engineer does, how to become one, and what skills you need for the job.

David Sloan, Haas F1 Team

David Sloan, Haas F1 Team

Haas F1 Team

Controls Engineers in Formula 1 are responsible for monitoring car performance, ensuring systems like the brakes, differential, clutch and more are all operating correctly.

To find out more about what a Controls Engineer does, what qualifications you need, and how to become one, we spoke to David Sloan – Controls Engineer for Haas F1 Team – to find out more.

What is your role?

The Control Systems Engineers are responsible for operating the various on-car control systems, and analysing their performance, working with the Race Engineers and drivers.

What are your responsibilities and main jobs?

I monitor the systems during on-track running through the telemetry, ensuring everything is working as expected and providing diagnosis of any issues that arise.

Specifically, I will be looking at the braking systems, differential, steering wheel, clutch settings and start performance, and tuning them with feedback from the driver and Race Engineer.

I must ensure that everything is configured according to the FIA rules, ensuring legality at all times, and I also work closely with Ferrari engine, ERS and electronics engineers on many aspects of the car systems.

How do you become a Controls Engineer?

My background is in software development. I started outside of motorsport, but my first motorsport job at FOM was purely writing software. As I moved from job to job I was exposed to various aspects of the electronics and control systems used in F1, so I moved in that direction.

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21, in the garage

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21, in the garage

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

What qualifications do you need?

An engineering degree is usually a requirement.

What should you study in school?

At school I studied English, maths, physics, chemistry and biology.

What other skills are useful?

When you travel, you spend a lot of time with your colleagues, so it’s important to work well in a team, and having a sense of humour can help. Being able to prioritise and manage your time is also important, as there isn’t always as much available as you’d like.

I don’t think being a fan of motorsport is essential, although some familiarity with the sport is always helpful.

Do you get to go to races?

Yes, my role is a ‘travelling’ one, so I go to all the races and tests.

What does a day at work look like for a Control Engineer?

Between events, the days are fairly typical ‘office’ days – analysing data from the last event, writing reports and documenting what went well and where improvements can be made, and then looking forward to the next event, preparing the initial electronic and software set-ups.

At the circuit, each day we’ll have meetings and there will be fire-up data to check, to ensure the car is built and configured correctly for each session, and then debriefs from the driver and changes after each session to gain maximum performance from the car. However, there are many variables - such as red flags and the weather for example - which means the day may not go according to the plan, and a degree of flexibility is required.

My role is almost exclusively computer-based, and although I work closely with the Systems Engineer who will be looking after the electronics from the hardware/sensor side of things, there’s not much practical work typically.

This article was created in partnership with Motorsport Jobs. Find the latest jobs in motorsport, as well as jobs with the Haas F1 Team, on the Motorsport Jobs website.

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