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.

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

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.

shares
comments

Related video

How Ferrari has brought the best from F1’s smooth operator

Previous article

How Ferrari has brought the best from F1’s smooth operator

Next article

What Alpine found to turn around Ocon's F1 slump

What Alpine found to turn around Ocon's F1 slump
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory Plus

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Plus

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021