Composites Design Engineer – Leila Alvarez Garcia
The job of an F1 designer consists of devising car parts by collecting the surfaces from the aerodynamicists, the analysis from the stress engineers and the requests from the race team, and providing the precise instructions to how each component should be manufactured. We have to pay attention to every single part so that it’s the lightest, most efficient, legal solution ; working under tight geometrical constraints and safety requirements. Specially working with composites, where every component is custom-made and tailored to fit perfectly in the car. Although I have worked in many parts of the bodywork, wings and floor, my main involvement has been in the chassis, hence enhancing the importance of interaction with the rest of departments to get all the information accurately and in time.
I studied for my degree back in Spain in Chemical Engineering, specialising in new materials, i.e. introduction to composites and strength of materials. It might seem unusual, since I was involved in different engineering projects that did not relate to automotive at all. I was considering joining several institutions for a PhD, however I finally decided that I wanted to pursue a career in a fast paced industry.
What qualifications do I need ?
I applied for a scholarship, sponsored by Fernando Alonso, to take a course in automotive engineering, in my case, a master in Racing Engine Design at Oxford Brookes. It’s during this course that I became more interested in motorsports as a professional opportunity. I then learnt about the Graduate Programme at Lotus and started in the composite design department. Having a broad spectrum of skills helped me to adapt to the work environment and accept the challenge of a very steep learning curve, however immensely rewarding.
Where would I start ?
Any experience acquired during or right after your studies is invaluable to decide the future path of your career, so I would suggest to get involved in different projects in order to find your interests. This will also allow you to establish relationships and networking which is key to learning about available opportunities. Finally, make the most of your background and focus on your target : the way may be tough but working in something that never ceases to motivate you is priceless.