6th February 2023
No fast track to success
Motor racing is sport at its most exciting, with super-fit drivers playing high-speed games of cat and mouse in sun-drenched cities around the world. Starting grids dotted with Hollywood actors add extra stardust to proceedings, and the result is a heady mix of adrenaline, talent and fame.
All these factors can make it seem like an incredibly difficult sport for young engineers to break into. But, here at The Smallpeice Trust, we work hard to remove potential barriers to entering the industry and encourage young people with a passion for STEM to consider careers in engineering. The charity is one of four expert partners that make up McLaren Racing Engage, a strategic alliance driving forward a programme of collaborative initiatives to diversify talent in motorsport.
So, we were delighted to hear from one of our previous Arkwright Scholars and current Arkwright Mentors, Mike Law, who is now Head of Vehicle Dynamics at McLaren Racing. During the pandemic, Mike and his team were furloughed, and he suddenly found himself with a lot of time on his hands. He grabbed the chance to write the book he wished he’d been able to read when he was starting out. Mike said: “In the hope of doing as much good as possible, I’m donating all profits from the first edition of my book to The Smallpeice Trust, to inspire the next generation of engineers.”
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
ACE Thinking: Life Lessons from Engineering the Ultimate Racing Cars looks in depth at the decision making and complexity of life as an F1 engineer and explores techniques Mike has learnt during his own career. Mike is generously donating profits from the book’s first edition to the charity, in hope of inspiring the next generation of engineers. Buy your copy of ACE Thinking here.
We’re taking the chance to look in more detail at Mike’s own career path, in the hope that more of you budding engineers out there will see what it takes to achieve your goals in this fast-paced but incredibly rewarding industry.
“Before reaching the pit lane, I started out like so many other young students – interested in motorsport but with no idea how to get involved. In fact, I wasn’t even set on a career in engineering at all, until being invited to apply for the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship by my teacher. In that first Arkwright interview, I mentioned my dream job of working for McLaren, but that’s all it was – a dream. The Scholarship paired me with the Ford Motor Company and taught me about the development process, whilst providing that crucial first exposure to working in the motoring world.
After successfully completing the Scholarship, and receiving four As at A-Level, I studied Automotive Engineering at Loughborough University, graduating first in my class with a first-class degree. At university I also worked on the Formula Student team for three years, rising to Head of Design.
HELPING YOUNG ENGINEERS ON THEIR PATH
My industrial placement year was with the Williams F1 team, where I worked in the Vehicle Dynamics department and fostered lasting relationships with the team. I would eventually return to Williams in 2011 after graduating, tasked with developing a new simulator motion platform, running offline simulations and rig testing. After three years, I was promoted to Senior Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, before leaving to join McLaren as Ride Performance Engineer in 2015, shortly after my wife and I had our first child.
To cut a long story short, I was promoted to Head of Vehicle Dynamics at the start of 2022 and am now responsible for all development relating to vehicle dynamics, including factory race support. My book came out last year, and I’m now excited about reaching those young engineers and helping them on their path.
ADVICE FOR THOSE JUST STARTING OUT
I’m often asked for advice by those starting a career in F1 engineering, and while there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy, there are a few ideas that will be common to all roles. These are the things I typically look for when hiring:
- A good degree, 2:1 or above, preferably Masters level, from a university with a strong engineering reputation
- Involvement in extracurricular activities that demonstrate dedication to this career, such as the Formula Student project
- Something that sets you apart and potentially something not catered for in the team already, such as experience with the latest must-have software tool
- A love of engineering, and a love for the sport. Watching races is one thing, working until 4am trying to fix a fault in the system you’re developing is something entirely different
- A good deal of luck!
WAKING UP EVERY MORNING EXCITED TO GO TO WORK!
I hope that anyone interested in pursuing a career in this industry sticks with it. Yes, there are more pragmatic choices to make a living, but for me, you’re far more likely to make it in a career if you wake up every morning excited to go to work. I wish you all the best of luck! You can follow me and get in touch with any questions on Twitter @ACEMike88, or search for me on LinkedIn.”
Buy your copy of ACE Thinking here, with profits from the first edition going to The Smallpeice Trust.
The book was also recently featured in Professional Motorsport World magazine, and you can read the review here: ACE Thinking – a review