Formula One racing drivers are amongst the world’s best paid sporting stars, and the glamour attached to top level motor racing attracts lucrative sponsorship deals and TV deals which pump money into the sport. The role of the mechanics who have responsibility for the performance of cars both during and between races is an essential one. Whilst their salaries are nowhere near those of the drivers, they earn a decent wage and the opportunity to travel and work in some of the world’s top destinations.
Formula One mechanics are also known as racing car engineers or technicians. The engineer or technician role focuses on maintenance and set-up of the car between races. The mechanics are responsible for maintaining or making changes to the car during a race. The roles are generally interchangeable, particularly in the smaller Formula One teams. Salaries rise according to the level of responsibility within the technical team.
Salaries for motor sport engineers or mechanics begin at around £100 per day working at grass-roots events. At this level, fees can rise to £500 per day depending on the class or duration of event. At Formula One level, salaries range from £45,000 to £350,000 for the staff responsible for keeping the vehicles on track. Rates of pay vary dependent on experience, knowledge and certifications. It can be a long route to the top, but leading crew members on the bigger teams are well rewarded.
Key parts of the mechanic’s role are to maintain and repair the team’s cars, work with the driver to improve performance and complete pit-stops during races. They must be able to work to time-scales and under pressure, have an excellent mechanical and engineering knowledge and be able to translate information from drivers into mechanical problems which can then be solved. The working environment can be dangerous at times and so common sense and a commitment to health and safety of co-workers is also important.
The mechanic's life
As glamorous as the world of motor racing can appear to the outsider, the mechanic’s life involves long hours and hard work. There can be months spent away from family and whilst travel is involved, for the mechanics this largely involves seeing little more than airports, hotels and race tracks. The staff that work to keep the Grand Prix circus going generally do so for a love of the job rather than as a means of earning a fortune or living the high life.