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How F1 Teams Work (Ultimate Guide)

After a Formula 1 race, it’s the driver on the podium that is greeted with the adulation and admiration from fans and journalists, with often very little being said about the hundreds of staff members behind the scenes. This may leave you wondering how F1 teams work.

Each F1 team consists of several different departments, from mechanics to designers to receptionists. All of these departments operate under the watchful eye of the team principle. It takes a huge group effort to make sure there is a car on the grid every race weekend.

Since different teams have different budgets, team structures and hierarchies tend to vary. In the article below, we will discuss the different roles in an F1 team, as well as look into the logistics of running an F1 team and the ways in which a team can generate profits.

How Many People Are There In A Formula 1 Team?

The number of people in a Formula 1 team depends on the size and financial capabilities of the team. Large teams like Mercedes can employ a thousand people or more, whereas smaller teams like Haas may have around 250 employees working for them with some staff members doubling up on their workload.

The number of employees will also be higher if a team designs and manufactures its own engines. Only Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and Red Bull make their own engines. Red Bull are fairly new to the engine production game after their supply deal with Honda ended in 2021.

It isn’t just the people involved in the production and racing field that are employed by teams either. With the huge commercialization of F1, teams have their own media departments, with staff members manning the official social media profiles as well as a team YouTube channel and PR sector.

Add to this the number of staff it takes to look after a driver’s physical and mental wellbeing and the workload involved in the transportation of cars and equipment all around the world, and teams soon find themselves with a lot of wages to pay.

How F1 Teams Are Structured

F1 teams can be quite hierarchical in the way that they are structured. Each team will have a team principle, who will work as the director and overseer of all operations to do with F1. Underneath them, there will be a set of directors ensuring standards remain high in the factory and at the track.

Teams also have a technical director who deals with the finer details of the cars and a sporting director who helps dictate the racing. Then there are the heads of department who oversee the various departments within the team and provide consultancy to the directors above them.

Besides the directorial positions, there are two main sectors of a racing team. The travelling team consists of the pit crew, data analysts, and, of course, the drivers, and will travel to each race on the calendar fulfilling their individual roles. Then there is the factory team, who operate at the team’s HQ, helping to create the cars and put them through intense testing.

Different Roles In A Formula 1 Team

There are many jobs that need doing in an F1 team to have a car lined up on the starting grid. These roles require different levels of expertise, with smaller teams often requiring multi-talented members of staff who can cover a range of bases for them. The team principle oversees all of this.

Team Principle

The team principle directs the day-to-day operations of an F1 team. While it may be the most hands-on and highest paying job outside of the drivers, the team principle will have to be the first person to take responsibility should the team not be performing well on the track. As well as keeping their team running, the team principle will also have to perform media duties.

Besides the drivers, the team principle is the most in-demand member of an F1 team when the press come calling for interviews. During conversations with the press, the team principle acts as their team’s spokesperson and PR delegate, ensuring they don’t slip up and say anything that could see their team coming under further press scrutiny.

Being a team principle is not the right job for anyone who crumbles under the pressure of stress and long hours. While it may be highly paid and not involve risking their lives driving the cars, team principles face a tough battle trying to keep their team running smoothly.

Technical Director

Much like in a traditional workplace, the team principle will delegate management duties to a small number of people below them to ensure each department is running smoothly. Each department needs this role filled to ensure that staff know exactly what their role is and to have somebody to refer to should they need to.

The technical director of a team involves themselves in duties both within the factory and on race day. They will oversee the development of the car in its early stages right through to when it takes its place on the starting grid. The technical director will make the big decisions alongside the heads of each department to ensure the development of the car is heading in the right direction.

The Travelling Team

F1 teams require many people to travel to each venue for the race weekend. It takes around 75 people to get everything in position for Grand Prix weekend, starting with the most important members of the team: the drivers.

The Drivers

Each team requires two main drivers per race weekend to spearhead the proceedings and help make all the work put in by the people behind the scenes worthwhile. Drivers are usually the highest-paid team members, due to the fact they put their lives on the line whenever they take their place in the cockpit of the car.

Teams have backup drivers on call to replace a driver if they are unavailable. Each race-day driver is assigned certain members of the staff, including a number one mechanic, who will make sure everything is in order with the car. Drivers are also assigned a race engineer who they will communicate with during the race.

Mechanics/Pit Crew

Also travelling with the team are the mechanics, who are highly trained and highly skilled individuals who operate on the car during races. There are three mechanics per tire, in order to complete the change at maximum speed. Extra members of the pit crew are also in place to work on the car if it sustains any serious damage. There are also people in place to stop and release the car during a pit.

There is another set of engineers for when the car is in the garage that will work on more intricate issues that cannot be addressed during the middle of the race.

Data Analysts

Data analysts fulfil a very important role during the race, feeding back information about the car to the driver. This information can include anything from tire wear to the fuel left in the tank to damaged parts on the car. The information the analysts provide can map the shape of a race for a team, as they may be forced to bring the car into the pits or even withdraw from the race.

Other Race Day Roles

There are plenty of other staff members that travel to races who don’t have any influence on the car or the race itself. These include fitness professionals who make sure the driver remains in healthy physical condition to race, and psychologists who keep the driver in good mental shape. Drivers also have agents and assistants who take care of their needs when they are outside of the car.

Teams also require people to set up and take down all the gear we see in the paddock, from monitors to communication equipment. Drivers and VIPs also have someone on hand to escort them to the various places around the venue they need to be for media commitments. Teams may also bring their own media teams along for the ride.

Drivers and staff are also fed on site, and catering teams will often sign long-term deals to provide teams with enough food and drink to last the season. Lastly, there will be a dedicated team that manages the logistics of the weekend and transports the cars, radios, and all the equipment teams need around the globe.

The Factory Team

Ultimately, there is no race without an adequate car, and back at the team’s headquarters there will be a whole host of people working to make the car the best that it can be, from designers to engineers to the people who test the prototypes.

Designers

The designers are at the forefront of creating the machines we see on the track. There are many subdepartments involved in the design of the car, one being the aerodynamicists. The aerodynamicists put car designs through intense wind-tunnel tests to shave off milliseconds from a car’s lap time. Design is usually a large department in the team, often split into further subsections.

Teams have people working on all aspects of the car, from its body shape to the interior of the cockpit. When the designers have a product, they will hand it over to the testing departments, where it will undergo rigorous performance tests for safety and effectiveness.

The Testing Department

Testers will also put the cars through stress testing, impact testing, and various other forms of testing to make sure it’s as safe as it can be and performs at tip-top levels. This involves the use of incredibly high-tech machinery, like rigs that can replicate the forces that take place around a track and expensive wind tunnels.

Teams will usually have a full-scale racing simulator, which looks and feels like the real thing, complete with wind tunnels that can replicate the feel of driving a real F1 car. F1 simulators are very important because they allow staff to gauge the performance levels of their product without having to risk it on a real track. This will dramatically cut the already high costs for a team.

Manufacturers

None of the designs the design team come up with would have any meaning if a team didn’t have a top-quality manufacturing team in place. Among the staff in the factory are metal-workers, specialists in resins and composites, and multiple high-skilled engineers. Teams that produce their own engines will require further space and staff to carry out such operations.

How Do F1 Teams Move Around The World?

Moving all the equipment and cars around the world is a mammoth logistical operation and requires a huge number of staff to make it possible. Although nicknamed the “travelling circus” for its ability to set up and pack away in minimal time, it takes a huge effort for F1 teams to achieve.

There can be 50 tons of freight per team to transport across five continents, as well as 150 tons of other equipment. A lot of this equipment is extremely fragile and costs an incredible amount of money. This equipment includes spare parts, mechanical parts, IT equipment, and motorhomes the staff operate from. The cars must also be transported with extreme care.

The way in which the equipment is transported depends on where the race is being held, whether it be in Europe or another continent. Since all teams but one are based in Europe, most of the teams will go about their logistics in a similar manner.

Races In Europe

When races are held in Europe, the team’s equipment is driven in trucks and lorries specially designed to transport such goods. This is the cheapest of all available logistical options, although it does take a lot longer than if they were to fly the equipment to each destination. The Azerbaijan GP is the only exception, as it’s too far away to drive to for most of the teams.

If the next race is only a week away, teams will often pack up the equipment at the track and head to the next venue immediately, due to the time it takes to get there and the time it takes to set up again.

Races Outside Of Europe

For races outside of Europe, teams have two transport options: by sea or by air. Shipping is cheaper and better for the planet than air-travel, but it’s also a lot less convenient time-wise. To combat this issue, teams will ship five containers’ worth of equipment they deem “non-essential” to non-European countries at the start of the season.

Once the race in the first non-European country has finished, these containers will be immediately shipped off to the next country on the schedule, for example from Bahrain to Australia. These non-essential items can include tables and chairs, kitchen equipment and exercise equipment.

The essential equipment is flown in specially chartered cargo planes supplied by F1’s official logistics partner, DHL. Teams share the cost of these flights between themselves, depending on the amount of storage space they take up. The infrastructural equipment will be sent out first, so when the cars arrive, the team can immediately enter a working environment.

Packing Up

The packing-up process is long and laborious for those involved, especially after a long race weekend. The process begins while the race is ongoing, starting with the spare parts that won’t be needed for the race. The dismantling of the motorhomes also begins during the race. Each individual item inside the motorhome must be cleared before they can be fully dismantled.

After the FIA has completed all necessary checks on the cars, they will then be stripped of all their removable parts and prepared for transport. The parts are placed into specially made foam containers for absolute protection from damage. Packing up is a team effort, with all the travelling staff members doing their part to ensure the speediest possible getaway.

How Do F1 Teams Make Money?

F1 teams make money through prize money, merchandising, sponsorships, and investments. With so many staff members to pay and the huge costs of logistics to cover, it can seem impossible that Formula 1 teams could end up making a profit, but many teams do season after season.

Prize Money

Prize money is handed out by Formula One Management (FOM), with the amount received depending on the team’s performance. For winning the 2020 Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes received $61 million, while Williams received $13 million, even after coming last. FOM doesn’t only award prize money, as they also hand out millions of dollars for participating in consecutive seasons.

Merchandise

Go to any F1 event and you will see hundreds of people sporting the shirt or cap of their favorite team. Each team makes replica merchandise available to fans, which can bring in a large amount of income. This merchandise is likely to be covered in the various sponsors of the team.

Sponsors

Brands will pay large sums of money to have their logo adorning the side of the car or the front of the team’s uniform. Sponsorship deals can often amount to tens of millions of dollars and provide much-needed funds for teams to reinvest. Teams usually have around 15 sponsors or more, depending on their reputation and how much public spotlight they tend to receive.

Investment

Teams often have majority shareholders or parent companies that pump huge amounts of money into the team. The amount varies depending on the prestige of the team and those who support it. These investments can also come with terms and conditions, like with billionaire Lawrence Stroll investing in the Aston Martin team in return for his son Lance receiving a spot as one of their drivers.

Final Thoughts

Running an F1 team is extremely complex, with 250-1000+ members of staff required to create and race a car worthy of challenging for the title. When you then factor in the logistical side of the sport, you begin to realize that the magic of F1 begins long before the cars take to the track.