National Motorsport Academy

Student Success: F1 Engineer, Matthew Bold

Almost all NMA students work full time. Many of them work to the gruelling international race calendar which can see them travelling abroad over 200 days of the year. The life of a F1 engineer isn’t an easy one…

Watch our interview with Matt or read the full interview below….

If You Want Something Enough You Can Make It Happen

Meet Matthew Bold. Matthew started his motorsport journey as an apprentice at specialist sportscar manufacturer Radical. He quickly moved on to work alongside some of motorsport’s best engineers at Williams, where he developed his skills and specialism and started working as an F1 gearbox technician. Sounds like a pretty good career path right? After a move to Mercedes, still working on in an F1 sub-assembly team, it became apparent that Matthew’s career would stall without a degree. Read how Matt juggled his job in a top F1 team with his studies to achieve a 1st in his BSc Motorsport Engineering with the NMA.

“I left school and went straight into the industry. After studying at Silverstone’s motorsport college, I got an apprenticeship with Radical Sportscars. I got the motorsport bug from a friend at school. He had a go-kart and used to race in a local series. I had no interest in driving, I just wanted to help his dad fix it and get it race ready.

Formula 1 was always my aim so after spending 4 years with Radical I started writing to all the F1 teams, even if they didn’t have a job advertised. After many rejection letters, one day Williams gave me my chance. I was factory based initially and then moved onto the test team. By 2014 I was working on the race team. I didn’t know I wanted to work on gearboxes, it just happened that way.”

© Williams F1 Team 2016

Can a Motorsport Engineering Degree Really Help Your Career?

“I didn’t really consider that I’d need a degree until about three years ago. In 2019, I moved to Mercedes, still in the sub-assembly team. This was great progress for my career. I had more responsibility, and I was still doing what I enjoyed. But that’s where my career stalled. Speaking to HR people and applying for higher roles within Mercedes, it became clear that I needed to do a degree. Everyone wanted a degree! 

But how can I do a degree whilst travelling in Formula 1? F1 is full-on enough as it is! But I needed a degree. Thank God for the National Motorsport Academy. Without them, I’d never have been able to do a motorsport degree. There’s no way I was going to stop doing my job and then take 3-5 years out to get a degree. The National Motorsport Academy gave me the chance to get my degree whilst working and because of the flexibility of the course, I managed to complete it in a little over two years.”

Studying Literally Anywhere

I was in the middle of the second year of my degree when the country went into lockdown and F1 ground to a halt. My course actually kept me sane. I look back at it now and lockdown really helped me break the back of the coursework too.

When Formula 1 restarted, with all the travel restrictions we had several races at the same track, so we were away for long periods of time. I was doing course work from hotel rooms, on long flights. I was on my iPad reading all my materials and course content – The NMA is great for that. It’s all downloadable on the VLS. I’ve seen videos of people saying it, but it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can pick a mobile device up, download the content and spend an hour, two hours, whatever you can spare to study. Even at 30,000 feet in the air in an aeroplane you can do it. And if you want something enough, you’ll make it happen.

Working with the FIA F1 Technical Team

My job now is slightly different. I am part of the team that looks after the general running of a race weekend (F1) from a technical point view. My role now involves a fair amount of administration to get ready for the race weekend, answering team queries and carrying out checks on the cars. It’s certainly a role that draws on my experience from working within F1 Teams. Equally I’m learning new skills from my new role with the FIA and putting to use a number of new skills learnt whilst completing my degree.

A lot of our work is safety critical, ultimately, we’re there to make sure that the cars are safe and comply with the regulations. What’s key to understand is that we work with the teams, as much as we’re there to enforce the rules and act as the police of the sport, the team’s all want the same thing; safe cars and the knowledge that their competitors are compliant with the rules.

©LAT/Motorsport Images/Glenn Dunbar

So, What's it Really Like Working in F1?

  • How many days a year are you away from home on average? This varies each year but on average your probably looking somewhere between 180-200 days a year away from home.
  • What do you like best about working in F1?
    The people you work with. You’re away from home for such a long period of time, the people you work with make it bearable! Within the pitlane there are so many determined, passionate people, who quite often make the impossible, possible.
  • What’s the worst part of your job?
    It’s got to be the time away from home, there’s no getting away from it, you’re away for perhaps two or three weeks, get 4 or 5 days at home and then you’re away again.
  • What was your favourite module on the course?
    It’s difficult to choose a favourite module looking back now. If I had to choose one, I’d probably say Module 9b – Aerodynamics, it builds on the basic knowledge from some of the earlier modules and you end up doing some pretty advanced stuff!
  • Did it really only take you just over 2 years to do a full degree?? 
    Yes, I started it at the start of 2019 and finished it in the second half of 2021. The Covid lockdown in 2020 really helped me just get my head down and get the work done. The course allows you to do that. When you’re busy you can take things a bit slower and if you’ve got spare time, you can just keep going! The tutors do a great job with feedback and marking, even if you are sending them assignments in quick succession!
  • Do you wish you’d done a degree sooner? I do, but that said I don’t think I’d have achieved this degree without the real-world experience I have from having spent 10 years in the industry.
  • Any advice for anyone looking to work in F1?
    Go into it with your eyes open, it’s a lifestyle choice and it’s not for everyone. If you can accept lots of time away from home, working long hours, it’s one of the most rewarding & unique industries to work in.

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