Ever since a visit from British Touring Cars engineers to his native Ireland in 2005, UCLan alumnus Austin O’Brien wanted to become a motorsport engineer. This, twinned with an ever-present passion for the sport, led Austin to study BEng (Hons) Motorsport Engineering at UCLan.
Keen to get into the industry, Austin stopped full-time study after his first year and continued to study part-time. “This meant that it would take twice as long to graduate but it did mean when I graduated I was not starting from the bottom of the motorsport ladder.” Austin said.
At one point during his studies, the Irishman was working on around 25 Race events during the season and between 10 and 15 test events a year, including a World Series by Renault 3.5, Super league Formula and Formula Renault Eurocup 2.0.
Austin graduated with a First Class Honours degree and secured full time employment before he left UCLan. Currently Austin works as a Senior Brake Development Test Engineer for Mercedes Formula 1.
Originally not having any intentions of working in F1, Austin thanks some important advice he received from a co-worker whilst still on his course. His co-worker said: “the competition to get into professional motorsport is fierce as your competitors will come from all over the world and the teams have the luxury of a lot of high quality applicants wanting to work for them. Whether you want to work in Formula 1 or not, you do not want someone to make that decision for you on the basis that you didn’t try hard enough at university and so never make their short-list.”
Austin said that this was some of the best advice he has ever been given as it pushed him hard to achieve a first. This ensured he was on that top of that pile of CVs.
After graduation, Austin quickly took home two Drivers’ Championships, with Mitch Evans and Daniil Kyvat, as a Race Engineer in the GP3 Series with Arden International. Since then, Austin has become a four-times world champion with Mercedes F1, working with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz to work towards a “new age of F1 dominance.”
Austin said: “If you have a passion for motorsport and want to work hard to work in the industry then go for it. It is one of the most competitive industries to try and work in so be prepared to go the extra mile at every junction. You will need to set yourself apart from the competition. If at all possible, work/volunteer in the industry during your studies but not at the cost of your results.”
When asked about any further advice he would give to someone wanting to study motorsports, Austin said: “One aspect of my studies that has opened a lot of doors was choosing an industry relevant dissertation topic as it is always a primary talking point in interviews.”