What is the secret formula of winning Formula Student?

Students work all year round towards competition week to fathom how to guarantee points as a top priority for excelling. No matter the level of competition, the way they prepare in the days and months leading up to the competition will determine their success.

It takes some teams years of experience at various Formula Student events to figure out the intricacies involved in achieving their best as well as becoming the best. However, I have taken the fast track by asking professionals to share their advice on the essentials that every team should know when entering such events. These tips may prove to be exactly what you need to boost your performance.

READ THE RULES.

Although it sounds like the obvious thing to do, overlooking a small design rule that doesn’t seem important at the time may lead to the loss of some otherwise easily guaranteed points. So, take time to thoroughly and repeatedly read through the rules.

A great strategy would be to keep the rules in plain sight by writing a few rules on the board in your workshop every day and discussing them with your teammates. This ensures that everyone collectively grows accustomed to the rules as a team.

Two words: Inspection Sheets

Carry out a full mock inspection using the published tech sheets before the competition. The fact that the scrutineers use the same inspection sheets, which you can easily download, is an advantage to you. Scutineers have noticed that the top 10 teams usually have a large structured folder with answers to every question on the scrutineering sheet which saves time for both the team and the scrutineers to find and fix any mistakes found.

Prepare a practical workflow, because time is limited. Practice it beforehand with your alumni and team members as many times as necessary for you to know all your components, their positions, functions, and any related questions. This will make for smooth running on the actual day as tasks will feel like second nature and flow comfortably.

Practise all events beforehand. For the static events and scrutineering, use the official documents. On the other hand, for the dynamic events, use your competition drivers for each event and don’t forget to practise the necessary setup changes and driver change.

Some scrutineers say that having your statics in good quality can be what places a team in the top 10. This is directly related to preparation, and the earlier you start it, the easier it is by the time of the competition.

All parts need to be visible. Handing the tech inspector a torch, dental mirrors and pictures of impossible to view parts is not good. Have the necessary paperwork to hand, like data sheets for fasteners or batteries.

A common mistake associated with the driver’s safety harness is not having two anti-submarine belts fitted when you don’t have quick adjusters on the sub belts. Also, the belts need to be correctly adjusted for each driver – teams often have poorly fitted belts on their drivers due to only adjusting the shoulder harness belts.

Business is key

Some teams make the mistake of being too focused on design and execution, and not enough on the bigger picture which is selling their idea, reaching out within the media, and talking to sponsors.

The business model is as important as the construction of your car. The event is not just about building a car and being able to take it through every corner, but also about being able to create a business model around it. This entails a model that is realistic, profitable and hits the right target customers. Science and engineering are a massive part of our community. Therefore, your idea needs to be approachable by any person of interest, not necessarily a professional, so keep it simple. Top teams outstand in delivering their message directly.

Back up your decisions. It doesn’t matter whether your plans seem safe, realistic or too logical at first. If you can defend why your business is the way it is, you can convince just about anyone. So, make sure your arguments support your facts, otherwise your whole concept can fall apart very quickly.

Don’t forget there are points on how you present your slides. Adding pictures and a video of your car is very important. If you say you have a fully functional car, the judges want to see it running.

Money talks

Prepare a detailed Bill of Materials (BOM), as well as Cost of Supporting Materials and a Cost Explanation File. These documents will aid in providing the judges with a clearer picture of the car and its parts/assemblies. It is useful to study the Cost Understanding topics and be prepared for the discussion, as well as crucially rehearsing the C&M event with an Alumni, to practice your knowledge and most importantly your English speaking (if English isn’t your native language).

Present complex thought processes for the discussion topics during the event through the visual aid of charts and posters. This shows the judges the amount of effort put into preparing for the C&M event. Such posters will also help students during discussion as they can refer to them for reference and reassurance.

An essential trait for modern day, and future, engineers is being good at both Engineering and Business. Science implementation and great engineering simply isn’t enough in Formula Student. Business is an essential factor in determining the success of selling an idea. The judge will want to hear technical information about the car because it’s a major pillar in the project. However, at the end of the day, what the judges really want to know is: How much money do you want and how much money will they make?

Team Work

You win as a team, and you lose as a team. So, whatever happens, keep a good spirit and enjoy your achievements.

Try not to panic when you fail one of the tests. Always remember you can enter inspection again. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or tips from the Inspector.

If you have the time, help other teams as much as possible. Not only will this improve your experience of the competition from sharing your passion and dedication with others, it also creates goodwill around your own team. You never know when you will need some outside support, and if you’re open to others, just about anyone will be willing to help you back in times of need. Most importantly: Have fun!

So to answer the prominent question, what is the secret formula of winning Formula Student?

There are simply too many factors that form the answer to this question to be able and include them all. So maybe there isn’t a secret formula, but with preparation, attention to detail with complete knowledge that safety always comes first, teamwork, experience, problem solving and a sellable business model, with such hard work and passion, you are already a winner. 

As racing professionals would say “A race is won in the workshop, not on the track”.

02 May 2019, Amira Tamam , FSN Media Officer