Massimiliano Breda: Aerodynamics in the fast lane

PhD subject area: PhD in Aeronautical Engineering

PhD completion year: 2018

Current position: Aerodynamicist, Williams Racing

Previous education: MEng Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath

Alumni wisdom: It’s never too late to change, nor to try something new

Studying at Imperial

Why did you choose to study a PhD within the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial?

I was fascinated by the project offered to me by my supervisor Dr Oliver Buxton and by the great experimental facilities available at Imperial.

What values from your studies have you carried into professional life/your career?

I took with me the determination to work hard for long term goals and to see every difficult moment as a possibility to become a better person and employee.

What has been the greatest benefit of achieving your PhD?

I had the possibility to study something never done before and to be challenged on my work by experienced professors. These experiences improved my capabilities of thinking outside of the box and taught me to constantly review my work and methodologies.

Career path and future goals

What are you currently doing and how has your PhD helped you achieve this?

I am an Aerodynamicist at Williams Racing. My PhD helped me to develop the right mindset for succeeding as an aerodynamicist, where I constantly have to refine or challenge the current aerodynamic concept of the F1 car to improve it and to come up with new development threads.

What has been your greatest achievement/career highlight so far?

I was runner-up at the 17th ERCOFTAC Osborne Reynolds Day competition (2018), which celebrates the quality of the PhD students who have been pursuing a research across the broad domain of fluid mechanics in UK.

What excites you most about your current area of work?

I enjoy aerodynamic development, since I can propose and discuss new ideas on how manipulating the aerodynamics of the WF1 single seater. On top of that, seeing my work racing at the track is a great satisfaction.

What has your journey been since leaving Imperial?

I returned to Italy to work for Haas F1 as Junior Aerodynamicist, where I remained for just over three years until the second half of 2021. I then returned to UK to work for Williams Racing as Aerodynamicist.

What are the main challenges in your current field of work?

The main challenge is to constantly innovate the F1 single seater, coming up with new ideas, understanding the aerodynamics of the car and improving the response of the car across all track conditions.

Alumni experience

Any advice for current PhD students at Imperial?

If you came to Imperial to become an academic, you are in the right place as the university will give you the tools and the opportunities to shine.

If at the end of your PhD you will choose not to become an academic, it can be difficult to return to industry, but you will have learnt a great set of skills which will be invaluable in your career.

On a personal note

What is a motto you live life by?

Be the person finding a way around the problems rather than the one stopping in front of them.

In your opinion, what’s the most important quality you hold that has allowed you to succeed?

My ability of being resilient in difficult and stressful times, handling pressure and rolling up my sleeves to support my peers.