Has it been a lifelong ambition to be involved in Formula 1?
It’s an incredible industry, the synthesis of high performance engineering and sport – my two passions. Watching Formula 1 on TV as a child, I loved the drama and excitement. Working inside the sport, I have discovered an incredible environment of high-performance teamwork and an incredible determination to succeed.
Why was your degree in aeronautics and astronautics a natural fit for a career in Formula 1?
The same aerodynamic principles that keep an aircraft in the sky keep the Formula 1 car glued to the ground when applied in reverse. The course is a well-trodden path to a career in Formula 1. There have been so many notable Southampton alumni who studied the same degree and have gone on to do great things in Formula 1, including Adrian Newey, one of the most prominent aerodynamic experts in Formula 1 history, and now CTO at Red Bull. As part of my course l completed an internship at Mercedes-AMG Petronas which led to my current job.
What is your role now?
We have millions of different ways that we can set up the car in order to make it the quickest around each unique Formula 1 circuit. The regulations are strict and we can only spend four hours on track before each race evaluating the performance of various setup combinations, after which the setup can’t be changed. My role is to ensure we start the track testing on the Friday of a race weekend with the car in the best position in terms of overall performance. Otherwise it’s a very long Friday night to get back to where we should be. Post-event it’s a lot of correlation work. We go back and look at the real physics and behaviour of the car and whether the models were accurate or if there are areas that we could improve on. It’s a process of continual improvement.
What is your ultimate career goal?
To keep doing what I’m doing, improve and gain more knowledge and experience.
I get bored when I’m not working. You get caught up in the excitement, the travelling, the adrenaline, and the fast pace; it becomes tough to find anything else that would give the same kind of rush.
How rewarding is it to be part of Mercedes-AMG Petronas?
We’re treated very well, from the hotels to the flights to the transfers. You arrive at the factory and the next thing you know you are halfway around the world, with everything taken care of. I’m very spoilt as I joined in the first half of 2014, so all I’ve known is three world championships, hopefully this year we will add a fourth. I know that down the pit lane people are putting in the same number of hours but have a lot less to show for their toils. It’s a very team-oriented environment. If you achieve something, it’s as much the team’s success as yours. Rather than any sense of personal achievement, I’m proud of being part of a team that has broken so many records. This era will go down in history.
What are your best memories of Southampton?
In the first six weeks I would be totally focused on sport and enjoying myself. Then in the second half of the semester I would remember I was there for a degree and be totally focused on my course. For me it was a very good balance!
Southampton is a great city and university. My course was fantastic and being part of the campus is great as it integrates you in the University and creates such a vibrant community. I really enjoyed my time and think it was the best decision I could have made.
If you have a story you would like to share with your alumni community, please get in touch with Rachael Tyler, Engagement and Campaign Manager, at R.E.Tyler@southampton.ac.uk