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My First British Grand Prix: The Final Word

Published: 16 Jul 2017

Meet engineering student Marcello D’Aprile. He’s a 21-year old mechanical engineering student at Imperial College, London. And we’ve thrown him at the deep end in the big, wide world of Formula One.

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12.00pm Sunday 16 July

Before I left the circuit yesterday – and after the serious business of qualifying had finished – I was hugely privileged to be in the paddock and pit lane as Renault continued its celebrations of 40 years in Formula One. There was a real party atmosphere with former drivers, historic Renault Sport F1 cars around but what really stood out for me was a speech from current Renault Sport Formula One Team Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul.
It really made me think about everything I have learned this past week at Renault Sport Racing and Castrol. Monsieur Abiteboul talked about how proud Renault is to still be competing after all these years; he talked about how the team continues to build and how he feels it’s crucial that the team spends its budget wisely. Perhaps some teams would prioritise a new, bigger motorhome but, instead, the Renault Sport Formula One Team has just invested in a brand new, advanced pit garage set-up (and Silverstone is the debut race for the new kit).
It’s easy to see why the partnership between Castrol and Renault Sport Racing is a good fit. Both are engineering led in this way and – of course – this is hugely interesting to me as a student of the subject. My whole week has been about discovering that the best of everything is what this sport is all about: drivers; designers; engineers; mechanics; and yes: fuel & lubricants!
I also now appreciate Formula One is not simply a sport. Renault build cars and Castrol produce oil. For Renault, designing ever better cars with more efficient engines is part of their reason for competing. And for Castrol, it’s all about developing increasingly sophisticated oils to help keep many manufacturers’ modern engines correctly lubricated. In the end – it’s about being the best of the best.
And that’s a good place to end my pre-race update! Hamilton to win if it’s dry; maybe a cheeky Ferrari victory if it rains (well, I am Italian!); both Renault R.S.17s to score points and complete a truly unforgettable weekend? Those are my predictions for the British Grand Prix...

4.30pm Sunday 16 July

Cosa posso dire? Incredibile – quale esperienza! I am still pinching myself. One month ago, Castrol invited me to take a look at the world of extreme Formula One engineering and I began the week meeting the Renault Sport Formula One Team. I ended it watching the team’s driver, Nico Hulkenberg, score the team’s best result of the season so far. And what’s clear to me is: nothing in this sport is achieved by accident.

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At heart, I am an engineer. I love seeing how the theory translates into practice. And my time at Silverstone this weekend has included watching the Renault Sport Formula One Team introduce a massive upgrade (the new floor) that clearly helped Hulkenberg score his – and the team’s – best points of the season so far. I watched while the team celebrated 40 years in Formula One. And I was in the pit garage at the key moments of the race. I still cannot believe I am writing this.

I’ve also now seen what the world’s media is saying about Hulkenberg’s performance today (“the 2017 British Grand Prix’s MVP”), how insiders like Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard have suggested that this could be the step change in Renault’s season. Having met the team’s Chief Technical Officer, Bob Bell, I wouldn’t be surprised. His track record is incredible and all the evidence I have seen this week suggests Renault Sport Racing is a team going places.

I cannot thank everybody at Castrol (and the Renault Sport Formula One team) enough. Thank you, Bob Bell, for listening to my questions in one of the busiest weeks of your year; thank you Will Pickford, at Castrol, for taking the time to tell me how to go about getting your job. Thank you, everybody, for the most incredible week of my life. Ciao!

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