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My First British Grand Prix: Friday blog

Engineering student goes to the British GP for the first time. Follow his progress

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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.

10:00am, Friday 14 July 2017:

This morning I’ve had the opportunity to make a connection between what I am studying at Imperial College and the actual reality of extreme engineering. To be honest, I am pretty much lost for words. To just stand in the back of a Formula One pit garage is intense. I can only imagine how a driver feels because my own adrenaline was pumping like you wouldn’t believe. The noise is incredible but everything that is going on before an engine even starts creates such anticipation. When the two cars finally fire up in the garage, the emotional impact is off the scale…

The glamour and the colour – the noise and drama of this sport – are all here but, for me, there is so much more to it when you see it first-hand. Everyone is so focussed; the engineers’ faces never seem to change, just pure concentration. I have to be honest; I didn’t really eat much at breakfast, I was just too preoccupied.

To see Will (Pickford, F1 Programme Manager from Castrol) in his office last week was just normal; an interesting guy, with a very interesting job. But seeing him in the pit garage, discussing how the oil performed with Nico Hulkenberg just blew my mind. Just seconds – literally, seconds – before, Hulkenberg was playing keepie-uppie with a football. In the back of the garage!

OK – so I still don’t truly know what I want to do when I graduate but I have a feeling this weekend is going to go a long way to helping make up my mind…

1:30pm, Friday 14 July 2017

Following the first Free Practice session of the weekend, I went back into the Renault Sport Formula One Team pit garage to catch up with the Castrol technicians. Little did I know just how deeply involved with the outright performance of the R.S.17 Castrol actually is…

Will Pickford introduced me to Ben, Castrol’s trackside analyst for the British Grand Prix weekend. It’s Ben’s job to make sure that the fuel and lubricant formulations specified by Renault are performing as they should. But there is more to it than that.

While I was with Ben and Will, one of Renault Sport Racing’s Engine Technicians interrupted our conversation. He needed to know whether Ben could see any spikes in the concentration of metals appearing in the fuel or lubricants; whether the levels he had been monitoring were within the prescribed boundaries.

The good news was, they were. If they hadn’t been, that could well have been a sign of excessive wear within components in the engine itself.

You see: there is just so much more to all of this than I ever knew and I find all of it truly fascinating.

5:30pm, Friday 14 July 2017

For a 21-year old Mechanical Engineering student, just half way through his degree, this week has been pretty astounding. I spent a day at the Renault Sport Formula One Team factory, a day with Castrol, at their Technology Centre and then, today, again with the team at Silverstone, for the first day of practice for the British Grand Prix.

Frankly, that ought to be enough, right? And yet the most amazing thing about my whole week is the line-up of people I have met who have been generous enough to give me incredible career advice. “Keep focussed on your studies, get your degree and remember that you need to be able to work as part of a team” (Renault Sport Formula One Team Chief Technical Officer, Bob Bell); Castrol’s F1 Programme Manager, Will Pickford told me “Imperial College is a great place to be studying at”; and then I was introduced to Nico Hulkenberg who capped the whole thing off perfectly: “My Race Engineer is the most important person in the pit garage.”

As you can see: not a bad line-up of career advisors and, I have to be honest, everybody associated with the team and with Castrol has been truly inspirational. I can’t believe I still have two days left of this whole experience. And with Nico seventh quickest in FP2, I’m hoping the omens are good for Renault success on Sunday…

Follow the rest of Marcello’s weekend blog posts:

Qualifying

The final word 

 

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