Chris Shawe

Graduate Stress Engineer, Renault Sport Racing Formula 1 Team

What is your name and job title?

Chris Shawe.  Graduate Stress Engineer at Renault Sport Racing Formula 1 Team

Could you give us a summary of your job role?

Simulating new parts for the car and making sure they are as light as possible and strong enough to not break during the races. This has included anything from the driver pedals, wheels, suspension and aero parts. There is no real limitation on which area of the car I can be working on. I feel that Stress is a bit underrated as a department, I think it’s something that most people don’t like at Uni and its not as glamorous as Aero or Vehicle Dynamics. But I get to work on so much of the car and this variation makes it very interesting and means you won’t get stuck in one area of the car for your whole career!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was never really that much of a forward thinker when I was young, I just did what I enjoyed. I do remember wanting to be a chef at some point! But I think that I knew I would end up working on cars as I loved them from a really young age.

When did you know you wanted to work in Formula 1?

I didn’t actually realise it was a real job to work in F1 until I was about 16. But from the moment I found out, I knew that being an engineer in F1 was what I wanted to do and I have pursued that ever since.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working on so many bits of the car. This not only keeps the job interesting on a technical level, but I also get to meet so many of the different designers in the team which means I can make more friends within the factory. Renault has a family atmosphere, as a lot of the senior engineers have been through the highs of winning championships in ’05 and ’06 and the lows of almost running out of money before Renault bought the team back. This makes getting to know the team very special.

What subjects and courses did you take?

I did 9 GCSE’s including Design and Technology, History, French and Art as my selections and then I did Maths, Physics, Design and Technology and Computing at A Level.

Did you do any work experience?

I did a small amount of work for a small Formula Ford and Formula Renault team. That was my first experience working in motorsport and mostly consisted of cleaning the cars and running errands for the team, but it was a good experience and was the first inclination I got that most of motorsport wasn’t as glamorous as it first appears. I also did a work placement while at Oxford Brookes University running the Formula Student team, this was a big eye opener into the management side of motorsport.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think running the Oxford Brookes Formula Student team for a year. I had no management experience and was thrown in the deep end organising a project worth tens of thousands of pounds and 200 students. It was tough, but gave me a great appreciation of how import the non engineering side of running an engineering project is.

What was the best thing you ever did to help you get to where you are today?

Again it would be Formula Student. The experience and mentality that being involved in the team gives you is the best preparation for life in F1. It was not only the engineering experience but that I was already used to the long hours, highs and lows that motorsport throws at you. That alongside the invaluable contacts I have made through FS got me a lot closer to F1.

What would you say to inspire someone to follow their dreams?

I would tell them that if they know what they want to do, just follow it and don’t let anyone dissuade you. If you like something, you are usually good at it. And if you are good at it someone will usually pay you to do it. So pursue those dreams, they are likely closer than you may think.

Any other information you think might be helpful to someone looking to do what you do?

Motorsport is not glamorous and there will be a point that you will realise this. But don’t let that set you back, it’s one of the most rewarding industries to work in and that even when it all goes wrong, you will look back on those challenging times with fondness. The stories that get retold the most when I’m reminiscing with friends from Formula Student are those when everything went wrong, but at the very last moment you would rescue the situation. I think every motorsport team has these situations, whether its Mercedes making the championship winning strategy call or a small racing team just getting there car to the start of a race. The effort involved is the same and as hard as it is, the achievement makes all the difficulties worth it in the end.

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