Chimdirim Ani is currently studying Automotive Engineering at the University of Leeds, and has a dream of working in F1.  Here’s Chimdirim’s story so far:

Being in the position to even write about myself and my journey is something I would have never imagined. The journey has not been an easy one and I am aware that I am barely half way through. The road towards my dream of F1 is still ongoing and I am excited for the greater prospects ahead.

I remember a few things from when I was a kid and those things are so special to me.  I remember sitting in the parlour with my dad and my brother, I used to watch the EPL with them, we were all Manchester United Fans then. I stuck with Man U but my brother and Dad moved.  On one of those days when we were trying to find something to watch on the sports channel, we scrolled through and arrived at a channel where they showed dirt bike racing. Watching those people race made me so happy, seeing them go through those ramps so fast, it was astonishing. I also remember when I would dismantle things that were not being used just so I could fit them back together. One other thing for me was sitting in the car with my dad because he loves to drive, he does not say it, but you can see it in his eyes.  Same goes for my brother, watching that twinkle in their eyes, I knew something about that adrenaline in them fed my happiness. I was the most comfortable watching them drive and I knew I wanted to make people that happy, I did not know what it was, but I knew I wanted to feed back that happiness to people somehow.

My parents are both doctors, my mom being a General Ophthalmologist as well as a Community ophthalmologist and my dad being a Family physician, with a general surgical bias. I am the last of 4 children of whom are all older than me by 9 years and above, meaning they all finished school a long time ahead of me.  My eldest brother is an Engineer, my sister is a Lawyer and my immediate brother is also an Engineer, the only hope my dad had for another doctor was me and in the process of my dad steering me in that direction, I lost touch of what I loved so deeply and ferociously.  I wanted to please my dad and make him happy at the expense of my happiness and ambitions. I love helping people and any form that took was good enough, that’s what I told myself, and I moved through life telling myself I would be making people happy. I realised that even though you are making people happy, it would get to a point that you also need to be happy to make people happy and I was at that point. I was already in secondary school and would be taking science classes as I had decided this was a good fit for me. I disliked Biology, it was the worst science subject, but Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, they were my shining star.  My sweet joy. I was happy in those classes, I understood almost everything I was taught and even if I did not understand, I was so eager to find out. The day of picking your suited class finally came and I knew biology was not for me, it was my Achilles’ heel, but I still tried to push on with it.

My brother called me aside and asked me what I really wanted to become, I dutifully said a doctor, when he asked why, I said to him, “I want to help people and make them happy”, he then replied, ‘’Chichi, you realise you can help people through other forms, you do not need to be a doctor to help people’’.  He asked me what else I wanted to do and I had nothing else to say. He then asked me to take some time to truly understand myself and know what I wanted. It was at that point I finally let myself accept that being a doctor was not for me. I could always be a volunteer, I could always help people in several other ways. So, I did some inner reflection, I talked with my sister who reminded me about the stuff I loved when I was younger, and how I always destroyed stuff in order to rebuild them. It was then I decided to look into Engineering. I loved the whole concept, it made me truly happy. We had to pick the most desirable class to us between Auto Mechanical Work, Metal Work, Wood Work, Electrics and some others; I felt attracted to Auto Mechanical Work, so I picked that. I went on to look at several aspects of the engineering and I looked at Automotive Engineering and that made me the most excited and happy, I wanted to do that and in the course of studying about it I remembered those moments as a kid that brought me joy and still today, I am still so joyful I made that decision. Here was the problem; I loved vehicles, I loved cars but there was still something missing, the adrenaline rush, the fire in the drivers eyes, not every person on the road has that.

The next decision to make would be where I studied. As a kid I would always have dreams and no matter how long it took for it to come to pass, it always came to pass, and I always believed and still believe it was a way God communicated with me. I had a dream I was in a place filled with snow, but I didn’t know where, my best friend at the time was going to Canada so I thought I was to follow her but several years down the line I knew I had misinterpreted that dream. In my secondary school, they always had someone from  UCAS come to speak and I asked the person that year the best University to study Automotive Engineering in.  Their answer, the University of Leeds, so I investigated. Few years after looking at the University and knowing almost every bit of the university, I made it in, it was not easy at all. After getting into the University of Leeds, I found the love of my life, Formula 1.  I found that sudden thrill, I felt like a kid again, the adrenaline and fire in the eyes of these drivers, as an Engineer, all you want to do is make them happy by providing the best for them, that makes them happy and that is what I want to do. It’s my second year at the University of Leeds and I can say my first year was the hardest educational year I had, I went through so much prior to the year and the year itself but all it did was build me and make me stronger. 

Through the process of life, I have learnt that in order for growth to occur and for you to keep pushing and growing you need to believe in yourself as well as have people around you who believe in you, who trust that you will grow, people who push you and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team has done that for me, so many times in my first year I was slipping, I had so much going on and it messed with my thinking, it made me doubt myself, I questioned every decision.  I told myself I was definitely not smart enough, I was definitely wrong but those moments, even though I did not believe in myself Mercedes did. Its weird to say but they believed in me. At the US GP this year, James Allison was asked why people don’t leave so often and he said “I’ll say this, but at the risk of making it sound like a cult, the environment made for us as a team is one where they allow you to take risks, make mistakes and when you do they do not slap you in the face”, that is a place that inhabits growth, that felt like home to me and to add, their hashtags are everything.

I do believe as Engineers people think you should be restrained and kept in a box, they see Engineering disciplines as single line structures, but they go hand in hand. While studying Automotive Engineering, one of the most perfect things is how vehicle parts and the engineers work together as a human body, all the different areas and different fields work together perfectly and that is why teamwork is so essential, you can never do it all on your own. You need one to function in order for another to function, it is all a huge part that makes up the beauties we drive.

There are a few things I would love to do, firstly I would love to explore being a Powertrain engineer.  Being a part of the Formula Student Team, Leeds Gryphon Racing, at my university, I have gotten the opportunity to work as a Powertrain Engineer and it has been amazing, I am presently working on the Fuel system with an amazing team and it is so amazing, this deals mainly with the heart of vehicles, what powers them, how to make them work better for the vehicles body and the manufacturing. I would also love to work as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, these are more like the hands and feet of the vehicle, they help with grip and balance, such huge functions. I also want to work as a Race Engineer, this is more like the brain, the engineer is the link between the driver, the vehicle, the race engineer just like the brain gives advice, gives a warning, thinks of ideas and the driver either stick to his/her intuition, listens to the Engineers advice or the driver works together with the Engineer to upgrade both their intuitions.

I would also love to work as a Race Strategist, I remember watching Hungary GP 2019 and the USA GP 2019, at Hungary, Lewis went in for the 3rd pit-stop, that was a crazy move because how was he going to catch up with Verstappen, with the number of cars between him and Verstappen, if I remember clearly he came out of the pits in 3rd place and 5 laps to go, that was tricky. As a race strategist you need not only trust the tyres but the driver, you need to trust that they can work with that decision and you need to help them along the way and in the end, it worked in favour of Mercedes. At the US GP again, Lewis was on a 1 stop strategy and Valtteri was on a 2 stop strategy, were the hard tyres going to last or were the mediums, you need to think about tyre degradation, the hard tyres are known to last really long and the mediums do not last so long but Lewis had those hard tyres on for about 15 or 20 laps before Valtteri has his second set of mediums fit to the wheels, Race Strategy is a game of probability and it is extremely amazing when you get it right.

In the words of Sia, I feel very unstoppable at this point in my life, I’m on this journey learning and growing and Formula 1 is my target.

You can follow along with Chimdirims’ journey here: