log in

Auto Racing

Engineering student wins opportunity of a lifetime from Infiniti

Have you ever wanted to land a dream internship? For 10 Canadian engineering students, a chance of a lifetime was presented to them by the Infiniti Engineering Academy.

The Infiniti Engineering Academy is now in its fourth year – second time in Canada – with seven students chosen from around the world representing various regions (Asia and Oceania, Canada, China, Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and the United States). It originally began as part of the Red Bull Racing/Infiniti partnership, but that venture has expanded and been embraced by Renault Sport, naturally tying into its Renault-Nissan alliance.

If you've ever watched American Idol, you would get a sense for what these students will go through – only in an accelerated two-day competition. It's a gauntlet of sorts: stand out from thousands of resumes, various phone and in-person interviews, test well on video and media training, use on-the-spot problem solving skills, possess technical abilities and knowledge of the industry, and work as a team to build a successful miniature race car.

It was a two-day grind that had its ups and down, but the cream eventually rose to the top. For 2017, it was Matthew Crossan, a Masters of Engineering Science student at Western University who impressed the three judges and a host of automotive journalists to claim this coveted internship opportunity to begin in October.

With the win, Crossan receives a one-year paid internship opportunity split between working with Infiniti's European Technical Center in Cranfield, UK and the Renault Sport Formula One team at its Technical Center in Enstone, UK.

When my name was announced, I couldn’t believe it,” explains Crossan. “I met nine other very capable and strong candidates in the final, who were all deserving of the opportunity, so I feel very fortunate to be selected as the winner. I can’t wait to get started and I will give it all to prove I am a winner worthy of this amazing opportunity.”

For the second year in a row, the event took place at Luciani Infiniti in Montreal, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. A few tweaks were made to the program, as according to Tommaso Volpe, Global Director, Infiniti Motorsport, “the program is constantly evolving.”

For this year, the academy has partnered with Microsoft, and in doing so, the students have been tested on more technical elements involving data sorting. In a few weeks, a culmination of sorts will occur when the American academy program takes place at Microsoft's headquarters in Seattle.

But like many great television show cliffhangers, the Infiniti Engineering Academy saved the best surprise for last when Renault Sport Nico Hulkenberg made an appearance, announcing Crossan as the winner.

Engineering is priceless in Formula One, and bringing the next generation into the team can only help bring race wins, and hopefully a championship,” adds Hulkenberg.

The Infiniti Engineering Academy may have started as a small venture to recruit young talent, but awareness has grown with an increase from 4,000 applicants in 2016 to a whopping 12,000. According to Volpe, its more than just a marketing ploy, as last year's UK winner Daniel Sanham will soon start a full-time position in the electronics department at Renault Sport. 



Hamilton remains king of Montreal

Montreal, QC – Montreal has always been a second home to Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and he used the Canadian stop for his second win in a row closing the drivers' championship gap on his teammate Nico Rosberg to nine points.

It was Hamilton's fifth victory at the Canadian Grand Prix after starting on pole position for the fourth time. However, it wasn't a clear cut race for the 31-year old Brit who lost the lead on the first corner of the race as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took the inside lane to gain an advantage and an early 1.2 second cushion over the defending champion.

The start of the race was exciting, but it was pit stop strategies that would determine the outcome. Vettel would be the first driver to the pits on Lap 11 – a two-stop strategy that didn't pay off for Ferrari – and he wouldn't be able to recover that lost time as Hamilton would brilliantly only pit once, while managing his ultra-soft and soft tired to the finish line.

“I was really enjoying this race,” said Hamilton. “They [Vettel's Ferrari] really gave us a run for our money and I just happened to be on a one-stop.”

In the end, Hamilton would finish five seconds ahead of Vettel – the closest gap thus far in the season between Mercedes and Ferrari.

As for Rosberg, it was a challenging afternoon that saw him make tire contact with Hamilton after the first turn on Lap 1. Hamilton would call the incident unintentional, but it sent the German off track and back into ninth position. Rosberg would work his way into the top-five setting up a exhilarating battle with young sensation Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing. Rosberg would attempt several moves including a pass on the outside of turn 13 on the final lap, but he would spin out while trying to complete the turn and pass. Rosberg recovered to finish fifth as no other challenger was in striking distance.

Rounding out the podium was Williams' Valtteri Bottas for his second consecutive third place finish in Canada.

“Montreal has been pretty good to me, and to us as a team,” said Bottas. “We've been really pleased with what we have done and it didn't come easy.”

After winning the race, Hamilton dedicated the victory to the late Muhammad Ali. He even did a few boxing dances in his memory to the feverish chants of the Montreal crowd.

“I never dedicate wins to anyone, but Ali really inspired me throughout my life,” said Hamilton. “For the last 15 laps, all I could think about was him: Rumble in the Jungle. This win is to him and his family.”

Hamilton went on to talk about what Ali meant to him in the press conference following the race.

“More importantly it was his political views that inspired me. To not let anyone dictate what you have to be...he was someone to look up to.”

The drivers will not have much time to reminisce about Canada as the next race will be in Baku, Azerbaijan in one weeks time. It's the latest new addition on the Formula One calendar, making it a level playing field for all the competitors. Can Hamilton make it three-in-a-row and take over the lead in the driver's championship? We will have to wait-and-see.

New people, new vision behind the Renault F1 team

The Renault name has been synonymous with Formula One since 1977. It has had its glory years in the mid-2000s with back-to-back driver championship from Fernando Alonso, but most recently the Renault name has lurked in the background as an engine supplier.

Things changed this February for the fourth largest automotive group in the world when they completed its takeover of the Lotus F1 team to once again become part of the constructors' championship. The Renault name is nothing new to the grid, but the people leading the way have changed and appear to have their act together with a three-to-five year plan in the works straight from the top, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

At the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, I was able to spend some time with a few of the top brass from the Renault Sport Formula One team including President at Renault Sport Jerome Stoll, Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur and Canadian test driver Nicolas Latifi.

Renault Sport might have had to make a quick decision ahead of Lotus' insolvency, but the plan according to Stoll took a while and had many people involved in that decision.

“The decision to come back to Formula One as a manufacturer was not an easy one,” said Stoll. “We felt it was right for Carlos [Ghosn] to make that announcement, because the project was not just to come back to racing; it was to develop awareness for the brand and use different marketing tools to attract more road customers.”

Being competitive and eventually winning is the No. 1 goal for the Renault Sport team, but they also want to tap into the information received from testing and racing and transfer it back to regular road cars for all of its brands that include Nissan and Infiniti in Canada. Additionally, making the engine more compact is essential to the Nissan-Renault group for the reduction of emissions, as well as changing the minds of customers that you can have a 1.6-litre engine with plenty of power. 

“This year is a transitional year for us,” adds Vasseur. “As our leader Ghosn says, the plan is to be competing for a podium in three years and then fighting for the top spot in five years time.”

Many teams talk about success with little backing behind those words. For Renault, it may seem strange given the fact that the team has scored six points from six races in 2016, however, the team is committed to this cause and not financially strapped like others on the grid. They have the full backing of its fearsome leader Ghosn, along with Stoll and Vasseur.

That leads us to Vasseur. The name may be new to the Formula One grid, but it's a household name in France and in the world of racing after 10 years of building his ART racing team. Perhaps the perfect individual to lead this young crop of drivers that include Denmark's Kevin Magnussen, UK's Jolyon Palmer, as well as a young core of test drivers that has a sprinkle of Canadian content in 20-year old Nicolas Latifi.

If anyone can get this group up to speed, it would be Vasseur, a man who developed the talents of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, to name a few. All of those drivers came up through ART in Formula3, GP2 and GP3. According to Vasseur, 60 per cent of the grid came through ART at some point.

Currently competing in GP2, Latifi is still wet behind the ears, but is chomping at the bit to get into Renault's new Formula One car. He has a future test planned later this year, but for now his only ride experience has been in a 2012 iteration at Silverstone. Right now, it's all about the learning process and getting acclimated with the team mostly through observation and simulation.

Winning at GP2 is Latifi's focus right now, but he's soaking in the atmosphere at the Canadian Grand Prix and picking the brains of Vasseur, Magnussen and Palmer will go a long way in becoming the first Canadian on a Formula One grid since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006.

The Renault Sport team has a little of old and a little of new, but still a long way to go in terms of being competitive. One thing is for certain though, they have a clear vision in mind to not only gain knowledge for the track, but also for the street. The message is clear and distinct from the top down without any wavering whether it's from Ghosn, Stoll or Vasseur.

Now, we just have to play the wait-and-see game to see if Renault can be as successful on the track as they are at  the dealerships.

2015 Canadian Grand Prix: race report

Montreal, QC – The 2015 Canadian Grand Prix was dominated by Mercedes with a 1-2 finish at the historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track. Nothing new based on what's been happening this season, making it six wins out of seven on the season for the German racing outfit.

Lewis Hamilton led the race from pole to take his fourth win of the season, as well as his fourth career win in Montreal. Hamilton had a steady lead ranging between 1-2 seconds throughout the majority of the race over teammate Nico Rosberg. Hamilton expanded his lead late, eventually ending with a 2.2 second gap.

“I love Montreal, I love this track,” said the victorious Hamilton. “The team did an amazing job, and I'm really just proud to be up here and I said, my first grand prix win was here back in 2007, so to be back up here feels really historic.”

The battle between Hamilton and Rosberg was intense throughout, but Rosberg never got under 1 second to really make a charge. On lap 65, Rosberg had concerns in regards to his fuel levels, as well as his teammates who were both on a one-stop strategy, but under new FIA rules, they were not allowed to divvy up that vital information. Rosberg would end up losing plenty of time after that interaction making it a cruise to the finish for the defending driver's champion.

“I wanted to know if Lewis would run into trouble or not, and see when I can put the pressure on,” said Rosberg in the post-race press conference. “Unfortunately, it's been banned...that's the way it is.”

The 2015 Canadian Grand Prix was filled with quality racing at the top, but uneventful throughout the rest of the field for the most part. The only two big movers during the overcast Montreal afternoon was Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Williams' Felipe Massa.

Vettel started the race in 19th position, after a disappointing qualifying session that saw him end up in 16th, but then get assessed a five-place grid penalty landing him in 19th, as McLaren's Jenson Button would start from the pits. Vettel made his way through the field eventually finishing in fifth position in impressive fashion passing numerous drivers along the way.

It was a similar poor qualifying session for Massa, minus the penalty. He started in the 15th spot, but manoeuvred his way all the way up to 6th with a strategy that had him the last driver to pit.

It was Massa's teammate, Valtteri Bottas that rounded out the podium in third place for his best finish of the season. Rounding out the top-10 was Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen in fourth, Lotus' Pastor Maldonado in seventh, followed by Force India's Niko Hülkenberg, Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Daniil Kvyat and Lotus' Romain Grosjean.

The McLaren team of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both previous winners in Montreal, had a disastrous weekend that ended up with them rounding out the field in the bottom two places with DNFs.

With this win, Hamilton's lead in the driver's standings improves to a 17-point gap over Rosberg (151-134), and breaks Rosberg's momentum after two consecutive victories. Vettel rounds out the top three with 108 points, but Hamilton believes the season is still not a two-horse race.

“Kimi spun and we didn't get to see Sebastian, and he's been the fastest of the two,” said Hamilton. We were not able to see Ferrari's true pace.”

With 12 races to go, it's possible we will be seeing a Mercedes battle until the end. But for now, the many attendees rejoiced in a Hamilton victory with chants of “Lewis” ringing out over and over again as he raised the trophy.

Subscribe to this RSS feed