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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. 



Infiniti Engineering Academy announces first Canadian winner

Montreal, QC – Back in June, we witnessed Daniel Sanham – the 2015 European winner of the Infiniti Engineering Academy – share his story to students at McGill University. For 2016, Canada was one of seven countries/continents to hold its own competition for one engineering student to earn a one-year paid internship split between six months at Infiniti’s European Technical Center in Cranfield, UK and the other six with the Renault Sport Formula One team.

Sanham's speech was both inspirational and educational to those on hand at McGill, and it wasn't surprising to hear that two of the ten chosen finalists out of thousands of entries were in Montreal that day.

All ten gathered in a room at Le Westin Montreal with a strange combination of fear and determination in their eyes. They didn't know what the challenges were, nor the expectations; they didn't know their competition; and what's with all of the cameras and media hovering around?

Each and every one of them had to rely on their inner confidence. In reality, they were all intelligent in their craft, but smarts can only get you so far. The three judges – Andy Todd, Director of Body and Exterior Engineering at Nissan UK; Ralph Koyess, Vehicle Performance Engineer at Renault Sport Formula One; and Stephen Lester, Managing Director of Infiniti Canada – were looking for how each individual worked as a leader, as well as how they worked as part of a team. But maybe the one most important tool they needed to show was whether the judges could see them blending in as a valuable asset with Infiniti and the Renault Sport F1 team.

The students chose their own groups of five and they would stay in those groupings for most of the competition, outside of a reshuffle on the second day for a separate task of designing their own factory.

The main challenge was to build and race a miniature hybrid drag racing car – in a best of five heat format on a 20 metres long track – with only the parts provided. The only difference between the two teams was their choice of secondary motor: one team had a geared bottom electric motor; the other went with the electrolytic cell.

As the finalists got more comfortable with the challenges and their team, front-runners started to emerge. One of those was Gatineau-native Felix Lamy, a mechanical engineering student, currently in his second year at McGill University.

The 21-year-old Lamy showed fire on the first day as his team battled to get ideas across, as well as an unexpected journalist teammate thrown into the mix. On the second day, Lamy showed that same passion with new teammates during the facility design, and during the final prep ahead of the big race.

Other impressive students included Matteo Putt and Rachel Kendall, both mechanical engineering students from McGill University and the University of Manitoba, respectively. Putt and Kendall showed off the range of talent at this competition with the former being only 19-years old and the latter soon to graduate.

It was a tough task for the three judges, but it was Lamy who would an emerge victorious to become the first Infiniti Engineering Academy student from Canada for the career opportunity of a lifetime.

Lamy's team would eventually win the drag race, but that came secondary to his positive contribution and leadership abilities shown throughout the competition. What stood Lamy apart from the rest – a question asked by all of us to each contestant – was his motorsport background working at Exclusive Autosport, as well as his true understanding of what it takes to survive in the world of Formula One.

“I am absolutely ecstatic to land the job I had previously thought was out of reach before learning about the Infiniti Engineering Academy,” said Lamy. “The competition was fierce, the nine other finalists were all very impressive in different ways…I still can’t quite believe it. Working in the United Kingdom with Infiniti and the Renault Sport Formula One team is going to be an amazing experience and I look forward to all of the challenges that come along with it.”

Lamy's next life chapter will begin in October, as his schooling takes a one-year postponement. There's no doubt he will learn a lot on the job, but he will also become an ambassador for Infiniti Canada. The automotive company, along with the Renault Sport Formula One team are committed to this program and are looking for bright Canadian engineers for years to come.

“We are harvesting the best young minds that engineering has to offer and, for us, this is a story we can continue to tell and support as we go beyond,” said Lester.

Infiniti and Renault Sport search for young talent


No longer will you see the Infiniti logo sponsored on the Red Bull Racing Formula One car. That title sponsorship deal has concluded, but a new one has formed, one that makes complete sense for Infiniti and Formula One's Renault Sport team, both part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

“We talk the same language and can collaborate on many different projects,” said Tommaso Volpe, Global Motorsport Director, Infiniti Motor Company.

That collaboration is mostly found through the global exposure of the brand, as well as the transfer of immediate information between the Formula One car and the road cars throughout the alliance. That feedback is imperative, as the Formula One findings are an extension of Renault-Nissan's research and development team.

All of the above mentioned efforts are essential, but the alliance has gone beyond to work together on a project called the Infiniti Engineering Academy. The academy – soon to enter its third year – execute a global university and college search for the best young, aspirational engineers. Students that are currently enrolled as an engineering student compete to win their spot in one of seven specific regions: China, Europe, United Arab Emirates, Asia and Oceania, Mexico, the United States and Canada – for the first time.

If you win your region after going through technical skill evaluations, practical challenges and a final event, you will be flown to the United Kingdom for a year to split equal internship time with Infiniti for six months and the Renault Sport Formula One team for the other six.

One of the 2015 winners, Daniel Sanham was on hand in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend and spoke about his year with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to a group of engineering students at McGill University.

“The Infiniti Engineering Academy has been a challenging and rewarding experience, and I was delighted to share my story with Canadian students,” said Sanham. “It is my hope everyone who was at the event realizes they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the Infiniti Engineering Academy – the work placement of a lifetime - they should all go for it!”

The support for Sanham and the Infiniti Engineering Academy was strong as the program was championed by Jerome Stoll, President at Renault Sport racing and Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal.

Both Stoll and Vasseur spoke about the need to attract younger engineers into the Renault Sport fold.

“We have 494 people working for us and we want that to grow that to 650,” said Vasseur. “Technology is moving so fast and we need to attract younger engineers. The combination of experience and new activation and motivation will be a big help.”

Montreal was Sanham's first live Formula One experience and he soaked in the moment to chat with McGill students, journalists, the Infiniti brass and the Renault Sport Formula One team. Since his placement has began, he has been surprised by how close the Infiniti team and the Renault Sport team are with one another and how open everyone is: “You can even bounce ideas and opinions with the veterans.”

And if Sanham was overwhelmed by the Formula One paddock, he's in for another treat as the Renault-Nissan Alliance is setting him up with another once in a lifetime moment to work with the Nissan team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans starting June 18.

Sanham will take off his Formula One hat where he's been working on electrical components to focus on a race that's all about endurance.

Sanham's journey shows that one's dream can truly become reality and he's hoping once this year has concluded he can land a full-time gig somewhere within the alliance. And there's history working in his favour as students coming from the inaugural academy have found jobs from the program: one was hired by Red Bull Racing and another at the Infiniti Tech Centre.

Applications for the Canadian final for the Infiniti Engineering Academy will close on June 30 and you can go to: https://academy.infiniti.com for more information. The winner of the Canadian region will be chosen the last week of July.

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.

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