At the Pitstop of Mercedes F1 Premium Internship
The pursuit of interchange opportunities brought five PETRONAS scholars to the racing team’s HQ in the U.K
In motorsports, Formula1 makes for compelling viewing across the world as the relentless pursuit of engineering perfection. Since its establishment, the sport's pulsating push for new technologies has defied almost everything science's rule book says impossible. Over the years, a suite of cutting edge technologies have been introduced as the race serves as a platform that pioneers technology that will be used for future road cars.
With PETRONAS in the thick of the sport's development, five tenacious PETRONAS scholars were sent for a premium internship programme with the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Grand Prix Ltd team earlier this year. To explore what our crème de la crème engineering students have gained during their stint with the race team, we recently caught up with them to reflect on the frenetic nature of the sport.
Tan Tai Yeow, 22, a chemical engineering student from Kuala Terengganu says, "Two Mercedes F1 executives flew in from the U.K to interview us in Kuala Lumpur. In the interview, we were asked about behaviour, attitudes, navigating challenges and our achievements. The screening for suitable candidates was pretty rigorous."
"Most importantly, they wanted to see how we would work in a team and they were really meticulous about leadership," he explains of the selection. Assigned to the Mercedes F1 factory team in Brackley, UK, Tan says that the internship was divided into two semesters. He says, "In my first semester, I was tasked to manage the race team's store. The store is where all the race car parts are stored and assembled."
In his second semester, Tan was assigned to work on the F1 team's filtration project. His role revolved around assisting the research development team to test PETRONAS' tutela hydraulic oil that will be used in the hydraulic system of the race cars.
Tan says, "It's really captured my imagination. The working culture there was really great and demanding. It was a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge in analytical chemistry. There, I got the chance to work in a state-of-the-art material science lab to carry out various tests."
"The tests were simulated to measure the composition and viscosity of the race oil used for the race car's hydraulic system. It's a case-driven process. We needed to make sure the oil's performance did not drop off for a sustained period," he adds.
Meanwhile, Mok Wen Ting, 22, a chemical engineering student from Ipoh says, "I was assigned to the test and development department where the testing of race car parts took place," he says.
"In my view, the horizontal structure practiced there was a really humbling experience. For all you know, you could be sitting next to one the team's race car engineers. On the 17th of July, the team took us to the Silverstone F1 race. It gave me an exclusive chance to visit the team's pitstop the day before the free practice. Also, I got to meet Valtteri Bottas, one of the team's race drivers at the race," he says.
From Sabah, Siti Ruhayu Sinaming, 22, a chemical engineering student says, "During my time with the team, I was assigned to the aerodynamic department as an aero operation intern. By background, it was something that's totally different to what I'm currently studying. Additionally, I was also involved in a few research areas that were related to my field of study such as fluid dynamics, composites and polymers for the wind tunnel testing."
She adds, "I feel very privileged because I was exposed to a lot of new technologies in relation to Industrial Revolution 4.0. Right at the beginning, I was really amazed by how elaborate they managed to make all the car parts that were going to be tested inside the wind tunnel just by using 3D printouts from the printers."
A mechanical engineering student from Malacca, Kang Chin Ann, 22, says, "My favourite part of the internship was assisting the composite manufacturing engineer in implementing a laser projection system for the race car. We started by correlating the change to the race car through the improved system."
"Even though I had been taught to use CATIA (an engineering drawing software) at the university, composite design is an area that's not taught to undergraduate students and you can only pick up the knowledge through working experience," he explains.
Last but not least, Pravin Mariappan, 22, a mechanical engineering student from Klang says, "My spell with the team's aerodynamics department was a truly impactful experience on my learning curve. But the thing that surprised me the most was their work ethic. The way the team works together is so systematic. Everyone is so effective at producing results."
"Plus I also got the chance to meet Lewis Hamilton in an interview session arranged just for us. Although it was brief, it was great to talk to him in person and see what he was really like in real life."
Indeed, this is another prime example of UTP's profound industry collaboration. From the work we do, we foster long-term relationships with our global impact partners to prepare our students, researchers and people as global citizens. As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our graduates aspire to exceed their professional objectives and contribute towards overcoming infrastructure and capability deficit across all sectors and industries.