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How to win the Autosport Williams Engineer of the Future Award

It is one of the most prestigious prizes in motorsport for budding engineers. But what are the key things to do to give you the best chance of winning a place working for Williams at a Formula 1 test?

Autosport Williams Engineer of the Future signage on the stage screen

Nils Jorgensen / Motorsport Images

Autosport Awards

The Autosport Awards are a series of awards presented by motor racing magazine Autosport to drivers that have achieved significant milestones each season. Some of the presentations are selected by the general public via a reader's poll.

Ahead of this weekend’s 2023 Autosport Awards prize-giving evening, we detail the process of selection for one the most important Awards to be presented each year: the Autosport Williams Engineer of the Future Award.

The Award has been running since 2015 as part of a joint venture between Williams Racing and Autosport and underwent a major revamp after it was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 2023 Autosport Awards, two finalists – David Crespo and Riccardo Calzetta – will discover if they have won the chance to work with Williams Racing at an F1 test in 2024, as they begin their journeys into the fascinating world of motorsport engineering and following in the footsteps of 2022 Award winner Michael Preston.

Preston is now the chief engineer of the Williams Esports team and also works in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine and Eurocup-3 championships.

Make the selection

For the first time, entries for the 2023 Award were open to anyone currently studying an engineering degree at any university or college in the UK. Previously, candidates would only be considered for selection if they were studying at one of eight of the UK’s leading universities with a strong reputation for engineering courses.

Applications went live in January, with over 200 entries received before the entry process was closed in February.

Following an initial selection process from Williams Racing, 20 students were invited to the squad’s Grove factory to take part in an in-person assessment day involving Williams’ Esports team. The candidates were tested on teamwork, communication style, engineering understanding and the way in which they engaged with Williams staff, which included Preston and Williams Director of Esports, Steven English.

Once the list of candidates had been whittled down to 10, they were introduced to the judging panel for the final Award prize selection – Williams Racing’ Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson, Williams' DIL Team Leader Andrew Newton, Williams’ Head of Talent Acquisition Jamie Green, famed single-seater team boss Trevor Carlin, Preston and Autosport’s Grand Prix Editor Alex Kalinauckas – via a virtual meet and greet.

Impress in the virtual world

Over the next four months, the 10 candidates were given a range of tasks to complete working with the Williams Esports squad and its drivers in a series of online racing contests.

This assessment began with the finalists being introduced to various racing simulation products, which comprised the iRacing and Rennsport platforms, plus the official F1 and Assetto Corsa Competizione video games.

Michael Preston, Williams Engineer of the Future

Photo by: Williams

Michael Preston, Williams Engineer of the Future

The group were also shown the MoTeC telemetry analysis tool, Microsoft Excel-based strategy tools and the OneTiming Live Timing software platform, as these formed the tools the candidates would use to assist and interact with the official Williams Esports drivers as part of the first assessment period.

Having worked with the Williams Esports team, the finalists were then encouraged to present their own strategy choices and feedback from race events on which they had assisted, as well as spend time bonding with the squad’s drivers on the Discord messaging platform.

The candidates were assessed on various aspects of their approach to racing engineering – including their specific knowledge, mentality, communications and preparation skills – as they conducted their work.

Some also produced special reports and comparisons for the Esports drivers that were not required elements of the assessment criteria, while others even helped to develop the software provided with specific coding additions.

The group of finalists was then slimmed down to five chosen to progress to the next round of the competition, with their abilities during the Esports stage assessed in a report compiled by Preston.

Show your worth to a real F1 team

In September, the successful candidates were invited back to the Williams HQ to participate in two assessment days regarding F1 race strategy and driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulator work. These days were overseen by Robson and Newton and were designed to offer a unique inside view of how the team’s F1 race operation prepares and executes a race weekend.

For the race simulation day, the candidates were given the information for the upcoming task and a resource pack set ahead of time, so they could familiarise themselves with what to expect on the day.

Each was then asked to prepare a pre-race presentation, mirroring what Williams would do on a real F1 race weekend. They also had to complete an additional written assessment task relating to race strategy work, as well as the computer modelled race simulation itself, plus an after-action review.

For the DIL assessment day, the candidates were tasked with running the team’s F1 simulator with the official Williams simulator driver in a typical session format. They had to work on optimising car set-up unaided and across multiple runs to find the optimal lap time.

Prove you can engineer a difference on track

Based on the outcomes of the two assessment days in the 2023 Award’s second phase, the five-candidate list was brought down to a final two. These were Calzetta and Crespo.

Logan Sargeant joins Naomi Schiff and Natalie Pinkham on stage to present the Williams Engineer of the Future award

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Aston Martin

Logan Sargeant joins Naomi Schiff and Natalie Pinkham on stage to present the Williams Engineer of the Future award

They then progressed to phase three, which required them to attend and work a race weekend in the GB3 junior single-seater series working with the Rodin Carlin squad. This took place at the Zandvoort round in October, the penultimate event of the 2023 GB3 championship that was won by Carlin driver Callum Voisin.

The finalists were asked to get involved with a number of efforts Carlin had to complete in Zandvoort. For the assessment of this phase of the Award they were chiefly asked to work through video and driver performance related items for the team’s racers Costa Toparis, John Bennett and Voisin.

Carlin then produced a report assessing each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses logged across the Zandvoort weekend, which was presented to the rest of the judging panel for the Award’s final assessment.

Demonstrate your innovation

This took place at William Racing’s factory ahead of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The two Award finalists were asked to consider a hypothetical motorsport-related engineering problem (in F1 or any other championship) within their domain experience. They then had to produce a 15-minute presentation explaining how they would solve that problem and the expected results of that work.

Robson, Green, Preston and Kalinauckas considered the two presentations, where the candidates were assessed on the excellence, innovation, resilience and technical understanding they displayed while conceiving and then solving the problem considered in each presentation. Their communication abilities and presentation style were also considered as part of the assessment, with the judges asking questions on the established problems and solutions following each presentation.

The four judges then deliberated on which candidate impressed most in the fourth and final phase of the Award. This was then paired with the results and reports from each previous stage and the combination was used to establish the winner of the 2023 Award.

The winner will be revealed live on stage at this weekend’s 2023 Autosport Awards at Grosvenor House in London.

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