Vincent McKenna is an 19 years old student from Ireland I’ve known thanks to Twitter: we immediately got on well and I asked him -as we have both the dream to work in F1- if I could have an exclusive interview with him when he would have become an engineer: I didn’t think that moment would have been so close! Vincent, indeed, is studying enginnering at university getting stunning results, and, for the next year, he’s supposed to work for a society to apply his studies. He asked for a placement to many F1 teams, and Red Bull Racing accepted him!
I’m sure that Vincent will reach his target to work in F1, because he’s a very passionate man and he’s giving the maximum to make his dream come true. He totally deserves the chance RBR is giving him. So, F1 fans, be ready to see him often in the paddock in the next years!
Here’s the interview:
1) How did you get into F1 and engineering?
My passion for Formula 1 started when I was very young! I think it was a combination of the speed, the bravery of the drivers and the exciting wheel to wheel racing that really attracted me to the sport. But most of all it was the cars and the cutting edge design and technology behind them. For me the cars are the real stars of Formula 1!
My first clear memory of a race was the 1999 French Grand when I was just seven years old. I remember this race in particular for two reasons; the pouring rain and the bright yellow Jordan of Heinz-Harald Frentzen winning! The following race will also live long in my memory. It was the British Grand Prix, a race that is infamous for Michael Schumacher’s terrible crash and subsequent broken leg. From then on I haven’t missed a single race.
Whilst watching Formula One I was always just as interested, or possibly even more interested in the technology in the cars as I was in the racing. Since it is primarily engineers who design, build and maintain the cars, becoming interested in engineering was a logical step for me. I was also fascinated by other forms of transport, especially space exploration! This too furthered my interest in engineering and is probably the reason why I am currently studying Mechanical Engineering at university.
2) When and why did you decide to become an F1 engineer?
I really wanted to become a F1 engineer from about ten years old, and has been my dream job ever since! During art class at school I would invariably sketch Formula 1 cars, either the ones I watched on TV every fortnight, or more often my own designs. I enjoyed drawing and designing my own fantasy F1 cars so much that I always hoped that I would be lucky enough to be able to design a real racing car one day. From that point onwards I decided to do all I could to make my dream a reality.
3) What do you love and hate most of studying this hard subject?
The part I enjoy most about engineering is designing as it gives me an opportunity to be creative. I also really like solving problems; it’s always a great joy or relief when you get a solution to a difficult problem! I don’t think there is anything I hate anything about engineering, however doing tests at the end of each semester is definitely not my favourite thing!
4) Have you ever been to a Grand Prix?
Unfortunately I haven’t! However it is something I am trying to change as soon as possible. Hopefully I’ll get to a Grand Prix either this year or next!
5) Can you tell us more of what you will be doing in few months?
I’ll be working in the Vehicle Design Department of Red Bull Racing as part of a yearlong work placement. The placement will involve designing and draughting vehicle components or garage equipment for either R&D, laboratory testing, or circuit use. This will allow me to gain experience in specialist areas such as fault diagnosis, stress analysis and computer aided design (cad). Furthermore I will most likely be required to prepare technical reports to present to senior engineers in the team. At this point I am not completely certain as to what part of the car I will be involved with, however I am thoroughly looking forward to getting started on whatever work they require me to do!
6) For the aspiring engineers out there, how did you get this opportunity? Can you describe your emotions when you got the confirmation you succeeded?
Each year Red Bull advertises a number of student work placements on their website. To be considered for a position we were first asked to send Red Bull a copy of our CV and a covering letter. I spent many long nights making sure my CV was laid out as well as it could and that I had included everything that I had done that was relevant to the job and would help me get a placement.
Shortly before Christmas I was then contacted by the team to inform me that I had been chosen to be interviewed. My interview then happened in January at Red Bull’s factory in Milton Keynes. It was an amazing experience just to be in the factory where the current World Champions made their cars! Thankfully my interview went well and I was fortunate enough to be offered a placement. When I was told the news I was absolutely delighted, but it wasn’t until a week or so later that it really sunk in. I still can’t quite believe that my dream to work in Formula One has almost come true!
7) After this experience, what are your dreams for your life?
My dreams for life are to firstly have an exciting and rewarding year at Red Bull, and to learn as much as I can about what is required to work in Formula One full-time. I feel I have been very fortunate to have been offered such an opportunity and I intend to get as much out of it as I possibly can!
Once the year is over I wish to complete my course at university with the best mark I can possibly achieve before attempting to secure a graduate position as a junior engineer at an F1 team. It would be a dream comes true for me to get to this stage!
Outside of work and study I would love to have an opportunity to travel around the world and visit as many beautiful places as I can! It is a crazy ambition of mine to visit all Seven Wonders of the World, especially Machu Picchu in Peru, or the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
You can find Vincent on Twitter at @VincentMcKenna.