F1 in Schools World Champions

given exclusive tour of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 headquarters

An invitation to take a look at the winning secrets behind Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen’s success was an offer that couldn’t be refused by a group of students from Plymouth. The F1 in Schools Technology Challenge World Champions, Team Pulse, from Devonport High School, were given an exclusive tour of the headquarters of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One team, with the students gaining a unique insight into what it takes to win in Formula One.

The building's 57,000 square metres of office space is home to the majority of the McLaren group's employees, in an area large enough to hold nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets. The students were given the VIP treatment from the moment they arrived, with a chauffeur driven bus collecting them and taking them around the outside of the lake, giving them a full 360° view of the facility.

“When we got on the coach, the driver said to us that only really important guests get treated that well, and from that moment on we knew it was going to be a pretty amazing day” John Ware, Pulse Team Manager enthused.

The treats came thick and fast for John Ware, 17, Samuel Wood, 16, Andrew Lees, 16 and Thomas Simpson, 17. At the start of the tour each Pulse team member received a rare rocket red Vodafone McLaren Mercedes victory T-shirt, which are only given to team members after a race victory. A personalised introductory video welcomed F1 in Schools and Pulse to the McLaren Technology Centre, the team were then taken to a number of different departments.

A rare opportunity given to the team was a meeting with Jonathan Neale, Managing Director at McLaren Racing. This influential racing boss inspired the students with his insight into the team and they were able to learn more about the winning philosophy of one of the most successful teams in Formula One. The next stop was the state of the art Fitness Zone. The students were given the chance to test their fitness on the equipment used by the team’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, to simulate the G-forces experienced when driving an F1 car. They put on a race helmet and tested their strength on the Technogym Driver Training Machine, which features a system of weights on both the helmet and steering wheel.

One of the highlights of the visit was a close look at Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen’s Formula One cars as they were being prepared for the next race in Hockenheim. After examining every detail of the car, the students had an official photo taken, which they later received in an official presentation box as a memento of their visit, along with a bag full of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes goodies.

John Ware sums up their VIP visit saying, “It was a fantastic day out for us, a real once in a lifetime opportunity. We had the chance to talk to different people from both the technical and the marketing departments, which was helpful as we’re all interested in different aspects of Formula One. We were given a tour of some of the most top secret areas of the facility - we weren’t even allowed our cameras! We can’t thank everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes enough, they gave us so much of their time and let us see their really impressive facility. It was flattering that they were really interested in what we were doing with F1 in Schools and they even wanted to look at our car too!”

Andrew Denford, Founder of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge adds, “The students had a truly fantastic day, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes gave them top notch hospitality throughout their visit and to get so close to the cars which will actually be raced at the Grand Prix this weekend, shows just how special this visit was. I would like to thank everyone at the team for such a warm welcome and for looking after us so well, it really was a very memorable day for all of us.

“Pulse could become accustomed to the VIP treatment with all that they have experienced in the past few weeks. They toured the Houses of Parliament, visited St James’s Palace and met HRH Prince Andrew, before attending the Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone. There they brushed shoulders with the F1 elite and were given exclusive access to the pits and paddock during the weekend. Pulse have had an amazing journey since being crowned World Champions, and they’ve done all this in the space of a couple of weeks!”

F1 in Schools is a global multi-disciplinary challenge for students aged from 9-18 to use CAD/CAM software to design, analyse, manufacture, test and race their miniature F1 car made from balsa wood and powered by compressed air cylinders. Working in teams of between three and six, the students prepare a business plan, develop a budget and raise sponsorship as well as designing and racing their car. The challenge inspires students to learn about science, maths, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership, teamwork, media skills and financial strategy, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive and exciting way.

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