Last night, from among 5 finalists, 4 of which were young men, Elizabeth Thompson, an engineering student at the University of Oxford, was named the inaugural Autosport Williams “Engineer of the Future”, an exciting new annual award created to recognize a rising star of Formula One engineering, and support them with an accelerated career development program at Williams Martini Racing, one of the world’s leading Formula 1 teams.
Elizabeth will now join Williams on an initial two-year placement, during which time she “will be mentored by senior engineers and rotate through various areas of Williams before finding her specialism.” And according to the Williams’ announcement, she will also have the unique opportunity to work in the team’s race operations division and gain experience at a grand prix.”
The road to Elizabeth’s historic victory was peppered with challenges designed to test the limits of knowledge, skill and beyond. It all started in November 2015, when eight of the UK’s leading universities were invited to nominate their star engineering students for consideration by Autosport and Williams. After being submitted by Oxford, Elizabeth emerged as one of the 5 finalists selected, the only woman among this elite group of students who would go on to take part in a rigorous assessment workshop.
The evaluation, which Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer at Williams, described as “two very tough days of testing,” challenged the candidates across a range of engineering tasks, covering pure engineering knowledge, technical and problem solving skills, teamwork, leadership traits, and personality fit. The 5 finalists were assessed by a panel of judges that included leading industry, academic, media and Formula One personnel.
“We weren’t just looking for technical excellence. We were also looking for the personality, leadership and innovation in someone that could lead a Formula One team in the future,” Symonds explained. “It was a very tough decision, but we’re confident we’ve made a great choice. Lizzie had that little something extra and we look forward to welcoming her to the team. She’s going to have a tough two years but at the end of it she’s going to be a very well-rounded individual with a very broad knowledge, just what you need to go into technical leadership in Formula One.”