Meet an Engineer behind the F1 Motorsports Industry.
On our last episode, we talked about the high level of innovation that takes place behind the scenes of the F1 racing industry. In order to get these impressive race cars out of the idea phase and onto the track, it takes teamwork. Large numbers of talented racing engineers come together in order to sketch, simulate, build, and race these impressive feats of fast transit.
But there’s a lot more to discover if we dig deeper behind the scenes. In an industry that’s long been male dominated, our series has paid special attention to the women who are changing the face of the motorsport industry, both on and off the track.
In this week’s episode of our Women Driving the Future series, we’re catching up with part 2 of Ed Bernardon’s interview with Composite Design Engineer Elizabeth Apthorp, from the Alpine F1 Team. In this segment, she talks about how engineering leads to actual race car parts, how race cars are specifically designed for the drivers, the diverse perspective that women bring to the motorsports industry, and what Formula 1 race cars might look like in the future.
Hear a F1 engineer’s surprising responses to these questions:
- How does the human driver factor into the design element? (0:17)
- What do you think is the most exciting part of being a motorsport engineer? (4:47)
- What do you think someone should consider a career in racing? (12:49)
- What do you think an F1 car is going to look like 15-20 years from now? (18:40)
- What’s so different about an F1 power plant versus what you have in a commercial car, in terms of fuel efficiency? (24:12)
- How do you think being a racing engineer is going to help prepare the engineers of the future for engineering our future of mobility? (27:53)
What You’ll Learn about Race Car Engineering, Diversity & Future Mobility:
- How seats are molded to fit the race car driver (3:10)
- Elizabeth’s favorite F1 track in the world (6:30)
- How diversity benefits a motorsport team (8:15)
- Why exposure to the motorsport industry is important for young women (14:17)
- How the race industry affects transportation technology (21:54)
- Carbon neutrality goals in F1 racing (25:39)
Connect with our Guest Elizabeth Apthorp:
Connect with our Host Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: Last time on the Future Car Podcast, we talked with Alpine F1 Team race car designer Elizabeth Apthorp. She enlightened us a bit on all the technology, teamwork, tradeoffs that a racing team has to include in their designs to win Formula 1 race! Today, we welcome back Elizabeth to continue our discussion but focus on what it takes to design a racing machine specifically for the driver. We’ll look at the ultimate goal of getting first to that finish line checkered flag by making a machine a driver can drive as fast as possible. And Elizabeth reveals a well-kept secret to achieving this goal, you must make the driver happy, because A happy driver goes fast!
In this episode might we’ll also look to the future, to what the F1 racing experience might look like in 10, 20, or even 30 years. Are drivers still in the driver’s seat? What do the cars look like? Has the Formula 1 beast of a machine become a quiet electric racing pods? Will cars be made out of growable crops and have an AI copilot? Elizabeth says the first thing of being a racing engineer is that impossible ideas often aren’t impossible. The possibilities are endless.
Welcome to the Future Car Podcast. I’m your host, Ed Bernardon, VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industry Software and today it’s part 2 of my interview with Alpine F1 composite designer Elizabeth Apthorp. Today, she will share her visions for the future of motorsport design and what it’s like to design a winning car for the driver. She will also talk about women in the world of racing, and how the overall diversity at Alpine F1 Team is bringing a beneficial experience to the table.
Elizabeth, welcome back to the Future Car Podcast
Elizabeth Apthorp: Thank you for having me.
Ed Bernardon: We’ve been talking a lot about the car, but there is a driver in the car. The fact that you have a human that you’re trying to make it easy for them to drive the car faster, you’re also trying to keep them safe. How does that play into what you consider when you’re designing an F1 car?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It is a big consideration. One thing is, there’s a whole nother side of it that I haven’t really touched on, which is the vehicle performance side – all the simulations we run. We love data, we love being able to put a parameter and saying, “Okay, this is the input, this is the output.” But with the driver, it’s quite hard to measure that. So, whenever you make a simulation, you put in all your inputs, you put in the track temperature, you put in your preferred racing line, all of these sort of parameters. And then you have this other parameter, which is a bit unknown, which is the driver. And the truth is the driver is a big part of it, it’s a big part of the performance package. We, from design side as well, design around the driver, so we do have to consider them. We have to consider their size. We have two drivers for Alpine this year. We’ve got Esteban Ocon, who is 6’3’’. He is a very tall guy.
Ed Bernardon: And that’s not very common for a race driver, right? They tend to be shorter or smaller in size, at least.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, exactly. So, then his colleague, we’ve got Fernando Alonso driving for us this year, which is very exciting.
Ed Bernardon: Former champion with the same team.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Exactly, back with Renault, a few years ago now. So, we’re hoping to emulate that, relive the glory days. So, we do have to design our car around drivers. One thing we do is we get the drivers to sit in the car, in sort of a mock-up that’s attached to the car, and we get them to just sit there, and we say, “Play with the pedals. Play with the steering wheel.” And we check where their elbow clearance is okay, and everything like that. We do have to design things around the drivers, but the best drivers and the most experienced drivers understand that if we want to maybe negotiate something with them. So, the elbow clearance, if you imagine where their elbows are, that’s a really important side structure; that’s for their safety, for their side crash. We have to even negotiate as I talked about negotiating with other departments like the aerodynamicists, we have to negotiate with the drivers as well sometimes. But at the end of the day, a happy driver is a quick one.
Ed Bernardon: That’s your goal: you want happy drivers.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, exactly. If they’re going to be quick, it makes my job more fun.
Ed Bernardon: What’s an example of a negotiation? Because each seat, as you said, if your driver is 6’3’’, 5’9’’, whatever it might be, that seat is exactly for that driver.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah. We literally mold the driver’s bottoms. We exactly mold the seats.
Ed Bernardon: How do you do that?
Elizabeth Apthorp: There are different ways you can do it but one way you can do it is you get them to sit in the car or in a very large seat, sort of a big mold, and then you pour in a liquid which turns into foam, it sets around them as a foam, and then we’re able to look at that surface. So, they sit in there, waiting for the liquid to solidify as a foam, and then they jump out, and then we look at that surface, and then we make our solid carbon fiber seats from that surface. So, the seat they sit in is solid carbon fiber. I wouldn’t say it’s very comfortable. But yeah, that’s how we do it.
Ed Bernardon: When you get the first one complete, and they test it out, are there many iterations like it’s a little too tight here or a little too loose there, or do you get it right the first time?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Well, I like to think we get it right the first time. But, no, they’re spending hours sat in that seat, so to be honest, we want to make sure they’re comfortable, and we get it right. But I’ve noticed that more experienced drivers, they’re very good at telling you what they want from the outset. So, normally, with those drivers, the first seat that you present them, they’re pretty happy with maybe tweak it here, tweak it there. But we’re happy to make new iterations for drivers if as long as they’re comfortable, and they’ll be happy and quick. So, it depends on the driver how it works.
Ed Bernardon:. Tell me if you had to take a step back, what do you think is the most exciting part of your job? What is it in the morning when you wake up, you say, “Oh, I can’t wait to get to the job, to get to my desk, and get going”?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It’s the collaboration. I think a lot of people think engineers are quiet people who like to sit on their computer in the corner. And of course, there are people like that, there are people who love to get on with their job, get it done. But I love chatting to people, I love talking with people who maybe know more about something else that I don’t know and I’m going to learn from it. So, the best thing about my job is that everyone, so we’re building a whole car and you get to speak to different people, you get to speak to people from planning departments, from logistics, so they’ve got to work out, “Will my part that I’m making make it to the race on time that we want it for?” “I’ve got to speak to the aerodynamicists.” “I’ve got to speak to manufacturing.” So, that’s the thing I like the most about my job is speaking to loads of experts from their fields. And it’s such a rapid industry that you learn quite quickly. So, my learning is definitely not curving, there’s still lots to learn. So, I think that’s the thing I like the most about my job.
Ed Bernardon: You get a lot of interesting challenges, and then you get to talk to people that can help you solve those because there’s a lot of smaller teams that get to work together ongoing basis, it sounds like. Do you get to go to very many races?
Elizabeth Apthorp: On occasion. I’ve had a few opportunities to go to some races, and it is fantastic. It’s great to see the parts that you’ve been working on in the office or at home, working really hard on, it’s great to see them on track going around the tracks. Also, the thing with Formula One is it’s the buzz. It’s just such a great buzz being there on a race weekend. I love it. It’s like nothing else.
Ed Bernardon: Do you have a favorite racetrack that you like to go to?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It has to be Monaco. It’s fantastic. The atmosphere in Monaco is just brilliant. I recommend it to anyone if you get the chance.
Ed Bernardon: So, you’ve been, is that your most memorable racetrack experience?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, probably, I’d say so. It’s just such a fantastic track because it’s based on the real roads of the city. They say that it’s racetrack by day, and then in the evening, they take away all the bollards, and you can walk, anyone can walk, on the track. It’s quite crazy, there are bars and restaurants that in the evening spill out onto the track. I think they must have a bit of a nightmare cleaning it in the early morning before you’ve got cars racing around again. But it’s just a really cool place that you can get that close. Even in the cheap seats, the first year I went, I went in the general admission cheap seats, and it was fantastic. Everyone’s there for a good time and it’s just such a great atmosphere.
Ed Bernardon: Did you ever get to go on any of those yachts that you see parked around the track?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, so I’ve been extremely lucky.
Ed Bernardon: Well, recently, we had Susie Wolff on the show. She talked to us a lot about what it was like to be a woman driver in various forms of racing. And she also talked about some of her programs to bring women more into Motorsports, not just driving but it could be anything from the media engineering like yourself. At Alpine, tell us a little bit about the department that you’re in, what’s the ratio of women to men? How big is it? How many people are in it? And what’s it like working in that environment?
Elizabeth Apthorp: My department composite design, actually, we have one of the higher ratios. So, there are 32 of us, and I would say 25% of us are female. For me, I don’t notice that. In Formula One, it’s all about performance, and that includes staff, so the company will hire the best staff for the job. We’re all treated as equals, and we all bring our own ideas to the table. I think, in any job, not even with female and male but diversity will always, to a problem-solving sort of situation, bring a better solution. So, I think our department works really well because we’re able to draw on different experiences, and we have lots of people from all over the globe working for us. I think that diversity is a really good thing. And I think actually, it breeds better performance, which is the company’s goal in the end.
Ed Bernardon: Well, different people are going to bring different ideas based on the experience they’ve had in life or whatever it might be. How many engineers in total, you said, there are 32 working in composites, what’s the total number of engineers that work on the F1 car?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It’s around 150. We have lots of departments, lots of different subgroups. My group is probably one of 12 subgroups. So, about 150.
Ed Bernardon: And how many are women, out of that 150?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I would say about 35. My department is quite heavily weighted for some reason. I’m not quite sure why that is.
Ed Bernardon: Do you think that women bring a unique perspective to the world of racing and racecar engineering?
Elizabeth Apthorp: From my experiences, I would say so. I think just from meetings, we have lots of meetings because it’s the best way to brainstorm, and throw ideas around, and people always throw silly ideas, which actually end up then not being that silly. So, from my experience, I’d say, women definitely bring a different perspective.
Ed Bernardon: Can you give an example of how you saw that play out, say?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I could give an example but I wouldn’t want to say it’s for all scenarios. But I do remember this one example where it was a very high pressure situation, there was a lot at stake. And there was option A presented by a male colleague, which was, “Quick fix, get this done now, and will solve the problem.” And then there was option B, presented by a female colleague, and it was, “Hold on, let’s wait a minute, let’s think about this.” If we do option A, are we going to then have to think of another option to fix that, again, further down the line? So, maybe let’s go for option B, which is a more long-term solution or a safer solution. And we ended up going with option B which, I think, was the right decision to make at the time, but it always depends on the scenario and all the factors that are coming in. It’s hard to make decisions under such high pressure sometimes.
Ed Bernardon: That trade-off of quick fix versus, “Hey, let’s do it right.” And every two weeks again, whenever there’s another race or a practice session, whatever it might be, you’re going to be faced with that decision time and time again, one would think.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, exactly. The one thing that I think makes those decision makings easier, and another thing that I enjoy about working in Formula One, is no matter what department you’re in, no matter what your opinion, everyone is working towards the same goal, and everyone’s goal is that the cars quicker and that we get more podiums, we get more points, and everyone’s working towards the same goal. So, whenever you’re debating something, or negotiating something, you know that the other person has the same end goal, the same aspiration as you, so you know you’re both on the same wavelength and you’re not fighting each other, you’re just trying to make the overall picture, the best picture, for you as a team. So, that’s something I quite like is you know whenever you’re pushing someone, asking someone, “Why that way? Why this way?” Is because you’re trying to make the overall product the best as a team.
Ed Bernardon: And then I think if you pick the route of, “Hey, let’s do it right.” The problem may be a little bit more difficult to solve but you probably reduce the number of problems you have to solve in the future.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Exactly.
Ed Bernardon: Why do you think someone should consider a career in racing? You seem so excited about it. You love it so much.
Elizabeth Apthorp: I think I’ve been lucky in some ways. I was always told from a young age, “Do what you enjoy.” And for me, that started off as maths and physics at school – I always enjoyed them. I went to lots of career fairs and things, and I was like, “Oh, engineering, that sounds cool. It’s problem-solving. That’s what I enjoy.” And then motorsport was a hobby, it was something that I enjoyed. So, I’ve always followed what I’ve wanted to do and what has been interesting to me. And that’s how I ended up in the position I am now. But that’s kind of my best advice to give people is you’ve got to do what you enjoy. So, if you enjoy maths and physics as a girl, go for it, why not? If it’s what you enjoy, there’s nothing to say that because you’re a girl, you should be reading books or doing whatever that is deemed a bit more girly, maybe, by some society. It’s just I’ve always enjoyed motorsport. I’ve always enjoyed engineering, it’s what I’ve been interested in. So, that’s why I followed that route.
Ed Bernardon: It may be that it’s a matter of exposure. For instance, when you were growing up, you were watching Formula One with your father, every other weekend. And there have been some programs like Susie Wolff with Her Dare to be Different, and Michele Mouton with Girls on Track, what do you think we need to do to get young women more exposed to racing?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I think your word exposure is the perfect word. And funnily enough, I’ve actually been involved with Dare to be Different, and Girls on Track initiatives as well. I’m quite passionate about that as well. And I think you’re right, I think it’s showing people that it’s an option. It’s certainly not forcing it down anyone’s throat, but just saying, “Hey, this is an option. Have you thought about this?” And some think that those initiatives, as well as other ones, do is going to school girls or universities – it doesn’t have to just be girls, it can be mix as well – and just saying, “This is an option. This is what we do. This is my experience. And if you’re interested, this is what you can do to get there.” I think it’s exactly that the word exposure is perfect. It’s just letting people know that it’s an option. And then if it interests them, then great, go for it. And there are organizations in place to help them know what decisions to make, what courses they might need to do.
Ed Bernardon: When you participated in the Dare to be Different program, what exactly were you doing? Was it along the lines of engineering and educating future race engineers on what it’s like to be an engineer?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, it’s exactly that. It’s as simple as saying, “This is what I do now. This is why I think it’s cool. And if you want to do it, these are the steps I think you should take.” So, it is the case. You have to pick the right classes at school, you need to maybe do an engineering degree at university if you want to but there are loads of different avenues. So, it’s just explaining the options and the different routes that they can take if they’re interested. Because sometimes people – they’re not supported at their schools, or maybe no one in their family has introduced them to racing. So, it’s just kind of telling them how it works, and what may be the steps that they should take if they want to, and what’s available.
Ed Bernardon: Was there ever a moment when you’ve done one of your talks, and a young girl comes up to you and says, “Oh, I’m so surprised. I didn’t know that that’s what this was like.” Was there ever a moment where you said, “Oh, I’m so excited. I feel like I’ve inspired someone to take that step into racing.”?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, there has been those little moments, and that’s really satisfying, and it was really nice to see. Like you say, I’m really lucky because I enjoy my day job. I love it. And I want other people to love it. It’s kind of that thing. Whenever you love something, you’re keen for other people to love it too. So, whenever I talk to anyone, and they maybe can see a little spark in their eye that they’ve got a new idea that maybe they’re going to pick physics and maths as their school subjects because they want to be a race engineer. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Ed Bernardon: One final thing on this is, what advice would you give to women who are thinking about becoming race engineers?
Elizabeth Apthorp: The easy one is, do it and do it. And the second one is, it’s hard work – motorsport is one of those industries like many other that is hard work, but I’m a great believer in if you just work hard at something you can achieve it. So, definitely go for it, don’t rest if you’re interested in it, and then you’ll get to reap the rewards
Ed Bernardon: When you win a race, do you get champagne on Monday morning or on the day to celebrate? How do you celebrate when you win a race, the Monday after you get onto the podium?
Elizabeth Apthorp: In Alpine, and we were Renault’s history, we’ve just got our first podiums in a long time in the last year. Of course, because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to celebrate as normal, which has been a real shame. But normally, it’s that we all would get together at work in the race space. We all have a glass of champagne or two together. But we have had some sort of virtual online celebration this year. But I’m hoping if and when the pandemic eases we’re going to be getting more podiums, more race wins, and we’ll be able to celebrate then. So, I’m looking forward to that.
Ed Bernardon: There’s a lot of changes going on in the automotive industry, autonomous cars, electric cars. And obviously, these changes are going to impact racing as well. What do you think an F1 car is going to look like 15-20 years from now?
Elizabeth Apthorp: That’s an interesting question. Well, of course, they’d change quite dramatically year on year. So, 20 years from now, I imagine they’ll be similar. I imagine we’ll still have drivers in the loop. Because I do think, we as humans, we as spectators, we enjoy that driver in the loop. We like to see someone part of the entertainment of watching racing is knowing that there’s someone sat in there that could be you. I do think we will keep drivers in 20 years. I think the cars will look a lot more spacey which is a very non-tactical phrase to use. But to be honest, I have no idea. The possibilities are endless. So, let’s wait and see.
Ed Bernardon: I think including the driver, and keeping the driver in the driver’s seat is really important. Do you think, possibly, there might be what you could call, say, an AI copilot that’s connected by brainwaves to their driver to help coach them as they’re driving down the track.
Elizabeth Apthorp: I like it. It’s a good idea. You should pitch that. Yeah, why not? Like I said, I’ve spent my career looking at things which sounds and look impossible, but why not? I’m [ inaudible] into that. Let’s give it a go.
Ed Bernardon: There are people out there now working on autonomous car racing, like Roborace and others. Do you think that’s the way the future?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I think it’s fascinating. In terms of technology, I think the technology is absolutely fascinating. I follow them and unfortunately, it’s not quite ready for consumption for viewers. And the other thing is if you look at Formula One, we operate as an engineering company, but when you think about it, the truth is we’re actually an entertainment company. So, the reason Formula One exists is for people to watch it. We’ve got a huge fan base. We’ve got people who watch it all over the world. And that’s where those big budgets come from, it’s from those viewers, people watching it. So, what you’ve got to ask yourself is, “Will as many viewers or enough viewers want to watch AI cars driving around?” And that’s the question. I can’t answer that. I’m not sure because I guess I’m in the environment I’m in now. But I think that’s the question to ask is, “Is it financially viable? Are you going to have enough people watching it?”
Ed Bernardon: Well, you’ll definitely get a lot of people watching the first race, and maybe the second. It’s the staying power that you have to question, one would think. And imagine if Alonso is coming back, all the excitement around him coming back is because of the human aspects of racing. You’re an Alonso fan, or Michael Schumacher fan, or whatever it might be. Can someone get excited about Version 26.1.30? “Oh, my goodness! It’s the .3 that’s going to be racing this weekend!”
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, I see your point and I think I agree.
Ed Bernardon: Now, racing has always been the leader in technology. And we’re talking now a little bit about autonomous cars, EVs, and hybrid drives, and that type of thing, which have been in Formula One for a while. Based on your experience in Formula One, or just generally, what do you see for the future of transportation?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Well, I think you’re quite right, and sort of a byproduct of racing is the technology that we produce. One thing that not many people know is that a Formula One engine is the most efficient land vehicle engine in the world. It’s pretty crazy. And if we can apply that to mass production, that would be fantastic.
Ed Bernardon: I didn’t know that. The most efficient land engine. Now, in what respect is it the most efficient? I guess getting power out of the fuel.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, exactly. Power in to power out, it’s the most efficient, and it’s much more efficient. I don’t know the numbers exactly but around 15% more efficient than your average road-going car. 15% is a lot in energy terms. So, if we can get that technology into road cars, that’s fantastic – it saves on oil, it saves on fuel, it helps the environment. So, I do think the world is changing. And the other thing is Formula One engines are hybrids. Like you have hybrid-going cars on the road, our engines are hybrid. I do see electrification of transport, we’re definitely moving towards, I imagine, full electrification in maybe 40-50 years, and more autonomous cars. I really believe in autonomous vehicles being the future for, especially cities, for town centers. I’m quite excited. I’m hoping that’s going to be in the near future so I get to experience that.
Ed Bernardon: You mentioned that they’re the most efficient engines in utilizing the power that’s in the fuel. Without revealing any secrets, generally speaking, how is that done? What’s so different about an F1 powerplant versus what you have in a commercial car, the best commercial cars that are out there right now, in terms of fuel efficiency?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It’s a great question. One of the things is the materials we could use. We can use specific materials which will give us specific stiffness in an area. But those materials come at a hefty price, which is why you maybe don’t see them in road-going cars yet. The other thing is we design it for really specific cases. So, you’re not idling, you have to design road cars for idling conditions, for sitting in traffic, whereas we design our engine for those peaks in the curve, so we can really maximize the performance and maximize the efficiency because we know that a racing car is almost always at that limit, it’s always going at as fast as it’s always pushing. Whereas a road-going car, you have to design it so that it can see loads of different scenarios. It can be efficient on a motorway, but it can also chug along in traffic in the city center. So, I think that’s the big difference.
Ed Bernardon: So, if you’re willing to pay an exorbitant amount, or certainly, significantly more than what you’re paying for a car now, you could probably start to grab some of that improved fuel economy. Now, Formula One has a goal by 2030 to be carbon neutral, does that impact what you’re doing right now in your engineering? How is Formula One getting to that goal?
Elizabeth Apthorp: That is a new initiative, so we’re starting to look at it. But it covers a variety of things. One of the biggest things is the logistics: how we transport our cars, and our people, and everything around the world to go to all these different races. But it also will affect my job, which is the design job – what materials we use? We’re going to see an introduction of more renewable materials. We have, obviously, carbon fiber but you can actually use flax fiber. You can use sort of a wheat that you grow in the garden, and you can wind that into a fiber and use it. For certain situations, certain applications, it works.
Ed Bernardon: You can actually grow an F1 car practically?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, exactly. There are lots of options.
Ed Bernardon: I can’t wait to see what the seed packet looks like for that. I want an Alpine or a Ferrari. It’s like picking tomatoes or cucumbers.
Elizabeth Apthorp: So, there are definitely lots of initiatives underway, but definitely it’s a starting point, so we’ll see where it goes from here. But I’m excited. I do think that the environment and being renewable is really important, and it’s something that we need to build into racing. So, it’s going to come with the natural path to take.
Ed Bernardon: When do you think we’ll see a 100% electric Formula One car? Speaking of sustainability.
Elizabeth Apthorp: It’s interesting because we have a sort of sister series, Formula E, which Susie Wolff spoke to you about. They’ve got the fully electric version going there, so I don’t know, I think we’d be stepping on their toes if we went fully electric. But never say never, like I say, I do think full electrification is the inevitable future, it just depends on how long it takes us together.
Ed Bernardon: We’ve spoken about racing. We’ve spoken about the future of transportation and mobility. How do you think being a racing engineer is going to help prepare the engineers of the future for engineering our future of mobility?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I think the first thing of being a racing engineer is what we’ve touched on earlier is that impossible ideas often aren’t impossible. So, it’s a big change where we’ve been in this petrol-fueled or gas-fueled mobility world for the last 100-200 years. it’s a big change. I think it’s that it’s looking at the problems and not being halted by them. We just got to find solutions for a new way of living and a new way of moving around cities and the rural landscape.
Ed Bernardon: Elizabeth, I want to thank you for joining us on the Future Car podcast. If someone wasn’t excited about being a racing engineer before the podcast, I’m sure you’ve taken them a big step in that direction. Thank you so much for joining us here.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Thank you for having me, Ed. It’s always good to chat.
Ed Bernardon: But before we let you go, it’s time for our rapid-fire section, where we’re going to ask you a series of quick questions that you can answer in one line, or multiple lines, or even pass if you don’t like the question. And we’ll run through those very quickly here. You’re ready to go?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Yeah, let’s do it.
Ed Bernardon: What do you like to do to relax?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I have actually got into yoga, the last couple of years. It’s a really good way to unwind.
Ed Bernardon: What do you wish you were better at?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Singing. I love to sing. And I especially love singing when I’m driving but my friends tell me I’m not that great.
Ed Bernardon: A great way to get rid of passengers, it sounds like. What’s your favorite song you sing when you drive them?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I don’t know. I like to move with the times, whatever’s on the radio. I always like to find new music and listen to whatever’s on now.
Ed Bernardon: Do you want to give us an example so we can be judges to your talent?
Elizabeth Apthorp: I think I’ll pass that one for your sake.
Ed Bernardon: Greatest talent not related to anything you do at work.
Elizabeth Apthorp: I love cooking. I really like cooking. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve got two sisters and we’re competitive with everything we do, and that includes cooking. So, we used to have many bake-offs. So, I love cooking.
Ed Bernardon: What’s your favorite city?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Paris.
Ed Bernardon: If you could un-invent one thing, what would it be?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It would be mobile phones. I think we’re all really connected to them and it’s great to be connected but I think it’s also good to disconnect. It’s funny, I’m actually a bit old school, I have a landline in my house. I love it when people call me on the landline and I love to put my mobile away in a room and try and not look at it for as long as possible. I’d uninvent the mobile phone.
Ed Bernardon: If you could magically invent one thing, what would it be?
Elizabeth Apthorp: Time Travel.
Ed Bernardon: All right, last three questions. If you could change one rule to make Formula One more exciting, what would you change?
Elizabeth Apthorp: That’s very good. I really like the idea but it’s impossible to make it make sense. But we have qualifying, which is when you do your fastest lap and then that determines your starting position on race day. And there’s been this idea that you do qualifying but then you reverse the grid, so you’ve got the slowest cars at the front and the fastest cars at the back. And it just means you’re going to have a bit more jostle, a bit more fight, and I think that would be pretty cool.
Ed Bernardon: I’d like to see you in charge of the FIA, that’s perfect.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Well, never say never. Let’s see.
Ed Bernardon: If you were given the chance to drive an F1 car on any course, which course would you pick?
Elizabeth Apthorp: You know I love Monaco but that’s probably the most challenging course. And if I’d want to actually make it around once, I don’t think that’s the one to pick. I’m also really intrigued by the Shanghai circuit. So, I think I’d pick Shanghai.
Ed Bernardon: The last question, and the most important one: what is your one piece of advice you would give to the new team manager of Alpine, Davide Brivio, that will help your team get a bit closer to winning the championship this year?
Elizabeth Apthorp: It is simple: happy people make a fast car.
Ed Bernardon: Elizabeth, thank you so much. What a great way to end the podcast.
Elizabeth Apthorp: Thank you, Ed. It’s been great chatting to you.
Elizabeth Apthorp – Guest, Composite Design Engineer Alpine F1 Team
While studying Engineering at Durham University she decided to work in Formula 1. After completing a Masters in Advanced Motorsport Engineering at Cranfield University, she secured a Student Placement at Renault Formula 1 Team working in the Materials Science Department and then moved up the ranks from Intern, to Graduate Engineer, to now Composite Design Engineer. She has always worked at the Formula One team based in Enstone, Oxfordshire. It was Renault F1 Team, but has recently been rebranded as Alpine F1 Team.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Initiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory. Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
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The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.