Outgoing Managing Director of Mercedes HPP Andy Cowell suggests Formula 1 needs to adopt an attitude akin to ‘Project Pitlane’ in order to address its own diversity challenge.
F1 introduced the ‘We Race As One’ initiative at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix as part of its long-term plan to improve equality and diversity within the series.
‘Project Pitlane’ was a collaboration between the seven UK-based Formula 1 teams during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, as they assisted with the production of ventilators and even reverse engineered items to create CPAP machines.
Formula 1’s long-established ‘F1 in schools’ initiative challenges children and young adults to build miniature F1 models which are drag-raced against other competing schools.
However, Cowell suggests F1 should go further and push into schools to try and capture the minds of younger children in comprehensive education in order to showcase the opportunities available within motorsport.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is also setting up his own commision in a similar manner to help young children study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.
Speaking on the official F1 podcast ‘Beyond The Grid’ Cowell said: “It’s a really important topic and I think we need to get into schools, into homes, we need to help people realise.
“I’m fortunate that I grew up with motorsport, I didn’t go to posh schools, I went to the local comprehensive school and I never dreamed there was a career in motorsport, I didn’t really realise.
“We need to go schools that are inner-city schools, not the schools that are feeding into the posh independent schools and into the Russell group universities. Those organisations have great careers offices in place already that are funded.
“I think we need to get into the schools that don’t have the careers offices, we need to get into the areas of the country where they just don’t realise what the opportunities are. I think from Year seven onwards, those 11-year olds.
“Engineers provide the tools for the world, the infrastructure for the world and I think it’s a great profession and I think it would be awesome if Formula 1 can go in and touch those schools and enthuse those school teachers that then enthuse those children and we all put effort and energy into going in and talk to them, showcasing and giving them work experience and so on.
“I think that’s something F1 can do because as soon as you say it’s Mercedes F1 or it’s F1 doing a ‘Project pitlane’ type project, it will instantly capture the attention of the kids, and then if the opening senetences are interesting, then it’s like ‘You can do this’, but you do need these subjects and you need to learn these techniques and topics, then the world can open up in those environments.”
Cowell also expressed optimism that such an approach can be carried into the wider industry.
“It’s not just about motorsport, the aerospace industry,” he added. “If you look at what is going on in electric cars, multi-planetary species challenges like the SpaceX, Tesla, all these types of industries, there are those types of companies doing that sort of the work in this country.
“There’s countless opportunities, but people don’t realise and they tend to have a negative feeling on their own confidence and their own opportunities, so I think we should get in there and do that sort of stuff.”