Today: Cheltenham Science Festival

15 Jun

Mike Gascoyne at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix.

Mike Gascoyne at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cheltenham Science festival, somewhere I have never been, something I have never heard of, with someone I didn’t expect.

I moved to Cheltenham in November 2011, and the festivals they hold annually were all becoming an interesting adventure. Adventures I didn’t really have tome to go on. Until my fiance Charlie sprung surprise tickets for me and him for the science festival.

Expecting an obscure lecturer talking about a new exciting subject, I was thrilled. But I never knew just how thrilled I would be. Sponsors GE Aviation were there, and as i approached the tent the familiar noise of an F1 car filled my ears.

It was none other than Caterhams Chief Technical officer Mike Gascoyne being interviewed by BBC radio 5 lives F1 commentator James Allen.

I loved it, I honestly couldn’t fault the interview. We found out how he effectively lucked his way into what turned into a very lucrative F1 career, how he met a long-haired 18 year old Spaniard called Fernando Alonso, and how the mute button at Jordan Grand Prix was a useful tool when dealing with Eddie Jordan.

There was even time for a Q&A session from the audience, and I’ll run through a couple of questions that I remember, as not only did I find the questions interesting, some of Mike Gascoyne’s answers were very telling of an incredibly intelligent man.

Question 1 was about more woman on F1. Not only drivers, but as team members as well. The question came from a woman in the front row, who obviously (or what seemed to be) was trying to get a generic “well boys are stronger than girls” answer. But his response was different, far from a political answer about fairness and equality, he went down the ‘hired on merit’ route. Which is correct. The fact of the matter is, there are more male’s doing engineering than females, more males who prefer motorsport, and so the odds are stacked against us in making up any form of majority.

James Allen also pointed out that there are plenty of girls in karting, but it is a challenge to get to the physical fitness, and to get the sponsorship. Something that is a struggle for both sexes.

The next question i remember was regarding innovation and the budget cap. Mike Gascoyne lis in favour of this budget cap, however the person asking the question also asked if he was in favour of scrapping all the limiting technical regulations. Something which Gascoyne said no to.

“…all regulations are to do with speed. The drivers body may survive a high speed impact but his internal organs would be scrambled…”

Seems legit to me.

Another question related to the one above, about the budget cap, but was related more along the sponsors route. This flustered Mike Gascoyne and from what I could tell there was no actual answer to the question. He skirted around it whilst mentioning resources from GE aviation and the resources of RedBull and Ferrari.

My opinion? GE are providing alot of ‘in-kind’ contributions if the budget cap goes ahead.

The final question was just annoying because somebody hadn’t done their research. It mentioned specific formula one degrees. Which there are none, there are motorsport degrees, which won’t become redundant after 1 season, which is what she was suggesting. Someone just wanted to ask a question…

i loved it all. I’m gutted I didn’t get to ask my question regarding tyre testing and practice sessions, but my desire to work in science and engineering has been re-ignited. Thank you Cheltenham Science Festival!

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