Abu Dhabi, UAE: The best young racers from around the world put the pedal to the medal – or, their thumbs to a joystick’s trigger, as it were – at Ferrari World this week for the F1 in Schools World Finals.
The international, multidisciplinary challenge has attracted 38 teams of more than 200 students from as far as Brazil and Australia to take part in the 10th annual competition being held for the second time in the capital.
“Being in Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is like a natural home for F1 in Schools,” said Andrew Denford, founder and chairman of the F1 in Schools programme. “You’re next to the Formula One circuit, it’s got everything they need.”
The UAE is being represented by three teams, including Repton Dubai’s Project Speed – whose 12-year-old members made them the youngest team – German International School Dubai’s Safire Racing and Dubai College, which teamed up with students from Ireland to form Fusion F1.
The teams qualified by taking the top three spots in the national competition held in May.
With two national championships under their belt, Safire Racing is the country’s leading F1 in Schools team, having won numerous awards in the past including best engineered car and the innovative thinking award.
So, when it came time for the knockout rounds on Tuesday, there was a lot weighing on young Jounes Gross’s shoulders as he stepped up to the 20-metre track to race the team’s aerodynamic, Porsche-sponsored miniature, compressed air-powered car.
Jounes, a 19-year-old Austrian, built the team’s car, which was designed by teammate Maximillion Stucke, a 17-year-old German.
“In this car, there is so much research and so much cutting-edge technology, it’s unimaginable,” said Maximillion, adding that the wooden, aluminium and nylon car cost about US$5,000 (Dh18,366) to design and build. “We’re using a technique that’s never been used before.”
The F1 in Schools programme aims to get students aged 9 to 19 interested in science, technology, engineering and maths, while developing an appreciation for Formula One racing.
It also promotes their communication, marketing and business skills as each team is judged on its ability to raise sponsorships funds, design and develop uniforms, cars, promotional material and pit stand as part of a brand.
A panel of 26 judges spent the past three days scrutinising each team’s marketing and business plan. Although time from the race itself is only a fraction of the final score, it’s a critical for the teams.
“It’s Formula One in schools, in the end it’s always going to be the base of a fast car; if you have a fast car, you have good engineering, if you have good engineering, you’re able to support it and explain it good, if you explain it good and you have a good portfolio, you can impress the judges,” said Jounes.
When it came time for the final race, Jounes faced off with a racer from Malaysia whose car had reached the fifth-fastest time in previous rounds. His strategy was to kneel and keep the joystick close to his heart.
“I feel more stable like that,” he said.
And although Jounes’s reaction time was faster than his opponent’s, Safire Racing’s car wasn’t. But the loss at the track didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
“It’s life and it’s part of learning,” said Dr Milan Dlabal, who flew from Germany to cheer on the team he once coached as a former teacher at the school.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday where they will be awarded trophies and, for the top team, scholarships to study at City University London.
© The National
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