Engineering alumnus on the fast track to success with Renault F1
Western Engineering News | March 14, 2019
After winning the 2017 Infiniti Engineering Academy, Matthew Crossan, BESc’15 and MESc’18, received a one-year placement to work at the Renault Formula One Team’s Technical Centre and Infiniti’s European Technical Centre, both in the U.K.
Fast forward one year, and Crossan has landed a contract position with the Renault F1 Team in Enstone, U.K.
We caught up with Crossan to learn about his time with the Infiniti Engineering Academy, discover more about his current role at Renault F1, and hear about his overall Western Engineering student experience.
Upon winning the 2017 Infiniti Engineering Academy for Canada, can you tell us about your overall experience you had interning in the U.K.?
Overall, my experience during the INFINITI Engineering Academy has been completely life changing. I've had the chance to work with some of the top engineers in the world and live with a very talented group of guys with the same passion for Formula 1 as myself. In the academy, I spent six months at INFINITI in the Ride & Handling group, trying to develop a smoother ride, and six months working at the Renault F1 Team in Performance Optimization. The Performance Optimization team is part of the Vehicle Performance Group, and my job was to help extract the most performance out of the current car by finding the optimum car setups for each race. The best part of the job was working at the factory in the Operations Room during a race weekend - a NASA-style mission control room. Here, we get live telemetry data from the track, as well as access to the driver radios. I had the opportunity to compare our car against the other teams using GPS data to try to pinpoint where we might be losing time to our competitors. A highlight of the year was travelling with INFINITI to Pre-Season testing in Barcelona to watch the 2018 car drive for the very first time from inside the team's garage.
How did your job offer with Renault F1 come about?
We had monthly reviews in which I made it clear that my goal was to continue working for the Renault F1 Team after the INFINITI placement. Partway through my placement, I received helpful feedback on what I was doing well and what I could improve on to increase my chances of being offered a position. I applied for a few openings within the Vehicle Performance Group, and successfully interviewed for my current role!
Can you discuss your current role at Renault F1?
My new role is in the Simulation Development Section, still within the Vehicle Performance Group. We develop the lap simulation tool, which is a virtual model of the F1 car. It allows us to predict how the car will traverse a lap before we get to the track. We use it to customize the car for each track with setup changes like higher downforce or lower drag wings. It's also extremely useful for testing the performance of new vehicle concepts before they even go to the drawing board to decide if it is a worthwhile pursuit. The virtual model also gets used by the drivers in our Driver-In-The-Loop Simulator.
What was your Western Engineering student experience like?
The highlight of my Western Engineering experience was undoubtedly my time on our Formula SAE Racing team where we design, build and race a scaled-down Formula 1 car. The team was a fantastic outlet for applying the knowledge I was learning in the classroom. It helped me to develop a wide range of skills from new manufacturing techniques to project management. In the final year of my undergrad, I helped lead the team while developing the aerodynamics of the car for my Capstone project. The year culminated with travelling to Germany where we finished in 6th place against 80 of the best teams from all over the world at the Hockenheim-ring!
After my undergrad, I completed my Masters under Professor Jeff Wood, who was also the Faculty Advisor for the FSAE team. Without his guidance and patience, I wouldn't be where I am today.
How did completing two degrees with Western Engineering help prepare you for your career?
My undergraduate degree was extremely helpful in providing a broad foundation. Even though my degree was in mechanical engineering, my current role relies almost entirely on coding in C++ and Matlab. The general first year programming course helped expose me to coding, which I further developed in calculus and mechatronics courses.
Undertaking a thesis-based Masters allowed me to take on a more narrow-focused but in-depth research project. Most of an F1 car is made out of carbon fibre, so this knowledge has carried through to my current work. It also taught me how to persevere through more long-term and self-directed projects.
What are your career goals moving forward?
Looking beyond this year, I am hoping to have my contract renewed with Renault. It’s a very exciting time for the team, having just re-entered the sport in 2016 and steadily moved up the standings from 10th-6th-4th last year, and who are aiming to fight for world championships in the coming years.
My main aim is to be in a position where a combination of my strengths and responsibilities allow me to contribute the most to the success of the Renault F1 Team. I would also really like to be in a role where I can travel to the tracks with the team to get a better understanding of how all parts of the team come together for a race weekend.