Inspiring Women in Motorsport: Meet Mercedes F1 wind tunnel test technician Kathryn Richards

Kathryn Richards may have the coolest job in motorsport.

Kathryn is an important part of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team (who are defending both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships this year, if you didn’t already know). Kathryn is one of the many ‘back at the factory’ that the team thank after a successful race. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be the first to tell you that they couldn’t have done it without all the hard work of every member of the Brackley-based team. Kathryn has kindly written about her work, how she fell in love with Formula 1, and her advice for anyone wishing to pursue a career in STEM.

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Hello, my name is Kathryn Richards and I am a Wind Tunnel Test Technician at MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team.

I have been with the team for 10 years and have been privileged enough to have won three World Championships in that time; once when the team was Brawn GP in 2009 and twice now as the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, 2014 and 2015. It is something very special to be a part of such success and to know that through your hard work you have made a contribution to that success.

I first became interested in Formula 1 back in the early 1990’s.  At that time I wanted to be an airline pilot, however during my early years at college studying Aerospace I studied aerodynamics and learned about wind tunnels. When I discovered that you could put a Formula 1 car in a wind tunnel my fate was sealed.

I went on to obtain a degree in Aerospace Engineering and a PhD in Vehicle Aerodynamics. At this point however I took a bit of a deviation and went to the work in Northern Germany at the University of Hamburg looking at wind flow around heated buildings. Although in a different discipline, namely environmental aerodynamics, it was an invaluable experience working in different wind tunnels and it gave me huge confidence and self-belief. On my return to the UK I took up my current position and have never looked back.

For the majority of my studies and working life I have been in a male-dominated environment. At times I have found it challenging and a struggle but always knew my end goal and that if I worked hard enough, with enough passion I would get there in the end, and now I am lucky enough to say that I have my dream job.

I have also had the honour and privilege to meet my hero, Michael Schumacher when he drove for the team. I was a huge fan of his in the early days before I worked for the team, I don’t think there are many people who can say they have worked alongside one of their idols.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that it is possible to follow your dreams, even in what might be perceived as a male-dominated environment no matter what the discipline might be. It is possible to achieve anything, no matter what your ability or background, if you believe in yourself. At times it may seem like a mountain to climb but always remain focused on your ultimate goal as it will always help the immediate obstacles seem easier to negotiate. With enough passion, drive and determination you can be anything you want and achieve everything.

A huge thanks to Kathryn for taking the time to write this informative piece, and best of luck for the 2016 season to her and the Mercedes AMG Petronas team.

If you have been inspired by Kathryn’s story and would like more information on careers in STEM, we have compiled a list of useful links.

More articles in this series:

Meet hillclimber Charlie Martin
Meet karter Alyx Coby
Meet speedy Megan Stephenson

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