Mississauga student Chase Pelletier had been working so hard to reach this moment, and it paid off when he was announced as the 2018 Infiniti Engineering Academy’s Canadian candidate winner by Renault Sport Team driver Carlos Sainz.
Standing in the team’s garage at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal last week just before Formula One’s Grand Prix du Canada weekend kicked off, Pelletier was presented with the certification confirming his acceptance into the academy, and what will be the beginning of an exciting and potentially life-altering experience with Renault Sport Formula One Team and Infiniti Global.
“The last few days have been filled with a variety of emotions,” Pelletier admitted, grinning from ear to ear after the announcement was made. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. … Excitement is the best word to describe how I feel right now; excited about the win and to be part of the Renault Sport Formula One Team, and to get my career started with Infiniti Global.”
The Infiniti Engineering Academy’s decision process leading up to Pelletier’s win started the day before, with he and rival candidates competing in an automobile engineering challenge.
Each student team’s meticulously constructed (from scratch) remote control vehicles, complete with Infiniti Q60 plastic shells, were perfectly placed at the makeshift start line on the floor of a car dealership. The excitement and pride that each of the top 10 engineering students from across Canada felt at that exact moment was palpable.
The challenge, which took place at a Nissan dealer in suburban Pointe-Claire, was just one of many tasks and challenges for the top 10 finalists in the Infiniti Engineering Academy contest in the days leading up to the winner announcement.
“This is our ‘baby,’ and we’ve watched it grow each year,” said Tomasso Volpe, Director Infiniti Global Motorsport & Performance Projects, and brainchild of the academy that aims to discover the best of the best worldwide in the field of engineering and give them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Searching across 50 different engineering markets, the Infiniti Engineering Academy is looking for the top minds in engineering. With more than 12,000 applicants last year, they finally whittled it down to seven engineering students and/or graduates globally that were then given year-long internships with the Renault Sport Formula One Team (six months) and Infiniti Global (six months), both located in Britain.
This year marked Canada’s third consecutive year participating in the Academy, but there were a few firsts.
One of those firsts is Infiniti Engineering Academy’s partnership with Harvard University, specifically with Julia Minson, Decision Science Expert and Professor, who was present to assess the candidates problem-solving skills throughout the challenges leading up to the winner announcement.
“I’m assessing the decision-making abilities of the candidates in stressful situations,” Dr. Minson explained of her work with the Academy. “It’s really great how academia and industry are working together to make these improvements.”
With the top three Canadian engineering students announced after the remote control challenge, their final task before the winner was announced was again something never done before in the Academy’s history – and not in F1 history in Montreal, either.
The top three finalists – Julius Callender (22, University of Western Ontario), Ben Sprenger (19, University of Toronto), and Pelletier (22, University of Ontario Institute of Technology) – gathered at the Renault Sport F1 garage on Pit Lane at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to participate in their final challenge of the Academy on Thursday.
Each presented their Pirelli tire choices for the Grand Prix du Canada race that weekend to Renault Sport Team driver, Nico Hulkenburg, as if they were already part of the team’s engineers prepping for the race ahead.
From there, the final three participated in a media conference where they practised representing Infiniti and Renault Sport, and were then scored accordingly by journalists and media representatives present.
“Feedback from media will help to choose this year’s winner,” Adam Paterson, Managing Director, Infiniti Canada announced to the students and media on Wednesday. “After all, the winners will become brand ambassadors.”
Pelletier will start his 12-month experience with Renault Sport Formula One Team and Infiniti Global starting in January 2019 along with six other engineering students from around the world, chosen in similar fashion.
For those interested in the program, the first step is an online registration (Academy.Infiniti.com). That one small step could lead to a life-changing opportunity in both the world of motorsport and automotive engineering.