Fawley’s Fiona – Living life in the fast lane
ExxonMobil became the Red Bull Racing F1 team’s official fuel, lubricant and motor oil partner in 2017 and Fiona travels the world on the F1 racing circuit as part of the team, which has won so much success in recent seasons. She tests the Esso fuels and Mobil lubricants used in the Oracle Red Bull RB18 racing cars to ensure they comply with the FIA (Federation International de l’Automobile) regulations. It’s a fast-paced role she never envisaged when she studied Chemistry with Drug Discovery at Strathclyde University.
Fiona says: “When I graduated, a recruitment agency contacted me about a lab technician job at Fawley. I didn’t even know where that was, except that it was a long way from home in Lanark in Scotland! I decided to give it a go and spent four years testing the fuels, lubricants and chemical products produced there, before this job was advertised internally.
“I applied for the role and was lucky enough to get it. It’s certainly not for everyone, as there’s lots of travelling and time away from home, but I have no commitments and it was ideal for me. In the beginning it was tough as we spent pre-season in the factory in Milton Keynes, working long 11 to 14-hour days, sometimes six days in a row.
“When I started working on the race circuit, I loved it. The team was very welcoming and we do a lot of socialising. We normally fly out to the race circuit on a Tuesday and set up our lab the next day. We test the lubricants before and after the sessions to ensure they meet the FIA regulations, and monitor the gearbox, engine and hydraulic oils for issues such as wear or high friction that could affect the car’s reliability.
“We don’t do any testing during the race itself, so I have the chance to watch it. I’ve met both our drivers (World Champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez) and seen most of the others around the paddock. Watching all the drivers and celebrity guests is exciting, but the best part of my job is the problem solving. In an ideal world nothing would go wrong with the car, but when we have potential issues, working with the team to work out how to fix it is really satisfying.
“I share the job with my colleague Ion from Prague, and we decide which races we want to do, so there is a bit of flexibility, but you can be away for weeks at a time. So far, I have done eight out of 12 races, so I have been pretty busy!
“I don’t get back to Fawley very often, but I was there recently for an open day and I try to stay in touch. I have been very lucky in my ExxonMobil career so far and would encourage anyone considering an engineering role to go for it. They could end up being in the right place at the right time like I was!”