It’s been two years since we last spoke to National Motorsport Academy Alumni, Ellie Williams after the 2021 French Grand Prix. Since graduating from NMA, Ellie has had some incredible career highs. From a maiden victory for the Alpine F1 team with Esteban Ocon at the Hungarian Grand Prix to playing a key role in helping the team attain 4th place in the 2022 Constructors.
With the 2023 season now underway, and the Alpine F1 team heading for round 2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, we caught up with Ellie once again.
What is your role within the Alpine F1 team? What does a typical day include?
“My current role is Sub Assembly coordinator and I manage all the major composite components we use. Pre-event, I will look through what we’ve got coming to the next event, whether that’s up issues to components or specs required. I’ll then put build sheets together for the mechanics to use to build the parts for that race. During the weekend itself, I’ll be working on Esteban’s car and I’ll be involved in all sessions and pit stops.”
Why did you choose to study at the National Motorsport Academy?
“When I left school and completed college, I started a foundation degree at Oxford Brookes. During this time I took on work experience at Force India, or so they were known as at the time. This led me to leave my studies and take on full time work. Fast forward to 2015 and having worked my way through a composite roll, to the race team and then on to a new team in 2015 (Lotus). I knew that in order to progress further, I’d need an engineering degree. I looked at my options for this and found that the National Motorsport academy seemed to be the best option for me. It was a flexible approach to studying and that’s what I needed in order to complete the degree alongside my full-time role with Alpine F1 team.”
We’ve seen an increase in women entering Motorsport despite F1 being a mainly “male dominated” profession. What advice do you have for women wanting to enter Motorsport?
“It’s been a few years since I joined the industry and I have to say I’m incredibly proud of how many females have jumped on board since. Firstly, if you’ve got even a slight incline you want to work in motorsport, pursue it. When I started it was tough, more mentally because I feared being accepted but I’d like to think that nowadays not all females feel that way. We play a massive part in this industry, and we’ve got just as much right to be here as anyone else. I also want to add that I’ve never, ever had any issues with my male colleagues, I’ve never felt that I wasn’t good enough or anything. They have all been so supportive so it’s definitely not as daunting as you think!”
How has a degree with NMA helped you to achieve your career goals within Formula One?
“Where do I start? This was an incredible journey, tough but rewarding. I had days where I thought I couldn’t do this but when you set your mind to something you want to achieve, you just make it work. It requires a lot of self-belief and determination but it’s worth it. I completed my degree 3 days before starting my current travelling role with the team and I couldn’t have been prouder of myself. I feel that I’m in a good position now to help and advice in certain situations, with the knowledge I learnt through the course and I’m excited to see where this ends up.”
You’ve been with the Alpine team since 2015 and have worked with some of the best drivers in the World such as Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly. As a fan and a professional, what does it mean to you to work alongside these drivers?
“It’s the cliché, ‘a dream come true’ and you sometimes take for granted that you are working for these people regularly, but in my defence, each and every driver I’ve worked with have been the best colleagues/friends you could ask for; you do sometimes forget they are the drivers! But with that aside, you’re there to do a job and that’s to give them the best car you can to perform on track with.”
As someone who has successfully managed to work in F1, how difficult was it and how did your NMA degree help?
“For me, when I left school with the goal of being ‘someone who wore overalls in the pitlane at an F1 race’ it’s been a long journey. Back in 2009 when I left school there was a lot of doubt about where I’d end up. I moved from my family home at 16 to Oxfordshire to attend college and even I thought I’d be home again before you knew it. That wasn’t the case, I completed college and ended up at Force India by doing work experience. my career path grew from there. Although National Motorsport Academy didn’t directly get me into Formula One its certainly helped me progress into the person, I am today. I’m more confident, I put my ideas forward more frequently and this is a big thing for me. I’m still half contemplating the master’s degree, but we’ll see!”
What is your favourite circuit on the calendar and why? What is the most demanding?
Tough question, I enjoy a lot of the races! My favourites being Austin, Texas. The atmosphere is incredible and unlike no other and it’s also a really cool city to visit, even in the little downtime we have! Aside from this, Brazil is another great race. The fans are so involved and as it’s an old circuit, they sit really close to the fence so they get the best view of the action!
What would you say to potential students that are considering to study at NMA?
“Don’t hesitate! I worked with the best tutors, and I can’t express how flexible it was around my job. During car build in F1, your spare hours are very few and far between. the team at NMA knew this and we made plans to make it work for me. I’ve definitely recommended this course to a few of my colleagues and I’m hoping they get underway with it soon, if not already!”
What do you personally hope to achieve in the next 5 years? What’s a goal that you share with the team?
“My 5-year plan is to continue pushing myself as best as I can, I’d like to progress into a reliability roll within the team, I have a great interest in how things work and what to do when they don’t. In my spare time, I run, cycle and exercise when I can. I also have a huge interest in classic minis (from racing them when I was younger) and I hope in the near future I will have a road worthy one of my own.”