Helping improve diversity in Formula 1
16 November 2023
A Cardiff University student is one of five inaugural participants in the MSc Motorsport Scholarship Programme, championed by Sir Lewis Hamilton HonFREng to help address the under-representation of Black people in UK motorsport and the STEM sector.
Benjamin Theo Woodhouse, 21, from Winchester and now living in Cardiff will study Advanced Mechanical Engineering (MSc) at Cardiff University’s School of Engineering.
Ben, who recently completed his undergraduate degree in Physics (BSc), will receive a grant of £25,000 to cover full tuition fees and living costs, along with wraparound support through networking events and motorsport experiences.
Awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), working with Sir Lewis Hamilton’s charitable foundation Mission 44, the scholarships support five Black or mixed Black ethnic students studying an MSc in motorsport engineering or an associated discipline.
Ben’s dad introduced him to Formula 1 when he was six years old in 2008 the same year that Sir Lewis won his first world title.
"Seeing a black man dominate a sport which was, and still is, so cultivated for the white middle-class man was so inspiring to me as a mixed-race child," Benjamin recalls.
"Ever since then, I have been obsessed with racing. I’ve watched every season of Formula 1, Moto GP, British Touring Car and I’m fascinated by the cars and all of the technology involved."
The scholarship programme was developed to address a specific recommendation within The Hamilton Commission's report, Accelerating Change: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport.
The Commission put forward ten recommendations that it believed would have a long-lasting and positive impact on the motorsport industry and encourage more young Black students to pursue subjects which lead to careers in engineering.
One of these was the creation of scholarship programmes to enable Black graduates from degrees in engineering and allied subjects to progress into specialist motorsport roles.
Ben said: "There is a severe lack of representation from Black or mixed Black ethnic groups in the media coverage of motorsport. In Formula 1 for example, the greatest driver in the world is Black. However, the only other Black or mixed Black person I ever see working for any of the teams in F1, broadcast on TV, is the Red Bull mechanic Calum Nicholas.
"The issue with only having two people representing the entire Black community in motorsport is that it will discourage Black and mixed Black young people from dreaming and working towards a career in motorsport."
It is hoped that within two years of completing their postgraduate degrees most, if not all of the scholarship recipients, will be employed in the engineering sector – with the majority in the motorsport sector and Formula 1.
"The hunger for winning is motivating for me," added Ben.
"I have such a desire to feel the pride of building a part and being the reason that a team is beating the others, in an industry where it is not only driver against driver but engineer against engineer. "
All five awardees attended a first networking event at Silverstone Museum on Thursday 12 October 2023 where they met staff from the Academy and Mission 44, had a Q&A session with engineers from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, toured the museum and took part in sessions on the Silverstone simulator experience.