An undergraduate from our Department of Mechanical Engineering has become the first placement student to win a Nissan Gold Award for her work organising a successful event for the company involving F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.
Gemma Hatton, 22 from Sussex, is a long-time fan of motorsport, and always saw her future working as a race engineer. She was undertaking a ‘year in industry’ as part of her degree programme when she was approached by the Global Technical Director of Nissan Motorsport, Jerry Hardcastle, and tasked with a very specific role.
Gemma said: “I was asked to meet with Sebastian Vettel’s PR Team because he was visiting the Nissan European Technical Centre (NTCE) and I was tasked with organising the whole thing!”
Sebastian Vettel is F1’s youngest Grand Prix winner, youngest triple World Champion, and now one of only three drivers in F1 history to claim four championships in succession.
Vettel is also the Director of Performance for US car company Infiniti, where he plays a vital role in developing the performance of their vehicles.
Gemma said: “This year Vettel’s focus for Infiniti was on the Q30 that was revealed at this year’s Frankfurt Motorshow. As Infiniti progress into the European market, the Q30 will be built at the Nissan Manufacturing plant in Sunderland, with NTCE conducting further R&D work – the first collaboration between the two automotive giants.
“Essentially, I was given the job of not only showing Sebastian what NTCE had to offer, but also making it as interactive and interesting as possible because the whole visit was being filmed.”
Gemma’s passion for motorsport has led her to take on a number of jobs in the sector, including writing for Racecar Engineering magazine and monitoring track data for JRM during the Spa 24 Hour and Silverstone three hour races. She was therefore thrilled to be given the opportunity to meet Vettel, even though it meant taking on a completely new challenge.
Gemma said: “Organising the tour was huge - it took a month of full time work to plan every detail. I organised a full range of tests using climatic chambers and chassis dynos, which gave the camera crew plenty of opportunity to get great footage of Vettel in the cars.
“With the visit timed to the minute, it was a logistical challenge to say the least – especially as I was in charge of every detail; from importing Infiniti cars from all over Europe for background shots, to ensuring health and safety regulations were met while maintaining the confidentiality of the new Qashqai. I spent weeks chairing meetings with senior management from all departments and was then asked to present to the European Board of Directors.
“Through my work I am used to analysing car performances on the track and road, going through data with drivers, briefing them and helping in the pit lane. This role at Nissan put me in front of global directors of both Nissan and Infiniti, and I was the only one who knew all of the details - it was a big responsibility!”
The Nissan board of directors was so impressed by Gemma’s effort that they took an unprecedented step and awarded her a coveted Nissan Gold Award, usually only presented to company staff, and for extremely high levels of attainment.
Gemma said: “I was really shocked and absolutely thrilled that the directors were so pleased with my work. I really enjoyed the project, and working with Nissan has opened so many doors and created so many great contacts for me in motorsport. Meeting Vettel was fantastic, all I’d really wanted was a photo and a signed hat for my little brother - the Gold Award was the icing on the cake!”
Professor Gary Hawley, Dean of our Faculty of Engineering and Design, said: “Gemma is a great ambassador for her department and we’re thrilled she has been so successful at Nissan and has found the placement so useful. We encourage all of our students to take a placement year during their undergraduate study, and activities like those that Gemma has been involved in contribute greatly to a student’s development and preparation for a graduate level position in industry.”
Gemma is now back at Bath and completing her final year of study, during which she is contributing to our ‘Formula Student’ team and continuing to write for Racecar Engineering magazine.