The day I met (last year’s) McLaren drivers

photo-2Life as an academic has its benefits. One day you get excited by the encouraging (or unexpected) results of your work, another day you feel the buzz as you inspire young people by talking about science, and sometimes you meet exceptional people.

As a result of the Santander Fellowships which Linrun and I have been awarded, we were invited (along with 100 other recipients) to a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden. In a well-choreographed event, which included a very swanky finger buffet, high-ranking officials from the sponsoring organization congratulated awardees for their achievements and announced the availability of even more international exchange bursaries for the next academic year. The general atmosphere was, even at this stage, well worth the train ride into London at 8am. Plus, I got to wear my new summer suit.

But the highlight of the day happened as Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button dropped by for a few minutes to hand out certificates and answer a few questions. The whole room cheered and applauded as they emerged in their racing overalls. NASA astronauts half a century ago were receiving similar welcomes. Both drivers looked not only physically fit but also psychologically strong and with the look of someone who wakes up every day determined to be the best. Still, I don’t envy racing drivers. Despite the fame and wealth, their life seems to be dominated by endless media-related events which undoubtedly get tiring after a while.

Nevertheless, their few words on the day and their achievements give hope to the rest of us that we all can make great things happen through practice, training and tenacity.

This post originally appeared on the University of Surrey’s The Green Room blog.


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