Erin Grocott - now working in Formula 1 - has risen through the motorsport ranks as a woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). From working with W Series at the inception of the championship to finding her place in the Williams Racing team as a Sub Assembly Technician, there is no doubt that Erin is already inspiring youngsters wanting to work in motorsport.
Erin’s dad has always been a big fan of motorsport, and she remembers watching Lewis Hamilton win his first Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship in 2008. Her love and passion for motorsport were ignited by the excitement of watching Hamilton in Brazil, followed by attending her first race weekend at Snetterton, her local race track in Norfolk, England.
Growing up, Erin was determined to become a dancer. However, when she was introduced to motorsport and realised that it could be a potential career pathway, she began to consider her options.
“When you don’t know anything about it, and you’re not in the industry, it seems impossible to get in,” Erin tells Females in Motorsport. “A lot of people told me that I would never work in motorsport.
“I researched college courses, and then I realised it was actually a possibility.”
At school, Erin studied STEM-related subjects, like triple science and maths, all of which are areas she has always enjoyed studying. Although, she hadn’t always been certain about pursuing a career in STEM.
In 2019, Erin attended the Autosport International Show and approached W Series which, at the time, was brand new. She highlighted her interest in gaining experience in the industry, all whilst studying Motorsport Mechanics at college.
“I got the W Series role very much by chance,” Erin says. “It was my first proper job outside of college.”
Also, in 2019, Erin worked with Pure McLaren – a McLaren Customer Racing event – for one racing round in Bahrain. She worked trackside for 10 days and this experience gave her the opportunity to really see what it was like to work with a brand like McLaren and add it to her CV.
“It was my first proper event with a real big named team,” Erin says. “When you’re representing a brand like McLaren, you have to be so on it with what you do.”
The set-up of Pure McLaren is similar to that of W Series, meaning Erin was able to transfer her skills between both events.
Erin took part in the 2019 FIA Motorsport Games in Vallelunga, a competition that has a similar layout to the Olympics. For the first time in her career, Erin was responsible for running a car on her own.
“That came with a lot of pressure,” she says. “There was a lot on me to do my job right.”
Her hard work paid off, however, as her team won the bronze medal for the F4 cup. Erin credits the Motorsport Games as being an experience that helped her learn how to handle pressure.
In 2020, Erin took part in her first full season of closed-wheel racing, joining the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) as a mechanic.
“It was a completely different experience for me and it was good to get my teeth into something different,” she says. “I’ve got experience in both open and closed wheel racing.
If you have the opportunity to do a bit of everything, I highly recommend it because it means you can be more flexible with what you do.”
BTCC gave Erin the experience of working during a number of sessions across two days, something which she highlights as crucial in motorsport.
“It allows you to work under pressure and effectively, and that is important in Formula 1,” she says.
At the beginning of 2021, Erin worked for five consecutive weekends in the Asian F3 series, visiting both the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit. This opportunity added to her single-seater experience, but it also allowed her to discover how exhausting yet exhilarating the motorsport world can be.
“It made me appreciate how lucky I am to have my job because I go to work every day and I enjoy what I do,” Erin smiles. “I feel really fortunate to feel like that.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with some amazing people and work in some incredible countries.”
As a Sub Assembly Technician for Williams Racing, Erin and her colleagues are responsible for building and servicing a variety of parts, including the brake callipers, drive shafts, and smaller parts like the suspension and bearings that go into the wishbones. Sub assembly is also made up of two other departments – hydraulics, which covers power-assisted steering and the brake by wire (BBW) and build shop, which covers fuel systems and water pipes.
“Essentially, we assemble all of the components when we get them in,” Erin explains. “Then, we pass them over to the race team who build them onto the car.”
Erin’s first trackside race weekend was in Saudi Arabia. She was responsible for the entire sub-assembly department and looked after both cars in the garage.
“I was incredibly nervous because I had so much riding on me,” Erin says. “There was so much on my shoulders but I didn’t let the pressure get to me.
“Knowing how much work I had to do was a bit daunting but, after the first couple of days when I was settled in, I was absolutely fine.”
As well as being Erin’s first race weekend with the team, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was the first race after the death of Sir Frank Williams. Erin remembers it as an emotional weekend for her – in different ways – and also for her colleagues.
“It was such a sad moment for Williams as a team,” she says. “It was a surreal experience. Seeing all of the grandstands cheer when the team walked onto the grid was the moment I realised how grateful I am to be where I am right now in my career.”
The following weekend, in Abu Dhabi, Erin felt prepared to work trackside, and was ready to support the team and deal with issues on the car, like with the gearbox or brakes.
From Erin’s personal experience, the typical race day is similar from event to event. After Qualifying, the cars enter Parc Fermé, meaning no work is allowed to be completed. The curfew given by the FIA depends on the start time of the race.
“When we first get to the track, there’s about half an hour until the designated fire up time, so until that point, we’re just getting things prepared,” Erin says. “Then, before the race gets underway, we get into our fire suits, get our helmets ready and set the garage up.”
A few members of the team, including Erin, are responsible for packing the grid trolleys for both cars, and they set up the grid space for the car. Then, the focus turns to getting ready for pit stops during the race.
“The track goes green and we start racing,” Erin says. “Then, we sit in the garage until we have the radio message for a pit stop.”
As a woman occupying a STEM role in motorsport, Erin points out the importance of visibility for young girls and women who may want to follow a similar career path.
“When I attended races as a teenager, I never saw any women in the paddock,” she says. “It felt impossible [to get involved] because you’re trying to look up to someone and there’s no one to look up to.
“I did everything off my own back; I was my own supporter.”
However, more women are becoming involved in STEM in motorsport, as well as taking up other roles throughout the industry.
“More women are getting involved which is so good to see,” Erin smiles. “It’s really important that more women get involved to change that stigma.”