Kimi Hillsdon has been an integral part of the Uralkali Haas F1 Team since she joined the pinnacle of motorsport in February 2020. Her multi-functional role sits between all of the departments at the team which has bases in the US, UK and Italy. Having recently managed the pit board for Mick Schumacher at the Turkish Grand Prix, Kimi became a visible figure for women in motorsport.
“We’re the common link between race engineering and the purchasing,” Kimi tells Females in Motorsport. “We’re like a spider's web that holds everything together.”
Her week as a Race Programme Project Coordinator revolves around event schedules and the Monday after a grand prix is typically her busiest time, ensuring the parts are available to be supplied to all of the correct departments around the factory.
“I work heavily with the trackside Spares Coordinator and the Chief Mechanic to get a list of what parts have been damaged, what parts are in a suboptimal condition, stuff that’s getting close to its life limit and then formulating a plan,” she says.
They’ll establish if the parts can be repaired, if they can manufacture new components or if they need to send new parts out.
“It’s 100 miles an hour running at it, especially when we’re working on triple-headers and double-headers where your reaction times are really, really small,” Kimi says. “It’s trying to fight fires, make sure that anything that’s been damaged we’ve managed to get a fix in place.”
By Tuesday, the most frenetic part of the week has passed and attention turns to programme or project management meetings where they filter through all of the available information and the lessons learnt from the parts that have been tested over the weekend.
“We make sure trackside have given us their feedback and design have provided us with their proposed fault fixes or new designs,” she says. “The information is in the central point and ready for us to go into that meeting with all of the stakeholders to get sign-offs and plans of action.”
Her main responsibility on a day-to-day basis is the management of product demand and ensuring that’s in line with forecast and budget. Kimi also communicates frequently with purchasing to get it submitted for quotes and raising purchase recs to kickstart manufacturing.
“When I first started my training in project management, we were told that it’s as easy as riding a bike,” she says. “But what no one has told you is that the bike is on fire and so are you.
“I’ve never seen that aspect to it until I started working in Formula 1 because we have immovable deadlines and very comprehensive technical regulations.”
With the rapid-paced nature of the sport, it’s paramount that Kimi maintains an exceptional level of detail and accuracy whilst remaining focused and knowing her priorities.
“You have to have the ability not to panic because the one thing I’ve learnt is that if you’re panicking you’re losing time that you don’t have in the first place,” she says.
Being based at the UK factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Kimi works closely with her colleagues that are located around the world.
“The ability to create and maintain relationships completely remotely is key,” she says. “With the race team, there can be months where we don’t see them, so being able to build a relationship and maintain that without having face-to-face contact is vital.”
Her job at Haas came about after having conversations with friends about new opportunities. They mentioned that a role suited to her was being advertised in motorsport and Kimi was naturally interested as it had always been an end goal for her. The job in question turned out to be her current role in the Formula 1 team.
“I submitted my CV without thinking that I’d get a second look in because I don’t have formal qualifications from a university,” she says. “But I’ve got a long history of project management and working with hypercars. I was surprised to actually get a call from HR inviting me to come in for an interview.”
Kimi has always been motorsport-obsessed and growing up she quickly shared her dad’s passion for all things with an engine. This intensified when she went along to GT races and spent time in the garages.
“I’d ask a million questions and it got to the point where I started to help out doing bits and pieces,” she says. “It really inspired my mechanical brain and the analytical thought process.”
At the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, Kimi was doing the pit board for Mick Schumacher. When she was first asked, she was on cloud nine, being conscious it was a huge thing but also channelling her inner cool as she’d done this before in other motorsports.
“It was a lot to take in and there’s more that goes into it than people may realise,” she says. “It’s trying to keep in your head this is what I need to do at this point, this is the information I need to show. It was stressful, but after the first few laps, once you’ve settled into a routine and you know what you’re doing, it becomes easier.”
Kimi adores working at Haas and the best thing about the team is it being such a small unit, they aren’t siloed into doing necessarily what their job title is.
“There are opportunities to go trackside, to do the pit board, to run the trackside stores,” she says. “There are areas we can get involved in for the better of the business. The more knowledge we have about what goes on around us, the more effective we can be in our own roles and help our colleagues.”
The team pulls together and, in the process, have the opportunity of forming some really strong friendships.
“The teamwork here is amazing, it’s almost like a small family,” she says. “It's not just a job, it’s a lifestyle and I’ve met some brilliant people.”
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