Zimbabwean Stephanie Travers has drawn worldwide acclaim after becoming the first black woman to stand on the podium in Formula One (F1) history.
The Harare-born Travers, one of the fluid engineers for Petronas working with the Mercedes team with English driver Lewis Hamilton taking top honours, became the first woman to stand on the podium at the Styrian Grand Prix on July 12.
Hamilton at the time paid special tribute to Travers on Instagram with a picture of the two celebrating: “I wanted to post this because it’s such an important moment. This is Stephanie who is one of my teammates. She is one of our trackside fluid engineers.
“On Sunday, she became the first black woman to stand on the podium in Formula 1 history. This is an amazing achievement and I just wanted to acknowledge her for her hard work, positivity, and passion for her job.
“Like most of the jobs in our sport they are in high demand, and Stephanie was selected out of over 7000 applicants for her role. Steph said she wants to inspire young black children, and children of colour to believe that they can do it too, and I couldn’t agree more.”
On August 16, Travers was again an integral part of the Hamilton-led Mercedes team which claimed victory at the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalonia.
Travers, 25, has always had a passion for F1 and combined that with her extensive knowledge and expertise in chemical engineering.
“I’ve always been interested in motorsport,” Travers told givemesport.com.
“It was in my A-level year when I read an article about a woman doing this job, and I had always aspired to do something like that. I knew I wanted to keep my chemistry going, I didn’t want to go into mechanical or automotive engineering. I pursued chemical engineering, knowing that there were only around 10 positions in places throughout F1, kept my hopes high and luckily I made it in.”
In fact, Travers was one of 7000 applicants to become a fluid engineer for Petronas – as she went through a number of interview stages and tests before emerging ‘the best of the best’.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has never been an issue for Travers she explains.
“When I went to university I was one of only five girls in my cohort, so I was used to being surrounded by males and studying a course that was male-dominated. So it didn’t really affect me.
“My parents guided me through everything and pushed me to do the best that I can. Whenever I thought I couldn’t do something, they were always there to tell me I could. My parents always said the sky is the limit and embrace every opportunity I get.”
As for what a fluid engineer does during a race weekend, Travers is able to simplify a rather complicated occupation.
“Throughout the weekend I analyse the gearbox oil, the engine oil, and the fuel to ensure we’re complying with FIA regulations and to monitor the gearbox and engine throughout the weekend.”
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo