AN ENGINEERING student got a glimpse of life behind the scenes of Formula 1 racing after winning a university competition.

Masimba Sagwete, of Hertford Street, Mill Hill, impressed lecturers at Durham University with his engineering abilities, and was rewarded with a day at the AT&T Williams Formula 1 base in Grove, Oxfordshire.

He was joined by fellow students from across the country and engineers from Airasia, who have travelled from Malaysia, Indones-ia and Thailand in a bid to bring the airline closer to the technolog-y of F1.

The group attended lectures on the importance of aerodynamics and weight and looked at how Formula 1 leads the way in making cars lighter and faster.

Masimba, who hopes to follow a career in motorsport engineering when he graduates, said: "It was fantastic to see it from this side and see that it is actually accessible to me. Behind all the glamour are the real life jobs that people actually do, where they put into practice the kind of thing I am learning."

He added: "It was great to see inside the factory, and I found it very interesting to learn about the extensive testing that is carried out, primarily with wind tunnels, and also the extensive nature of the input on the car from the driver." The student also got a taste of high speed action in an F1 simulator and a pit stop challenge.

Masimba proved to be a racing whizz, scoring the best lap track time of 1 minute 45 seconds. His student team also beat the Airasia engineers in a competition to see who could change the tyres of a Formula 1 car the quickest.

Clocking a 6.6 second time, the students were only three seconds slower than the professionals.

As well as the glory of winning, it gave all the students an opportunity to heighten their understanding of the team-work and dedication behind Formula 1 crews and their drivers.

Tom McCulloch, a Williams track engineer who gave one of the lectures, said: "It was good to have the opportunity to pass on some knowledge to these keen young minds."