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The Times: Pitlane formula for track success

September 28, 2006

Lisa Lilley tells Sarah Campbell what it’s like being a member of Shell’s support crew to the Ferrari Formula One team 
“SINCE the end of January I haven’t eaten any chocolate,” Lisa Lilley says proudly. This is not something that seems immediately relevant to her role as technology manager in Shell’s Formula One team, but it is indicative of the way she works. “The guys” — her team-mates — challenged her to give up one of her two true passions (the other is shopping), and she rose to it.

This willpower is partly responsible for Lilley’s rise to a crucial role in the Formula One paddock, working alongside the people who make Ferraris go. Intelligence and determination also had a lot to do with it: when she started at Shell ten years ago (she is now 32), she used the research into combustion chemistry that she did there for the first five years as the basis for a PhD from the University of Leeds. 
Much of her job is monitoring the development of Shell fuels and lubricants and distributing them to Ferrari teams. “We make about 100 shipments a year to Ferrari, to races, tests and the factory. This is about 250,000 litres of fuel and 40,000 kg of lubricant.”

The most exciting part of the job, though, is the trackside support. She accompanies the mobile Shell laboratory, complete with two scientists — who analyse the fuel and lubricants to see what they’re doing to Ferrari engines — to races around the globe.

Last year she attended her first race at Imola, the Italian track that hosts the San Marino Grand Prix, donning the red suit and ear defenders for the first time, an experience that leaves her lost for words: “

It’s an incredible feeling to be part of a phenomenal team. When I first walked into the paddock wearing the red uniform I felt very privileged. It was so noisy and I was so proud to be there.” Something she’d first seen as a career opportunity has become a passion. “I became enthusiastic (about Formula One) through work, I never had a big interest in it before. The bug has well and truly bitten me. When I’m not at a race I watch it on TV.”

But what is it like being a woman in such a male-dominated environment? “I don’t notice it,” she says. “The Ferrari team made me feel so welcome. The guys tease me, but we all tease each other. Because I have a technical role at the track it wouldn’t matter whether I was male or female: you have to gain respect for being good at your job.”

Next year she will spend about 200 nights away from home with the team. “At the moment I’m loving it. The Ferrari team is like an extended family. I think I have one of the best jobs in Shell,” she says. Her only gripe is that she doesn’t spend enough time in each of the countries to indulge in her favourite past-time — the shopping one, not the chocolate eating.,,8171-2376433.html and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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