Young people are being challenged to help the McLaren Mercedes F1 team get a racing head start this year as part of a new competition launched today by GSK and the McLaren Group.

The 'Pit Stop Challenge' is open to students aged 11-14 across the UK and forms part of GSK's science education programme, Scientists in Sport, which aims to use the power and excitement of sport to explain how science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects can lead to both exciting careers and sporting success.

As part of GSK's strategic partnership with the McLaren Group, this science education initiative incorporates activities that look at the science behind F1. The Pit Stop Challenge is championed by the McLaren Mercedes F1 team, who have challenged schools to use science to help their pit crew give their best performance at every race.

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"Young people in the UK have a great enthusiasm for practical, hands-on science," Roger Connor, GSK president of global manufacturing and supply, said, "Through our education and training programmes we want to harness and build that initial enthusiasm and encourage young people to really think about where a career in science could take them.

"As a science-led organisation, we are passionate about supporting the next generation of scientists who can drive forward the UK's science base. And by teaming up with the McLaren Group to develop this exciting programme, we're confident that we have created something very special for students."

The Pit Stop Challenge will encourage students to investigate how science can help the McLaren pit crew team address some of the issues that affect their performance as they travel across the globe during the grand prix season. The team routinely faces problems of jet lag, sleep deprivation, heat and humidity, and not drinking enough water.

The competition finalists will present to a panel of judges at GSK's new Human Performance Lab, which is a research facility set up to work with professional athletes, sports National Governing Bodies, sports teams, military personal and extreme explorers to better understand how the body and brain function. The winning team will have an exclusive opportunity to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.

"Today's students are the scientists and engineers of tomorrow," team principal Martin Whitmarsh pointed out, "They will tackle the global challenges of the 21st century and, in so doing, will change the world. But, unfortunately, not enough young people realise just how exciting, creative and varied jobs in science and engineering can be and we are letting invaluable talent slip away as a result. Hopefully we can use the excitement and drama of F1 to demonstrate that today's careers in science and engineering are very different from the old stereotypes and we can encourage more young people to choose STEM subjects."