Why motorsport journalism?

I somewhat stumbled on motorsport journalism by accident. It was never planned, it just sort of sprung out of nowhere; not that I am complaining. After seeing my fellow Zoom Auction colleague, Katy Fairman, do a post similar to this, I thought I’d share my progress, too!

A few years ago, after struggles with my anxiety, I was in a bit of a black hole. I had no options, no goals and actually, no dreams. I had nothing. I didn’t know who I was, my mind wouldn’t let me discover my personality. I was in a rather sorry state for a 17-year-old.

The problem we all face, is that we’re all forced to make a career decisive move at an age where we’re only just figuring out who we are. There’s no class in school where you learn how to handle tax or mortgage, or real life problems that we all should know about. I didn’t learn how to handle finance until University where I didn’t have a choice. And I made the rookie error of over-spending way before Christmas so was deep into my overdraft. At no point in my life, will I ever need to know about the cells in a leaf. Or that if you mix this with that it does this. As interesting as it was, schools and colleges need the real life scenarios for kids to learn. College for example, is supposed to be the last step until you reach life as an individual. But it’s far from it.

I left college because I was studying a course that I lost interest in. I had the problems with anxiety too that was severely hampering my attendance and I’ve always told myself; if you’re unhappy with something, change it. So I dropped out after a year. In hindsight, I probably should have finished the course. Something to fall back on perhaps, because counselling/social work is something I always wanted to do as a teen. Advice is something I’d like to think I’m good at because of my past experiences.

Blogging was very new to me. A girl who went to my school did a lot of fashion blogging and it inspired me to do the same. No, I am not a fashion guru. I can never really be bothered to be fashionable. But, I did blog about Formula 1. I was never a skilled writer. I had extra English help pretty much until Year 10 in school. I was blogging about things that I now deem as boring, like race reports and qualifying reports, the snoozefest posts if you like. But this caught the attention of website owners and it stems from there. You never really know who is watching.

I had a careers talk with an advisor and before I knew what was happening, I was starting University. In January 2015, I did my first event as ‘media’ at the Autosport Show and met some of my closest friends in Katy and Teagan. I have never been on my feet as much in a weekend, but, all for a good cause.

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If I’m being honest with you, I never wanted to be a writer. I’m still not sure if that’s really what I want. As I said, it sort of sprung up out of nowhere. I have never cared for news writing. I never will. It’s dull, it’s boring and I am not a gossip so finding the newest stories won’t ever appeal to me. I like feature writing. I like the freedom of being able to write about whatever you want, or interviewing whoever you want. I love in depth interviews with people like Sir Jackie Stewart; where you can really delve into it and listen to full on novels from his day and not get bored.

After Autosport, I attended the annual Zoom Charity Auction where I was introduced to Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid. They have changed my life. The charity is wonderful, it’s such an honour to be able to say I am a part of it. When they asked me to go to Monaco for its inaugural ePrix, I was stunned. Me? Are you sure? But they had full confidence in me and the weekend was phenomenal.

Walking through the tunnel [with Katy] every day to get to the track got better each day. Monaco is as beautiful as you think. It is a pain in the arse to navigate when half of the roads are closed and I’m sure I probably walked the length of the country on race day, but, it’s beautiful nonetheless. I also interviewed Alejandro Agag on his private yacht, interviewed Paul Di Resta too and had drinks with Freddie Hunt. I’m not sure the weekend will ever be bettered. My favourite moments were when Jack Nicholls practiced his signature on his arm but with permanent marker, and when Bruno Senna told Vitantonio Liuzzi his photo was “sh*t.” See more pictures from that experience here.

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A few months later and I had been published in The Independent, The Times and Sunday Express… Oh, and I was on a flight to go to the Austrian Grand Prix. So many people in this industry take this F1 lifestyle for granted. They don’t realise how lucky they are. They don’t appreciate how glamourous this is to your average fan who stands outside the paddock gates hoping to see their favourite driver. Yes, motorhomes are just glorified caravans essentially, but they’re damn pretty and it was in Austria where I realised that no matter what, I want to work in F1. For the past three years, regardless of being a ‘journalist’ I always sit trackside and watch an F1 race as a fan. Waste of money some would say. But I don’t care. I don’t want to lose the passion I have for this sport. I don’t want to forget why I’m doing what I do – like some journalists. I don’t want to be so fixated in a job that I stop enjoying it. In a sense, I don’t want to lose who I am. So I go to Silverstone every year, without fail.

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I have been on social media for years. I have met some of my closest friends through Twitter. I’ve seen its rise, its positives and its negatives. But the motor-racing community are the best bunch of people you will ever come across. Yes, some can be a bit daft on race weekends, but I’ve never been in a position where I can truly talk about the sport I love. No one from my school watched it. Or if they did, I didn’t know them. My best friend, Leanne, is the only one who I could watch it with (other than my family.) The ‘F1 family’ as I remember it being referred to, is a community that I’m happy to be a part of.

The nice chaps at Mercedes also asked me to visit their factory before Christmas. Apparently, I’m pretty good at social media. I’ve never seen a place so clean. It was such a fantastic environment and I had some good chats with the others there; even those I didn’t know. I also took home some free Monster energy cans. You may think that it’s lame. But I had a strawberry flavour one that I had never seen before (who doesn’t love strawberries?!) – despite the fact that I hate energy drinks. Has anyone else drank vodka and Red Bull so much, that after so long any energy drink just tastes like there’s vodka in it when there’s not? Just me?

This year so far has had its ups and downs. I took a heavy hit in January, but I’m still standing and I’m flying off to Paris this weekend. I wasn’t going to speak of that in this post, as I did a more personal one here, but I just wanted to tell you, that you can never give up. Whatever life throws at you, pick up a bat and hit it away. Home runs are always cool – Wii Sports taught me that. I went to the Zoom Auction again in January and despite being a bit worse for wear, had such a blast with Katy (my apparent partner in crime) and some new friends in Fatema and Lucy.

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Journalism in news form may not be for me, but I’m happy to go down the features and PR route which is what I’m doing. New adventures for me. Always keep those good vibes – hard work pays off. Very thankful to have had the chance to work with who I have and even luckier to have become friends with a lot of people because of this industry.

“I don’t have dreams. Just goals. Now on to the next one” – Harvey Specter

An update…

Never have I ever stopped believing in myself. But for a split moment not too long ago, I did. I crumbled. I stopped functioning. I fell apart. Had my best friend not have been with me, I’m not sure I’d be here today to tell you – to help you.

Almost a year ago, I first spoke up about my battle with mental health. It was a big step for me and so much has happened since – but, the positive, I’ve not had any problems with my anxiety since last year.

The problem with Universities, is that SO many people get in your business. Especially in halls. Things get spread round so much faster than high school and you can go from being on Cloud 9 to feeling rock bottom very quickly. People are very quick to make assumptions and judgement. If somethings said it must be true. No one wonders what the other side of the story is, or no one really acknowledges someone else’s feelings. I had a bad time with a few people, but your real friends are the ones that stick by you through absolutely everything.

I had a very messy break-up with someone who I loved very much. I’m not afraid to say it. We’ve all been in love, we’ve all had a bad break-up. This, for me, was on another level.

I don’t want to go into too much detail. I don’t want your judgement of me, him or who I’m about to say, to change just because of this. I don’t at all want to paint anyone in a bad light. I just want to share my experience and help others who need the boost.

My dad, is a raging alcoholic. Not every day of every week of every year. Just a few days every so often – but when he is on a ‘binge’ he goes very hard and depending on what he drinks, he can become very abusive and very in your face. He’s never laid a hand on anyone. He says some foul things and its part of the reason why my self-confidence is very low even today.

He got drunk after the split and did some unimaginable things. To put it into perspective. The police were involved. It was traumatising, heart-destroying and I was hospitalised three times because of the amount of stress I was subjected to. He did some things that he 100% regrets and would do anything just to say sorry in person and put everything right. For so long, he has felt dejected and he’s not been himself for a while. He has done everything and anything to try and get through to both my ex and his family, but it was like trying to remove chewing gum from your hair. Just a mess and because of the severity, they didn’t care or want to listen. They wouldn’t even care that he wanted to end his life because quote: “I lost my son, I lost my best friend”

It felt like everyone was picking up a baseball bat and taking a swing at me and my life. A humungous amount of bullsh*t was being spread around left, right and centre. I didn’t know what the truth was and what wasn’t, I assume the same went for him. Far too many people stuck their noses in and what went from being a civil split, turned into such a mess where we no longer have any form of contact. I got to the point, where I finally gave up. I gave up trying for this person, because I realised that I am worth more than this. If he and other people genuinely believe that that’s the sort of person I am (a liar), after everything I’ve ever done, then they don’t know me at all. And frankly, I am exhausted with trying to prove myself. I am not a liar or a fake, and I’ve certainly never said anything bad about him; it’s not in my nature to be either of those things. I’m ‘too nice’ as people say. It made me angry that I was being portrayed this way; I don’t know who the people are who spread what they did, but I’m not sure I a) want to know or b) care anymore. People believe whatever they want to believe.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I guess it’s why I’m an emotional person and get hurt a lot. I treat people the way I’d like to be treated and that’s with love and respect. It’s a shame you don’t always get it back, but at least you can keep your head up and say you did your best, or you stuck to who you are.

The stress put on me and my family, ripped my health apart. As mentioned before, I was hospitalised three times. What’s apparent now, is that I developed chronic stress. I’m normally good with handling my stress levels, but this was like filling up a water bottle and not putting the lid on – eventually it overflows. I also lost a damn lot of weight and am now being treated for EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). This happened because I was being physically sick so much. I couldn’t eat or keep anything down because my body simply rejected it. I’ve always been relatively thin, but people noticed very quickly that my weight was on a downhill spiral – it’s just I wasn’t in control, I wasn’t purposely doing it. For weeks I didn’t tell anyone anything, I was terrified that if I said anything, I’d be made out to be a liar, again.

I am still very weak and fragile. But on reflection, I’m happy with who I am. I haven’t done anything in the past year that I regret, or that I’m unhappy with. Of course, I wish some things didn’t happen or happened differently, but you can’t change the past you can only arrange your future. Both you and I, have our whole lives ahead – if you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like someone, take them out of your life.

Life will always have its ups and downs. Ride them out and see where they go, because every cloud has a silver-lining. I was recently published in a national newspaper, again. Last year I travelled to Monaco and Austria and saw what life was like in the paddock of an F1 race. I witnessed what goes on behind the scenes in an F1 factory and was published in other national newspapers, too. Not everyone has this life, and no it’s certainly not perfect, but I’m somewhat glad it’s mine.

I won’t try for people who don’t try for me. It’s a waste of energy and time and we are so much better than that. Strength isn’t about lifting something up, it’s the keeping it up that matters. Don’t let anyone make you feel so small that you think you’re irrelevant, those are the people that don’t matter. Surround yourself with the people that make you, you. Anyone can be there for you at your best, but the ones that are truly worth it are the ones who pick you up when you’re at your worst. I’m so grateful for the people that have stuck by me and believed in me when others have left. Honestly, just keep going. You’re never too far away from a happy ending. Love you guys x

F1’s dysfunctional relationship

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Picture courtesy of Darren Taylor

You know when you’re having an argument with someone and you realise that you just cannot be bothered to even fight your case anymore, so you just sort of roll your eyes and say “whatever” just to shut them up? That’s a strange, yet accurate comparison to F1’s governing body and its strategy group. A very dysfunctional relationship, that even marital counselling could not recover.

In a weird twist of events that saw the old qualifying return for a matter of hours (yes, Katy Perry’s ‘hot n cold’ song comes to mind), a letter from the GPDA and a response agreeing with the said letter from Bernie himself, the new elimination qualifying is back for another trial; albeit unchanged. Move over Ross and Rachel, this relationship is far more complex than you ever were.

The Australian Grand Prix weekend was heavily let down by the rushed inception of this new format. The race itself was a good opener and if Ferrari had played the game right, it may have been a different victor crossing the line first. Max Verstappen also qualified in fifth, not that anyone noticed because we were all too busy slating this new system; not many even congratulated Lewis Hamilton for his stunning lap. Both of those performances shadowed by a monumental mistake, that potentially could have been avoided if 1) they hadn’t rushed or 2) they didn’t even try to alter it.

That being said, I do grudgingly like the idea of the elimination qualifying. No, there isn’t a problem with the old system, but, whether you admit it or not, a whole bunch of you disliked the old version when drivers were sat in the pit lane or when they didn’t go out at all. As someone who has sat trackside for a few years, there is nothing more boring than sitting in the rain or sun with absolutely nothing on the track in front of you, apart from a stray marshal or bird if you’re lucky. Talk about excitement…

In a previous blog post, I spoke about another idea for this qualifying, read that here. But, from a lot of deliberation, most people were fine with Q1 and Q2 – though, the 90 second intervals need to be increased more than anything. It is Q3 they have a problem with. A lot of ideas stem from using the old version of qualifying in the final qualification, but after a lot of thought, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. The whole tyre conservation will just come to play, again. Surely you want to see a Dany Kvyat or a Nico Hulkenberg having a go at beating the usual top four? They are not likely to waste a tyre trying to beat a time they probably won’t top.

What we want is a shock. Like you get in some wet qualifying sessions. Someone to get their timings wrong and someone to get it spot on. Someone to make the jump onto the softer tyre and spring a surprise catching others out.

The system should have been simulated hundreds of times before Australia, that’s blatantly obvious. It was a shambles, a mess and embarrassing that our sport came up with that idea. On the other hand, I think they’ve laid the foundations down. Now it’s time to build on it. Formula E tried something new with their super-pole – it worked.

I think Q1 and Q2 should stay as the elimination form, with the adjusted time intervals. I also think the graphics for viewers needs to change. A big countdown clock needs to be on the screen somewhere with a noise to count down the last ten seconds. I don’t think drivers should be allowed to finish their lap; if that was the case, qualifying would last too long and there would just be a train after every knockout.

Esteban Gutierrez was on a lap that would have promoted him to fourth in Q1. But tough; he should have gone out sooner. Simply put, they were told that they’d only have 90 seconds and you can’t finish the lap. Don’t blame the system for your mathematical error. Gene Haas even admitted to knowing where the team went wrong.

Q3 should be a one-lap shoot out. It should last for about five minutes, so no one has time to mope around in the pits and it should be compulsory to set a competitive lap time. You’re probably thinking “er, what?” but, picture that system in Monaco or a wet Canada. I don’t know about you, but I am rather bored of all of the conservation in Formula 1. I want them to go all guns out and show us what they can really do. F1 is supposed to be the fastest sport in the world, so let it be that. These drivers are supposed to be the fastest drivers in the world (debatable), so let them show us. If they lock up? Tough. If they run wide? Tough. If they screw up? Tough. That’s the pressure and intensity of a one-lap shoot out.

The other option I see, is scrapping Q1, Q2 and Q3 and just having one 45 minute qualification like GP2 and GP3 have. Every two minutes a driver is knocked out until it’s just the final eight left out on track to do their final lap.

Bahrain will probably be the exact same as Australia, there’s not really a doubt about that. And it’s all well people like me having a good grumble or suggestion, but if the GPDA can’t even make a difference, then there’s no hope for anyone else.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Flawed Qualifying system thoughts

Its been four months since we last saw the V6 hybrids colour our TV screens. The anticipation of the new season dawned on us all, and after pre-season testing the wait for the AusGP was on.

In it came, all guns blazing, a new qualifying system and an updated radio ban for us to all think about. A rushed major change that was brought in, in the hope to spice up Saturday’s action (a question I’d like to know who was even asking in the first place.)

The previous system was never bad. It was actually rather good. The only real issue was the dull moments of when the drivers and teams were sat waiting in the pitlane. I’m 99.9% sure, the fans sat trackside in the rain didn’t pay over £100 for nothing to happen. Moments like those were caused by the tyre rules. Why waste a tyre in Q3 when you could start on fresh rubber of your choice in the race?

Should Pirelli and the FIA allow teams to take and use as many tyres as they want? The drought of cars on track during Q2 and Q3 would be as good as gone – since there’s no advantage for not going out. Plus the strategy in the race would hot up, with the big reveal happening as soon as the tyre warmers come off five minutes before lights out.

Picture it: LH on pole, starts on super softs. Seb in 3rd, takes the gamble and starts on softs. It’s a strategy game that often spices up GP2’s Feature Races. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails and sometimes there’s no difference.

I like the elimination form. But it needed more work. The panic to get it started for this year has uncovered more flaws. The 90 second intervals aren’t enough. Tracks like Singapore are nearly two minutes long alone so there’s not a time to reply. That needs to be upped to almost two minutes, to allow for another lap – to allow for the response. We want the “here’s what I can do, now it’s your turn” mentality. Not the “oh but if we don’t go out and stay 12th we have the tyre option for tomorrow.”

Most of us seem to like the idea of it. It’s just Q3 was so anticlimactic that suddenly it’s the worst bodge job in the history of F1. I didn’t know a sport could just pick and choose its regulations event by event, but there you go. If F1 axes it straight away, it’s nothing more of an embarrassment.

If anything, Q1 and Q2 should be kept as the elimination form. It is exciting. Imagine if Manor had got their timing right, who knows, they could have sprung a surprise.

Q3 either needs to be a one lap shoot-out, with the final eight drivers only getting one timed lap. Or, with the help of unlimited tyres, see how the elimination format works with that. They need to at least try something else. If we all failed at our first try we wouldn’t be where we are today.

What do you think?

 

Trying to understand the hype around Susie Wolff

F1’s desire to hold a female racer in its cockpits is very high. Knowingly high. And there are several females racing around in many other series’ – Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Samin Gomez, Beitske Visser, Sophia Floersch and Jamie Chadwick – that we do know about; just not so much recognise.

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There are just 24 seats available in the pinnacle of motorsport, and only few of them become available each year. A small fraction of females try their luck at racing compared to the hundreds of thousands of males, so already the job of attracting attention is slim. When you think about the financial struggles of some males trying to break-through, the job is even harder. So why should someone sponsor a female when the odds are low, over a male where the odds are higher?

In the case of Susie Wolff, her last name does her no justice. It was an easy way in, if you will. Young girls watching her on TV are not going to say “I aspire to be 13th” (which was her highest result). Males watching F1 are hardly going to idolise the guy who can’t get into the top ten; which is why drivers like Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg are so highly rated. Their cars aren’t technically good enough for the top ten, let alone the top five, yet they scrape something out of nothing.

For a female to have a proper effect, she needs to be better than the other options available. She needs to have the results and the guts to go against the males, because – as we saw only a few weeks ago – they fling hats at each other when they don’t get their own way.

Half, if not more, of the GP2 grid deserve the higher ranking seats – but as previously mentioned – there’s too many talents and not enough seats.

I admire Susie’s passion and efforts towards her racing and the job she’s done of raising awareness. But the competitive side in me can’t idolise her; not when Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are about.

Females won’t be able to replicate the strength males have physically – fact. But that doesn’t mean they can’t match them at endurance and mental strength. And you arguably need all three with a competitive car to become World Champion.

There will be a female F1 driver one day, but there’s absolutely no rush. Not when two strong females in Monisha Kaltenborn and Claire Williams run two of the teams on today’s grid.

Lella Lombardi remains the only female to score points in F1, and that was 40 years ago. A BBC article regarding females in motorsport, asked “which team principal will be man enough to provide the opportunity?” but my response is, when one is good enough

Race Week London Competition

Courtesy of GP Management, I have a pair of tickets to Race Week London on Tuesday the 30th of June to give away to a lucky winner.

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Race Week enters its second year and its 6 acre site in the heart if London will be home to F1 cars, drivers and stars alike as they gather to celebrate the glamour of motorsport in a garden like party.

As well as a never before seen 360 degree immersive experience, RWL will display some of the worlds rarest F1 cars including Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda and James Hunt’s M23.

The festival will give guests the chance to race against F1 drivers in a genuine F1 simulator. With memorabilia and other luxury brands on show there will be plenty of entertainment, including live Q&A’s from F1 team bosses and drivers throughout the day.

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The centerpiece of Race Week will be the revival of the historic cricket match played in the 70’s by legendary F1 drivers such as James Hunt and Niki Lauda. This year will be even more nostalgic with the opposing team fielded by the cricket charity The Lord’s Taverner’s who formed the stellar opposition in the original game. The highest scoring player from that original match, none other than Sir Michael Parkinson, will be our honorary umpire on the day!

RWL Features ;

– A concours of classic and modern F1 cars.

– A revival of the historic 1974 F1 drivers cricket match set up by James Hunt and Niki Lauda, featuring family, friends and relatives of the original 11.

– The other cricket team will be fielded by The Lord’s Taverner’s, the original opposition in the 1974!

– Black Book Race Forum, with Motorsport industry leaders attending

– A festival of motorsport in the heart of the city on a 6 acre historic site

– Auctions and fundraising for the leading disability sports charity The Lord’s Taverner’s.

For your chance to win; ensure you are following @katehewif1 on twitter and like katehewif1 on Facebook and simply share this post on either form of social network – Good luck!

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Monaco ePrix experience

The last time I went abroad was three years ago with my friend, Laura, when we went to Ibiza. However a couple of months ago, I had an email from my friend and colleague Chris suggesting a trip to Monaco in aid of his charity, “Zoom”. Most of you reading this may only recognise the name because of its association with Formula 1, but this year Chris and Caroline decided to move the idea forward and have a similar event for the brand new series, Formula E.

Zoom allows drivers, key personnel and personalities to take photographs of absolutely anything to then auction off in a bid to support its participating charities. Zoom raised thousands of pounds for Great Ormond Street Hospital back in January for its F1 event, and hopes to do the same for the Prince Albert Foundation and One Drop. Though instead of auctioning off the signed images individually, the Formula E snaps will be put in a collage and sold as one big image instead. Be sure to check out @ZoomAuction on Twitter for a glance at some of the photos including Nelson Piquet Jr’s underwater selfie!

Obviously, I forgot to replace my cameras SD card so I was without a camera on the Wednesday. Nonetheless I took lots of photos that I thought I would share. It’s almost like the Monaco you don’t see on the TV with cars racing around its streets.

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Did you watch the Monaco ePrix? What did you think?