Formula 1 is physically demanding, and the drivers are some of the fittest athletes around. They go through extensive training to get their bodies fit enough to cope with the demands of a Grand Prix, and to help with this – they hire fitness personnel to train them to their limit. But have you ever wondered what a performance coach does? Well, I got to talk to Daniel Ricciardo’s performance coach, Michael Italiano, about his career in F1.

Hey Michael, could you please explain your role as a performance coach in Formula 1?
My role is to prepare Daniel to perform. I take care of his health and wellbeing. Controlling his training plan, his nutritional needs and all on track essentials. Preparing him all week for each session, warming him up and ensuring he’s in a positive headspace before the competition.

You obviously have a passion for health and fitness; why did you decide to become a coach?
I decided to become a coach because my passion was always in health and fitness. I had been competing in sport since the age of 5 and loved competition and was always trying to improve my athletic performance.

You made the move into Formula 1 at the end of 2017, becoming Daniel Ricciardo’s personal performance coach. How was the transition from fitness consultant to entering the motorsport world?
A huge change! I was very routine orientated as I had a very busy schedule as a PT in Perth, and to transition from 50 clients to 1 client was surprisingly difficult. Also, living out of a suitcase isn’t for everyone, so that took some time to get used to. The season is so fast-paced I didn’t really have time to settle; I had to ride the wave and deal with it. Not having a set routine was difficult at first; I found it challenging to look after myself, however like anything, the more you do something, the more you learn how to improve things.

Is working with professional athletes something you’ve always wanted to do?
Yes definitely, I’ve always had the drive to train professional athletes. As a coach who wouldn’t, they have special characteristics, which is an absolute joy to coach and helping them find their peak potential is very rewarding.

Formula 1 is demanding both physically and mentally, are there any challenges of training an F1 driver?
Yes, recovery is a big challenge, the season is so long, and we travel so much, the drivers don’t have that much time to rest. Crossing so many time zones can be an issue at times. Also, the neck undergoes a lot of G-force throughout a race; therefore keeping the neck strong is vital and something you need to keep on top of.

How do you keep your clients motivated?
Plan, plan, plan! Ensure my clients have completed a goal setting task to ensure they know their WHY! Then ensure they are celebrating the small wins along the way. Also, setting reminders to what you want to achieve. I have my 2021 goals on my wallpaper on my mobile and laptop, so I see them all day, every day, to remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing.

You focus on other people a lot, but how do you unwind from work, any hobbies outside of F1 and training?
I love my weights training; it stimulates me and keeps me positive. I also like running to clear the head if I’m in a busy patch and have a busy mind. I also enjoy reading, a nice quiet time to unwind and learn something new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work as a performance coach within motorsport?
I’d tell them it isn’t everything they see on camera; it’s a lot of hard work and travelling. You are away from home 70% of the year, so personal relationships and routine becomes very difficult to manage.
It’s a rewarding job; however, it comes with sacrifices, so be prepared.

What does a typical race week look like for you? Any pre-race training routines you could tell us about?
Thursdays, I set everything up, I set up our race room. Unpack our massage table, sort all of Daniels racing clothes out, prepare my training bag and sort out supplementation for the weekend. Friday and Saturdays are the most busy days, two sessions each day. Warming daniel up pre sessions, ensuring he’s hydrated and controlling his meal timings. Also, preparing his helmets and being on hand in case he needs anything. Sundays mostly the same, preparing him for the race.

We have to ask, what is the best moment you’ve had with Daniel since joining him as his coach?
Easy, 2018 Monaco. He was the fastest in every session, put the car on pole and won the race. The perfect weekend and the perfect drive.

Thank you to Michael for taking the time to talk to me about his experiences in Formula 1 for our ‘Working In Motorsport’ series. Motorsport is a world so many people would love to work in, and it’s great to hear stories and advice from those who are there.

Current Formula E Driver for NIO, McLaren test driver, and some incredible results within Endurance Racing, particularly the 24 Hour Le Mans. Who could I be talking about? No other than Oliver Turvey. Talking to someone with such vast experience within racing is always incredible, and Oliver is certainly no rookie when it comes to motorsport. I got to speak to him about those experiences and his plans for the future.

You’ve got a lot of experience in Formula E now; with this being your 6th full season in the series, what makes FE so special?
Formula E is special and unique in being the first fully-electric single-seater series, racing on street circuits in major cities around the world to promote the use of electric cars as fun, fast and more sustainable transport of the future. The series is also special, having a large number of major manufacturers, some of the best drivers in the world, making it one of the most competitive close-fought racing series in motorsport.

What are the main differences between Formula E and other single-seater series?
The main differences in Formula E are in the races with the energy management, the driving style required to save energy and the use of regen to recover energy into the corners. The other main differences are the cars have less downforce, and we have the same tyres for dry and wet conditions.

Are there any similarities?
It’s still a single-seater, so pushing the car to the limit in qualifying is just like driving any other car.

You’ve also had some brilliant successes at the 24 Hour Le Mans; how does the mentality of long stints in those cars differ from a 45-minute race with Formula E?
I have always enjoyed endurance racing, especially the 24 Hour Le Mans due to the physical and mental challenges of long stints in the car and racing through the night. In Formula E, although the races are shorter, the concentration required is extremely high for the street tracks whilst trying to manage the energy and race other cars! The races are more intense and requires a lot of thinking behind the wheel, which I believe is one of my strengths as a driver.

Is there any other racing series you’d like to compete in?
At the moment, I’m enjoying racing in Formula E and focusing on trying to become World Champion which has been one of my dreams since I started racing karts as a kid. However, in the future, I would love to go back to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is one of my favourite races, and it would be amazing to have the opportunity to be able to go for the outright victory one day.

This topic can be controversial amongst fans, but what are your thoughts on Fanboost?
I think it is a great initiative by Formula E to have Fanboost to allow the fans to be able to vote for their favourite driver to give them a chance to be able to have some extra power in the race that can make the difference when going for an overtaking move. I have been close to getting Fanboost in the last few races but just keep missing out, so please vote for me!

You’ve had plenty of teammates across different series in your racing career, are there any that stood out to you? Everybody has a favourite!
I’ve been fortunate to have some good teammates in my career, which I have always believed has helped push myself to perform at my best. In my junior career, Jaime Alguersuari was a great teammate in Formula 3 & World Series on and off the track. In Formula E, Nelson was a great teammate and a huge help to me in my first few seasons; we pushed each other yet worked well together.

Aside from being a Formula E driver, you’re also the McLaren F1 Test Driver – what does that entail?
I have been McLaren’s F1 Test Driver for 12 seasons now, so occasionally get to test the car on track but due to limited track, testing mainly involves driving their simulator in Woking. I work closely with the engineers on the development of each new car, set up ahead of races and supporting the race team over Grand Prix weekends.

Season Four saw the end of car swaps in Formula E; describe what it was like to jump out of your car and into another one mid-race? Did it ever make you lose focus?
It was always an intense, exciting part of the race, although challenging once they removed the minimum stop time during season four. We used to spend hours practising at the factory on a race weekend to make them as quick as possible, as the race could be decided by the pit stop time. It was tough for the mechanics as they had the pressure to do the belts, radio and get out of the way so that I could focus on the race.

Lastly, do you have any future plans in terms of racing?
My only future plans are to keep striving to be the best I can be with the aim to be a World Champion.

Thank you, Oliver, for taking the time to talk to me. If you would like to see Oliver in action, the next round of the Formula E Championship is on the 10th of July in New York. Remember to vote for him for Fanboost too!

Linsay Winkler is a 19-year-old young woman who has been working in motorsport as a mechanic since she was 15.

She already gained a lot of experience in different teams and racing classes and aims to be an engineer in the future. I was delighted to sit down with this young technical talent to ask her a few questions about her current role and her experiences working within motorsport.

You clearly have a passion for motorsport, how did you come into contact with the sport, and why did you choose the technical side of it?
To start at the very beginning, my father has always worked in motorsport. He was a manager of a driver, mechanic and team boss; he stopped doing this when I was about 12 years old. In addition, my parents have a go-kart track, so of course, I already learned things. I was never really interested in motorsport myself, and instead, I was doing a different sport at a high level, which I was very busy with. When Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix (if I remember correctly), a few days later, the Max Verstappen racing days took place in Zandvoort. After Max’s win, my father was invited and naturally also wanted to take a look, so I went with him. There I met a lot of people, which increased my interest enormously. A few months later, Jos Verstappen took us to the Formula One test days, and my father took me to a Formula 4 race weekend where I immediately fell in love with the sport. I wanted to join the F4 team every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday evening. There were two free practice sessions, a qualifying session and three races per weekend where I went into the pit lane to see everything; during the sessions, I had nothing to do because, of course, I was there as a guest. I asked the other technicians to ask if I could do something, and I got into it because I was allowed and able to do more and more.

Could you tell me more about your role and the duties?
A mechanic is actually responsible for the car before, during and after the sessions. Basically, they make changes that are communicated by the driver or engineer and make sure the car is ready to race. We also adapt the car to the driver, so each driver has a different seat that must be made; the pedals are different for each driver as well due to their length, and each driver has a different driving style with the corresponding adjustments. In addition, we naturally replace parts and repair them if necessary. This may sound logical, but actually, we are constantly working on the car to get the best out of the car and ensure that everything is mounted perfectly.

You are currently studying Aeronautical Engineering; isn’t that very different from motorsport? Why did you choose this study?
The aeronautical engineering study is the perfect study to understand race car aerodynamics. Many people think this is something completely different, but almost most engineers have followed this study. My father always said that I first had to know the technical (mechanic) side of the car and then, with this knowledge, become a more complete engineer. Last year was, therefore, the perfect time to gain more knowledge in addition to working as a mechanic by following the study of aeronautical engineering.

Your work seems to me to be both physically and mentally intense because the performance of others partly depends on your performance. How do you train yourself in this? How do you keep yourself sharp?
 If you work in motorsport, you work long days and make short nights, so I prepare myself for this all year round by trying to get as much energy from my sleep as possible and getting up on time. So, during a race weekend, this won’t feel like a completely different pattern.
In addition, it is also a physical burden. I don’t perform pit stops in the W Series like in Formula 1. If I did, the physical aspect would be even more enormous. I can say the mechanics train all year round to be physically as strong as possible. I also train throughout the year to get as much out of my body as possible physically. But for me, the most important thing is that a race weekend is physically (little sleep and hard work) affected as little as possible by the changes compared to, for example, when I have classes.

What does a typical race week look like for you? Are there any routines you can tell more about? 
Every race weekend actually has a kind of fixed routine, but no two weekends are the same. Usually, the weekend starts on Monday or Tuesday when we travel to the track. Then on Wednesday, we pitch the tent and start working on the cars. On Thursday, we prepare the cars for training and qualifying on Friday. Free practice’s and qualifying are on Friday. After Friday, we prepare the cars for the race on Saturday or Sunday in the evening. Every weekend is obviously different; when a car is damaged, you work differently than when the car is perfectly adjusted, and the driver does not require any adjustments.

Do you have a moment in your career so far that you are proud of? Or very exciting moments?
The race at Assen with the W Series in 2019 was really cool! I was there for the first time with the W Series, and as a mechanic, I got to win with Megan Gilkes. On Saturday evening, we were told that we could be on pole in the reverse grid race on Sunday, which was very exciting. On Sunday, Megan won the race with +0.034 seconds, if I’m correct. The last laps I have been biting my nails and shaking like crazy because I was so nervous, but in the end, I was very proud of her that she had just won the race!

You work in a sport that is mainly dominated by men; how do you keep your position strong in this world among men? And how do you manage to inspire other women with this?
I think basically everyone I have worked with always says that I am a very hard worker. In addition, many people (mechanics, engineers, drivers) really enjoy working with me, which is a very nice compliment, and thankfully I also enjoy working with them! I don’t see myself as someone who inspires other women, but I do hope that women who doubt they can see me and think if I can, they can do this too!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to work as a Mechanic / Engineer? 
Just do it! I believe that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough and do something that you enjoy!

On behalf of Grid Talk, I would like to thank Linsay for taking the time to talk to me about her experiences in and around the paddock! We hope this inspires you to follow your dreams.

Humorous, versatile and informative. Just three of the words I would use to describe a commentator. For me, the role of a commentator is more important than meets the eye. I have to feel their passion and excitement for the sport as much as I do. I got to speak to current Formula 1 and Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls about his experiences in the role and how he got there.

Hi Jack, could you please tell me about your main role as a commentator within motorsport, particularly the ABB FIA Formula E Championship?
I have been commentating on Formula E since it first started back in 2014, and I also cover Formula 1 for BBC Radio 5 live. I’m lucky enough to work with 3 times Indy500 winner Dario Franchitti, and it’s our job to bring this new form of motorsport to people and try and get them excited about it!

Have you always been a big fan of motorsport? If so, does it help with commentating when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about?
I started watching motorsport when I was 6 and got obsessed pretty quickly after. I used to watch every F1 race and went to my first British Grand Prix when I was 7. My dad and I then started travelling to races when I was a bit older, to tracks like Spa, Valencia and Monza, and I even saved up and went to Melbourne in 2009 by myself when I was 19!

Have you always wanted to be a commentator? How did you break into the industry?
I did always want to be a commentator. I loved Murray Walker, and the idea of just shouting and getting excited by the racing always really appealed to me. I used to write my own commentary notes at the start of each season from about the age of 8! But it was never something that I actually thought about pursuing until I had a gap year between my A-Levels and University. I started marshalling at my local race track at Snetterton and heard that they had commentators there, so I asked if I could try. I started doing more and more while I was at Uni, to the point where when I graduated, I could become a full-time commentator.

Was there anyone you looked up to in terms of commentating?
Ben Edwards is the best. Clearly, everyone’s hero is Murray Walker, but in my really formative years, it was Ben commentating on British Touring Cars and A1GP that made me the commentator that I am now. He has incredible knowledge but manages to get that across to the audience without sounding smug, and he is so good at reading races and conveying that to the viewer.

What is your favourite track to commentate on?
Monza and Monaco are my two favourite tracks to commentate on. I love the history of Monza and the atmosphere. You climb up some rickety old stairs to the commentary booths, which are on top of one of the grandstands, and then the cars flash past you at 220mph. The atmosphere there is like nothing else. Of course, Monaco is a very different type of atmosphere, but the buzz around a Grand Prix weekend is fantastic. The commentary boxes back onto the harbour, and they overlook the whole pitlane. As with everywhere in Monaco, space is at a premium, so there’s barely room for us in the booth, but it adds to the chaotic nature of the weekend.

What advice would you give someone who wants to commentate on motorsport in the future?
ESports are a great place to start. It’s actually where I started commentating; then, I was able to show my work to people in the real world to try and get work. The most important thing is to be yourself and let your personality come through. The audience wants to get a sense of who you are, not of who you’re trying to be. Don’t feel you have to do things that other commentators do; find your own path.

What does a typical Formula E Race Weekend look like for you?
I will usually fly to a race on the Wednesday, then start work on a Thursday. Thursday is mostly production meetings and technical checks. Friday, I spend a lot of time in the pitlane talking to teams and drivers to find out the latest news, and I will walk the track. Walking the track is much more important in Formula E because they often change each year. Then Saturday is race day! They are long days, so my alarm will usually go off about 6 am; we then get on a bus and travel to the track arriving about 7 am, then first practice starts at 8 am! There is very little time between sessions, so I try and speak to as many people as possible in the 45 minutes I have! Then there is qualifying; I eat some lunch, then prepare for the race by looking through the grid sheet and making some notes. Then the race starts, and we finish work at about 6 pm!

How do you prepare for a race?
I make quite extensive notes before each race for Formula E; because I am the voice of the championship, I feel a lot of responsibility to get things right, and there is much less information available. Whereas with Formula 1, there’s so much more discussion about it in the wider world that I don’t feel the need to do as much preparation.

Motorsport is a very opinionated sport for everyone! Do you ever find it difficult to try and show unbiased opinions when commentating?
I don’t find it difficult at all, because all I want to see is a good race! I am more friendly with some drivers than others. For example, I’ve done a lot of work with Robin Frijns over the years, but if he is racing, I don’t want him to win more than anyone else. I just want to see a good fight and a good race!

You’ve worked on several different racing series, Formula 2, Formula 1 and of course Formula E – does your commentating style differ from series to series?
The biggest difference is between TV and Radio. When I commentate on Formula E for the TV, I am watching along with the audience. We are enjoying the action together. But on radio, you have the be the conduit for them to know what is going on, so you have to explain things a lot more, and I am more of the narrator of the race. On TV I can talk less, but radio, if you stop talking then it’s silent, which isn’t great radio!

On behalf of the Grid Talk team, I’d like to thank Jack for agreeing to talk to me and contribute to our Working In Motorsport series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this incredible insight into the role of a commentator in motorsport.

A clear talent in the world of female motorsport, Sabré Cook is working hard both on and off the track to make it to the top. With the return of the W Series just weeks away, I was lucky enough to talk to chat to Sabré about her goals and aspirations for this year, women in motorsport and much more.  

Like many drivers, Sabré got her start in the sport because of her father, a motocross and supercross rider in the 80s. With the risk of this sport being high, her parents wanted her and her brother to start karting instead, which she did at the age of 8. Having found a love for the sport, she continued to race in karts for many years but struggled to find the funding to get her there. This changed in 2017 when she was able to kickstart her journey towards her ultimate goal of IndyCar. After years of trying to build the budget for single-seater racing, finding some key sponsors allowed Cook to race in USF2000 and US F4. Taking part in these series was enough to get her noticed by the W Series head-hunters, and after testing in 2018, she gained one of the 18 coveted places on the 2019 grid, and from there, her success has continued.

More than a driver:

Racing is not Sabré’s only passion, however, as she is also a talented motorsport engineer. Having won the US final of the Infiniti Junior Engineering Academy in 2019, allowing her to move to the UK to assume a position with Infiniti and, therefore, the Renault F1 team. For Sabré, this was a second chance at a dream, with the move to Europe coming at the perfect time. Following “a constant struggle with sponsorship”, which made it so difficult to get into a car, especially in a professional series, W Series “matched up perfectly” with her living and working in the UK. Without this, the series simply “wouldn’t have been feasible”.

Being able to work so closely with cars was, of course, a massive opportunity for the American driver, but it doesn’t always have any on-track benefits. Sabré discussed how it does allow her to have a “deeper understanding”, meaning they can often “get to a solution faster”, but this isn’t beneficial in spec series like W Series. Unlike Formula 1, spec series drivers all compete in identical cars, meaning she’s “limited on the changes she can make”.

Working hard both on and off-track became important for Sabré in 2020 when she could concentrate on coaching and some engineering for Formula Mazda in the US. She was also lucky enough to drive in two IndyPro and 2 SCCA races, allowing her to keep her skills sharp ahead of a very busy 2021. She has already been able to compete in 6 races this year, which she remarked was more than ever before, something she was “extremely happy about”.

Women in Motorsport – is W Series important?

Sabré recognises that W Series was very beneficial as it allowed her to “build [her] brand and get more exposure”, which helped her continue competing in many series in the United States this year. With so much support for W Series in 2019, she feels that joining the F1 weekend will only allow that support to branch out even more.

With female drivers becoming an increasingly common sight in mainstream racing series, Sabré, like many people, is pleased to see the recognition that the women competing in W Series are getting. She remarked about how this had allowed young girls to see a clear path and goal, stating that “almost every young girl [she meets] saying ‘she wants to make it to W Series'” Hearing that girls see W Series as a goal is so important for the future of women in motorsport. As more young girls see women just like them competing, the goals of these up-and-coming talents will only continue to be bolder and more equal to those of young boys.

Goals and ambitions – this year and beyond:

Competing in so many different series in 2021 and beyond, Sabré has many aims and goals for the future. In terms of the W Series, her main aim is to improve on her 2019 performance. Having gone in with the “least experience of anyone”, building on last season is important to her, with hopes to “finish in the points in every race and improve [her] overall championship position“.  Sabré also announced just last week that she would be competing in two Porsche Sprint Challenge races this year, the first of these races being this weekend at COTA (Circuit of The Americas), where she hopes to see how she stacks up against her competition. Using this experience, she hopes to finish in the top 5 at the second race at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) in early June.  

In terms of longer-term aspirations, Sabré’s goal is IndyCar, focussing on racing in the medium term and returning to engineering once her racing days are behind her. She talked about how important engineering is to her and that she will continue to work on small projects on the side, with an aim being to work for a top F1 or IndyCar team as a performance or race engineer. However, she also has an interest in aerospace, which may be something she comes back to in the future. Ultimately though, “the focus is on the driving now” as she works towards her IndyCar aspirations.

Thank you once again to Sabré for taking the time to speak with me. We wish her the best of luck with her many series this year. Porsche Sprint Challenge at COTA starts this Friday, with W Series beginning at Le Castellet, France, on 26th June.

James Calado, a name you’ll have heard within the world of motorsport, and if you haven’t, where have you been? The British racing driver is currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship for AF Corse. James is no rookie when it comes to racing; his experience as a driver expands from single-seater series such as GP2, Formula E and Formula One, and taking part, and winning 2019 24 Hour Le Mans.

I’ve always been interested in how racing drivers can adapt to different series and, ultimately, different cars. James Calado was the perfect person to sit down and speak to about his motorsport experiences.

Now, I’ve often seen the WEC vs F1 debate floating through the motorsport hemisphere, which has always made me wonder whether single-seater racing is, in fact, more complex. “I would say no car is harder than the other”, James told me, “It’s more about the level of the championship that we are competing in. If anything, single-seaters are easier in the fact they are lighter and have more downforce.”

There are some main differences between the two series, “I think it’s clear that endurance racing is more about the long-distance and working with a teammate with who you share the car. It’s important to have a good strategy, and obviously not always the quickest driver will win.” Many endurance drivers have said that preparing for long stint races can be more ‘mind over matter’ than the physical demands expected from Formula One drivers. “Le Mans is very demanding, and it’s important to keep the car in one piece and to rest as much as possible as it’s a long week, but with experience now, I find myself able to manage 24-hour races in a good way.”

Since 2014, Formula E has slowly begun gaining popularity with not just racing fans but with manufacturers too. Although it doesn’t take the spotlight of Formula One right now, it does provide closer racing without a dominating world champion. James Calado raced in Formula E with Jaguar in the 2019-2020 Championship; he told me, “(It) is certainly unique, and very software related. They are different to drive and very complex machines. Formula E was always an interest as I saw it as one of the most competitive championships to be involved in. Unfortunately, with the covid situation, I only did a handful of races, and that didn’t work in my favour despite scoring points in most races.

Alongside Formula E, James had retained his seat with AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship; I asked him whether it was challenging to switch between them. “Both cars are completely different”, James stated, “Driving the Ferrari is second nature to me; I have been at Ferrari a few years now, and I’m used to the car and the Italian Culture. Formula E was completely new; it wasn’t so much about knowing how to drive the car quick, more about getting on top of the energy management and how to be efficient in a race.

It was exciting to gain an insight into James’ career, which has spanned across a range of different racing series. I couldn’t let him leave without asking which series he had enjoyed the most and what his dream would be. He replied: “The series I have enjoyed the most is WEC, there is a great atmosphere within the championship, and sports cars produce great racing. I was the third driver at Force India, and I competed in many FP1 sessions”, he recalled, “So, I had my taste in F1, but for political reasons, I wasn’t able to get myself a seat although offers were on the table. I’m extremely happy to be working with Ferrari and really enjoy the racing. I wouldn’t change anything.

Thank you to James for talking with me; we wish you the best of luck in the World Endurance Championship this season. WEC kicks off next week at Spa Francorchamps on the 1st May 2021.

Rachel Brookes, an inspiration to many women and young girls who watch the pinnacle of motorsport week in, week out. Her journey into Formula 1 started with a passion just like you and me and is proof that if you work hard, you will eventually be in the right place at the right time. I was extremely fortunate to sit down and ask Rachel a few questions about her current role and her experiences from working within motorsport.

Please could you tell me about your role within the Sky Sports F1 team?
I am a presenter and reporter for Sky Sports F1, working primarily at race weekends but with other work and shoots outside of race weekends. I present the F1 show and all F2 and F3 sessions when I am on-site, as well as filming features and interviews for our shows. I also do the post-session interviews with drivers.

Have you always wanted to be a presenter? If so, was Formula One always a dream of yours?
I never planned to be a presenter. I kind of fell into it. I don’t think anyone should plan to be a TV presenter. Find something you are passionate about and work towards your goal of working in it. I have always loved Formula One and watched it with my brothers when I was younger. I never dreamed I would work in it one day as I never really saw any women in the coverage when I watched it unless they were grid girls or drivers wives/girlfriends. Because of that, I don’t think I ever thought it was an option open to me, so I never even considered it. I did want to be a radio presenter, though, and I am sure that is because there were women on the radio when I was growing up.

Was the road to becoming a presenter tougher than you thought it would be? Was there anything you had to sacrifice?
As I hadn’t thought about being a presenter, I didn’t really have any expectations. I went from step to step until I ended up presenting, so it wasn’t that tough for me. If you work in sport, sacrifices come with the territory, unfortunately. Sport usually happens on the weekend, so you learn early on that you will be missing out on a lot of things, from birthdays to weddings and everything in between. It also means that after a while, the invitations stop coming because people assume you will be working or away. It’s funny because I thought I was the only one who felt like this until I spoke to my friends in F1 about it, and they all said the same thing. So, yes, there are plenty of sacrifices, and you need to be prepared for them.

Do you need to be signed up to an agency or talent space to become a presenter?
I still don’t really consider myself a presenter. I am a broadcast journalist, which means I weigh heavily on the side of journalism as opposed to being a “presenter”. You don’t need an agent or talent space to be a broadcast journalist; in fact, it is usually better for you not to have one. There is a difference between a broadcast journalist and a presenter. I would say broadcast journalists usually get work on merit, on experience or on achievements made along the way and, as such, don’t need an agent to get them to work. Presenters quite often have agents because they are looking for a variety of presenting work. They don’t necessarily want to concentrate on one thing or specialise. I have an agent now because as a result of the work I have done, I get offered various other work, and I discuss with him whether I should do them and use him to negotiate the fee, as I am terrible at that! Agents definitely have their place, but you need to work hard in the first place to be an attractive proposition for an agent, as they need to be able to make money off you, and you need to decide which direction you are going in.

What is it like being a female reporter in a male-dominated paddock and sport?
It has changed a lot in the nine years I have been working in the sport. There are a lot more women working in the paddock and in a huge variety of roles. We all support each other, and some of those women have become my closest friends. There are the odd incidents of sexism but are becoming few and far between, and we have a duty to be vocal when those incidents occur to try and stop them from happening in future and to the next generation.

Is there anything you think could help get more women interested in working in the sport?
I have always said ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and as such we have a duty to highlight all those women who work in motorsport now in all their many varied roles, so that young girls coming through know about all the opportunities available to them. As I said earlier, I didn’t see women presenting Formula One when I was little. Hopefully, young girls now will see me, or Lee Mckenzie for Channel Four or Nicki Shields presenting Formula E and realise it’s an option for them. Perhaps more importantly, I want them to see Ruth Buscombe, the Alfa Romeo strategist, or Michelle Creighton, the composite technician at Aston Martin Racing or any other women who work in motorsport.

What advice would you give to those wanting to work in Formula One?
Don’t want to work in Formula One, want to work in motorsport. Very few people ever walk straight into Formula One. You need to have a passion for motorsport first of all, and that means maybe working in some of the other series first to get your knowledge and understanding up to scratch before getting to work in Formula One.

What does a typical F1 race weekend look like for you?
My race weekend starts much earlier in the week when I do all my prep. I read up on the previous race, check for any lines or stories that have come since then and make my notes on each driver ahead of speaking to them. I want to know that if, for example, Max has an engine issue in a session, whether he has had it before that season or even if his teammate has, or maybe even another team using that engine manufacturer. Once at the track, Thursday is all about driver interviews, pre-records for the weekend and preparing for the F1 show, which is now on a Thursday evening. For that, I will listen to all the driver interviews from that day as well as adding my own input according to what I have read that week or found out in the paddock that day from chatting to people.

On Fridays this year, I am lead commentary for the first practice session. This is something totally new for me and requires a lot more prep than anything else. If you can imagine talking for an hour with nothing scripted for you, that is what it’s like. I have to react to what is going on our screens, which is provided by F1 and called the World Feed. I have one or two pundits alongside me who I bring into the conversation, and we try to make it as interesting and informative as possible. Saturday is a lot of driver interviews in the pen but also some pre-recorded links for our qualifying show. Sundays are very busy with track parade interviews, pre-records and more post-session driver interviews. Also, across the weekend, I present the F2 and F3 sessions as well as doing the post-race interviews for them so you can see why I do so much prep!

If there is one, what’s one thing you would change about your job?
I really don’t think I would change anything right now.

Your most memorable interview?
I would say that is my recent interview with Lewis Hamilton. The question I get asked most frequently when people find out I work in Formula One is “What is Lewis Hamilton really like?” Normally his interviews are very racing based, and you hear very similar answers from him. So I recently pitched to my boss that I wanted to do the next sit down interview with him for Sky Sports F1. I had to send a full pitch and question topics to him and luckily persuaded him to let me do it. My only interviews with Lewis for the last six years have been in the interview pen, and they are now limited to just two questions. So this was a rare opportunity to talk about other things, and I really wanted to show the other side to Lewis in the hope that people would feel like they knew a little more about him after watching it. He was really open and generous, and I enjoyed the interview. So did he luckily, even saying as he took his microphone off, “I enjoyed that, I hope your bosses see it and let you do more,” and so do I!

For those of us who aspire to work in the world of motorsport, getting our foot through the front door can seem almost impossible. We’re hoping for this to become a series, to share the stories of those who have made it, and to inspire us, and the next generation who want to continue in their footsteps. On behalf of the team at Grid Talk, I would like to thank Rachel for taking the time to speak to me about her experiences in the paddock.

Pin It