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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.

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.

Current IndyCar Lights champion, Oliver Askew has had a whirlwind few years from winning the 2017 USF2000 Championship to being announced as an IndyCar driver for the 2020 Season. I was lucky enough to get to speak to him about about his career so far, his achievments in IndyCar and a sneak peek into his upcoming projects.

Hi Oliver! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me. How have you been spending the off-season?
I’ve been trying to find a job for 2021! Staying active is the priority.

What first got you interested in racing?
It happened by accident. Nothing lured me towards it. It was a birthday gift to go out to the kart track when I turned 8 years old. The rest, Is history.

How was the transition from IndyLights to IndyCar?
Not bad! If you can imagine, the IndyCar just does everything better. More grip, better brakes and more horsepower.

You got your very first IndyCar podium in Iowa in July after starting 14th! How did that feel?
Amazing. I live for moments like that, when everything just clicks.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to be a Racecar Driver?
It’s all about connections, having the talent and working harder than everyone else.

What was it like competing in your first Indianapolis 500?
Great aside from not having any fans there. I hope I can compete there again and get the full experience.

Has F1 ever been a long term goal? If not, would you ever race in any other categories?
It’s never been on the radar. My path was always to IndyCar through the Road To Indy.

Do you have any hidden talents you want to share?
I can play guitar and love to surf!

So, without revealing any secrets, what’s your plans for 2021?
Like I said before, the priority is to stay active in something, but the goal is to continue professionally in IndyCar or in a sportscar.

As a fan of Oliver, I wish him all the best in his future endeavours and I’m very excited to see what comes next for him. A special thank you for taking the time to talk to me!

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