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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.

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.

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