Birmingham’s son, Graeme Murray Walker
Is a legend of sorts and a real slick talker
I’ve listened to Murray, most of my life
I’ve spent more time with him, than I have with my wife
From lands afar to our home Grand Prix
For the BBC and ITV
On race day Sundays, he would appease
He held our attention with class and ease
With a friendly voice and a friendly smile
With brilliant diction in his own style
Finding a way, to make us chuckle
A simple comment causing knees to buckle
His “Walkerisms” are world renowned
His effect on our sport has been profound
He is the voice of Formula One
He may be ill, but he’s not done
Join me please, in wishing him well
And a quick recovery, from this rough spell
While he rests, we’ll reminisce
‘…and I interrupt myself to bring you this….’
Which Murray quote, best caught your ear?
“Well he’s world champion, and we only get one of those a year.”?
He’s a quick and clever, son of a gun
“This will be Williams’ first win since the last time a Williams won.”
Don’t challenge the man, he knows his stuff
“Do my eyes deceive me, or is Senna’s Lotus sounding rough?”
Sometimes causing lines, to be quite blurred
“Senna is 3rd with Mansell 2nd and Piquet 3rd!”
He had me confused when he did declare,
“You can’t see Alesi’s Ferrari because it isn’t there!”
Laughing hard with a tear in my eye,
“…and the rain came down and washed the circuit dry”
It’s no wonder this legend, causes a buzz
“Anything happens in Grand Prix racing and it usually does”
Our thoughts and prayers are with you mate
We’ll be waiting for you at Silverstone’s gate
Photos from behind the F1 scenes – Part 2
Ever wonder how they capture the sound of the cars on the circuit? Ever wonder what the speed trap looks like? Have you ever seen an F1 wheel with the tyre mounted? Well here you go!
I apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the photos. One has to be quick and cannot always afford the time to sit and take a proper photo. Most of these shots were captured on my mobile.
Photos from behind the F1 scenes. Ever wonder how they capture the sound of the cars on the circuit? Ever wonder what the speed trap looks like? Have you ever seen an F1 wheel with the tyre mounted? Well here you go!
If you follow my Twitter feed, you might know that I spent the Canadian GP in the paddock trying to bring my followers as close to the action behind the scenes as possible. I’ve decided to share some of my photos here on my blog for those of you not on Twitter.
I apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the photos. One has to be quick and cannot always afford the time to sit and take a proper photo. Most of these shots were captured on my mobile.
Umbrellas in hand and off to the track
Canada’s buzzing as F1 is back
Plenty of action in store for fans
As they rush to the park and concession stands
It’s a wonderful show, behind the scenes
As teams and media go through their routines
A well oiled machine with Rolex perfection
And symphonic V8′s as the rhythm section
The track may be silent, but the paddock’s abuzz
There’s no one that does this, like F1 does
Qualifying was run in slick conditions
And team bosses debated like old politicians
Discussions of tyres and private tests
Refuse to subside like annoying pests
There were no winners at the Canadian GP
Just three chaps on the podium interviewed by Eddie
After all was said and all was done
It was a sad day in Formula One
In a fight for life, a battle was lost
As a marshal passed, which is too steep a cost
These are the dangers, of the sport we adore
But they’re far too sever, for us to ignore
To his family,our sympathies we send
As F1 fans a warm embrace we extend
Next we’re off to Silverstone
As the battle continues for F1′s throne
Hoping and praying for safer days
It’s back to business without delays
Thursday June 6th, media day at the Canadian GP. The day started as though I had awoken on the wrong side of the bed. I’m staying with my friend Guido Grasso, actor/comedian/restaurantuer who lives in just north of the city. Public transit was the least of my worries. I arrived to the circuit early, however it’s quite the distance from the “Metro” station to the paddock. My first mistake was asking security where I could catch the media shuttle, no one could tell me. Therefore, I decided to sneak on the bus for a slow lap of the circuit with the intention of hopping off at the pit lane entry.
In the end, it took me a total of two hours to make it to the media centre. My mate Jordan Irvine met me at the gate, helped me get settled and registered before going for a stroll through the paddock.
It was a phenomenal day. I never take for granted the opportunities afforded to me that allow me to rub shoulders and chat with our F1 heroes. I gave Heikki a hard time about not partying with us this weekend and chatted about F1 poetry with Pirelli’s Mario Isola. I finally met Tom Briggs (@1derpony) from McLaren, interviewed Charles Pic and Geido Van De Garde one on one. Attending the FIA driver’s conference was a treat, as was chatting with Tom Webb at Caterham. I could litterally go on and on and I would enjoy reliving every moment.
The best feeling of all was introducing myself as Ernie Black and having people say, Hey! You’re @TheF1Poet. Absolutely priceless!
Here is the complete schedule of events for the Canadian GP
Thursday 6th June
Promoter Activity Open House 09:00 – 12:00
Promoter Activity F1 Drivers Autograph Session 09:30 – 11:00
Formula One Press Conference – Press Room 11:00
Friday 7th June
Ferrari Challenge First Practice Session (20 Mins) 08:50 – 09:10
Formula One Practice 1 10:00 – 11:30
CTCC Practice Session (30 Mins) 11:55 – 12:25
Formula One Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk 12:30 – 13:30
Formula One Practice 2 14:00 – 15:30
Ferrari Challenge Second Practice Session (20 Mins) 15:55 – 16:15
Formula One Press Conference – Press Room 16:00 – 17:00
CTCC Qualifying Session (30 Mins) 16:30 – 17:00
Porsche IMSA GT3 Practice Session (30 Mins) 17:15 – 17:45
Formula 1600 Qualifying (30 Mins) 18:00 – 18:30
Saturday 8th June
Formula One Team Pit Stop Practice 07:30 – 08:30
Ferrari Challenge Qualifying Session (30 Mins) 08:45 – 09:15
Formula One Practice 3 10:00 – 11:00
Porsche IMSA GT3 Qualifying Session (30 Mins) 11:15 – 11:45
Formula One Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk 11:50 – 12:45
Formula One Qualifying 13:00
Formula 1600 First Race (30 Minutes) 14:30 – 15:00
CTCC First Race (30 Minutes) 15:30 – 16:00
Ferrari Challenge First Race (30 Minutes) 16:30 – 17:00
Porsche IMSA GT3 First Race (30 Minutes) 17:30 – 18:00
Sunday 9th June
CTCC Second Race (30 Minutes) 09:00 – 09:30
Formula 1600 Second Race (30 Minutes) 09:45 – 10:15
Porsche IMSA GT3 Second Race (30 Minutes) 10:30 – 11:00
Ferrari Challenge Second Race (30 Minutes) 11:15 – 11:45
Formula One Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk 12:00 – 13:15
Formula One Formula One Drivers Parade (P) 12:30
Formula One Starting Grid Presentation 12:45 – 13:15
Formula One National Anthem 13:46
Air Display CF-18 Canadian Air Force Fly Pass 13:47
Formula One Race 14:00
Formula One, is on its way
Across the pond and far away
To a friendly land of good spirit and cheer
Where the winter is cold and so is the beer
F1 stops in Montreal
Where drivers and teams for the podium will brawl
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is where the battle takes place
And fans welcome all with a warm embrace
Flags and horns and painted faces
With Banners and cameras, fans cover all bases
The passion is fierce, the history runs deep
The city is rockin’, no one shall sleep
Night clubs and bars are open late
From parties on streets, then straight to the gate
A little hung-over, but ready for action
F1′s in our blood, it’s the main attraction
Reporting live with a smile on my face
Meeting and greeting all over the place
My bags are packed, I’m ready to roll
Eager to see who will take pole
Excited and pumped is my disposition
F1 bliss is my only mission
When the lights go out, I’ll put my pen down
I’m enjoying this race, then I’ll paint the town
Join me please, either live or online
Destination F1, on Cloud number nine
Wednesday morning 9:25am EST, after somepublic transit delays including have to disembark on train due to technical problems, I’m finally on my way. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of public transit. I usually prefer to take the car everywhere I go. I like the freedom, I love to drive, I even don’t mind getting assaulted by ridiculously absurd parking fees.
There are exceptions however and this trip is one of these exceptions. I was reintroduced to the train on my honeymoon two years back. I enjoyed gazing out of the window and seeing the european country side. There is a vast difference between Canada and most countries in Europe, but on the train, there seems to be some sort of familiarity. One tends to see small towns, remote habitats and a lot of untouched and barren land.
Southern Canada, in the late spring is quite green and lush. It’s pleasant. The train is just as pleasant, it’s quiet and relatively smooth. I don’t have to worry about traffic or stopping for petrol. I don’t care if it’s raining or foggy. Just sit and enjoy the ride.
The biggest advantage for me is really the ability to sit and write. It affords me the time to reflect and make notes for future pieces and poems. I’m traveling alone, and this train is virtually empty. The smell of freshly brewed coffee is permiating the cabin. Even if one doesn’t drink coffee, there is a certain sense of comfort the aroma gives off.
This is Canadian GP 22 for me as some of my readers may know. Never before have I traveled to Montreal for an F1 race by train. I’m already on the back foot. I am to arrive at my destination by 3:30ish if all goes well. I need to rush across town to drop of my luggage and gear, then rush down to the FIA accreditation office to pick up my accreditation pass, then off to the FOTA Forum, by 5:00pm. I highly doubt I’m going to make it. Somewhere in there I’ll have to hook up with my editor at F1Plus.com.
If you’re interested in a play by play from the paddock, please feel free to follow me on Twitter @TheF1Poet. I’ll try to post photos and tweet about what’s happening from the media centre.
Allow me to give you a sneak peak into the future. My official partner The Code 20 along with its partners and sponsors bring to you, FOOD PORN!
LEXUS CANADA presents THE CODE 20′s FOOD PORN | MONTREAL GRAND PRIX CLOSING PARTY @ LA QUEUE DE CHEVAL | SUNDAY, JUNE 9th 2013
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When it comes to racing, motorsports and fast cars, many of us are armchair critics. We fantasize about driving fast cars around race tracks and envision ourselves braking later and ducking up the inside of the car in front. The truth is, very few people have the opportunity to live out their petrol head fantasies. It is a sad reality that financial restraints are the limiting factor.
Yesterday I spent the day with 50 or so petrol heads that truly get to enjoy their cars the way they were intended to be enjoyed. If you’ve been following this little mini series, you may already know that my host yesterday was my friend Peter Cheney, Globe and Mail columnist for the Drive section. Peter is meticulous, checking and adjusting tyre pressures and checking tyre temperatures, ensuring all systems are perfect before heading out on the track to let all the ponies under the hood, out to play. Spending the time on the circuit with Peter was a memorable experience, however, just having had a chance to listen to Peter’s stories was incredible. He is a man with a lifetime of experiences and true passion for the automobile.
Peter respects the rules and the others on track and is fully committed to safety. He is also very committed to performance and the perfect lap. Time and time again, I watched Peter nail every apex. He is so smooth, he’s gingerly and so very precise.
Peter’s Lotus Evora is a perfect Track-Day car. It’s well balanced, handles a dream and has just enough grunt to make the experience enjoyable and not scary. While many of us believe we can mimic our F1 heroes, a track day at the wheel can be humbling experience where our limits are found, explored and realized.
In preparation for the Canadian GP, I’ve got so much to do as one might imagine. Setting up my interviews for my time in the Paddock as well as my evenings. Tweet-ups and rendezvous are just as important. Networking is key and it has historically been easier to have a few words with team personnel and drivers when things aren’t so formal…especially over a pint.
As today is my wedding anniversary, I’m calling it a day. I have to pack my bags, check my list, and get everything ready. Tomorrow morning, I leave at 7am for what will be my 22nd Canadian GP.
Ron Howard’s RUSH tells the true story of F1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt – one of the most legendary rivalries in sports history. Don’t miss the RUSH experience at the Grand Prix du Canada next weekend, with an F1 simulator, Rush’s podium photo opp, a chance to win a replica 1976 Niki Lauda or James Hunt helmet, and more!
Monday June 3rd, two full days before I board a train on my way to F1 bliss. I’m very excited about today. I’m spending the day with my friend Mr. Peter Cheney of the Globe and Mail. He’s the National driving columnist and absolute car fanatic! An engineer trapped in a writer’s body. I swear, if he cuts, he bleeds petrol. He wasn’t always an automotive journalist however. In fact, on the Globe’s website, it says the following,
“Peter Cheney launched his driving column after 25 years as an award-winning feature writer, investigative reporter and news correspondent.” … Going to say “Peter has covered everything from plane crashes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the winner of three National Newspaper awards for investigative and foreign reporting, and was nominated for a fourth in the feature-writing category. He is also a five-time winner of the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for investigative reporting.” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/authors/peter-cheney)
You can follow Peter on Twitter (@CheneyDrive) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cheneydrive), believe me, you won’t be disappointed. Peter’s command of the English language married with his experiences and savoir-fair makes for some seriously enjoyable reading.
If just hanging out with Peter wasn’t enough, we’ll be in his sexy Lotus Evora on a Track Day at the legendary Canadian Mosport circuit. It’s actually called the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park now (http://www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com/), but F1 fans will know it best as Mosport Park.
The Canadian GP connection?
In 1967, just a few years before I was born, Mosport hosted the first (Player’s sponsored) Canadian Grand Prix. There, in the remote northern countryside of a rather rural town, a massive 58,000 fans gathered to watch Jack Brabham beat Denny Hulme to the flag. Ten years later, Canada’s own son (Gilles Villeneuve) would compete at Mosport at the wheel of his Ferrari 312T2. His team-mate Jody Scheckter would win the race and it would sadly be the last time the pair would race there. In 1978, the race was moved to Montreal where it has made its home.
What better way to kick off my Canadian GP week than cracking around a former Formula One circuit with a friend in hot red sports car built for speed? There simply isn’t a better way.
More on my Canadian GP adventures tomorrow…
Ernie Black – @TheF1Poet
I have been trying to bring my readers a look at the weather based on a few “reliable” sources this season. I’ve sadly been mislead a few times, especially with my forecast for the Monaco GP where rain did not factor into the weekend as it actually played out.
I’m hoping my trend of incorrect weather prognostication continues for the Canadian GP this coming weekend. At least as it stands from the point of view from Environment Canada’s forecast:
Environment Canada (http://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/qc-147_metric_e.html) has the following forecast for Thursday – Saturday:
- Thursday, 6 June
- Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 14. High 21.
- Friday, 7 June
- Cloudy with 70 percent chance of showers. Low 13. High 18.
- Saturday, 8 June
- Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 14. High 21.
Accuweather is showing a slightly different picture for the GP weekend:
The Weather Network has this to say about the four days of the event:
I’ll be en-route to Montreal on Wednesday and I’ll have a better idea by then. I will keep you posted either here on my blog or on Twitter. Follow @TheF1Poet
Thanks for joining me on my adventures for the 2013 Canadian GP. Part of preparing for any Grand Prix is the usual check of items to be packed. Some make a list while others wing it. I tend to be on the anal side, and make a list while I rack my brain over every scenario. Sometimes I feel my true calling may have been to be a Boy Scout leader.
Technology is something we depend on greatly, perhaps even more when you travel for work. One tends to bring as much as possible along to make any hotel room, or airport lounge, feel as close to being in the office or home as possible. You certainly don’t want to be caught with your pants down when you’re working on the move. To give you an idea of what I’m bringing along to be F1 Paddock ready, here is my list; laptop, tablet, smartphone, digital voice recorder, SD memory cards and micro SD, camera, batteries, wireless Bluetooth keyboard, power supplies and chargers, and of course my trusty Bose ear-buds with microphone.
As the unofficial F1 Poet and freelance journalist, I’m bringing along my business cards. One never knows when an opportunity might present itself after all. This year, I’m also bringing selected printed and signed copies of some of my most popular poems. I plan to hand some out during the usual Tweet-Ups at local pubs and parties. Last year I wrote a tribute poem for Charlie Whiting but sadly it never made it into his hands. I’ve brought a few printed copies of it as well in the event we happen to bump into each other.
As some of you may know, my e-book was published just a few weeks back, therefore, I’m having a few copies printed to bring with me. The cost of printing an e-book with images can be quite high. As such, I’ve placed a small order, though to be honest, I’m not certain if it will actually be ready by the time I leave for Montreal.
I’ll be attending a few parties, so I need to ensure I pack more than just my Gilles Villeneuve T-shirts and Calvin Klein jeans. I never know what to bring in terms of clothing to Montreal. It could be just as hot as Miami some years or as cold as and wet as London in early spring. I think a stop in to visit my friend Max at the F1 Boutique on St. Paul in old Montreal is in order.
Canada is my home Grand Prix, it’s always special, but this year would be different. I’ve attended this Formula One race a total of 21 times but never as media. I was fairly certain that my application for accreditation was going to be approved but I kept telling myself not to believe it until I saw the letter.
As I have friends in Montreal, I wouldn’t need to book a hotel room which for me is a huge savings. I also decided to book myself on the train as opposed to flying or driving. The train is a great alternative as it allows me to kick back and do either a bit of reading or writing while enjoying a spot of tea or, if I’m feeling cheeky, even some champagne.
I want to just take a moment to acknowledge my mate Gustavo at F1Plus.com who played a big part in making this happen and also to David Mason Watches of London for their generous gift. I’ll be in the paddock sporting a very sexy DM1B thanks to them.
I’m personally very excited to see Alexander Ross test live in Canada. He is a very skilled, dynamic and exciting driver to watch not to mention has a great sense of humor. I’ll be trying to chase him down in the Paddock to get a first hand account of his reaction after his test.
Here is a quick and dirty version of his Bio:
- Born: September 25th, 1991 – California, USA
- Residence: Milton Keynes, UK
- Pro Career: 155 starts, 64 podiums, 38 wins, 33 poles
- Championships: 2006 Skip Barber Western Regional, 2008 BMW Americas, 2008 BMW World Champion
This guy is on super cool cat, check this out: He likes Steak over salad, Senna over Prost, Batman over Superman, Loves Steve McQueen and James Bond (007), Spa is his favorite circuit, and believes the best thing about racing is “Crossing the finish line first”.
Here is what Alexander Rossi had to say about his upcoming F1 test in Canada:
“After Monaco I was home in the States for the first time since January, preparing for my FP1 session at the Canadian GP, and then for the start of my Le Mans work straight after Montreal! Looking back, Monaco wasn’t a great weekend for us in GP2 with Caterham Racing, but we’ll bounce back at Silverstone. We know the areas that we need to improve the situation.
“Returning to F1 action is obviously another important step in the plan I’ve worked over a decade for and I take all the opportunities I get very seriously. This will be my first outing in the CT03 and on the 2013 Pirelli tyres in F1 and it’s good that my 2013 F1 debut is on North American soil, in front of a crowd who are seriously passionate about F1 and really know what our sport is all about. I’ve raced and won in Montreal back in Formula BMW and I enjoy the circuit a lot – it will be a special feeling to play an active role in the race weekend with the team.
“Even though FP1 sessions always seem to be over in the blink of an eye, it’ll be good to play an important part in the team’s work on track. I was last in an F1 car in the CT02 2012 car in Abu Dhabi, last November for the young driver test so I’m looking forward to see how far the car has progressed since then. This year for the F1 team I’ve done aero testing, simulation work and I drove at the team’s filming day, so this will be a good session for me to use what I learnt about the car in the sim and the aero tests as a comparison to help the team progress this weekend. It will be all about working to the run plan for the session and helping the team set the car up for the race drivers for the rest of the weekend.
“I leave Montreal on Friday evening, straight after FP2 and head back to Europe for the first Le Mans sessions. That’s another boxed ticked on my list of things for my CV. It’s great to be taking part in one of the great races with a team that’s already been successful in endurance racing, and to help a bunch of Caterham guys I already know well. Like F1, my aim in the first few days with the Le Mans team will be to learn as much I can and build up to the performance, adding value where it counts. It’s a huge honour to be able to take part and it’s something I’ll remember for ever, but first my main priority is F1.”
Courtesy Caterham F1 Team
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director for Lotus F1 Team had this to say about a tough Monaco GP for the Enstone based team.
“A very frustrating race for us. Both of our cars were bottled up in traffic almost all of today, which is what you can expect in Monaco if you’re not leading. Romain was unfortunate to get caught out by the car in front, but he has received a ten-place penalty for Canada which will compound today’s woes. Kimi was running strongly in fifth position, but his race was completely compromised by the late pit stop we were forced to make. That he was able to make back three places in the last two laps shows just how hungry he is. We head to Canada wanted to return to business as usual.”
Courtesy of Lotus F1 Team
“It was a really disappointing day. Because of one stupid move from Sergio [Perez] we’ve lost a lot of points to Sebastian [Vettel] in the Championship and you can’t afford to lose ground like that. He hit me from behind and that’s about all there is to it. If he thinks it’s my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s not the first time he’s hit someone in the race; he seems to expect people to be always looking at what he might do, then move over or go straight on if he comes into the corner too quick and isn’t going to make it without running into someone. Not the ideal weekend but there’s nothing we can do about it. At least we got one point back at the end.”
Courtesy of Lotus F1 Team
Here is the quickest summary of the Monaco GP you’ll read all week!
Never disappointing, the Monaco Grand Prix
If it’s not one thing it’s another, I think you’ll agree
A few spots of rain during qualifying
Makes pole position seem quite death defying
But the drivers are pros, they know what they’re doing
Meanwhile in the media, a story was brewing
A secret test, which was conducted in Spain
Brought Mercedes and Pirelli much pain and no gain
Rivals waved fingers and disapproved
While Mercedes stood firm and relatively unmoved
There was a sense of betrayal and lack of trust
And perhaps sour grapes, under unsettled dust?
With the media frantic and Monaco a buzz
Let’s take a look back at the Grand Prix that was
There were crashes and cautions and safety car stints
And then clean ups and pit stops in-between sprints
A red flag was waived before the action subdued
Then a mad dash to the finish quickly ensued
There isn’t much passing in Monte Carlo
But don’t tell Adrian or Kimi or Sergio
They found clever ways, to make a quick pass
Though some moves were rude and a wee bit crass
To a young Nico Rosberg, this day belonged
His winless streak, would not be prolonged
Second was Vettel, who got satisfaction
By snagging fastest lap with little distraction
Webber was third, to round out the top three
Spraying chilled champagne quite happily
Fourth was Lewis unable to give chase
Then Sutil in fifth, who drove a great race
Jenson Button was sixth, with Alonso behind
who did not seem to be, in the right frame of mind
Then Jean-Eric Vergne in his STR
Was eighth crossed the line and first at the bar
Di Resta was ninth, just four tenths back
And Kimi was last in the points paying pack
Next stop is Canada, the land of good cheer
Where the winters are cold….but so is the beer
The Formula One Book of Poetry is now also available on iTunes! https://t.co/NCnLro9ezD
As a result of many emails which I have received requesting this feature, I’ve decided to post it for your convenience.
I conducted this interview last season in a five part mini series. I’ve had some requests to recompile it in one article for easier reading. It has been wildly popular for many reasons. For one, Kate Walker is a very interesting subject. She answers these questions honestly and candidly. Readers will be surprised by some of the answers and F1 journalist hopefuls get an inside look at what it really means and takes to cover Formula One around the globe.
Here is the original interview:
As Formula One fans, many of you have heard the name Kate Walker and most certainly have read her work. If you haven’t, I urge you to visit www.f1katewalker.com. Not just beauty and brains, this F1 journalist has a wealth of worldly experience already, as well as, the credentials that make her the total package. This pretty face can talk the talk and walk the walk.
I put together a series of interview questions that I plan to use for a few different F1 journalists. I did this in order to give us (the readers), a different perspective on some of the F1 journalists some F1 fans follow, admire and aspire to be. It will most certainly be interesting to see how different their paths have been to get to the same destination and what sets them apart from each other.
Some of what you are about to read; will open your eyes to what it takes to be an F1 journalist. Peeping through the keyhole of one of the most amazing occupations in the world of motorsports that offers the most wonderful experiences and intangible rewards. Strap on your safety harness and join me on this journey as I slip into the cockpit of the F1 fast lane.
Welcome to the Kate Walker Project
Who is Kate Walker?
Kate, it’s relatively safe to say that F1 has for decades been primarily a sport where women have not been drawn to professionally. Where did your interest in F1 stem from and what made you want to chase the circus around the globe?
My introduction to F1 came about thanks to an ex-boyfriend who was into the sport. When we first got together I used to slag him off for wasting his weekends watching cars go round in circles for hours on end, and he told me I couldn’t have an informed opinion until I’d sat down and watched a race. That was in 2007.
So he got me to watch a race (can’t remember which one…) and it was more interesting than I’d thought it would be. By 2008, the boyfriend was pulling the duvet over his head and begging for more sleep while I was trying to wake him up to watch free practice from Australia/Japan/China.
I was hooked, but figured that F1 would be out of reach for someone like me. Then, around Spa 2009, I discovered an old article that Joe Saward had written in which he outlined the backgrounds of a number of F1 PRs. Those mentioned all had backgrounds like mine – bilingual, international schools, a childhood spent travelling the world. So I figured I might be in with a shot. I decided to wait until the end of the season, and the minute the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi I emailed all of the teams with a copy of my CV for consideration as a trainee press officer.
Two teams sent me a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email, and the other ten failed to reply at all. So I decided to get in on my own. Because 2010 was going to be the FIA’s Year of Women in Motor Sport, I approached girlracer and offered to write for them for free if they could get me a press pass. I figured it was the best chance I had to get in, and it worked. (Yes, I am that conniving.)
Give us a brief history about who you are and where you’re from. What do you want your fans and followers to know about YOU?
Oh, god. I’m a bit of an odd one in background terms, because I grew up all over the place. My dad was a political correspondent, so we got sent to wherever the story was. So I was born in London, then moved to Moscow, Washington DC, and Brussels. Then when I left home I moved to Oxford, London, Brighton, back to DC, back to Oxford, and then to southwest France, before recently relocating back to London. I blame my travelling childhood for my desire to find a job that didn’t leave me stuck in one place all the time.
As for who I am? Ummm. I’m a writer, a show-off, a narcissist. I fancy myself to be an intellectual, but I love immature jokes. I’ve got a degree in politics and philosophy, and a professional background in news editing, traditional publishing, and online media. I am obsessed with music, of a host of different genres, and I’m one of those pretentious idiots who mostly likes bands no one else has heard of. Sometimes because no one else has heard of them
Welcome to the second part of the Kate Walker Project. In this chapter, we will dive into Kate’s story of how she ended up with a career in Formula One and the steps she took to get there which you will not believe. Kate takes us though an interesting and winding road that despite her best efforts to avoid a career in journalism, ended up landing her a dream job she now, simply cannot imagine not doing.
If you’re reading this and your interested in one day being an F1 journalist, keep reading. Kate will now open the door to that keyhole you were looking through earlier into the world of Formula journalism. Chances are, if you have a question about a career in F1 journalism, about the money, advice etc…she answers it here:
Why did you decide to be a (sports/F1) journalist?
I never decided to be a journalist. In fact, I spent as much of my life as possible trying to avoid it! It’s a career that runs in the family, and I was desperate to avoid following in my parents’ footsteps. Now look at me…
What steps did you take to achieve your goal?
As much as I say I tried to avoid journalism, there were always signs. After uni, I started out working as a sub-editor for a wire service, and then got roped in to writing pieces when staff were on leave or off sick. That turned into regular writing duties. But before I became a real journalist I ran off to the internet, where I started managing a blog network. I started writing pieces to cover leave and absences, and it just snowballed from there. In terms of achieving my F1 goal, I decided I wanted to work in the sport, got rejected by all the teams when I applied for PR work, so figured that journalism was my only way in. So I started writing daily pieces for girlracer while still at my day job, we applied for (and eventually got) F1 accreditation, and I handed in my notice at work the day I got back from my first grand prix.
What are your most and least favourite things about your job?
For this question I’m going to have to copy and paste a reply I gave to @IlariaF1 when she interviewed me last year, as I don’t think I could put it any better than I did then.
There are so many amazing things about this job that it’s hard to know what to pick.
- I love the feeling I get every time I approach a circuit and see a sign saying ‘F1 media and personnel’ and realise that it applies to me!
- I love the fact that I can go to a team motorhome for breakfast or a cup of coffee and chat to senior personnel about their strategy for the weekend, or their fears about their car at ‘x’ circuit.
- I love working with F1 journalists whose writing I have long admired and having them treat me as an equal. Sometimes they even ask me for advice, which is an amazing feeling.
- I love waking up in a foreign country and not remembering where I am this week.
- I love sitting in an empty media centre early in the morning and feeling the floor start to rumble as the cars are fired up below me.
- I love walking into the paddock and smelling the combination of bacon, fresh rubber, and motor oil that means it’s a race weekend.
- I love the energy of the paddock, and how inspiring it is to be surrounded by hundreds of people who are the best in the world at what they do and love it with a passion.
Basically, I guess what it all boils down to is that I love the combination of adventure, hard work, intelligence, and passion that makes up a life in Formula 1, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
When it comes to what I like least, well… These things are as much a part of the job as the good bits, so I can’t hate them too much, but if I could get rid of long-haul flights in economy, 5am wake-up calls (especially when you’ve gone to bed at 3am), and the terrifyingly expensive cost of travelling to all the races, my life would be perfect.
For many F1 fans, you are living a dream. From the outside looking in, it would seem you have a pretty cool gig. Would you recommend this career to someone else, why or why not?
Absolutely. It’s the best job there is, no question. It’s not something everyone’s cut out to do – the travel takes it out of you, and you need to be able to rock up to the track after a night on the red-eye and settle straight down to a 12-hour day of work, so if sleep deprivation is an issue then stay away. Same if you want to have a work-life balance, or hobbies, or a social life. But if you’re willing to sacrifice a ‘normal’ life with things like weekends and lie-ins, then the benefits of F1 outweigh the negatives a million times over.
If you think that normal is boring, and you’re willing to work your socks off for huge personal reward with little financial gain, then this is the job for you. But forget about marriage and kids. They’re incompatible with a life that sees you on the road for a minimum of 100 nights a year.
What advice can you offer young (or old) wannabe Kate Walkers out there, looking to follow in your footsteps?
Write, write, write, then write some more. You need to get into the habit of writing whether or not you’re feeling inspired, and you need to develop the ability to write quick and accurate copy to deadline. After Shanghai I wrote sixteen pieces in four hours, as I needed to hit the airport for my flight, and they all ran unedited from their submitted form. You need to be able to deliver without crafting every phrase, and that’s something that comes from practice.
The other piece of advice is to save as much money as you can. If you want to break in like I did, you’ll need to be prepared to pay your own way at first, as the outlets that can afford to pay for your travel aren’t going to take a chance on an untested writer without any contacts. So you’ll need to find someone who can get you accreditation in exchange for you covering the travel costs, which means you need to have a whole lot of money saved up for flights, hotels, and food.
With so much competition in the journalism and media fields, it seems like it is an employer’s market. How’s the money? Without numbers, would you say F1 journalists make a substantial income or would you say one might struggle to raise a family on one income?
Hahahahahaha! Money. Ha. In order to attend all the races, you’re looking at a travel budget of at least £20,000 a year. So you need to earn that to do the job, then earn money for things like rent and bills, before you can think about any sort of ‘profit’ to spend on things like food, clothes, and having a social life. This is not a life that will make you rich, unless you win the lottery. But I’d rather have empty pockets and a head full of memories than the other way round.
Do you think you’ll ever get tired of doing what you do?
Apparently there’s a five-year threshold. If you make it past five years, odds are you’re in the sport for life. I’ve not hit the five-year mark yet, so I can’t tell you whether or not I’ll stumble at that particular hurdle, but I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I’d rather be a high-class hooker than go back to my old life of 9-5 behind a desk. At least there’s the chance of some travel…
Are all your expenses covered and how does one go about getting paid if working independently?
I’m a freelancer, so I cover all my expenses and hope that I sell enough stories to break even by the end of the season. I probably spend as much time coming up with ideas and trying to sell them to newspapers and magazines as I do actually writing. You just have to hustle for work, and hope that you’re providing your outlets with a good enough service that eventually they start coming to you with commissions. But it takes a long time to build up a reputation – I’ve been doing this for three years now, and I’m nowhere near that point.
Behind The Glitz And Glamour
What is the most interesting story you have ever written?
My favourite was one we decided not to run. I’d dug up an awful lot of background information on someone tangentially associated with F1, and none of it was flattering. A lot of it was criminal. But because the person in question had way better lawyers than I could ever afford, we decided it was safest to kill the piece.
Who was your favourite interview subject?
Heikki Kovalainen, partly because he was my first F1 interview, and partly because he’s an all-round lovely person to interview. There are some drivers who make it perfectly clear that they don’t want to be doing an interview they’ve agreed to, but Heikki is a consummate professional.
Keeping a reader interested in a story is difficult, especially in the internet age with so many ways to get information. You seem to be quite successful in capturing your audience’s attention, what’s your approach?
Thanks for the compliment! I guess I just try to write without taking it all too seriously. I mean, when it comes down to it, all we’re doing is writing about a bunch of rich guys playing around with expensive toys. And it’s easy to forget that when you’re in the middle of it. We’re not helping to overthrow oppressive regimes, or fighting for political freedoms – we’re having a blast while travelling the world. I also try and link stories to whatever randomness is burbling through my head at the time, which is why I’ve written F1 articles referring to Aristotle, Hamlet, and the plays of Noel Coward.
How long do you normally work on each of your stories? Do you have a general guideline you follow for length?
Ideally, I’d make all of my pieces 800 words. But sometimes pieces just don’t go on for that long – there’s always a point in the middle of writing when I know there’s nothing more that I can add without just writing in a pathetic attempt to up my word count. Unless I’m doing a feature, I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than an hour writing a piece. Researching takes longer, of course.
Do you ever feel uninspired?
Constantly! And that’s when you’ll see two or three days go by without anything up on my site. Because while there’s always something to write about, I refuse to be one of those people who just rehashes press releases, or rewrites something Autosport have already covered. If I can’t find an original take on a story, I won’t bother covering it. Why waste my readers’ time with material they’ve already seen elsewhere?
Have you ever had to endure any dangerous situations? Are you hesitant for instance about going to Bahrain this season?
I was in a car behind Button when he got attacked in Brazil in 2010 – that was pretty scary. There have been loads of dangerous situations on the road, as the standard of driving internationally isn’t quite what I’m used to in Europe. With luck, the FIA’s Decade of Action for Road Safety will help change that.
Perversely, I like those nervous moments when you’re not quite sure whether you’ll make it out alive. Maybe it’s the thrill-seeker in me, but I always feel most alive after a near-death experience, whether or not it’s linked to F1.
As for Bahrain, I’m more concerned that our presence there will lead to violence for ordinary Bahrainis than I am worried about my personal safety. I expect the country to be on military lockdown, and I think we’ll probably be safer there than we are anywhere else. Because if anything goes wrong this weekend, FIA, FOM, and the Bahraini royal family are going to have a lot to answer for, and they know it.
Have you ever had issues with customs when traveling abroad to new and very foreign countries, say perhaps China?
The last thing you want, after a 30 hour plane journey, is to be interrogated by customs officials. But something about my exhausted appearance drew the attention of a Japanese border control officer, which is why I spent Wednesday evening draping my knickers and socks across Nagoya Airport.
Arriving in Japan was somewhat surreal. I had visited the country as a backpacker in my student days, and found the immigration procedure pretty unremarkable. But in the intervening years, security got a lot tighter.
The first thing I noticed, walking off the plane, was the giant thermo-meter (like a thermometer, but for full body scans) at the gate. Signs explained that they were taking our temperatures to make sure we weren’t bringing any infections with us into Japan. Naturally, as I walked through it, I sneezed. Oops. Nothing to see here, officer, just some sinuses run ragged by three flights and 30 hours in transit.
Queueing up at passport control, we were treated to a mini video explaining the new entry procedures. Much like the United States, Japan now demands that all incoming passengers have their fingerprints and photograph taken. Refusal means you’re sent back to your point of origin on the first available flight.
I began preparing myself for the inevitable interrogation, but was pleasantly surprised to discover the process was no more troublesome than flashing my passport at Heathrow. Making my way over to the baggage carousel with a completed customs declaration, I naively assumed I was home and dry.
Home and dry until it came to getting through customs, that is. Everyone in the queue ahead of me handed over their yellow forms and was waved straight through, so I was surprised to be asked to open my suitcase for inspection.
‘Why are you here?’ the customs man asked. ‘For the Grand Prix,’ I replied. He had no idea what I was talking about until I started making car noises while mimicking turning a steering wheel. ‘The Grand Prix? How much was your ticket?’ he asked. When I explained that I had a press pass, things got strange.
Rummaging through my suitcase, the customs official started going through the books I’d brought with me, reading the blurbs on the back. I don’t think that a selection of thrillers and crime novels constitutes contraband, so it was strange to see my choice of reading material undergo such a thorough inspection.
Next came my jeans. He went through all of the pockets, turning them inside out until he found a tiny fleck of tobacco inside one of the seams. God knows how it got there, or how long it had been there, but it was with this discovery that my interrogation began in earnest. The customs man brought out a laminated sheet of paper showing photographs of a variety of illegal drugs.
‘Do you know what these are?’ he asked. ‘Some drugs,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t got anything like that with me.’
Having already been through my suitcase, he knew that was the case and agreed with me. Nonetheless, it was time for a pop quiz. When I confessed that I couldn’t identify the random selection of white powders, but assumed that the tablets pictured were probably Ecstasy, he asked me if I’d ever smoked cannabis. When I admitted to some Amsterdam experimentation in my student days, he zipped up my suitcase, wished me a pleasant evening, and sent me on my way.
Where are your favourite places to visit on the F1 calendar? First for the circuit/race and second for visiting and just walking about?
Japan is my favourite country, and was long before F1 came into my life. So I love the fact that I now get to go every year. Singapore has become one of my favourite cities in the last couple of years – I love the food, the city itself, and the people I’ve met there. I didn’t get to spend enough time in Shanghai this year, but I could tell from the short amount of time I was in town that it’s a place I could fall in love with very easily. I’m looking forward to going back in 2013 and discovering it properly. As for visiting for the circuit, you can’t beat Spa. I remember the first time I went there, walking out of the media car park, turning my head, and seeing Eau Rouge disappearing up into the mist. I got shivers down my spine, and still do every time I think of it.
Where do you encounter the most enthusiastic fans? Where is there the most F1 energy?
There are so many places! The Japanese fans are crazy-passionate, to the extent that I’ve been asked for my autograph leaving the paddock, just because I’m part of the circus. The tifosi in Monza are something else entirely. Spanish fans go mental whenever Alonso’s around, while Britain, Canada, and Australia all have really passionate fans.
Part 4 of this mini series dives into two areas peripheral to the sport and the job. Both however, have a huge impact on work itself and can make life as an F1 journalist on the road easy OR hell in perpetual motion. As you have read thus far in this feature, it’s not all peaches and cream out there. Journalism is a cut throat business, stories are difficult to come by and harder to sell given the fierce competitive nature of the beast. I ask Kate about her co-workers who happen to be her immediate competition. Some of the answers may surprise you. The second area of questions revolves around the tools used to make it possible to get the job done, see what technology this pro uses to capture the story.
You work around difficult conditions with so many competitive journalists trying to get the same information and story. Do you have colleagues that you share information with?
I was surprised to discover how friendly the press room is, to be honest – we all share information, scoops, and stories, although it’s understood that the person who found it gets to use the information first.
Who are some of your favourite people to work with?
Couldn’t possibly say. I respect and admire too many people in the press room to be able to list them all, and they’ve all got different skills and virtues. The thing about F1 is that you have to be good at what you do to get in – you don’t get time-wasters. So the press room is filled with a couple of hundred talented, intelligent, and passionate people, and it’s a privilege to consider myself one of their colleagues.
Who (people or team) are the most willing to give you their time?
That depends on how well they’re doing at the time. When a team is winning, they’ve got loads of demands from the media, so it’s harder to get their attention. Same thing if it’s a team’s home grand prix – they have to focus their efforts on the local media, rather than on the F1 press corps.
As we mentioned before, there are not many women in the sport, how tight are you with the other females in F1 media and do you all get along well together?
There’s not really a male v female split in F1. I mean, there aren’t many women, and so we do look out for each other, but everyone in the press room looks after everyone else. Away from the press room I hang out with a mostly male group, but that’s not because I don’t get on with the women. The BBC crew stay in hotels together and tend to hang out together, the Sky lot do the same. Fleet Street journos make up one group, and the freelancers make up another. So we split down employment lines, not gender lines. That being said, the women I know in F1 are absolutely lovely. In UK media, both Jennie Gow and Natalie Pinkham are great to chat to. I’ve not met Georgie Thompson yet, as the broadcast journalists are kept in a separate part of the paddock from the print and radio types.
Do you work with any photographers at all to uncover stories? How does it work if you need photos to use for your articles? Permissions, royalties?
I tend not to use photos for my pieces, mainly because I can’t afford to.
Would you consider yourself a techie/geek? Do you embrace technology or still use the trusted notepad and pen approach?
Total geek. Always have been, always will be. But that doesn’t mean I ignore paper and pen – I always have a notebook on me, and use it to make notes of time-cues in recordings that I might want to transcribe for a piece.
What sort of technology do you like to use most? Laptop? iPad? Digital Voice recorder? etc..
I’ve got an HTC Sensation that I love like it’s my baby. I use it for photos, social media, and as a Dictaphone. Then I’ve got my big laptop (an old Toshiba that will need to be replaced pretty soon) and a Linux netbook. I don’t take both computers to races – the big laptop comes on flyaways when I can take a carry-on bag on the plane in addition to my suitcase, while the netbook is for European races when all of my stuff has to get squeezed into the carry-on. I will *not* pay to take a suitcase on a budget airline. I refuse to use Apple products; I’m passionate about open-source technology and hate the way they operate as a company.
Things Get PERSONAL
Living out of a suitcase for many months out of the year must be difficult. What do you miss most about being on the road the most aside from your bed?
Mostly it’s my bed. When I’m not travelling, I’ll get up in the morning, put some clothes on, and then get back into bed to do my work for the day. I try not to move when I’m not on the road, to the extent that I text my flatmates and ask them to bring me cups of coffee. If it’s not my bed, then the thing I miss most is my kitchen. I find cooking really soothing, and last year I went from Monaco to Interlagos without cooking a single meal. (In terms of the season, I mean. I didn’t hop on a plane from Nice to Sao Paulo.)
How does Kate achieve Work-Life balance? Or does that even exist for someone who covers Formula One?
Yeah, that doesn’t exist. At least, not for me. Some people might have figured out a way, but I haven’t.
How difficult are relationships?
They don’t happen. I was in a relationship when I started in F1, but had to end it because I never saw him. When we were in the same country, I was glued to my laptop, to the extent that he used to joke that he associated my presence with the sound of keys clacking.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? How do you clear your head and keep fit?
There isn’t really any time when I’m not working. I usually work from the moment I wake up to around midnight, seven days a week, and that’s when I’m at home. The hours are much longer when you’re at the track – I often work till 2/3am and then have the alarm set for 6am so I can get back to the circuit.
When I do have time off – I have to force myself so I don’t burn out – then I do a lot of cooking (especially baking). I like watching cartoons like South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad, and I’m a voracious reader. It’s one of the things I like about the travel – I can burn through a couple of books on a flight, and it’s the main time ‘off’ that I get.
Keeping fit is something other people do. I walk a lot and live on strong coffee, which is why I’m not fat. Given the amount of crap I eat on the road I should be the size of a house. Fortunately, I can’t afford to eat much, crap or otherwise.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? What happens after F1?
After F1? There is no after F1! I can’t imagine myself doing anything different. If, for some reason, F1 stopped as a sport, then I’d do my best to get involved in either MotoGP or WRC. I like travelling the world listening to engines and smelling motor oil.
As for in ten years, I’d love to be an F1 commentator. Not that I’m on the right career path, as I’m not involved in TV or radio, but it’s a fantasy of mine. Plus I don’t know if TV viewers could handle my style of potty-mouthed commentating… If I can’t do commentary, then I’d just like to be doing what I’m doing now, but with more respect and more money (both of which are earned in time).
Ultimately, what would make Kate Walker happy/happier/happiest?
I’m pretty satisfied with my lot as it is, really. I mean, if I found a bag with several million dollars in unmarked, non-sequential bills by the side of the road, it would be great to know that all of my travel expenses were covered for the rest of my life, but there’s nothing better than doing what I do.
I get to travel the world doing something I’m passionate about, hanging out with a group of passionate and inspiring people who are the best in the world at what they do. Life doesn’t get any better. Because while I work an insane number of hours for very little money, it doesn’t feel like working. At least, not in the way that my previously secure but very boring decently-paid job did. I often have to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t the world’s most complicated dream – how on earth did I wind up getting to spend my life doing something this amazing?
Thank you all for following me through this incredible journey. I have always had much respect for F1 journalists that sacrifice so much to bring us the stories about our beloved sport, and now have much more. Thank you to Kate for taking the time out to answer my questions.
Kate, you are an inspiration to many of us. Keep up the great work! I for one, wish you much success and happiness in life and F1.
Authors: Ernie Black & Kate Walker
TWITTER: @TheF1Poet, @F1Kate
Just a little fun after the Monaco GP.
Images courtesy of my partner Octane Photographic Ltd. All images owned and copyright by Octane Photographic Ltd.
Hello Motorsport fans, here is a list compiled of all Motorsports events for the next two months.
Format: Date — Event – Venue – Telephone Number.
1 Jan/31 Dec — James Bond Exhibition: National Motor Museum, Beaulieu; Tel 01590 61460.
Today I will be meeting with the president of a company that brokers F1 sponsorship deals. His work and the work of his team essentially help give F1 cars their flashy livery, as well as generate the money to operate.
This side of F1 is not often explored. As always, I’m working on bringing you unique features such as this.
If you have questions about F1 sponsorship such as, how it works, how much it costs, please comment on this article within the next two hours and I will ask your questions and post the answers in a follow up article.
Have you heard any rumors?
Will Vodafone be replaced by TelMex at McLaren?
Is Coca Cola looking at increasing their global presence in F1 beyond their BURN brand?
Why are the driver names taking up prime F1 car real estate on the Lotus?
Go on – fire off some questions and I will ask them!
An eventful and fruitful day for team Lotus F1 in Monaco. Below are some team quotes, graciously offered by the team.
Kimi Räikkönen, E21-03
Free Practice 1: P11, 1:17.509, 26 laps
Free Practice 2: P6, 1:15.511, 39 laps
“We’ve still got a few other areas to improve, but it was getting stronger with every run”
“I was much happier at the end of today than this morning. We spent the first session getting the steering right as it wasn’t great at the beginning, then we changed a few things on the car and it felt far better. We’ve still got a few other areas to improve, but it was getting stronger with every run today. To get pole we have to make the car a bit faster overall and I have to drive a bit better, then we’ll have to see what happens.”
Romain Grosjean, E21-02
Free practice 1: P3, 1:16.380, 21 laps
Free practice 2: P7, 1:15.718, 10 laps
“We have a very good car here and it gives you the confidence to push, but unfortunately I pushed a bit too hard”
“After a great start to the day it was a real shame to end things early. I didn’t have the grip I expected going into the corner, but there was nothing wrong with the car; my braking and entry speed were all wrong and I ended up hitting the barrier. There was no chance to let off and go straight on into the runoff area; I was committed to the corner so that was it. We have a very good car here and it gives you the confidence to push, but unfortunately I pushed a bit too hard. I’m sorry for the team and I definitely owe them all a drink for all the work that’s needed before Saturday. The grid looks very close, but we seem in good shape and I’m eager to get back out on track and fight for the top positions.”
“Both drivers are pretty happy with their cars and we’ve still got some improvement to make”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“We’re pretty happy about today. We had a little blip with Romain going into the wall and stopping him doing any long run evaluations in the afternoon, but Kimi completed plenty of laps so we have ample amounts of data to evaluate. Our pace looks good, both drivers are pretty happy with their cars and we’ve still got some improvements to make on both front end grip and single lap pace. There’s not too much damage to Romain’s car and we have plenty of spares so we’re not concerned on that front. That Romain’s fastest lap today was on the soft tyre illustrates his strong pace here, as there’s a second or even more to come from the super soft. Kimi’s a little further off getting the perfect set-up, but we know where the improvements should come from.”
Source: Team Lotus F1