They always tell you to seize the opportunity, so I did.
I have been writing about Formula 1 for over three years, initially in Italian, and then I started in English as well. From 2014 to this day I have been working hard keeping my eyes on the prize that I conquered last weekend in Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year, MotorLAT took me under its wings and gave me the chance to take this step forward. Consequently I grabbed the moment and agreed to cover the season finale, as I would never let my biggest opportunity slip through my fingers.
One week ago I flew from Venice all the way to Dubai and embarked myself on the Abu Dhabi enterprise, more like a mission to me. It was my first ever intercontinental flight and I was on my own for the first time.
The excitement and the expectations completely outshined the negativity I got on social media. Basically it dealt with the fact that women are not welcome in Arabic countries. First things first, there is a wide range of tolerance towards tourists in the UAE. Second of all, being a 19-year-old travelling alone does not mean anything weird nor wrong to me. Yes, it might be risky but I personally do not find it extremely dangerous. I could not find anyone to accompany me there but there was no way I wasn’t going.
Actually the UAE have an extremely low crime rate, but prejudice and ignorance are still plaguing the communis opinio, and social media are great indicators to display the matter. Other than doing my best at my first grand prix as a journalist, I wanted to challenge and defy myself and the world to be the living proof of what a sly mind can do in an unknown country.
Once I arrived to the track on the first day, I collected my pass after a night spent dashing around airports, planes, buses, taxis, hotels. That was the first step towards my weekend and all I could feel was genuine excitement, as I am a very adventurous person and I couldn’t ask for anything better than adrenaline, and a place where I could speak many languages!
Thursday was the most hectic day from the media’s perspective. I quickly got acquainted with the press room, the way the paddock was built and soon started introducing myself. I took part in a number of media sessions, but the brightest moment of the day was the drivers’ press conference, where I had the chance to ask Fernando Alonso a question and I managed to extrapolate some interesting words out of him. But above all, I am still overwhelmed as it got such a crazy response on social media: I was mentioned on Sky Sports and overall people reacted positively to my question.
I felt extemely pleased and satisfied and also had the chance to get a few minutes with Stoffel Vandoorne. I was actually the only woman in the session and I was rightfully occupying my spot with the utmost pride, having made it that far, literally and metaphorically.
Being a part of that feverish atmosphere, running from a hospitality to another, strolling near the yacht paradise at dusk, walking through the pitlane pandemonium made me feel alive and fuelled me even more for the rest of my time there. Working hard and being conscientious all weekend was my main focus.
I relished the press conference act so much that on the next day I raised my hand once again and asked Zak Brown about McLaren’s title sponsor, as it was an issue I had been following really closely in the previous years. Needless to say, I was the only woman in the room that day and I was truly interested and committed, although the team principals’ press conference is always a bit too technical and not the most appealing session.
Another highlight was the F1 logo reveal, which happened hours before the race and was exclusively open to the media. The pressure of handling exclusive material and the fact that I had got a preview of what F1 fans from home had not seen yet gave me chills. So I faced the challenge with exactly the same pride I displayed at the press conferences or at any chore I got to do, and I loved being a part of that stream of restyling operated by Liberty.
I apologise for the inappropriate length of this post, but I wanted to incorporate my gold nuggets and I am not done yet. My biggest success consisted in making my co-workers change their mind on me. They began the weekend seeing just a 19-year-old woman travelling alone and finished it seeing a passionate and keen individual who is eager to pursue a career in motorsports.
Therefore, I feel like giving you some advice. Be bold, always. Try and be as resourceful as you can, especially you, girls. Be the ones who will stick the flag in the ground and whose passion is stronger than any fear. Always light your fire and be hungry for success.