As one of the most well-known faces on our screens, Louise Goodman was the female face of F1 for over a decade. Her relaxed style and having the trust of the drivers meant she gave motorsport fans a brilliant insight into some of the most famous and talented racers in the sport’s history.
However, this was never her intended career path. “I loved cars when I was a kid,” she said. “I have great memories of driving around picnic areas sitting on my Dad’s knee and me doing the wheel, with him doing the pedals. I suppose I had a slight interest as the town where I grew up in Hampshire is the same town that Derek and Paul Warwick come from. I read about Derek in the local paper and would pass their family business on the way to school.”
Louise’s introduction to motorsport as a working environment came when she started working for a powerboat racing magazine. During this time, she met a man called Tony Jardine who had been working in motorsport for many years. He was planning to set up his own PR company and offered Goodman a job. “My first big job there was handling the PR for Derek Warwick! We then got the contract to launch Camel who came into Formula One through their sponsorship of the Lotus F1 team.”
Her role with Camel involved PR and getting quotes from Camel-linked drivers after each session to put together the press releases. Through this role, Louise found her next job. “Camel also sponsored Eddie Jordan’s Formula 3000 team and I handled his (Eddie Jordan’s) PR for a little while,” she told us. “He then approached me, looking for a press officer so I left Jardine PR. I was the media team, back in those days there wasn’t nearly as much focus on media and marketing.”
It was while Goodman was at Jordan that her career took an unexpected turn when ITV approached her. “ITV were taking over the coverage of the sport and I was approached as they wanted a woman on the team to reflect the fact that a lot of women were interested in Formula One,” she explained. “I’d only done a very small amount of TV work at the time with Irish television and that was through my role as a press officer.” She admits she was in at the deep end, and was “given a microphone and off I went in the paddock in Melbourne in 1997.”
While it was a brilliant opportunity, the Hampshire-born presenter admitted she was initially unsure. “I spoke to a few people about it, one person who was helpful was James Allen who was also going to be part of the presenting side of the team. At that point James had been working for ESPN and he was very encouraging and said: ‘I know you can do this, why don’t you give it ago?’. I’ve always been open to new opportunities, so I leapt at it, with reservations though.”
Spending 12 years with the ITV F1 team is a long time to stay in any job, speaking of this she exclaimed: “motorsport is a passion for anybody who works in the industry and it must be. It is a demanding job and it takes you away from friends and family, there’s a lot of travel involved. It has its down sides but it’s a very nice way of life. It’s a great family really, all motorsport is like a big family.”
The family feeling continued when she began presenting another form of motorsport. “It’s the same with the British Touring Car Championship now as well, it’s a lovely community there.” Although she may now be one of the go-to experts when it come to the BTCC, at the beginning this wasn’t the case. “I was aware of it (BTCC), but when you’re working in F1, you’re so focused. I think I’d only been to a couple of races from a leisure perspective. It came about via ITV who wanted to change their presentation team. It was just Ted (Kravitz) and myself to start with, and then when ITV lost the F1 contract, that became my main focus.”
However, this year Louise was back presenting F1 on terrestrial TV, when she was approached to cover for usual pitlane reporter Lee McKenzie. “When channel 4 asked me if I wanted to fill in for Lee, I didn’t think twice about it,” she explained. “It was great to be back with a journalistic approach to the job, making sure you’ve got your nose over the stories and know exactly what’s going on, I thoroughly enjoyed that. What was lovely was the response that I got from people on social media saying, ‘it’s great to see you back’ which gave me a warm glow.”
But she hasn’t been away from F1 tracks since her ITV days: “I still travel to Grands Prix 4 or 5 times a year. I’m part of the Australian Grand Prix TV team so I go to Melbourne every year and provide the coverage for the big screens around the circuit. I go to other events as well and host in suites and talk to guests, so it’s not as if I haven’t been around the paddock,” she told us.
Unlike some other motorsport broadcasters, Louise Goodman has also participated in racing herself. Ford approached her whilst she was working for ITV and offered to lend her one of their rally cars. “They provided me with the car and I had to find the budget to run the car and pay the team. I did 3 years of rallying culminating in doing Wales Rally GB, and I finished 3rd in my class so it was great to be on the podium. It’s such a prestigious event so it was amazing.” Still a time she looks on fondly, it gave Louise a different perspective to being on the other side of the track.
She has had a long career in motorsport and one of the highlights included both her role as a presenter and racer. Describing it she said: “when Paul Stoddart was running the Minardi team, he decided he was going to put together a 2-seater F1 car. It was something I had said to Eddie Jordan about because of my powerboat racing days. I’d been in the back of 2 seater F1 powerboats and I knew what an amazing experience that had been, and what an insight it gives you into what the drivers are going through.” In fact, these are the cars that you currently see used in the Grand Prix Experiences often driven before a Grand Prix, though there have been a few changes since.
She continued by saying “Paul built up a fleet of them, and decided that he was going to have a race with 2 seater F1 cars as a bit of a media opportunity. He said, ‘would you like to go in the back of my car?’ and I politely asked if I could go in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car because ‘I think he might be quite good and I think he might be a world champion one day’.” At the time, Alonso was in the early years of his career, but this was just another example of Goodman’s insight and understanding as she could see the natural talent the Spaniard possessed.
“The plan was every driver would have to do a pitstop so that the lead for the race would change. The pitstops were all very scheduled, from a safety perspective it had to be carefully organised. The plan was for Nigel (Mansell) to win the race because that would make the best story. Fernando had forgotten to count how many laps we’d done, then saw the chequered flag and thought ‘oh my god, I’m not supposed to win this’. Fernando lifted off and Nigel was hot on his heels so when he lifted, Nigel ploughed into the back of us. The cars had been built with safety in mind, so all was well.”
Although she was not injured in the race, Louise didn’t come away unscathed. The aftermath of the event involved a sore head and a bottle of champagne, however not in the way you may expect. “The biggest injury I got was on the podium,” she explained. “Fernando was upending a magnum of champagne over my head and I went to flick the hair out of my eyes, not realising he had the bottle right behind my head. I bashed my head on the bottle!”
Now one of Louise’s main focuses is her company Goodman Media. Running media training classes and workshops across the country, they help all those from young karters to Formula One drivers. The aim? To help drivers use the media to their advantage, especially in this social media age.
Speaking of her work, she said: “social media has become a very important way for drivers to promote themselves and their personalities. Any racing driver who’s looking to make a career out of their passion needs to take into account that they need to find sponsors and how they represent their sponsors and themselves under the media scrutiny is very important.”
Personality is particularly important for the BTCC presenter, “it’s about giving them an understanding of how the media works to enable them to get the right kind of exposure to get their personality across, which for me is the most vital thing for any sports star,” she explained. “If you look at someone like Daniel Ricciardo, he’s an absolute breath of fresh air because he has a fabulous personality and he certainly gets that across. Whether you’re a Red Bull fan or not, I think you would be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t like him.”
As a strong woman with a long career in motorsport, Louise felt it was important to get involved with the initiative ‘Dare to be Different’. Set up by Susie Wolff following her retirement, Goodman is one of the organisation’s Ambassadors who aim to inspire women to follow careers in motorsport. Speaking of the progress of women she said: “there’s certainly a lot more women working in motorsport nowadays than there was when I started. As the sport has grown, it’s not uncommon to see female engineers and mechanics, but still from a numbers perspective there are a lot less women working on the cars and driving the cars than there are men. There is a perception out there that motorsport is a male sport. It’s about enlightening people and spreading the word amongst school girls of the options that there are. I think that D2BD is also about changing the perceptions of the people outside the sport.”
And what advice would the role-model give to youngsters? She explained the need to follow what is important to you. “I’d say follow your heart and follow your dreams, not what people are telling you to do. It’s about what’s going to make you happy, and what’s going to make you feel like your career is fulfilling. Ultimately you spend a long time at work, the more you can enjoy it, thrive in it and learn from the challenges your working environment presents you, the more it is going to benefit your life.”
Having worked in the sport for many years, Louise Goodman is determined to give back, whether that be by media training youngsters or inspiring women with D2BD. An example of taking opportunities when they come, she provides hope for people working in all areas that if you are meant to do something, it will find you.