Claire Williams: “We’ll keep fighting until we get there”

Growing up, Claire Williams – deputy team principal of Williams Racing Formula 1 team –  spent her weekends knocking the pens from the stationery cupboard at the Williams factory, her father’s place of work. Her and her brother would swing from the chains suspended from the ceilings in the race bays, creating a zip wire from one end to the other. Little did she realise that she would be running the very same team a couple of decades later…

“My dad was very clear that nepotism wasn’t a word in his vocabulary,” Claire says, thinking back to her childhood. “I had no thoughts about even coming into Williams or Formula 1. It was very much my dad’s world and so my parents made that very clear to their children. It wasn’t on my radar that I would end up having a career in motorsport.”

Claire grew up in a world that was heavily orientated around Formula 1, with her father, Sir Frank Williams, being the owner of one of the most successful F1 teams in history. Subsequently, she grew up around the driver, although was still starstruck by Ayrton Senna.

“When I was in my teens, dad decided that I could choose one race a year to go to by myself with him, which was such a treat,” she says. “I chose Hungary and I’d gone into my dad’s room in the hotel one night to say goodnight to him. I was in my pajamas and Ayrton Senna was standing in the room.

“First off, I was horrified because I had a major crush on him. Secondly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I rather embarrassedly said goodnight to my dad and scuttled off out. I’ve had a number of experiences fairly similar to that and I am very lucky to have grown up in the world that I have grown up in.”

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Claire and her father, Sir Frank Williams. Credit: RaceFans.net

After studying politics at university, Claire was stuck with what to do. A meeting with the CEO of Silverstone Circuit proved successful and Claire secured a job as a junior press officer. After a period there, she joined the Williams team where she has remained ever since. After managing the communications department, she has now been the deputy team principal since 2013.

In that time, the team has had its ups and downs and Claire isn’t afraid to talk about the situation that they’re in at that moment. She isn’t proud of it – that is evident – but she is optimistic that they will recover.

“I think people feel a state of shock as to what has happened and how and why it’s happened,” she says. “But, there is still a really strong fighting spirit within this team. We’re very lucky in that we’ve got some very clever and hard working individuals here, that all have that Williams spirit – continuing to fight and push, and not letting what is happening on the race track stop their hard work or downplay their determination to turn things around.

“We have to remember that yes we’re in a pretty terrible position right now, but last year we were fifth, the year before that fifth and before that we came third two years in a row. Sports teams go through troughs. If we allow ourselves the pity party of feeling sorry for ourselves, then we aren’t going to get out of this. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and have an absolute focus and determination to resolve the situation that we’re in at the moment.”

Regardless of the results this season, Claire is adamant that the highs make all of the lows worthwhile. In 2014, the team had some of its best success in recent years, and finished third in the constructor’s standings.

“We did an enormous amount of work in 2013 when the team was in really bad shape to turn things around and we left no stone unturned to do it,” Claire says. “And that was my first year in that role, and for whatever reason, it all miraculously came to us. We were going to the podium regularly and celebrating, seeing Valtteri and Felipe up there and that was fantastic. We ended the season on the double points scoring race in Abu Dhabi, where we were still fighting with Ferrari for that third.”

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Claire signing autographs for fans

Claire was one of the team principals who voted in favour of the double points scoring system  at the last race of the season, a decision that fills her with mixed emotions.

“When I got on the plane, and for weeks before, I was like why on earth did I vote for that now that we’re in the situation?” she says. “If we weren’t in that situation, we would have taken P3 at the race prior to that one.”

“I remember the nerves, I remember feeling sick that we could lose this – P3 is a massive achievement from P9. It was a really big deal for us and we did it. It will only be usurped by a championship win, a race win as well, but that seems very far off these days. I try and keep that in my memory, so that it reminds me how success feels and why you need to keep working towards it.”

While the team aren’t where they’d like to be out on track, they are working hard to ensure that they are supporting females in motorsport.

“When I first started 16 years ago at Williams, there was only literally a handful of us,” Claire says. “Even in the jobs that are traditionally thought of as jobs for girls, a lot of blokes were doing them. Now, we have a hundred or so of our staff, which is a seventh of our team, as female. That’s a significant turn around in what’s been a very short period of time.”

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Credit: Motorsport.com

Williams run a number of successful apprenticeship schemes and placement opportunities, and last year, the number of female applications outweighed the number of male applicants they received.

“The only way to keep achieving that, and to keep inspiring those people, is to have role models across all different disciplines within Formula 1 and our team,” Claire says. “We have ambassadors within Williams that go out and talk to girls in school, secondary schools and in tertiary education to try and encourage them to take the STEM subjects required to go to university and then to take the engineering degrees. We take our role in that really seriously.

One of the initiatives that I’m involved in is Dare To Be Different, which is a fantastic campaign that Susie Wolff set up with the MSA. it specifically targets females and tries to inspire them to think about motorsport as a career. That’s important. We are seeing a lot of success from the initiative. A lot of girls are now seeing and thinking seriously about motorsport as a career.”

In 2014, D2BD founder Susie Wolff made history for Williams when she became the first female to participate in a grand prix weekend since 1992. This was a moment that filled Claire with pride, despite the criticism that the team had received for their decision.

“I actually shed a tear which is very unlike me; I felt really proud,” Claire says. “We had people suggesting that it was a marketing ploy. I’m very clear on that: motorsport is dangerous and we’ve lost drivers in this team. We take our driver safety extremely seriously. I would not put a driver in our race car that I didn’t feel was competent at driving it and driving it safely. That would just be lunacy.

“Women are risk averse, so I am the last person to make that kind of decision. I was enormously proud and I think that she did a fantastic job. Susie is a real trailblazer for women in motorsport.”

If the opportunity came up again for a woman to fill a Williams race seat, Claire “wouldn’t think twice if the woman had the track record”.

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Susie Wolff, Felipe Massa and Claire Williams. Credit Keith Barnes Photography

Ending on the future for the team, Claire knows the hard work required to get Williams back to their heydays.

“You don’t get to 10th in the championship without having a lot of issues to address,” she says. “We are slowly and methodically working through them to make sure that we repair the weaknesses that we have in the team. We still have huge ambitions within Formula 1. We have to get the team back to where we need it to be and where we want it to be – that’s winning races again and that’s not the work of a moment. We are all realistic.

“Formula 1 is a very different environment to even two to three years ago. It is very difficult to win these days. To get us back to that level underneath the top teams of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, that’s our ambition for the next two to three years. It’s going to be a hard piece of work to get us there. But we will, because we won’t give up. We’ll keep fighting until we do.”

Suzi Perry: “You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear”

“I’ve loved motorsport since I was a child,” says Suzi Perry, reminiscing on how her passion first evolved. “It was always on at the weekends at home and I loved it. The passion for getting involved came in my early twenties when I took my bike license and my friends at the time were all bikers.”

Suzi Perry is a household name as far as presenting motorsports go. Her impeccable knowledge and love for all things two and four wheeled has enabled her to work in the MotoGP and Formula 1 paddocks for well over a decade.

“We used to go to British Superbike races and we used to watch it obsessively on TV,” she says. “It became ‘why don’t we do this’ and ‘why don’t we do that ‘and my friends would say ‘why don’t you go on television and do it yourself!’.”

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Photograph credit: SuziPerry.com

And that is how it happened. Having discovered this immense love, Suzi acted on it and made a phone call of a lifetime. “I called Sky, who at the time had the rights to the World Superbike Championship,” she says. “I called them for a chat, ended up going in and walked out with a reporter’s job in 1997. It was an extraordinary start to a career!”

Like anyone who has landed their dream job, Suzi remembers the immense feeling of joy and excitement.

“I remember walking out of the Sky offices in Middlesex and I just couldn’t wait to get on the phone and ring my parents,” she says. “I was beside myself with ecstasy. I just couldn’t believe that they’d offered me a job and that I would be working with bikes and on television. It was like someone had just told me that I’d won the lottery, but it was better than that. It’s gone on for 22 plus years.”

Since then, Suzi’s career has gone from strength to strength and even meant her hosting the most popular motorsport in the world for BBC 1.

“The moment I got a call asking me to do F1 was another defining moment,” she says. “It’s an enduring love that will never go away. It’s hard work, bloody hard work, but I love it. A lot of energy and work goes into a broadcast, despite talking about something you love.”

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Suzi with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, her two co-presenters for BBC F1. Photo credit: BBC

Although Suzi has worked in motorsport for over 22 years, the rush of excitement never disappears and that is the “beauty of live sport”, according to the presenter .

“It’s a combination of, I wouldn’t say nerves because I’ve done it for a long time, but there’s certainly excitement before and few deep breaths before the ‘hello and welcome’,” she says. “It’s great to have that buzz. I never turn up thinking ‘oh gosh, here we go again’. It’s always my life.”

One of the highlights for Suzi now is presenting with friends, which is a dream scenario for most people

“I’m at a stage where I’m working with my friends, the guys that I interviewed twenty years ago,” she says. “It’s heaven, it really is. No one has an agenda. I can honestly say that I’m in a team that pulls together, instead of one that pulls apart.”

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Photograph credit: Peter Fox

But, of course, there is always the tricky moments live on air. As Suzi explains, live broadcasts rarely run as planned despite rehearsal.

“You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear,” she says. “Sometimes you haven’t even got to the end of your sentence and something has happened. That’s the beauty of live sport.”

Suzi compares her job to news broadcasting, because of its ever changing nature: “There’s nothing like doing live sport, except, now this might sound strange, but news broadcasting. You have to be instinctive and have your wits completely about you and be a hundred percent. You try to be completely switched on all of the time when you’re broadcasting because anything can happen.”

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Photograph credit: Mike Lawn

One of the most spectacular MotoGP races to date was in Argentina which took place in April. Although Suzi wasn’t there that weekend, she watched it unfold on television. Races this that are the ones where you bring all of your previous knowledge together to make a seamless broadcast for the viewers at home.

“It was something you don’t see very often, so you have to pull on all of your knowledge and wisdom,” she says. “As a presenter it’s not your job to give opinion, it’s your job to ask the right questions to your experts who are standing next to you. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what you feel, you just have to contain the passion in those situations and ask the right questions. That can be tricky sometimes, but when you’re surrounded by the right people, it’s good. It’s a wonderful job and I love it, but there are times when it’s quite difficult. “

Why we adore motorsport and what it means to us

Motorsport is adored by millions, that’s a given. But, just why do we love it? Well, to do something a little different, Females in Motorsport asked the Twitter community to write a couple of paragraphs on why the sport means so much to them. The results are pretty uplifting to read!

Josie

I’ve loved motorsports since I the age of six, when I was able to understand the sheer brilliance of Michael Schumacher – him as a driver and his determination to win.

My first racing memory was asking my dad why he liked it because ‘the red man always wins’ but the German/Italian national anthems and seeing the passion from Ferrari after a win made me carry on watching (even if I did fall asleep sometimes).

Race weekends became ‘daddy/daughter time’. Racing brought me closer to my dad as it was a passion we both shared even if we ended up supporting different teams/drivers and I didn’t follow the aerodynamics career pathway into F1 he was hoping I’d take (sorry dad).

Racing hasn’t just brought me closer to my family but it’s also introduced me to many new friends and new opportunities. The confidence I’ve gained from meeting likeminded people, such as the Dare To Be Different community, has allowed me to start blogging about both MotoGP and F1 and to consider pursuing my dream career as a reporter in the motorsports world.

At six years old, I never thought racing would mean so much to me or would give so much back to me.

Marlon

I remember and, have being told that when I was a little girl, I was always watching races together with my father. When I got older I got more and more interested in the sport and started to learn more myself.

First it was mostly Formula 1 and DTM, as my father used to go to the DTM races in Zandvoort every year. In 2012 he took me with him, and it was amazing! This was my first live race.

I started watching junior series as well, which I really like. It’s s different to Formula 1. One thing I really like about it, is to follow the younger drivers and see them grow over the years.

I love the tension you get before the lights go out on Sunday. I still get goosebumps every time. This sport is so much more than just fast cars. It’s everything around it. It means the world to me.

Also, because I am sick, this is the one thing I can still do. It is a relief and joy for me. My goal now is to be working in this world, and I am determined to reach that.

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Oprah 

Motorsport is my life. And when I say it’s my life, that means something I can not live without. It’s a passion, It is a deep-rooted engagement between fans, teams, and drivers.

What made me love Motorsport has so many reasons. It motivates me to excel and makes me so special as an Arabian girl. I love It because it brings people from around the world to watch it together no matter of their backgrounds and beliefs. It puts me in a thrill and spellbinds my soul.

On the other hand, the sound of the engines is a heavenly sound to my ears. 2010, was my first ever circuit to attend was the Malaysian Sepang International Circuit I still remember the goosebumps all around my body and the joyful tears when I heard the engine sounds roaring from the parking area Today, as a motorsport editor under the wing of Motorlat, I met and interviewed a number of champions from Formula One, World Rally, Rallycross, IndyCar, and NASCAR at the ROC event, where they compete against each other.

Motorsport is my beautiful culture.

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Maddie

To discover what motorsport means to me we need to rewind about eight years.

I used to be a very sporty person but then I was diagnosed with acute plantar fasciitis. Long story short it messed me up for about a year and I was taken off every sport team.

Six months later I was in car crash, I had severe whiplash which would result in almost fortnightly hospital trips for three years.

It was towards the end of those three years that I discovered Formula 1.

It may sound silly to some but I truly believe that F1 and my passion that came from it played a big part in pulling me out of a dark pace.

In fact, without that passion I wouldn’t be where I am now.

I love motorsport because it has opened up a world to me that I never thought I’d be in. I love the excitement, the strategy and how it can evolve with the times.

Thanks to motorsport I have met some truly incredible and inspiring people, from a double amputee racing driver to the first female to drive in an F1 weekend for 22 years.

As I finish my final year of my Sports Journalism degree I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.

Helen

Some people think that F1 is boring, but not me. Sure the racing may be a bit dull sometimes, but behind the scenes there is still so much going on!

I love F1 because of the teamwork that goes into it. In some cases more than 1,000 people in a team with one goal of winning the Constructor’s World Championship and maybe along the way a Driver’s Championship as well.

When you look behind the racing, at the science, that’s when things really grip hold of me. The cutting edge technology and materials they use and what the engineers can do with them is mind blowing! And the fact that these complex pieces of machinery function, for the most part perfectly, really is just amazing.

Then there are the drivers and their ability to push these machines. I recall an interview with Eddie Irvine who was talking about how Michael Schumacher could leave the pits at Spa and drive through Eau Rouge flat out on a full tank of fuel. Eddie admitted that this is something he could not do. Some drivers have this ability to push harder than others and that’s why they are the World Champions.

Lastly an F1 weekend is not just about the on track action, but also what is going on off the track as well and I love this glamour and intrigue almost as much as what’s happening on the track.

Julia Piquet: “I’ve always had a strong character, which I think comes from my Dad”

The Piquet surname is one well-known in motorsport, with Nelson Sr a 3-time F1 world champion and son Nelson Piquet Jr having raced in F1 and winning the inaugural Formula E championship, in which he still races. However, they are not the only members of the family working in the sport, with daughter/sister Julia working with Motorsport.com. I spoke to her about growing up at racetracks and working in a constantly changing media age.

Julia’s father had retired from Formula One before she was born, but with her brother 7 years her senior, she spent most of her childhood supporting him. “I was always following Nelson’s career, so from when he started back in Formula 3 in Brazil and then the British Formula 3 Championship,” she said. “At that time, I was living in France with my Mom so would go to every race and we’d go on so many trips up there (UK), and I’d spend time around the track with Nelson. I’ve got so many relatives in motorsport that I’ve always been around it. My interest grew with it, I always loved being around everything.”

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As she grew up, and her brother’s career took off, more people would recognise both him and their father. Although to most children this would be unusual, for Julia it was normal. “When you’re used to that at an early age, it’s normal to you. It was definitely cool though,” she explained.

Julia was no stranger to racing herself when she was young, participating in friendly go-kart events. “When I was about 10, I started go-karting a little in Brazil. Nelson always organised go-kart sessions with his friends and I was always quite good. I liked going fast, I was never scared and was very determined in my driving. He said to me: ‘you should start racing!’ so I did a few karting coaching sessions and I was doing well, but to be honest my Dad wasn’t sure about it, it made him too nervous,” Piquet told me. “Funnily enough, two years ago when I fell off my horse in competition and tore all my ligaments in my right shoulder, Dad told me the worst mistake he ever made was not let me race go karts. ‘Horse riding is a much more dangerous sport’ he said.”

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Having moved to the US when she was 19, Julia studied at the University of Miami, earning a bachelors in Management and Economics, after which she went on to get her MBA (Master of Business Administration). 6 months into her course she was offered an internship at Motorsport.com, and after impressing her bosses, was presented with a job offer. “I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought about motorsport as a career before because it was something I really enjoyed and I knew a lot about. One thing led to another and here I am and I’m really happy.”

Julia spent several years working towards a degree in Economics, but that doesn’t mean she no longer uses the skills she learnt despite now being in motorsport. “When you attend a great school like the University of Miami, especially the Business school, it prepares you no matter what area you go into. I think more than anything you take the different tools and lessons you’ve learned along your life, because when you start working for a company it’s about not just what you are able to do, but how you deal with people and how you present yourself,” she told me.

Now working at Motorsport.com, Piquet is responsible for developing online news content such as the Fast Track podcasts and Motorsport Report episodes. Speaking of her job, she explained: “Motorsport Report is released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a focus on 2 or 3 major headlines. The show is in video form so you have graphics that help support the story you’re telling. With our Fast Track Podcast, it’s more like you want to hear the biggest racing headlines in 3 minutes. The podcast is released weekdays, and we typically feature 12 or 13 headlines – so it’s just a different way for our audiences to absorb motorsport news. I write the scripts every day, taking the most important and relevant news segments from our website, and then our editor does a fantastic job reviewing everything before we air.” Although Motorsport Report tends to be more F1 focused, the Fast Track podcast covers a variety of motorsport categories, meaning Julia must have a good knowledge of many series. Luckily, her childhood has prepared her for this, as she has been learning about several forms of racing since her youth.

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These online episodes often include Julia interviewing drivers and those involved in the sport, something she really enjoys doing. “It’s always nice to have someone in (the office) and research about them and then get their view point on different subject matters. I tend to get a bit nervous, but for me that’s normal. It’s hard in Miami because we’re in an area where there aren’t that many drivers compared to somewhere like London or Switzerland,” Piquet explained, adding: “one of my favourite people that I interviewed was Kurt Busch, just because he was very enthusiastic, extremely friendly and I just got a very easy-going vibe from him.”

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With a family involved in the sport, Piquet has had to interview people she knows very well. “I don’t get nervous or anything when it’s my brother, but he doesn’t really like interviews so I try to keep it short for his sake,” she said giggling. Having spoken to many interesting people, there are still 2 drivers on her list of those she’d love to interview. “Realistically, Helio Castroneves,” Julia explained, “just because I know he lives in Florida and we’d all like to know a little bit more about what he’s going to be doing in the upcoming years.” However, speaking of her dream interview, she said: “I’d really like to interview and just get to know Max Verstappen. He’s quite the Formula One sensation. I also come from a Dutch background, my Mother’s Dutch and I have a Dutch passport. Also, I have a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to people, and he seems like a great guy.”

Working online can be challenging with media and fan engagement constantly changing. This means sites such as Motorsport.com must also adapt to keep up with their competitors and keep their fans interested. “We’ve got lots of big plans, but it’s all dependant on a series of things in the company,” Julia told me, “we definitely have ideas for new shows, and really what we’re trying to do is engage with the younger F1 audience. Nowadays with the declining attention span of online users, people want to watch short entertaining videos, so our goal is to produce content that’s fun and that people can watch on our website as well as social media platforms.”

Julia Piquet is at the forefront of a new way of interacting with motorsport, providing podcasts and online episodes to racing fans around the world. With her childhood spent around circuits and cars, there is really no area she was more destined to work in. When asked about her advice for those wanting to work in the industry, she replied: “if you happen to have contacts, don’t be afraid to use them. Even if you don’t, shoot someone an email, connect on LinkedIn – don’t be afraid to TRY! The worst that can happen is you either you get declined or don’t get an answer. Also, most importantly, always be true to yourself. F1 and motorsport are male-dominated environments that require you to be sharp and on your game at all times. I’ve always had a strong character, which I think comes from my Dad, and it’s allowed me to never back down from what I believe in and never be afraid to give my opinion.” A strong female working in motorsport, Julia is a great role model for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.

(heading picture credit: motorsport.com)

Emma Walsh: “I just love being behind the wheel”

The way the media works has changed dramatically over the past few years with the rise of social media stars and YouTubers. One of those who dedicates a lot of her time to sharing her passion for motorsport online, is Emma Walsh. Having grown up in South Africa, toured with ‘Grease: The Musical’ and starred in Made in Chelsea, car vlogging was not the expected next step for her, so I spoke to Emma about her love for the sport and how working on Formula E radio came about.

As mentioned, Emma spent her childhood in South Africa though says there was “not much” of a motorsport culture during her youth. This has since change though with Walsh saying: “it’s come a long way since I was a child…”

This doesn’t mean that Emma herself didn’t have an interest though. “I used to watch Formula One with my Dad when I was a kid, and I used to make him take me down to a go-kart track which was just down the road from my house,” she explained. However, her brothers and sisters were not so interested meaning she spent a lot of quality time with her father through their mutual love of cars and racing.

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In 2011, Emma moved to London after touring with the musical Grease. Wanting to continue working in the West-End, she chose to relocate in order to audition for more musicals. “I had a British passport so I ended up staying here,” Walsh told me. Performing is still something she loves, but the long hours and performing 8 exhausting shows a week can really take its toll.

“I miss it! But I don’t know if I will get back into it full-time unless something amazing comes up. But I definitely do miss it, though I’m not into it as much as I used to be,” she explained. Having spent 12 years in the industry, it was difficult to stop, but had Emma not moved for her theatre role, her current career may not have progressed as it has now.

So, when did Walsh decide to pursue her motorsport career? “Probably after Made in Chelsea,” she said. “I had talked about getting my racing licence, it had always been on my bucket list, and after talking with a friend, he convinced me to do my own (YouTube) channel.” Made in Chelsea is the show that really propelled Emma into the spotlight, though was never something that she was looking to do. It happened through her friendship with MIC stars Binky Felstead and Ollie Locke, who she was going away with for the weekend. The producers came along, and after seeing her do a Ferrari track day, approached her to be on the show.

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However, after having no control over the edit and not always being happy with how she was portrayed, Emma decided to start her own YouTube channel. “It was just documenting my life at the time,” Walsh explained. “I was doing some random stuff, adrenaline and car stuff and hanging around with some of the other car YouTubers and they we’re always making videos, so I thought ‘why not?’.”

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“When I came off MIC, which is quite a glamorous show, on purpose I stripped everything back. I wanted to start subtly to focus on the cars and my love for them. It’s a very male-dominated industry and being a girl, you get a lot of guys turning their noses up at you. I keep reminding people it’s a lifestyle channel with cars featuring quite heavily. I’m not a car journalist, but my passion is there and I am learning as I go. I just love being behind the wheel,” she said.

Starting her channel has changed her life. She has been able to do and experience things that she would never have been able to otherwise. The standout moment for her so far involved a certain 4-time F1 World Champion. “With Ferrari I’ve had a great run because of social media. I’ve managed to create quite a nice friendship with them. Interviewing Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone was great so probably skipping in the garage with him is a standout moment,” Emma told me, adding: “another highlight was working with BMW South Africa when I hosted the M Festival there.” None of this would’ve happen if she hadn’t been encouraged to start her YouTube channel.

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Having got her racing license shortly after leaving the E4 show, Emma Walsh is keen to do more driving, though being a full-time driver is not something she would like to do. “When I think about it outside of the car I’m terrified,” she said, a feeling reiterated by many, though she also says: “the minute I get in the car I feel comfortable and I really enjoy driving. I’m always up for track days, I definitely have a lot to learn, but hopefully this year I will get to do a race with one of the championships, just to see what it’s like.”

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Her online presence has also allowed the South African to venture more into another form of media. “I’ve done a fair bit of radio in the past, not in terms of having my own show, but I really do enjoy it,” Emma explained to me. “I prefer to do TV work, but the opportunity came up and it was a great way to meet people and better my interviewing skills.” Through her role on talkSport Radio, she has also been recruited for a new initiative in one of the newest series of motorsport: Formula E Radio.

“A friend of mine, who’s a car commentator put me up for the job. It’s definitely a different race, I grew up watching F1, so this is new for me. It is a very exciting race to watch and there’s always something going on. I have a few friends that drive in the Championship which keeps it interesting, but I’m really enjoying getting into Formula E,” Walsh said. Despite her love of radio, her ultimate aim is to move from the airwaves to our TV screens. “Cars and TV are a good mix for me,” she said when talking about her desire to be a presenter on F1 coverage on TV. “As long as I know my stuff, I think I’d be OK.”

Having worked in several mediums of media, Emma has the ability to deal with any situation that may arise. Her work on radio means she is able to communicate quickly with the audience, and work on YouTube means she is able to create short and entertaining videos. Both important parts of working to a timescale for F1 coverage, we could see Emma Walsh on our screens sometime soon.

(all photo credits: Emma Walsh)

Rosanna Tennant: “Working in F1 doesn’t feel like a job”

Meet Rosanna Tennant, someone who knows what it’s like to work your way towards the top of the motorsport media career ladder from the very bottom! After a successful spell with the YouTube channel Pole Position, her role as a presenter quickly developed. Now, as a presenter and host for Formula 1 and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, she is becoming an increasingly familiar face.

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Rosanna presenting with Johnny Herbert, accompanied by Nico Rosberg. Credit: LAT Images

Rosanna works for a sports marketing agency based in London called Influence Sports & Media, and it is through them that she works with the Mercedes F1 team.

“My role involves working with the Team to come up with ideas in and around what they do at the factory and races,” she says. “That then crosses over to filming with the Drivers and the Team’s Technical Partners, as well as Senior Management and Team members from different departments. Sometimes I present those pieces and sometimes I take more of a producer role. Then when they want a live event hosted, I’ll host that as well.”

Therefore, Rosanna understands working with brands and what they tend to look for when it comes to generating content.

“It’s making fun and engaging content, but never overstepping the mark, especially when you are working with global brands with rigorous brand guidelines. It’s all about attention to detail; things must always be well thought through.”

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Credit: LAT Images

In addition, Rosanna also works for F1 in Schools and 4×4 in Schools, hosting events for them. Perhaps, though, she is best known for working directly for Formula 1, helping them with the content they produce.

“I present their social media and digital clips, and am also part of the team that creates content in the Fan Village over race weekends,” she says. “I’ll host things like the Formula 1 Fan Forum either on my own or with a co-host such as Johnny Herbert. It’s brilliant being able to engage with the fans and the Drivers – the Drivers are always in such good spirits because the fans are there. I also do interviews in the Formula 1 Paddock over the course of the weekend.”

These events are non-stop and require you to think on your feet, especially when hosting on stage for hours at a time without a script! All this is a good learning experience, according to Rosanna.

“It’s definitely been a great learning experience,” she says. “It’s made me better at live presenting, as you just have to go with it. The adrenaline is always quite high as you never know what might be coming next. Sometimes there’s a delay and you just have to fill a gap for ten minutes chatting to the camera or the audience!”

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Rosanna with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton

Unsurprisingly, this all equates to one busy schedule, but Rosanna sees that as a positive thing.

“With Formula 1 you work weekends so you’re away from home a lot, but I’ve always wanted to do this kind of thing so I appreciate every single moment. For me, being busy is great and I’m lucky to be able to say I absolutely love my job. I never feel like I’m dragging my feet to go to the office. The moment I feel like that I need to change career path!”

One of Rosanna’s iconic moments came when she interviewed Lewis Hamilton as he took her for a hot lap around Sepang International Circuit. The video was circulated all over social media and has had well over six million views.

“We did an interview, if you can call it that!” Rosanna explains. “It’s great to have the insight of what goes on within the Team. I’ve learned lots and it’s helped me develop a strong working relationship with Lewis, Valtteri and Toto.”

In 2016 Rosanna hosted Mercedes’ Paddock hospitality at Formula 1 races, which kept her in the sport’s environment on a regular basis.

“I was interviewing the Team’s drivers on almost every race weekend,” she said. “It helped me stay close to the sport and the people within the sport. That obviously helps you keep abreast of new opportunities, you don’t necessarily hear about them first, but you do hear about them.”

Despite Rosanna working for one of the most influential names in sport, there are still restrictions with the content that can be published. With this, an eye for creativity is formed, which is why Rosanna is so successful at what she does.

“When creating YouTube content related to F1 you really have to think outside of the box as you don’t have access to much footage due to copyright laws,” she says. “At Pole Position, we were very limited with what we could show but we soon became pretty savvy making creative videos without track footage.”

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Despite the challenges faced at Pole Position, Rosanna feels she learnt the tricks of the trade during her early days there.

“I was 25 when I started hosting Pole Position,” she said. “I knew nothing about motor sport and had to really summon up my self-confidence in the beginning. It was a steep learning curve. Some of the YouTube content at the time was quite aggressive and I made the decision not to follow that trend. For some YouTubers that works for their brand but that style wasn’t and still isn’t right for me. I never knew where Pole Position would take me; you never want to look back and think ‘I wish I hadn’t said that!’”

One to watch: Emily Linscott

At Females in Motorsport we love discovering young girls that are taking their first steps in motorsport. So, when a young lady called Emily Linscott starting following us on Twitter, we quickly realised how much of a star she already was.

Meet Miss Linscott. She’s 15 and already formidably fast, not to mention a multi-award winning racer. Although she only started karting in 2016, by August last year she was making her racing car debut at Rockingham. You can see why she’s had lots of people excited!

“I only starting liking motorsport once I’d started karting,” she told us. “My parents would watch MotoGP and sometimes an F1 race, but then a man called Dan Lee of Race Driver Developments came along and said if I wanted to go further in motorsport, not to go to SuperOne karts but to go straight into cars.

“We went to Snetterton in 2016 to watch and I loved them, from then on I’ve wanted to race them, and I’ve been planning my career ever since.”

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Credit: Jakcob Ebrey

But how did this new-found love of speed begin? A day out at a karting track in Essex was in fact what kickstarted Emily’s passion.

“My dad took me to Lakeside Karting one Sunday with a school friend and I enjoyed it,” she said. “I joined a development club after that and after just two weeks they said I should move up to their karting race academy. I did very well there and once again, Dan Lee (Brentwood Karting) said I should go open wheel to better my skills. Things seemed to be working out pretty good!”

Since that first adventure, Emily has been snapped up by Arden (their founder none other can Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner) and their Young Racing Driver’s Academy, something she is incredibly proud to be a part of.

“I was totally shocked and surprised to learn they’d scouted me and asked me to join the
YRDA after such a short space of time,” Emily said. “We were asked to the Arden HQ to see their factory. When we got there, it was amazing. There’s three formula cars in their reception, one of them being a Red Bull F1 car! It’s so cool to see them up close, I’d never even seen one in the flesh before. They’re huge!

“Then both Jamie Horner and Steve Hutchinson came out to meet us. They shook our hands and then just spoke directly to me about what I’d done and how I felt about winning my first championship in my first year and things like that. They seemed to know a lot about me. We then got a tour of the building and the cars in the workshop, which was really cool. They then showed me where the drivers practice on their F4 simulators and offered me a go.”

Naturally, Emily was apprehensive but took this in her stride and the nerves played to her advantage.

“I was a bit nervous, as I’d never seen one before, I’d never even driven a computer racing game, so it was all a bit strange,” she said. “I got some awesome coaching and then they left me alone to try what I’d learnt, which went pretty well too. At the end of the session we talked about how fast I’d picked it up the that my lap times showed good speed and handling of the car…then they offered me a position in the YRDA as one of only 15 drivers worldwide!

“I’m just starting my second year with them and the training, the simulator work and the
mental approach is really starting to show through. I’ll be testing in an F4 car a few times this year during the season, so we’ll see where that takes me.”

Despite having achieved an awful lot in such a short space of time, Emily is keeping her options for the future open. She said: “Initially I was aiming for GT or LMP in the WEC, but I’ll wait and see what the F4 tests show. I’m expecting them to be incredible, so who knows, I may go down the Formula route after the Ginetta’s…”

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Emily at Brands Hatch with her Mum Samantha. Credit: Lee Fraser/Mat Acton

It was clear to see Emily’s passion from talking to her. Racing is now a bit part of her life and one of her biggest sources of enjoyment.

“It’s the excitement and thrill of pitting myself against others at speed, the added element of danger and the atmosphere of the paddocks,” she said. “Most of the drivers treat each other with a huge amount of respect off the track, even to the point of making good friends with them too, but when you get out on track, the friendship ends for that period of time and you’re all totally focused on the racing, not the people.”

Emily has already shown maturity in the racing decisions she’s already made. On top of this, she knows that being a girl in the industry still makes you a minority. Yet, she is keen to show that girls can dare to be different too and rightly doesn’t let her gender hold her back.

“If you want to do it, then just get out there and do it!” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t; you can. If I can do it, then anyone can. I was extremely shy but loved the idea of going fast.

“That’s it really, you have to show others just how much it means to you, in whatever way you can. It doesn’t mean you have to say it, you just have to work hard to prove it means something. It’s crazy expensive and my family aren’t what you’d call rolling in it, so my parents won’t just waste money on a whim, I’ve had to prove it really means something.”

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Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Why Emily is one to watch:

  • Emily won the BMKC Junior Championship in November 2016 having competed in just 6 of the seven rounds, finishing on the podium in every race.
  • Awarded the Buckmore Park Star Pupil 2016 – the first female to win the title in its 16-year history.
  • The Jack Petchey Foundation proudly awarded Emily for ‘Inspiration to young adults’ through her work and commitment to karting.
  • Highly Commended for Karting Magazine’s ‘Rookie of the Year 2016’ award.
  • Competed in her first Ginetta Junior Car Race in August 2017.
  • Finished 5th place rookie at Silverstone in the Ginetta Junior Championship Race September 2017.
  • Highly Commended for Active Essex ‘Young Sports Personality of the Year 2017’ Award from tens of thousands of young athletes.
  • Named as one of the ten finalists of the Downforce UK ‘Henry Surtees Teen Racer of the Year 2017 – awaiting the result any day now.
  • Recognised by ExquisiteConceirge.co.uk who have tipped her as an Essex Sports Start To Watch in 2018 .