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Going from sitting on your couch watching the goings-on in the Formula 1 paddock to being amongst them is a surreal experience, to say the very least.
We’ve all seen footage of journos walking around, generally making a nuisance of themselves, but did I ever think I’d be the one doing it? Absolutely frickin’ not.
Last week in Barcelona marked the second grand prix where I’ve been able to go behind the “velvet ropes”, after also being accredited for this site in Melbourne.
So while I wouldn’t call myself I complete neophyte to the experience, there’s still an awful lot to learn and discover. I have picked up a few things though, so here’s a few things I can share:
First thing I learned? Not to geek out. With all their other on- and off-track happenings going on during a race weekend, the paddock acts as a sort of oasis for everyone to relax and walk-around (relatively) unmolested, from Christian Horner and Fernando Alonso, to Alain Prost and Pastor Maldonado.
Naturally the temptation is to snap a cheeky selfie every five seconds, but I can imagine that would get annoying pretty quickly, so it’s better to just let the likes of Niki Lauda enjoy his linguine.
Speaking of food, that’s probably the best part about the paddock (besides the whole Formula 1 thing, of course). Even at a flyaway race like Australia each team supplies a decent spread of free sweets and pastries, but when the motorhomes come out so do the chefs, and the dining goes to another level.
By virtue of the green media lanyard around my neck, I could take full advantage of the culinary services on offer everywhere, and as someone who doesn’t know the definition of “moderation”, I look forward to the inevitable type 2 diabetes.
On the other side of things, watching F1 from the press box is, well… far from perfect. For both Melbourne and Barcelona the media centre has been situated overlooking the main straight, but as you’re indoors, you don’t have the same sightlines up and down that you get in the grandstand opposite (although Albert Park’s did have something of a view into the first corner).
As such you spend most of your time as you would at home staring at the TV, and while you do get live timing, it is a bit strange to watch without commentary – it’s not unheard-of for journos to pull up one of those dodgy flash streams just to have something to listen to.
Personally I much preferred to go out and walk around during the sessions to get a better sense of the action, but just like anyone else, you need a ticket to access any specific grandstand.
Having said that, many journos can’t afford to do likewise as they need to be at their computers when the cars are on-track – also when you’re paying 15€ per day for internet as we were in the media centre in Spain, I can’t blame them for wanting to get the most out of it.
At the same time, having now gone to a race so far away from home I’ve gained new respect for the travel my colleagues have to do constantly. It’s a 24 hour flight Sydney to Barcelona, and that’s something they will do week-in-week-out for large chunks of the season, with the expectation that they’re ready to work the minute they’re off the plane.
By no means does it cancel-out the sense of privilege that comes with getting to cover Formula 1 for a living, but let’s just say I’m no longer the biggest fan of expanding the calendar.
Of course, good and bad, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for you, the readers of this website.
Thanks to you GP247 has become one of the leading independent F1 sites on the internet, and my only hope is that we can continue to do right by you as we aim to make our coverage bigger and – more importantly – better. From our backsides to trackside, it’s been a hell of a journey, and we’re only just beginning.
Something you want us to find-out about the paddock or behind-the-scenes? Let us know, and we’ll try to find out!