Jennie Gow, journalist and broadcaster for the BBC, ESPN and host of Formula E on ITV, explains her strategy for the Badger GP Fantasy League and how she thinks F1’s ‘silly season’ is shaping up.
Rob Watts: Jennie, you’re doing rather well in the BadgerGP Fantasy League, and you’re ahead of other broadcaster players Will Buxton and Simon Lazenby. What’s your strategy?
Jennie Gow: You sound surprised, but I think that was always going to happen!
I spoke to Will about this and I think the key strategy is ‘don’t forget to do your predictions’. I’m lucky because I’m in my second year, I graduated my rookie season and now I’m settling into life in the BadgerGP Fantasy League and not forgetting your predictions is key to it.
Also not necessarily going for the people that you think are definitely going be the top three of a weekend – I mean you can’t afford to have Mercedes, Rosberg and Hamilton all in your team, so look at who’s scoring the most, look at your budget and fit in around that.
RW: Do you tend to consider the circuit – for example, if we’re at Monaco would you avoid putting the Williams drivers in?
JG: No, I’m far less systematic than that. I’ve found through my career that trying to be clever very rarely works for me! Weekend specific, sometimes there’s a track that particularly suits someone, like Nico Rosberg in Spain. You’d say that’s almost certain points, and then they go and take each other out.
We all think at times that Formula One is incredibly predictable and the cars are processional but when you start doing something like the BadgerGP Fantasy League you realise that actually, that’s not always the case.
RW: I think the perfect example is when Max won in Spain. I don’t think one person out of over 7,000 who play the BadgerGP Fantasy League actually predicted the podium that weekend.
JG: It was an unusual result but I would like to think I did pick Max Verstappen that weekend. I do quite a lot of predictions, I do it on BBC Radio 5 Live, ESPN and on Badger, so I think I picked Verstappen on ESPN and the BBC but I might not have been as bold in my BadgerGP predictions!
RW: Your husband Jamie also plays the BadgerGP Fantasy League. Is there any rivalry between the two of you?
JG: No, we refuse to talk about F1 in our house. Could you imagine? He works in F1 for Sky and I work for the BBC and ESPN. Could you imagine if we also went home and spoke about F1? It would be a nightmare!
RW: I think my wife would probably like it if I didn’t come home and talk about F1! In fact, she won a similar F1 predictions competition last season, but she makes her picks purely based on gut feeling.
JG: Again, you sound surprised! Women’s intuition is a powerful thing. Equally, I find choosing by colour also works. You might as well, I like red ones and silver ones!
RW: That’s interesting you say that because the red ones have been a bit of a disappointment this year.
JG: Yeah, they really have. They seem to lack the ultimate pace each weekend and the strategy calls have just been very strange, anything but instinctual. They’re overthinking things and I’ve said this time and time again this season; it’s almost like they’ve forgotten how to win.
RW: Do you think Mercedes are home and dry now?
JG: No, let’s not go there. It’s a 21-round championship and reliability for Mercedes is the worst it’s been since they came back into the championship. You never know what’s around the corner and with Sebastian Vettel there, he’ll always try and drag a result out when he can. They need Kimi Raikkonen to start showing what he’s got as well, and they need the team really behind them to come together. It’s tough times at Ferrari at the minute, can you imagine the amount of pressure they’re all under from Maranello, and from the fans?
RW: We’re only halfway through the season and as we know it’s very difficult to predict what the second half might have in store. If you were picking your fantasy team right now, who would you be putting in it?
JG: I’d do it all exactly the same because I’m beating Will Buxton and Simon Lazenby! I forgot to do my predictions one week so that inhibited me, but no, I’d do very little different apart from always remembering to do the predictions. That’s it really.
RW: We’re part way through a run of six races in eight weekends, and this is around the time of year when silly begins. Are you expecting any driver moves for next year?
JG: I don’t think anything is going to be announced anytime soon, and traditionally you have to look at when people make announcements. There’s a lot of movement potentially, and as happens in most years, there’s loads of us gossiping and then nothing changes.
RW: At present, it’s looking like the three top teams may retain the same driver lineup. What are your thoughts on that?
JG: You’re going get years where things stay the same, you’re going get contracts that stay the same. As much as I think having Kimi in the paddock is a great thing for Formula One because the fans really love him and warm to him, but it would nice to see someone like a Stoffel Vandoorne or a Max Verstappen in that Ferrari so we can really see what they can potentially do.
RW: Where next for Sergio Perez? He’s been in great form and has even been linked to Ferrari.
JG: Perez in a Ferrari would be a very attractive proposition for a lot of people, bearing in mind that one of Sergio’s best friends is the richest man in the world [Carlos Slim], and Mexican money is a good source of sponsorship at the moment. If you’re Sergio Perez and can bring a multi-million-pound deal to a team, as well as the richest man in the world, then you have to look at that.
He’s not a pay-driver, he’s in great form, and having gone through that massive knock after McLaren ditched him in a very public way, and having to come back from that shows how strong he is.
RW: Do you think Perez’s upturn in form has put an end to Nico Hulkenberg’s chances of earning a top drive?
JG: No, Hulkenberg has done that – Perez has nothing to do with that. Hulkenberg has failed to deliver time and time again. He’s a great guy, a great driver, he won Le Mans and was incredible in GP2, he’s just not shown the same form in Formula One.
You have your time in Formula One, and like Valterri Bottas, you have to shine at the right time or you have to do something extraordinary when that time might have gone. Perez had his time, he got the McLaren drive, everyone kind of wrote him off after that but now he’s starting to say ‘don’t write me off, I’m still here!’ so it proves that you can turn it round.
Hulkenberg just needs to get that momentum that you need, and once you’ve got your first podium others will follow. He just needs that opportunity!
Jennie was presenting live from the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and very kindly took some time out to chat with me whilst the cars were out on the hill.