Article features images courtesy of The Cahier Archive (f1-photo.com)
Louise Goodman was the voice of the Formula One pitlane for almost twelve years. In her role as ITV’s pitlane reporter, Louise saw it all. Dubbed ‘the first woman of Formula One’, no driver ever escaped her microphone, and she was always on-hand when a story was developing.
These days, Louise is enjoying life on the other side of the screen, as well as working with ITV in the British Touring Car Championship, but she sat down with Badger’s Rob Watts to share some memorable stories from her time in Formula One.
“I’ve always said that my career was a set of happy circumstances,” Louise explains, “I didn’t set out to work in motorsport, but from an early age I loved anything with wheels and an engine.
“A few of my mates as a teenager were into in racing. One of them – a guy called Steve Curtis, went on to become one of Britain’s most prolific World Champions that nobody’s ever heard of – he’s 8x World Offshore Powerboat Champion. The Curtis family business was Cougar Marine; they built powerboats here in the UK and also out in Florida. I went to stay with Steve and his sister La out in America, and through that, I met the editor of a powerboat magazine – so that was my entrée into the racing world, albeit in a different guise.”
I got off the back of a motorbike and walked straight into this Formula One environment, really not knowing what I was doing if I’m honest.
After initially getting her break with Powerboat & Waterskiing magazine, Louise explains how she ended up meeting Tony Jardine, who went on to give her her first job in Formula One.
“I had kind of overheard him at a barbeque saying he was starting his own PR company, and that he was looking for someone to come work for him. By this point, I had become editor of the powerboat magazine, but I was going away travelling and was looking for something less intensive so that I could plan my travels.
“Basically, I got in touch with Tony and became his first employee when he set up – in fact, the first time I worked at a Grand Prix was with Tony. I’d headed off on my travels and was in Australia at the time. He got in touch and said ‘I need an extra pair of hands in Adelaide, will you come and help out?’, so I got off the back of a motorbike and walked straight into this Formula One environment, really not knowing what I was doing if I’m honest.”
Louise kept in contact with Tony and on returning to the UK went back to working full-time for his PR company. Now firmly settled in her new role, doors quickly began to open for Louise.
“It was through Tony that I then went to work for Camel. Well, initially for BP (one of our clients) and part of my role with them was to be the press officer for Leyton House. Through them, I met Ian Phillips, who at the time was the Managing Director of Leyton House, and then I met Eddie Jordan while I was doing PR for Camel in F3000.”
I remember thinking ‘The Sun will love this – I’ll have some of that!’
After a four-year spell with Jardine PR, Eddie Jordan snapped Louise up and made her Head of Communications for his fledgeling Grand Prix team, and as Louise explains, working for Eddie was a totally different experience altogether.
“I loved it. Formula One today is very compartmentalised, and that goes across the board. I was effectively the whole communications department and half of the marketing department. You had to multi-task back in those days.
“In fact, Ian Phillips [who at this point was the commercial director at Jordan] used to joke and say ‘Does Eddie want to be rich today, or does he want to be famous today? – which of us is going to be busier?
“The teams were a lot smaller back then. I was actually employee number 47 when I joined Jordan Grand Prix. Today it probably takes that many just to put up the Red Bull motorhome, but it was a great environment.”
In her new role, Louise was enjoying a new level of creative freedom and was quickly learning how to get Eddie on her side.
“Eddie, from a personal perspective, was great because he liked the media side of things. He liked being famous. He was quite amenable, but he’d try to play hardball sometimes. If he said ‘I don’t want to do it’ I’d just say ‘OK, well they don’t want to talk to you anymore’ and then suddenly he’d be available. So, for the most part, he’d let me get on with it and do my own thing, and let me be creative.
“There were a few times when someone had come to one of the more established teams with a crazy idea – the classic one being one of the teams phoned me up and said ‘We’ve got this couple who want to get married at the Grand Prix… in our garage. It’s not really our thing’. They clearly couldn’t do it from a licensing perspective, but I said ‘Well, maybe we can do some pictures?’. At the time I remember thinking ‘The Sun will love this – I’ll have some of that!’.”
We’d have to say ‘Eddie, f*** off! You’re interfering!’, and he would just laugh!
By the mid-nineties the Jordan team was developing a reputation quite unlike any other on the grid. While being a serious operation on-track, Jordan’s off-track activity was a different story, and Louise was at the forefront of it.
“We had a rock n’ roll image. Eddie liked us to work hard and play hard. We were pretty much the inventors of what is now the massive post-British Grand Prix party. That started off with us on a flatbed truck as a means of entertaining all the Jordan staff and their families back when it took five hours to get out of Silverstone.
“We would just get the whole team and all their partners in there, bring the truck and get some of Eddie’s rock n’ roll mates involved, and we’d have a makeshift band. There were a couple of guys from Tyrrell, James Allen would do lead vocals, and I’d get up and do backing vocals occasionally. Johnny Herbert would be up there singing ‘Go Johnny Go’, Damon Hill would play guitar, plus a whole load of others who’d join in as well. So, Eddie was great to work for because it was a fun environment – I loved the atmosphere within the team.”
Louise looks back at her time at Jordan, and recalls a particular tactic they developed to work around Eddie’s short attention span.
“Ian Phillips used to say ‘Give Eddie fifteen minutes in a sponsorship meeting, and he’s absolutely blinding. Give him twenty five, and he’d talk himself out of a deal’. They worked on the basis that Ian would kick him under the table as a way of saying ‘Shut up! I’ll close the deal now’. Sometimes Eddie would walk into the office and start mucking about, and we’d just have to say ‘Eddie, f*** off! You’re interfering!’, and Eddie would just laugh – you could do that with him
“That might sound like an incredible lack of respect when speaking to your boss but we’re still great mates today. The core of people I worked with at Jordan Grand Prix get together in Monaco and have a lovely lunch with Eddie and Ian Phillips, Andy Stevenson as well, who is still at Force India, which of course was Jordan Grand Prix back in the day.”
Eddie Irvine was a messy bugger. I used to have to iron his shirts for him.
Louise worked with several notable drivers during her spell as a Formula One press officer, but she has fond memories of her time spent with Eddie Irvine, who she remains friendly with to this day.
“Eddie [Irvine] was a messy bugger. I used to have to iron his shirts for him, but you did that sort of thing back in those days. This was back when I’d be sewing patches onto overalls because we’d got a new sponsor for a particular race. Eddie would always turn up on time; he was good value. He’s the kind of person that every time he opens his mouth a quote falls out of it. You’d have to reign him in sometimes, but he’s one of those personalities. Like him or loathe him, you couldn’t avoid him.
“Today, no interview takes place without a member of the press team sitting alongside with a dictaphone in their hand. I can understand why it’s done that way – it’s a different world now. I had a good relationship with Eddie Irvine because he knew that if I was saying to him ‘you need to do this’, then there were ten people I’d said ‘no, sorry he’s not available’ to because I was using his time effectively.
“He was a bit tricky when it came to doing the sponsors because he didn’t like that kind of ‘pressing the flesh’ – it wasn’t his thing at all. I think if a journalist was going to ask sensible questions though and he could have a proper conversation with them, he would actually get stuck into it because he had opinions and wasn’t afraid of expressing them either. The ‘talking bollocks’ – in his words – to please the sponsors – that was the bit he really didn’t enjoy, and as I said earlier on, he’d always turn up with the wrong shirt on, not ironed, looking like he’d just fallen out of bed.”
Irvine’s teammate at the time, Rubens Barrichello, was a very different character and the pair posed a unique challenge for Louise.
“Rubens Barrichello was perpetually half an hour late for everything. It got to the point where I would say to Rubens that we were leaving, half an hour before we actually were. It’s a Brazilian thing – they’re late for everything. Half an hour late is pretty early for them.
“I’d kind of have to juggle the pair of them because Eddie would come down two minutes before we were supposed to be leaving and then say ‘Where’s Rubens?’. If he wasn’t there, Eddie would just say ‘Well, I’m going up to my room then, call me when he gets here’ because no Formula One driver wants to be seen waiting for another Formula One driver.”
In part two, Louise discusses getting the call from ITV and how her career went in a totally different direction.