The weekend of the Valencia European Grand Prix started an adventure for I, Leanne Wilson, having been accredited as F1 media. Granted access to areas off-bounds to those who attend the Grand Prix, being able to access the paddock and media centre, has shown me how many cogs are behind the workings of such a glamours show. The life of the media though is far from glamours: arriving each morning around 8am – on average about 90 mins before any action on track – and leaving when the last piece is edited and emailed, which is late at night; normally, even when back to the hotel, the work continues in to the early hours of the morning.
Swiping through the F1 personnel turnstile to access the paddock, the walk from the media car park, though short, proved to be interesting: in front of me was Vettel and behind were Massa and Schumacher. Each time, I was greeted with the presence of different drivers and team bosses.
As a newbie I made my way to the media centre, where I set up home for the weekend, picking a nice spot where the track sweeps around the media centre just along from the pits and paddock area. Settled in, I swipe through a turnstile into the back of the pits where the hospitality is located, as well as the glamorous world of the Paddock Club. Friday morning was quiet: the teams were busy in their garages finishing their setups for free practice.
About 10 minutes before the start of the practice session the drivers leave the medical area and team hospitality, heading into their garages, enabling me to catch the likes Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alsono, Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello. After the session has finished there are press conferences with selected team bosses, giving the media a chance to ask their own pointed questions. When the top drivers appear each morning there’s chaos between media trying to can get their shots as video guys take their usual backward walk down the paddock.
The days of being media at F1 are long, busy and tiring. Each accredited media is rushing images and articles off to sources so that the information is received quickly and so that each can pip the other to the post with the headlines. As each F1 session comes to a close the media centre is a flurry of action: fingers are on keyboards typing at furious speeds with the information and timings.
As the sessions progress into quail and race day the paddock area gets busier. VIP guest arrive to spend time with the teams, as do paddock club attendees, who are able to access the area during the pit and paddock tours throughout the afternoon. The guests in the paddock enjoy the same close access that media have and spend that time getting photographs and autographs of their favorite drivers.
The media access I have is limited compared to that is granted to those who work in F1 all year round. The regulars get access to restricted areas trackside and in the pit lane, where numbers are limited due to how hectic the areas already are. F1 is the cream of the crop in motorsport, driver and team-wise, and this filters down in to different areas of hospitality – even the media are considered to be the best of the best. The media at F1 are really the world’s media; the amount of different languages I heard throughout the weekend was unbelievable. The coverage which this sport gets throughout the world is vast.
Overall the weekend has been an interesting experience; as for the racing that’s another matter. Ending my weekend as F1 media, I can say I’m truly shattered and can’t wait for a lie in – but sadly that will have to wait as I fly back to the UK to cover Goodwood, which will be another long weekend of media/photography work. Why do I do this, some may ask? I might be a girl but I love the thrills and spills of what motor sports and each weekend is different.
Leanne Wilson forms half of Octane Photos, Badger’s image purveyors of choice and all-round petrolheads. For more info on their array of motorsport photography work see their website.