Kate Walker, a respected freelance journalist (New York Times, Financial Times, ESPN and motorsport.com) is here today to share her typical Formula 1 Sunday with the Paddock magazine.
Click here to subscribe to our print edition!
7am. I usually either make myself several coffees using the hotel room facilities or – in those barbaric countries that don’t supply coffee in hotel rooms – call room service and request two double espressos. First breakfast is done!
8am. Wait for whichever one of my colleagues I’m car-sharing with that weekend and who has overslept that morning. While waiting, I’ll check my various news feeds for Formula 1 news or for business and markets news that could have an impact on teams or sponsors.
9am. The first stop at the track is to hit up Mercedes for a coffee and some water to get me through the day while catching up with the hospitality people who’ve been taking care of us all weekend. After that, it’s time to swing by Ferrari for more caffeine and a light breakfast. The morning is typically spent chatting, following threads and trying to gather information for the next week – features and columns.
The grid is addictive – there’s a certain smell of dry ice and hot rubber that defines Formula 1 for me, and the frenetic energy you can feel from fans and team members alike is a bigger kick than anything I get from an espresso.
The bulk of my writing work is usually done by race day. Rather than chase and report the news, my job is to analyse it, which means spending a lot of time having off-the-record chats with people to try and trace the WHYs and the HOWs of the weekend’s major headlines. Sundays are actually my easiest day of the weekend, and a nice respite after three 14-hour days of running around like a headless chicken between interviews, managing the competing demands of my various clients.
1pm. After a quick meal, I like to get on the grid as early as possible. The best part of the weekend for me is spent down at the bottom of the grid, waiting for all the cars to come in and line up. The grid is addictive – there’s a certain smell of dry ice and hot rubber that defines Formula 1 for me, and the frenetic energy you can feel from fans and team members alike is a bigger kick than anything I get from an espresso.
2pm. Race start at the media centre. If it’s a race I’ve been commissioned to cover, I’ll keep a lap chart and take separate notes of anything interesting that’s happened on the world feed, from shunts and overtakes to particularly amusing radio transmissions. If I don’t have to write about the race, I just kick back and enjoy watching it as a spectator. The best bit is always the press room commentary. We watch the race without any vocal track (except radio transmissions), so various members of the press tend to give their own commentary, telling off X driver for driving like an idiot or praising Y for a ballsy manoeuvre.
3.45pm. At this point, it’s either on to the post-race press conference if it’s been an unusual podium or time to start cracking on with the race coverage if I’ve got a commission. The next two or three hours will be spent writing up the race as per my client’s brief – straight narrative, selective highlights, whatever – and finding pictures to go with the stories.
6pm-7pm. I’m usually winding up for the day, which means reopening Waze until it tells me that the fans have cleared out and my route out of the track is relatively clear. In Spa, the mass exodus of Verstappen fans to the Netherlands can mean it’s best waiting till 10pm or later to think about heading off. If it’s safe to go, I head off in search of dinner. If not, then it’s time to head into the paddock and see what food can be scavenged from the teams.
Midnight-1am. Packing is done, it’s time to hit the sack in readiness for Monday’s flight home. Unless it’s a party race, in which case it’s time for a quick change before heading off to whatever after-party will tolerate us drinking and dancing till long after dawn…