My Race Day: Luke Smith

Luke Smith – My Race Day

We are joined by Luke Smith, Chief Formula 1 writer at NBC Sports, to hear about his usual Formula 1 Sunday.

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06:30 – early start on race day, perhaps unnecessarily so, but I like to get into the action early and catch up on anything that has happened overnight. Working for a US network means you’re constantly battling with varying time zones. After getting ready, I check my emails and write my ‘to do’ list for the day in the paddock.

07:30 – once I’ve met with my friends and colleagues with whom I’m staying, we set off for the track and discuss any plans for the day ahead. I’ll usually be found in the back of the car typing away on my laptop, being able to do some of the pieces that aren’t time-sensitive at the time and make use of the commute, saving time for when we get to the track. We like to leave plenty of time for the drive-in. For example, Monza can be particularly busy with traffic – we had Romain Grosjean honking at us as he cut across the front end of the car this year!

08:00 – arrival at the track. The paddock is always a bit quiet on a Sunday morning, but it’s still nice to get some pictures to put on the NBC Sports F1 Twitter account to show what the atmosphere is like. It’s also quite a good gauge for the weather, too! After setting up in the media and saying my hellos to people, I’ll usually head down to Ferrari for some breakfast (highly recommended!). After that, it’s back to my desk to begin the push online on both Twitter and with articles, pictures and information on what we can expect in the race. I’ll also check in with the producers back in the USA to double-check our plans for the broadcast and let them know of any tidbits of information I may have heard.

12:00 – with two hours to go, the paddock begins to get busier and busier. As the drivers head to their parade, it’s a great time to head out into the paddock to get photos and see what the atmosphere is like ahead of the race. It’s always very nice to take a few minutes alone to simply watch these professionals – it’s amazing what you can pick up just by keeping an eye what goes on.

13:30 – 30 minutes until the race start, and the broadcast goes live on NBCSN. From here on in, I’m tied to my computer for the social media push and to send trackside information to the broadcast team. The final few articles go live as we prepare for the lights out. The feeling just before the race start is incredible: a mix of nerves and excitement – and I’m just in the media centre! I like to relax just before the race begins by listening to some music on my iPod. At certain rounds, I also hold a Twitter Q&A with Formula 1 fans via the NBC account to discuss what may be coming up in the race.

14:00 – lights out, and away we go. Throughout the race, I provide live commentary on Twitter, which makes it very busy indeed. However, the lulls do give me a chance to also write my race report, ensuring that it goes live the moment every driver has crossed the finish line. It can be quite hectic trying to do both in tandem, but it’s certainly good fun. You get a good buzz from it.

End of the race – once the race is over, the broadcast continues for another 30 minutes, after which point I’m able to head back out into the paddock for media sessions and driver interviews. Working for TV, I have the luxury of both my own quotes and videos of interviews conducted by Will Buxton in the media pen for NBCSN. I draw up a list of the ‘big stories’ to come out of the race and work through them, getting the necessary quotes from drivers and team personnel. 

After the race – Once the race is over, the paddock turns into a building site, so you do have to watch out for the various trucks being driven around. Once I have the news articles out of the way, I work on the ‘colour’ stories and opinion pieces, as well as continuing the push on Twitter. The US fans are some of the most passionate in the world, getting up at horrible times in the morning to watch Grands Prix – they’re phenomenal. If possible, I like to take a moment at the end of the race weekend to go for a walk around the paddock and take it all in. It’s a special, special job, and one I am forever grateful to have. With my articles filed and everything checked off my list, I wrap everything up and meet with my friends to begin the journey back to the hotel. There’s nothing quite like a cold beer at the end of a busy race weekend, debriefing about everything that has gone on before getting a well-earned lie-in on Monday morning!

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