Working in the “Wing”: A media perspective

IMG_20130414_132224For over six decades, Silverstone has been the setting for many internationally recognized events including Formula One, as well as being given the “Home of British Motor Racing” moniker as an appropriate title. In April 2010, construction work on the new £27 million “Wing” complex started in earnest that would help to pave the way to ensure Silverstone’s future as a premier motorsport racing facility.

Until this point, Bernie Ecclestone had been hyper-critical of the Northamptonshire circuit for becoming shabby over the last few decades. However, when MD Richard Phillips gave the billionaire dealmaker the guided tour along with Red Bull’s Christian Horner and the media, they were incredibly impressed.

The “Wing” was just the start of major developments that would bring Silverstone into the 21st Century, as then-BRDC President Damon Hill fought hard to keep the circuit in its rightful place on the F1 calendar, as it had hosted the very first F1 race in 1950.

Silverstone had to work hard to gain the investment to build this impressive facility, as there was no government assistance, with the “Wing” complex needing to pay for itself to help offset the £300 million that Silverstone needs to shell out over the duration of its FOM contract.

As a result of the International Pits Straight being located between Club and Abbey, Abbey would take over from Copse as the first corner of the track, as a flat-out kink, which was evident to see at the World Series by Renault event in 2011, and has made its mark as a great corner on the updated track layout.

Now as it reaches its third year of operating, I was part of the media entourage that was covering the FIA World Endurance Championship and the FIA F3 European Championship just the other weekend, and would be working within the inner sanctum for the duration.

Just being up close to this gargantuan structure was impressive enough, as the WEC has an open paddock, giving fans great access. Entering the building comes with any routine checks by the security before climbing three flights of stairs to reach the media centre itself.

As it was my first event as a FIA-accredited journalist for a publication, I was uncertain of what to expect in the “Wing,” as I had been working out of the media centre on the National Pits Straight for the Britcar 24 Hours last September, which starts out of Woodcote and sweeps into Copse, and was able to see the cars rumble into pit lane for their stops. The “Wing” spans the same length as the International Pits Straight between Club and Abbey and cuts a dominating figure when anyone approaches the track around said vantage point.

IMG_20130414_162242Turning right at the top of the stairs towards the media centre, I was greeted by another security checkpoint, before passing the media cafeteria on the right hand side and entering a long corridor, which has a spate of double doors that are the entrances to the media centre. In the only words that I can describe the inside of it is that of a laboratory clean room, with row after row of LG LCD screens providing various feeds, including live TV footage and timing information.

The desks and chairs had a clear sign of uniformity, as I took my place of work for the next 2 days, and set the ‘office’ up, plugging the laptop into the mains, as well as getting out the various notepads, Dictaphone and pens out of my bag that I would be using during the weekend.

The media centre had its fair share of reporters, PRs for relevant teams, championship media delegates and photographers filling the seats, but I imagine that it would be filled to the rafters on a Formula One race weekend. The media centre also has viewing booths where you can see some of the action, but the view in the cafeteria is much more panoramic.

IMG_20130414_101332The auditorium, just a short walk from the far end of the centre, doubles up for the driver briefing room, as well as the press conferences, and is compact, but effective in its layout, with all being able to have a view of the drivers that have just graced the podium.

Wi-Fi is a big help in relaying the news live from the track, and at the “Wing” there is no exception here, as the “Cloud” is what is provided and it does hold up to the strain of how much stress a high-profile racing weekend puts an internet connection under duress.

A lot of people do, to an extent, assume that by being a part of the media is somewhat glamorous. That may be true, but there is much hard work that happens in the epicentre of motorsport journalism, and from numerous different sources as well, which I explained earlier.

The ability to focus on the task at hand can depend on the surrounding environment, which was certainly true that weekend, as it clearly is the case that a professional has to make sure that he or she is ‘in the zone.’ Having finished after two days of race reports, live blogging and conducting interviews, it had just dawned on me just where I had just been working, and a couple of days to really put motorsport journalism into a clear and realistic perspective from first-hand experience.

Working in the “Wing” was an interesting insight for myself as a motorsport journalist, as the building itself is a proud landmark in the Northamptonshire countryside at the “Home of British Motor Racing”. This is helping to set the pace for Silverstone’s future within the motorsport world quite nicely.

(All images (c) RichlandF1.com)

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