Walking through the Red Bull Ring paddock for the first time on Thursday was an amazing and slightly surreal experience. I was finally where I wanted to be: at a Formula 1 race reporting on all of the action.
I have been working towards covering a round of motorsport’s premier single seater series for quite some time, so naturally I was incredibly excited to be given the chance to attend the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix for Richland F1 – a site that I have been a major contributor to since it first started.
The trip to Graz, where I was staying, was a long one and started at 2.15am on Wednesday morning. After meeting with Octane Photographic’s Leanne Boon, picking up Luke Smith and taking the Channel Tunnel to Calais, we then moved through France, Belgium and Germany before reaching the beautiful country of Austria, arriving at our hotel at around 8:00pm.
Thursday was my first day in the F1 paddock. After picking up our media passes, we then headed to the track to start work. The media centre at the Red Bull Ring is a fantastic facility (I am told it is one of the best on the calendar) with loads of space, a great view of the circuit and – most importantly – nine varieties of Red Bull.
I spent several hours gathering quotes and travelling from motorhome to motorhome. I also completed interviews with Esteban Gutierrez and Marcus Ericsson. I am a rather clumsy person, so I was trying to keep it cool and be as professional as possible. However, my chat with the former started with me knocking over a vase and spilling water all over the floor. Damn it.
Overall, it was a good first day in the paddock and one that I will never, ever forget. The weekend only got busier, with the on-track action kicking off on Friday. The two sessions saw the Mercedes duo dominate, but there were plenty of errors and mistakes as the drivers tackled a circuit that F1 had not visited for 11 years.
Between sessions my interview with Gutierrez went live. My Ericsson chat was posted on Saturday and to be honest, I was quite pleased with how they both turned out. During second practice on Friday afternoon, Luke and I headed trackside to watch the cars through turn seven.
It was my first time hearing the new V6 Turbo power-units and – in my view – they sounded very good. Sure, the volume is quieter but it is now a comfortably loud noise level and there are so many new layers to the sound. You can also tell the difference between the three engines as well. I really like it, but it obviously doesn’t translate so well through TV speakers.
Friday afternoon was a little frantic as I gathered quotes from the post-practice media sessions. To give you an idea of how long I spent at the track, I usually got to work in the media centre at about 8:00am and left at around 6:30/7:00pm, before then completing a few more pieces back at the hotel and catching some sleep. They were all very long days and it is far from an easy job, but I expected that and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Saturday’s qualifying session saw Felipe Massa take pole after a mistake by Lewis Hamilton cost both Mercedes drivers the chance to take the top spot. There was a big gasp in the media centre as the Brit spun, but it helped to produce a very mixed-up grid for the race. It was probably the busiest day of the weekend, largely because I pretty much always had something to do.
Sunday was quieter in comparison. Sure, post-race it was frantic but beforehand it was a relatively relaxed morning. During the first GP2 race I headed down to the paddock (the media centre was above the grandstand and on the opposite side of the pits – that was a little bit annoying, especially as only one elevator worked all weekend) to meet with Katie Tweedle from Red Bull Racing.
She was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the team’s Energy Station, Tree House and pit garage, which was an incredible experience. It was fantastic to have a behind-the-scenes look, especially as the mechanics were busy preparing the cars for the fast-approaching Austrian Grand Prix. Watch out for a piece on that soon.
There was a lot of talk over the weekend about potential rule changes to spice up the sport’s spectacle. We learned that standing restarts – a, in my view, ridiculous and unnecessary idea – are being proposed for next season, with several drivers sharing their thoughts on it on Friday and Saturday.
The race took place at 2:00pm local time. Beforehand, I will admit that I was very excited but also a little nervous. It was my first time reporting on the main event for quite some time, but it proved to be a good one with the Mercedes duo battling with the Williams drivers in the early stages. Nico Rosberg eventually took the win but only by a few seconds.
It was fantastic to see Valtteri Bottas secure his first podium finish too. Once the flag had dropped, I quickly posted my report, added the results and planned what I would do next. I headed back into the paddock for a few media sessions before a hectic few hours followed transcribing, writing and posting.
Overall, Red Bull put on an incredible show with plenty to entertain the fans – from air shows to classic car parades – and the media were treated very well too with plenty of space, great food and drink, a fantastic view of the circuit and some good on-track action.
During the Austrian Grand Prix weekend I did – literally – have to pinch myself several times. When you have worked towards something for quite some time, finally reaching the aim is very surreal. It was so odd taking a look away from the monitors and seeing the cars racing on the track right in front of my position in the media centre.
Looking back at my time covering the Austrian Grand Prix, it is definitely – as cheesy as it sounds – the best experience of my life. It was everything that I wanted the weekend to be and probably a little bit more as well, and I learned so much, so a big thanks to Luke (#politearguments) for giving me the opportunity! All of my hard work has finally paid off. I’m now counting down the days until the next race that I will be covering and can’t wait.
Images copyright of Richland F1