I have often been asked if I loved writing and found motorsport through the platform or if I started as a racing junkie and fell into the journalism side of things. For of those of you that are interested, it is the latter. Motorsport, especially Formula One, was something that was introduced to me at a young age. I certainly was not one of those children that found themselves being carted around the country watching motorsport trackside, it was more a case of having it on the television at the weekends because dad liked to watch it; no romanticised story behind it I’m afraid.
Being born in 1995, I was only very young when Formula One exhibited some of its finest talent and sublime racing. Despite having it on in the background most weekends, I can’t recall any great moments in Formula One up until the mid-noughties. Early memories of the sport come in the shape of Jenson Button’s first win and those – now iconic – staring eyes peering from under the helmet and Kubica’s horrific crash in Canada: two very different ends of the spectrum. It was around this time I can also remember being able to name all the drivers, their nationalities, teams etc., with my brother in our dining room. I had some good knowledge of the sport but I wanted to know more. With my father being a big fan of the sport, it wasn’t hard to find books around the house that were filled with racing history and soon I found myself building up a good understanding of the sport for a youngster. Although I showed enthusiasm, this interest of mine wasn’t taken very seriously by my parents – if a motorsport event arose, it would be my dad and my brother who went as an example. In fact it was a huge deal when I was able to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed with my family a few years ago. The whole atmosphere meant a smile was permanently plastered on my face and I felt like I actually belonged somewhere, as corny the statement may be.
Of course like millions of others I would fantasise about working in motorsport but back in reality I was all geared up to head off to university and train to become a teacher. I had attended the open days, started on my personal statement and chosen the course I wanted to study. It was only a suggestion made by a friend that led to me creating a blog. Summer boredom had struck and struggling to find something to do, I created ‘FormulaFairman’ in an afternoon. My first blog post was an introduction where I stated ‘my dream [was] to become a journalist for the sport’. The whole blog is rather an embarrassment and created with a google account I don’t have access to anymore as I can’t remember any of my log in information. Yes, that means it is still available online to laugh at, go ahead.
I never showed interest in journalism or writing at any point in my life until I created that blog. In fact, I hated English at school and although I watched the news and read the papers, I had no desire for a profession in writing. However after a few months of writing on my own blog, I was picked up by a website and soon worked my way up to their site management becoming an editor-in-chief. Having such a big audience for my work kept me motivated to continue writing and I began to receive compliments on my work. Opportunities soon fell at our feet and in just a matter of months we had been invited to meet and interview Massa and Bottas of Williams Martini Racing. That day was a turning point for me and I just knew that if I really worked hard, the future could be very different for me. Forget classrooms, I could be working in a paddock. So that’s what I did, I worked hard.
2015 was certainly made me feel like the passion I put into my work paid off. January brought my first experience as a ‘media accredited’ journalist at the annual Autosport International Show. There I met some incredible people and got a chance to liaise with industry professionals, something I had never really done before. The following week I was in London at the Zoom Charity Auction. I remember networking with guests like Suzi Perry and Jennie Gow and just being so pleased that I could listen to them talk their job and how they got to where they are now. That evening also introduced me to Caroline Reid and Christian Sylt, two very important people in my life. These two gave me the most incredible opportunities last year. I was able to travel around the world with my passion, meet idols and finally get my name in print with their help and support.
May of last year saw me travel to Monaco and spend the weekend with the FIA Formula E bunch. As well as spending time in the best place on the entire planet, I was able to meet some great friends and conduct numerous interviews with drivers and the boss himself, Alejandro Agag. Oh – this interview also took place on his private yacht docked in Tabac corner, quite an experience. This weekend was also followed by a gala dinner in the iconic casino, the neighbouring tables sitting guests like Nelson Piquet Jr and Nick Heidfeld. After a few too many complimentary drinks I found myself in a photograph with Prince Albert and shaking the hand of Jean Todt. The end of my time in Monaco was finished with a couple of pints with Freddie Hunt. Yes, that weekend is going to be pretty hard to beat.
Summer brought with it some crazy opportunities too. One Thursday afternoon I found myself at Mercedes’ F1 base at Brackley in Toto Wolff’s office, listening to him tell me about his recent bike accident and have him receive random calls from Bernie. Hours later and after scooping some exclusives, published in papers such as The Times, The Independent, City AM and Sunday Express over the following weeks, we headed back down South to meet an ex-racing driver in London for dinner. Damon Hill is one of Britain’s finest World Champions in Formula One, my father’s racing hero, and here I was sitting having a bloody meal with the bloke.
The following month also saw me visit Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix and experience my first Formula One race. However I wasn’t sat with the spectators in the stands, I was mingling with drivers and team principals in the paddock representing Zoom, the charity organisation that hosted the auction I attended at the beginning of the year. I was also present at the following Belgian Grand Prix in the same role with the organisation.
2016 has also brought with it some truly awesome opportunities. Back in January I helped out at the Autosport International show again, liaised with special guests at the Zoom Auction and got to see the pictures I had signed for the charity sell for fantastic sums of money. This weekend I am also hopping on a plane to Paris to join friends at the Paris ePrix for the Formula E Championship.
Never did I think any of this would happen to me.
I suppose what I am trying to get at in this first blog post is that with hard work, a few lucky breaks and sheer determination you can do whatever you damn well want with your future.