I genuinely can’t believe it’s that time of year again, especially seeing as it still feels like we’re trapped March and stuck in some kind of living nightmare, however, the end of 2020 is in sight. Thankfully.
It’s been over nine months now since COVID-19 changed all our lives; a sentence which sounds more suited to the start of some weird apocalyptic movie rather than a yearly motorsport review. This will be the fifth year I have compiled one of these blog posts, and whilst I still love coming back to my blog and just writing exactly what comes to mind, I did worry that… well I haven’t exactly got much to write about.
With a global pandemic on our hands, quite literarily, being able to attend motorsport events has become a non-existent option. Just like most of us, my plans had to change dramatically but for good reason.
I’m very understanding of why this has happened, and unlike some who seem to think they have a god-given right to be in the paddock because they’ve attended every grand prix since the dawn of time, I know life has to continuously change and adapt to suit a future where this virus is still present.
Away from the doom and gloom, my life has also changed for the better this year when I was offered a full-time job in motorsport working with WTF1. I know some of you will have been following my career for a few years now, maybe some of you even from the start, but I expect there might also be some new faces reading this post.
Since I started this very blog in my bedroom during the summer of 2013, I have been jumping from project to project in the hopes that one day I could do this for a living.
I started writing about F1, but then 12 months later discovered Formula E and spent most of my time covering that championship. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Formula E will always be the championship that allowed me to really grow and spread my wings. Without it, I would definitely not be here now with my dream job.
2020 began with a plan to attend as many Formula E races as I could with Inside Electric. IE is a publication that I launched with three of my closest friends at the end of last year, intending to bring a new kind of content for fans that we felt was missing from this new and exciting all-electric championship.
Naturally, when it became apparent that this ‘coronavirus’ we had heard lots about was a serious threat, races began to get cancelled and quickly the calendar became sporadic with big question marks over every weekend. It quickly became impossible to book flights, accommodation or even apply for media accreditation when the future of so many races hung in the balance. I was heartbroken.
I love nothing more than being at a racetrack. Whether that’s in the sunny harbour in Monte Carlo watching Formula E or stood in the pissing rain wrapped up in eight different layers around Brands Hatch enjoying BTCC, it fills me with so much joy. When it became apparent that this pleasure was to be snatched away, I really began to stress.
Thankfully, certain parts of race weekends could be replicated online. One of the best parts of my job is talking to people. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the awkward moments when I have to ask a driver I have never met about why their performance on track was so shit, but over ‘lockdown’ I was able to delve deeper into my favourite kind of interviews: long-form.
This is something I explored a little with my podcast ‘Small Torque’ a few years ago (more on that later), however, with drivers stuck in their homes with nothing to do, I was able to get in touch with all my contacts and get an hour of their time for a special recording.
As you would expect, drivers are so busy at a race weekend with media duties, sponsors, engineering briefings, and the actual racing, getting an hour of 1-to-1 talk is impossible. This was one of the benefits of no racing; drivers couldn’t say they were busy when they spent hours streaming Call Of Duty on Twitch, plus teams were keen to get as much exposure as possible.
At one point in lockdown, I had the chance to speak with Daniel Abt, Allan McNish, Alejandro Agag and Nelson Piquet Jr for the Inside Electric Podcast in the space of a week. The chat with Piquet was probably my professional highlight of the year.
He joined Formula E with a reputation still around him from his time in F1, however, turned it around to become the electric series’ inaugural champion in 2015. Nelson remained in the sport for a few more seasons, but dramatically vanished after the 2019 Sanya E-Prix and has not been part of Formula E since.
During his time in Formula E, I had many opportunities to chat with him but for almost all of them, he came across quite grumpy and gave short and blunt answers. I once got him to crack a smile in an interview which seemed like a breakthrough.
So when I got the go-ahead for an hour-long interview with the champ, I worried I would experience the same Nelson I had interviewed time and time before. Crikey, I feared the podcast chat would be over in ten minutes.
Having said that, as soon as we connected on Zoom it was apparent I was talking to a different guy. He was chilled, laid back and having a laugh. I even asked him about crashgate, the most sensitive and taboo subject around his entire career and something nobody had dared bring up since it happened at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
Inside Electric also pulled off a mega job for the six-race season-finale Formula E hosted around Berlin, releasing podcasts after every single race with guests that included Chain Bear and Marc Priestley. All round, I am really proud of what the team have done this year under the usual circumstances.
Almost immediately after the Formula E season wrapped up, I got the job with WTF1. I started back in October, and honestly, it still feels like I am about to wake up from a dream. It’s a weird set of circumstances when you’ve been at your new job for three months but have only been able to see one of your colleagues for lunch when the law allows you.
It’s also a job that’s merged all my best-loved aspects of the sport into one role. The creative freedom I have covering the fun and quirky sides of a sport that I have watched since a kid makes every day a total joy. The ability to do it all in my loungewear is also a bonus.
The podcasts have been fun and I can only imagine will go from strength to strength when we can meet up and record them in-person rather than hundreds of miles apart. The community that WTF1 have has also been a wholesome and very-much welcomed addition to my life these past few months. Their passion and dedication for the sport is inspiring, and if you’re one of these new followers I am sending you a big virtual hug and hope to meet you at a racing event soon. Fingers crossed!
Overall, the year has been one of mixed emotions. Looking back, I will have fond memories of securing my dream job and be fortunate enough to have stayed healthy throughout it.
Next year I have got big plans for WTF1 and the website, in addition to a few projects of my own. One project I am excited to share is that I will be launching a YouTube channel in the New Year.
Now, I’m not planning on using it as a tool for world domination but more of an outlet I can experiment with creatively. Ranging from vlogs (when we can safely return to social events) to behind-the-scenes looks at how I approach a weekend working in a motorsport paddock, the content will be a mix of motorsport and lifestyle. You can get a head-start and subscribe to the channel by clicking here.
One series that will feature on the channel is the relaunch of my podcast ‘Small Torque’.
As I said earlier, Small Torque is something that I attempted two years ago intending to interview people from all areas in motorsport about their careers, the highs and lows, and how they got into the sport. I had big plans for it, even getting Nick Heidfeld on the podcast, but soon it became a struggle to schedule interviews across the UK when I also had a Monday – Friday job at the time. Who would have thought people in motorsport were busy at the weekends?
Small Torque will have a bit of a revamp for 2021, with a fresh rebrand and the option to listen on podcast platforms or watch it on YouTube with more information to follow.
For now, I think that’s enough rambling for me.
I hope 2020 has been kind to you all things considered, and that 2021 is a better year for us all.
Take care, look after yourself.