Back in 2013, I started my own Formula One blog as a way to keep my writing skills sharp and as an outlet for my opinions on the sport (my wife humours me, but I really don’t think she wants another conversation about prize money inequality or how the point-scoring system could be improved).
After six months or so of getting five or 10 hits for each blog post, I decided to look for a bigger outlet. At the time, Bleacher Report had been getting a lot of publicity for their big-name hires and the quality of the site had improved markedly since its acquisition by Turner.
I applied, was accepted and wrote my first B/R article from a hotel room in Montreal, where I was on vacation with my wife. After it was published, we both sat there, incredulous, refreshing the hit counter—that one story got more page views than my blog had in six months!
After a couple more articles, Will Tidey and Mark Patterson, two editors from B/R’s recently launched UK satellite office, got in touch to say they were looking to hire new F1 columnists and asked if I would be interested.
I worked with Mark for the next year and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. He is a supportive and patient editor, always giving his writers the freedom to try new ideas. When I asked him about applying for a press pass to cover the Canadian Grand Prix, he was immediately onboard, even though the application process took up a ridiculous amount of his time over the next few months, from sorting through the FIA’s Byzantine and archaic accreditation portal through a last-minute flurry of emails between London, Paris and Ottawa to ensure my application was, in fact, approved.
Mark eventually moved on to a new position as a social media editor and was replaced by Alex Livie, who commissioned my first longform feature—on Jim Clark’s last race—something I was dying to try and for which I will always be grateful.
Anyway, last week, just before the final race of 2016, I got news that B/R was ceasing their F1 coverage at the end of the season. The site is based in the U.S. and, in fact, they are stopping all international sports coverage, except for soccer. From a pure numbers perspective, it probably makes sense, but F1 is still one of the most popular sports in the world and there are regulation changes coming next year that should shake things up and perhaps pique the interest of new or former fans.
In the end, I am very thankful for all the opportunities B/R gave me—it was a fun, exciting and challenging three years. I had a ton of interesting experiences and made lots of contacts within the sport that I probably wouldn’t have without B/R’s influence behind me.
I was going back through some of my old stories and decided to share a few of my favourites:
I always found it fascinating that Jim Clark won not only his final F1 race, but his last three. However, for obvious reasons, that final race, the 1968 South African Grand Prix, was always overshadowed by the F2 race at Hockenheim, where Clark was killed—there wasn’t much written about the Kyalami race.
I wrote this story for a general reader who might not know how Clark’s story ended, so I tried to build in a bit of suspense, while also adding in some detail that F1 enthusiasts would enjoy. To that end, I interviewed most of the surviving drivers from that New Year’s Day in Johannesburg, including John Surtees, the 1964 world champion, and Chris Amon (as well as one of my writing heroes, Robert Daley). The moment Brian Redman told me how he found out about Clark’s death, I knew that was how I would end my story.
The teams always post photos from their track walks on the Thursday of a grand prix weekend and I always wondered how important it was for the drivers. The answer is: Not very.
Still, this was an interesting feature to report. I asked Tracy Novak, Manor’s wonderful PR director, with the idea a month or so before the race, worried that she might brush me off, but she agreed almost immediately. At the time, of course, she didn’t expect that it would be rainy and freezing cold on the appointed day, but she still spent more than an hour walking around the track with me, the drivers and their engineers, giving me a fly-on-the-wall view of a lesser-known part of the race weekend.
On the day of Sebastian Vettel’s first Ferrari test, I saw a few photos pop up on Twitter from people at Fiorano who had climbed the fence to watch him take the car for a spin. This was obviously a big deal—a four-time world champion and Michael Schumacher’s heir apparent joining the most successful team in F1 history, the team inextricably linked with Schumacher.
I tracked down a few of the amateur Twitter photographers and got their stories.
This was the first race I covered live from the paddock and it was also the first race Mercedes lost in 2014 and the first win of Daniel Ricciardo’s career. I had just happened to be at his media session the night before, after qualifying, with a handful of other journalists, listening to him complain about the mistakes he made on his qualifying lap. Things got better on Sunday.
After the post-race press conference, I shook his hand and congratulated him and then spent the next hour following him around as he conducted endless TV interviews and got mobbed for his autograph in the paddock.
No matter what Nigel Mansell or a variety of television analysts say, there is no such thing as “home-field advantage” in F1 (even though it does exist in most other sports). I crunched the numbers to prove it.
At the end of the 2013 season, I put together this round-up of the best team radio messages of the year. As far as I know, it was the first time anyone had compiled a list like that. Now every outlet—including the official F1 website—does a “best radio messages” round-up after each race. You’re welcome.
This is the third article I wrote for B/R and probably the one that got me hired as a columnist. I looked back at all the previous times in F1 history that there had been significant changes to the engine regulations and showed that it was usually teams that built their own engines (or were exclusive customers) that benefitted the most. That held true in 2014, as well.
When I knew I was going to be in New York for the Malaysian Grand Prix this year, I figured there must be a group of some sort that meets to watch the races. A quick search turned up the Formula 1 in NYC group and I got in touch with one of the organisers, Jae Chung, to say I was planning to come and write about the experience.
The group meets at an Irish pub in Midtown, down the street from Madison Square Garden, and it was pretty busy when I arrived just before 3 a.m. It’s not often you get to report stories while sitting in a bar, drinking Guinness, but to quote Jimmy Shive-Overly from You’re the Worst, “It’s all writing. … Every mimosa is a chore.”
Now that my B/R career is finished, I am going to relaunch my F1 blog, The Parade Lap, until I find a new outlet for my F1 writing. Hope to see you there!