A chat with Nikki Douthwaite

nikkiWhen it comes to expressing one’s love for Motorsport, Nikki Douthwaite has taken a rather unorthodox approach.  Affectionately known as ‘Dot Lady’, Nikki creates one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces made entirely from hole-punch dots.

Patiently crafting each individual piece, some artwork has been known to take her as long as four months due to the intricacy and attention to detail required. Little else shows dedication and passion quite like placing a record 587,000 hole punch dots to one artistic piece.

Nikki first adopted this unique style of artwork whilst obtaining her Art Degree in 2006. Studying ‘Pointillism’ (and yes, this is a thing), she opted for the use of hole punch dots as they offer a wide variety of colours and sizes. “When I am sticking my dots, most of the enjoyment comes out of playing with colour and colour relationships”, she explains.

Nikki further details that, much like the work of George Seurat, her biggest inspiration, she enjoys creating portraits and portraying each facial expression and emotion in her own distinctive way.

sebvettelnikki“I love trying new combinations and I also enjoy the detail of people’s faces. When you start creating someone’s face, even someone you have seen hundreds of times before on a screen, you notice things you didn’t before”, she notes.

For example, “someone may have one eye a lot bigger than the other, or a really uneven jaw line”, something none of us would otherwise recognise in familiar faces. This admirable attention to detail has garnered Nikki attention and opened opportunities to create work for the likes of McLaren F1 and the BBC.

Nikki’s first taste of notoriety came when her ‘Dot Seb’ – as she likes to call him – appeared as part of the 2012 BBC F1 closing sequence. This is a unique achievement and an impressive one at that. Indeed, there is more to Nikki’s visit to the McLaren Technology Centre than meets the eye. To create a collection of work for exhibition at the McLaren Technology Centre required four years of planning, two years of painstaking work and over one million hole-punch dots.

Yes folks, one million.

When discussing her recent exhibition with McLaren, Nikki’s inner fan started to really emerge; as an avid admirer of the British outfit, she relished the opportunity to work so closely to such a prestigious Formula 1 team. “Who could resist that as a huge McLaren fan?”, she says gleefully.

“I have been lucky to meet quite a lot of my F1 heroes but I have probably been most star struck around Jenson Button, Martin Whitmarsh and Martin Brundle, mainly because they are such down-to-earth people”, she adds.

“I was also quite nervous before meeting Ted Kravitz but that is because I have a little crush on Ted”, Nikki jokes, showing a lighter side to her personality.

jameshuntnikkiOf the McLaren collection commissioned by Martin Whitmarsh, Nikki takes particular pride in her James Hunt dot design. “I don’t feel like I could have done it any better. When I have finished my work, I always feel I could improve in one area but with James Hunt, I did my very best”, she explains with pride.

Perhaps the most difficult part of Nikki’s job, amongst many visible challenges, is the trust she needs in her own talent and meticulous planning. “Though I do also hate hunting any missing dots”, she adds with a mixture of laughter and frustration at the thought.

The challenges and the time required to create her unique artwork has not stopped Nikki from dreaming big for future projects. “I would love to make a full size F1 car out of dots, but not yet. Of course, I will also have to make any future McLaren champions as well, to keep the collection at McLaren up to date”, she continues with obvious ambition and determination.

For Nikki, the aim is to evolve, to get better and to create art work to be proud of. Nikki’s humility and modesty was best summarised by her inability to pick a highlight from her vast array of opportunities thus far.

“What may seem like a great achievement to me may seem really small to someone else”.

One thing is for sure, no other artist is creating artwork quite like Nikki Douthwaite.

Be sure to check out Nikki’s work on her website.
Any custom orders can be sent to her email address: nikki@nikkidouthwaite.co.uk
All images used are courtesy of Nikki herself.

 

 

The best driver of my generation | Kimi Raikkonen

Image“Leave me alone; I know what I’m doing”, was Kimi Räikkönen’s now-famous remark to his race engineer. You cannot argue with him, Kimi certainly knows how to race. During a time of Vettel domination, other great performances pale into insignificance through many corners of the media – so Kimi, here is your recognition.

Kimi Räikkönen is perhaps not an obvious choice. He neither craves the limelight nor is he a sponsorship darling like many of his peers and rivals on the grid, but that in itself helps describe how Räikkönen is special and, indeed, the best driver of my generation.

His quiet, methodical approach reminds me of my beloved Jim Clark; his victories are humble and gracious but never fall short in entertainment. Therefore, it could be argued, that the Finn adopts are more classic approach to his racing, a style reminiscent of decades bygone, an era before the ‘showbiz’ side of racing took hold. For Kimi, the focus remains on racing – only a win matters.

When the time for Raikkonen to grace the podium does come, phrases like “oh, not him again” do not appear in general conversation, eyes do not roll and very few sigh. His desire to remain individual has made his more popular than he could ever imagine, bringing with it an amusing sense of irony. He’s a showman and an example of great racing, without even meaning to be.

Räikkönen’s statistics are impressive yet often marred by the performances of his rivals. He holds the record for most consecutive point finishes with 27 between the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix and the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix. He has 20 wins, 77 podiums and 969 career points to his name since being discovered by Mr Peter Sauber himself back in 2001. These are note-worthy statistics, they really are, but not vital in handing Kimi this honour.

ImageOften trying to keep a professional air to my work, it is rare for you will hear my opinions about the current crop of Formula 1 drivers but I will share one idea I stand by. The driver with the most titles, trophies and wins does not automatically become the ‘best’ in my book; they are successful and their talent undeniable, yes, but there is an important distinction to be made.  Even as a blogger and journalist, statistics are not how I judge a driver. I look at them as individuals, not numbers, and with Räikkönen’s career, this seems applicable.

His ‘phoenix from the ashes’ story was a marvel, a real classic by Formula 1 standards. He was unceremoniously dumped by the powers that be at Ferrari, thrust into the crazy circus that is the World Rally Championship and later made a successful return atop the Formula 1 podium. I did not hear grumblings about his victory in Abu Dhabi in 2012, more cheers of excitement and gratification to Lotus for fighting to bring him back.

As far as Motorsport fans go, I was quite a late starter to the sport; I can trace my Formula 1 roots as early as 2007. Whilst I had shown some interest in the sport, it was always in the background and did not control my every thought or dominate my working life. I attribute my moment of F1 discovery to the day Räikkönen won his championship, not because his place in the history books was cemented forever, but because the abundant thrill of it all gripped me.

It was a race full of incident and was scrappy by anybody’s standards. It was the first time three drivers had contested a championship since 1986 and Räikkönen sat third in the standings behind team-mate, Fernando Alonso and a fresh-faced Lewis Hamilton who was in his rookie season.  Positions were constantly switching between drivers and the championship was prematurely awarded to all in contention. As Hamilton slipped down the order, Alonso too began to fade allowing the enigmatic Finn to take the chequered flag and the world championship.

Cue an excited Katie, pacing the room and roaring with excitement.

For this reason, I hold Kimi Räikkönen responsible for making me a fan of Formula 1 and, thus, responsible for the subsequent career that has followed. Bestowing the title of ‘the best driver of my generation’ is a very personal matter to each fan but, for me, Räikkönen’s eccentricity, his race craft and his championship win in Brazil 2007, will always place him high on my list of all-time greats.

I was selected as an Official Blogger for the Autosport International Show 2014, Europe’s largest Motorsports show, which takes place in January at Birmingham’s NEC.

THE INSIDE TRACK: OLI WEBB ON A YEAR WITH FORTEC, RACING IN BAKU AND THE DANGERS OF MOTORSPORT

Image

“I think you just have to put these dangers to the back of your mind because, as soon as you can’t, you stop”.

Formula Renault 3.5 finished its European journey in France and Spain where the championship went to the final round and Kevin Magnussen was crowned champion. For Oliver Webb, two disappointing races at Paul Ricard were followed up with two consecutive points finishes in his last run in the 3.5 litre model. This left Oli, 15th in the overall 2013 championship standings. Our regular columnist took time from his busy schedule to talk exclusively to ‘stoodonthepodium’ about his season with Fortec, his other racing commitments and how he faces the dangers of Motorsport.

 

ImageA YEAR WITH FORTEC

Not much changes when it comes to the final races, just to fight even harder than before to end the season on a high! It was a great start to the season with some very good testing but the qualifying hurt us throughout the year. Our race pace was always one of the best so it’s a shame we didn’t crack it sooner. Monza was probably my favourite race! I didn’t expect to be battling Felix da Costa, Magnussen and Stoffel for the podium.

Stoffel and I became good friends however us drivers are used to having different team mates each year so we come accustom to staying in touch even if our paths split. We learnt a decent amount from each other as we have different driving styles and ways of feeling the car which has helped us, as a team, pull together to get second in the championship. Every driver needs a good team and the support has been very good. Overall it’s been a good but not great year.

There is a small chance I will stay within the Fortec Motorsports family but it all depends on the offers.

ImageBACK IN ACTION

Speaking of next year, I would say qualifying is the main aspect I would like to improve on in 2014. I remain focused on my 2014 plans but, unfortunately, it’s not really an off-season for me! I’m on route to London, Spain, LMP2 testing with Sebastian Loeb, Munich then Dubai, Abu Dhabi Gulf 12 hours GT race with McLaren until Saturday. I then return to Manchester and Liverpool on Sunday, working for Mono. And that’s just this week!

Following the season finale in Spain, I took to the streets of Baku. It was great fun and the Mercedes SLS did a great job, it’s just a shame the McLaren in front of us had a failure which broke our car with debris. Top 5 in the FIA official finale would have been great and to start the race next to the 9 times world champion, Loeb was amazing! I did get to experience some parts of Azerbaijan – it’s a cool place but the outskirts are a little dodgy!

 

ImageREMEMBERING THE RISK

Being a part of the Blancpain series next year is a possibility and driving a rally or Indy Car, one day, would be amazing as I enjoyed my time in Indy Lights last year. These are challenging cars and circuits which require concentration for long periods of time at high speeds.

It is sad that Dario Franchitti has been forced to retire and it’s news which affects us all. Hearing the news was hard but with both Henry Surtees and Dan Wheldon also passing at races I was at; it is always hard to see injury and death in the sport like this. I think you just have to put these dangers to the back of your mind because, as soon as you can’t, you stop.

 

Onboard with Oliver Webb in the LMP2 prototype car at the Navarra race circuit in Spain. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t99Z5ZbEUxY&feature=youtu.be&a

Congratulations to the winners of the Oliver Webb give-away; the winners have been announced and notified. Thank you to all who took part! 

Kevin Magnussen: McLaren’s 2014 star

ImageIt is, at last, official. Kevin ‘Mini Mag’ Magnussen will be driving for McLaren in 2014 and it could not have happened to a nicer person. Really!

This is great news for the Magnussen family, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Formula Renault 3.5 who can boast the Dane as their 2013 champion. The feeder series is growing and the importance of this deal, cannot be stressed enough.

As a response to my 2013 World Series by Renault duties with Crash.net, many of you have asked for my opinion and whether I think Magnussen is ready for such a step; not that you are likely to be surprised by the answer.

In short, Magnussen is ready and another year spent in a feeder series would be of no significance or use to him.

Marussia has appeared to be the most logical step for some; indeed some rumours linked him to the seat of Max Chilton. However, a move of this kind is not hugely necessary. The Toro Rosso-Red Bull setup is largely new when considering its structured and organised driver training concept. A seat at Marussia would be better than nothing but not a necessity for developing his Formula 1 potential.

Sorry, Perez.

Take the career of Lewis Hamilton as a prime example of this. Jumping from GP2 to the McLaren in almost effortless style in 2007, the Briton proved that teams taking a risk and an almighty leap of faith can work in their favour.  It did not take long for him to be crowned world champion. Give Magnussen a worthy car (please?) and he will rarely be far from contention. After all, McLaren know how to develop drivers and entice the best in the world to their models. Of course, the credentials must be right but with an impressive CV to his name, the announcement of the Dane as a Formula 1 driver is not surprising. In fact, it is well deserved.

Upon entering the Formula 3.5 season, three names were considered and discussed at great length by myself and my peers covering the Formula 1 feeder series. At the bottom of this pile was Kevin, whose name was somewhat forgotten amongst the expectations of Stoffel Vandoorne and Antonio Felix da Costa. This was a mistake; we should never underestimate Kevin Magnussen and his consistency. To beat out Vandoorne to the championship, shows that McLaren’s hierarchical structure of young drivers is correct.

His one lap pace was unrivalled, his performances an obvious mark of a champion and his times in testing have been on par with Perez, Button and their ever-faithful test driver, Gary Paffett.

There is something about Kevin Magnussen, be it his poise or his typical laid-back, Scandinavian attitude, which makes him a worthy Formula 1 contender. It’s almost an aura, one I have witnessed briefly this year – as weird as that may sound.

See you in Monaco next year, maybe?” was my, not so subtle, way of getting this information from him during an informal chat at the season finale in Spain.

You must know more than me”, he responded with a playful grin, one which was met with laughs from those around us.

For Magnussen, this news will not be hugely shocking but nonetheless, a relief. By claiming this seat at McLaren, he has overcome one of the most challenging demands on young drivers – to get noticed.

Alongside the experience of Jenson Button, this seems like a prime opportunity to bring the Dane into the spotlight. After all, he is bound to still be dizzy with excitement from his thrilling Formula Renault 3.5 title win which should bring poise, confidence and assertiveness to his driving. Well, in theory anyway.

I am hugely excited for him and cannot wait for everyone to see the talent I have been harping on about all year.

As for Sergio Perez, he has two more races to prove that he is worthy of a 2014 seat.

Click here to see Kevin Magnussen’s official press release.

‘Future Stars’, the Kevin Magnussen edition.

KATIE GOES TO SPAIN, Part 3

2013-10-19 19.15.00Sunday, for me, was the best day of the weekend; I was not intimidated by proceedings, instead aware of where I needed to be and when. Having already crowned our champion, the race was merely a formality, or as Kevin Magnussen explained to me, a “fun game”.

So following qualifying and racing, once again dominated by Magnussen and his DAMS model, I decided to make the most of this “fun game”. I was determined to embrace my surroundings and hunt down the drivers and teams around me whilst getting some great interviews and news content along the way. My first stop was Fortec to track down Oli Webb, our favourite columnist ;).

After having a lovely chat with Oli and feeling worthless alongside his, frankly, stunning girlfriend Portia, we arranged something special. Keep an eye on ‘stoodonthepodium’ for more information to come. Following our conversation, the Fortec garage became a hub of activity as the final race of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup began.

2013-10-18 15.08.01Manor MP Motorsport and Oliver Rowland, a former Fortec racer, were up against the Tech 1 of Pierre Gasly; Fortec were keeping a key eye on the race on their big screen at the back of the garage. I was invited by his team to join the crowd, an offer I gladly accepted. With, a slightly glum looking, Stoffel Vandoorne to my right, I watched the racing action unfold for the first time outside the four walls of the media centre.

The energy was electric as Pierre Gasly took his victory and Oliver Rowland’s car lost control. After thanking the team, saying goodbye to Oli and leaving with a rush of excitement from the race, I continued walking down the paddock. On the way back to the media centre, I knew I would pass many other teams so was on the hunt.

Prior to the Sunday, the coverage had been very focused on Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, something I wanted to change. Marco Sorensen was finishing a filming segment with Danish television when I arrived. A Lotus young driver and a two time winner this year, I was impressed with his credentials and interested in his evaluation of the race as a whole.

“My season could not have been worse”, he tells me with slight anger in his voice.

Oh” was all I could think.

I knew he was angry about the crash on the Saturday so decided to speak of the positives. After thanking him for his time and leaving him to the swarm of fans behind me, I made my way to AV Formula.

2013-10-20 20.46.04It is difficult to know how to describe the season of AV Formula. Arthur Pic has enjoyed many a race in the points whilst the less said about Yann Cunha, the better. Pic’s rear tyres had not been fitted properly during Sunday’s mandatory pit stop, forcing him to retire just metres from the pit exit.

Pic was on for a podium, his first of the season, but it just wasn’t happening. It took a while for our conversation to start; he was confused as to why I would want to talk to him – apparently he has never seen a media pass before. Go figure. The energy at Lotus and AV Formula was not the same as Fortec, it was quieter and more sinister; neither had reason to celebrate.

I found Antonio Felix da Costa outside the Arden Caterham garage. Whilst I admit he did not look in the mood for a chat, he was stood in a public place therefore I had every right to begin a line of questioning. Something about that press pass gave me a sense of power I quite enjoyed.

He was holding some ice on his right hand as we spoke. I looked down at his thumb at intervals unsure if I should mention it. After establishing that he was not thrilled with his season, he was disappointed not to win and in some obvious pain, I said thank you and left. I did not want to push my luck.

I am mildly annoyed I did not predict the Toro Rosso announcement but drivers are perfectionist so his glum face was not a huge surprise to me. Shame, what a scoop that would have been!

Sergey Sirotkin was a surprise interview package. I imagined him flanked by bodyguards, unable to speak to me. Instead I spoke to a driver, nine months younger than myself, giving me incredible honesty. This was my favourite interview of the day despite my previous misconceptions suggesting the contrary.

2013-10-20 22.51.50I had enough for a few news stories to cover the remainder of Sunday and the Monday too so I left, content with the interviews I had done. The rest of the day finished quickly; it was a quick goodbye to Glenn, a huge thank you to the Renault team who had taken such good care of me, and then time to head to my next hotel.

Hitching a lift with some very friendly and helpful stewards, I returned to Barcelona. Sunday night meant one thing, the presentation evening. I may work in a male-dominated industry but I am a bit of a girly-girl at heart so embraced the idea of a dress and heels – though the dress code of “smart-casual” caused a major ‘what-to-wear’ crisis before my trip.

I sat with the stewards and officials who had volunteered to drive me, one of the first to arrive, we sat a few rows from the front. Kevin Magnussen just happened to choose to sit directly in front of me, flanked by some of his team’s great and powerful.

One by one, the awards were handed out in a typical slow and corporate fashion. Fortec once again made their presence known when Stoffel Vandoorne collected his two trophies for the evening.

It was nice to spend part of the weekend in fan mode, away from the stigma and PR answers a media pass can warrant. After some (admittedly, maybe slightly more) drinks, hours of mingling and the chance to meet some truly great people, I set forth on my journey back home.

2013-10-21 12.35.07Words cannot describe how tired I was when I landed. After making the journey back to my university room in a haze, I collapsed on my bed and contemplated what had just happened – much like Kevin Magnussen described to me on the Saturday. An hour later, I was ready for my seminar on Criminal Justice (medal please) which was filled with Latin words my mind failed to compute.

I would happily be that tired again if it meant living the paddock dream. Thank you to Crash.net and Renault Sport for the weekend of a lifetime. As for 2014? We will have to wait and see.

Katie went to Spain and loved every second.

Read part one here and part two here.