It was a rare moment of peace for my inner obsessive. I am often guilty of fussing unnecessarily over every word as I attempt to create the best work I possibly can. However, as I walked proudly through the paddock alongside those who inspired me, I briefly found that elusive flash of perfection.
Before making my way to the Hungaroring last week, I was intimidated by the prospect – indeed, I would be doing the sport a great disservice if I suggested otherwise. As the dream approached and confirmation of my media accreditation arrived in my email inbox one Wednesday afternoon, I did not dare imagine what that walk past the teams, drivers and circuit would feel like.
“Surely it would not meet my expectations?”, I thought, somewhat naive of what was to come.
After collecting my pass on the Thursday morning, I settled into the media centre, casting an anxious glare across to the journalists sat opposite. I was in Hungary with my F1Plus colleague, Graham Keilloh who was more than happy to guide me through the most daunting prospect of my nineteen year existence.
We chose a seat which overlooked the latter few corners of the Hungaroring and this was to be our home for the weekend. I checked through emails, contacted my editor and prepared myself for the media sessions. Thursday was to be a busy day.
Marussia’s hospitality unit for a chat with Max Chilton was my first port of call. Nico Hulkenberg was next, followed by the Williams, Mercedes and McLaren. Graham and I split the sessions, attending chats with all but one driver pairing.
I bustled my way through an ever-growing crowd of familiar faces in the hospitality compounds, placing my Dictaphone on the table alongside the countless others. As my first day got under way at Marussia, I was not surprised by the arrival of an inner-dialogue inside my head.
A heavy debate was brewing; do I dare ask a question? What if I stumble on my words and make a fool of myself? What if the questions I had planned were asked whilst I was listening to this silent argument?
Remembering that the words “what if” do not exist in Formula 1, I plucked up the courage and put my nerves to bed. It is a minor thing for those experienced but I was genuinely proud to know I took my chance to speak up as I made my way back to the media centre to transcribe these interviews and share the latest news.
I found the more experienced journalists very accommodating. They did not treat me like a child – though at times, I felt much younger – nor did they speak down to me. The hierarchy between those occasionally attending races (*raises hand*) and those living the full time dream was not as extreme as I first feared.
If you have the confidence and the belief you can hold your own on a race weekend. I felt assured of this as I left the paddock on Friday, relieved that the first rounds of reports had been completed without a hitch.
It was hot on Saturday as I made my way back to Ferrari for breakfast. “It will be an interesting qualifying”, I thought to myself. Lewis Hamilton’s oil leak and Kevin Magnussen’s sudden spin into the tyre wall certainly proved me right.
With my report done and Graham sitting patiently in the press conference, I joined yet more press sessions, asking a few questions along the way. Back to the media centre I went for more transcribing and writing. It was a routine but in no way repetitive; each driver was different and I felt privileged to be there with some of the best journalists in the world. I was humbled by the whole experience.
I had just one day left in Hungary before I would be thrown back into reality. Walking up the dirt track from my hotel to the circuit was very different on the Sunday; I could see fans everywhere. Hungary cannot boast its own Formula 1 driver so the diversity of support was incredible to see. The Scandinavians, in particular, were out in force that weekend. I had to avoid numerous flags and signs of encouragement as I walked past the crowd to the paddock. The Hungaroring was not full in attendance but those who turned up were passionate, that much was obvious.
Ticket sales were down but those who lined the stands were treated to some fabulous action. It was a race each and every one of them deserved. From my point of view, it was a challenging race report to write – the order kept changing and describing to readers each overtake and safety car was challenging. I knew I had to do this race justice and I hope I did.
The round of applause for Daniel Ricciardo as he crossed the line first, perfectly reflected the upmost respect we all feel for the sport we have joined. Upon arriving at Ferrari, ready for the fallout of their second podium this season, I was relieved to hear that my peers were as flabbergasted by the race as I was. I have never felt so fortunate in all my life.
Throughout the weekend, and much to my utter surprise, I stumbled across people who recognised me and the work I have produced over the last two years. They asked how I was doing, the differences between a Grand Prix and my familiar world in the World Series by Renault and engaged in general F1 chat. If they are reading this, then thank you. It was more helpful than you know.
I have heard the word ‘surreal’ many a time and now I understand why – no other word comes close to describing this unique feeling. For four days I lived the seemingly impossible and loved every second.I was exhausted but honoured to be there. Thank you to all who have helped over the last two years.
Dare to dream.
“A grapefruit is a lemon who had a chance and took advantage of it”.
– Oscar Wilde