Google+ Jack Leslie F1: 2013 Sky Sports F1 Press Day

7 March 2013

2013 Sky Sports F1 Press Day

The Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. Quite possibly the poshest and most impressive place I have ever been in my life and the venue that hosted this year’s Sky Sports F1 Press Day.
(c) Sky Sports F1

Some of you may remember that I attended the event last year, something I was hugely excited and nervous about. The feelings were similar this year too, it really is hard to imagine sitting across from the likes of Martin Brundle, Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham. All who I have watched and listened to for years, kind of grew up with in a way? And they know who I am. Crazy.

I rarely visit London and whilst it being a fantastic day out, I was pretty worried. I took up the challenge of getting to Pall Mall by myself. Some close to me would say that was a mistake. But I persevered and to be frank, surprised myself. 

Sky Sports F1 have really given dedicated fans a more in depth look at the sport. Previously it could seem a bit detached due to the lack of access in to who the teams and drivers were, how it worked and the members of the broadcast teams themselves. However Sky’s effort last year, their first broadcasting F1, was very good. Yes there were some tweaks to be made and some changes but that was bound to happen. It was effectively an experiment and one that, I personally think, was a success. 
The Sky Sports F1 team gathered at the historic RAC Club on to launch the 2013 F1 season on Sky ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
So after the success of last year I was again invited to the Sky Sports F1 Press Day and I happily went along, despite having a full day of lessons (sorry Sixth Form) and January exam results to collect. 
Held in the legendary RAC Club, I sat down alongside fellow bloggers, journalists, writers and people from social media to discuss last season’s performance, if that’s what you want to call it, and looking to the future for the broadcaster and sport. In attendance from Sky were the main presenter Simon Lazenby, lead commentator David Croft, the “Voice of F1” Martin Brundle, Pundit Damon Hill and Pit Reporters Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham. Pundit's and co-commentators Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson were not present during the session. Herbert was off interviewing Lewis Hamilton whilst Davidson could not make it to the event.

The format was simple, a round table discussion between everyone. However beforehand there was a chance to watch F1 in 3D, something that really impressed me (particularly the close up and pit stop shots) and mingle with people from the likes of Badger GP, F1 Times and PitStopRadio. The waiting room also contained the Sky Sports App with the handy Race Control feature. I mainly spent the day with Sarah from PitStopRadio (and @F1_Fans_Updates) and Dan (@ThatCarGeek) and were by far the youngest there. They were both great company and helped me hugely around the busy streets of London, where I resembled a rather clueless tourist.

(c) Sky Sports F1
So after managing to get through the train and tube successfully, find the RAC Club (which really took my breath away, I did not want to touch anything!) and speak to Alison and the other press officers from Sky Sports F1 I had a nice chat with the executive producer Martin Turner. We discussed F1 in 3D and he also confirmed more classic F1 races being shown. Surprisingly enough, Martin remembered me from last year which was nice. We then moved on to the round table discussion. Now some could say it would be intimidating to sit across such influential and talented people in their respective roles, but after listening to their banter and chatting with them for even a minute you realise they are all lovely, friendly people who want to know about you. 

As soon as I mentioned my name, David Croft (or Crofty as he is more commonly known) showed his true funny self. “Is that little Jack” he said, despite me being pretty much the same height as 12 months earlier. “He’s only about 12” he continued, cue laughter from me. This banter continued throughout the 40 minute round table discussion, it really shows how close the team are. You have to remember some have worked together before, whilst others are newer to the team. Some criticised them for not gelling as well as the BBC F1 crew, but seeing them off camera you can tell they really got on.

Talking about the channel’s debut season, main presenter Simon Lazenby said “It was a real challenge getting everything all together and hopefully trying to succeed and I think we came a long way”. Beforehand he mentioned the team’s members, “world champions” and “years” of experience “in F1” along with those new to the sport and that was true. Sky had members of the team coming from different directions and doing that in the first year was a huge challenge but one that they did pull off, well on TV it seemed it.

Martin Brundle went on to compare the work rate of that at Sky Sports F1 and previous broadcasters ITV. He said “We do 14 hours live a weekend, that’s a double edged sward. You need a lot of content and have a lot less time getting the information.” He added “The work rate compared to ITV 16 years ago is five times greater.”

The former F1 driver also gave us at the Press Day a little exclusive. Many will remember the fantastic and insightful feature on Ferrari by Sky Sports F1 last year. Martin will embark on a similar series, this year driving the title winning Red Bull RB7. On other features, Natalie Pinkham recently visited Moskow to interview Kimi Raikkonen and take part in some on-ice racing, Kimi driving not “Pinky” as Brundle calls her. She explained that you get to see another side of the “Iceman”, revealing “if you haven’t heard Kimi laugh before, you will when you watch this” before adding “the best I have ever seen Kimi.”

I won’t go through the whole round table discussion because it could take some time. The team members of the dedicated F1 channel talked about the team’s reception to the new broadcaster, Pinkham saying there was “curious scepticism”. They also asked for our opinion on the testing coverage, I personally enjoyed the two 15 minute round ups at the end of the day but whilst the live testing was well made it was slightly pointless and could get a bit boring, especially with an empty track.
(c) @F1_Fans_Updates

Pinkham touched on the fans wanting to see the real drivers, something Sky’s huge amount of coverage has allowed, saying “with all the data in the world it doesn’t reveal driver personalities, which I know is something all fans want to know about, what makes them tick. You really get that by talking to them and perhaps taking them away from the track, doing interesting things with them.” 

Sky also has another trick up their sleeve. In 2013 Crofty and Martin will be able to talk directly to one team principal per race from the commentary box to the pit wall. David said “some” of the F1 team principals have agreed to it, but did not reveal who had not yet signed their name up. It certainly shows Sky is embedding themselves firmly in the sport as one of the top and prominent broadcasters.

You may be able to tell by now, but the chat went on for 40 or so minutes. During that time I asked Natalie Pinkham to discuss the “Twitter Grand Prix” that the channel were launching to embrace the rise in social media. I seemed to have jumped the gun really, as none of her fellow team members knew about the project. 

For a final thought, I asked the team who they were predicting to take the drivers’ championship. The result was pretty divided. Damon Hill, Crofty and Ted all voted for Alonso. Brundle decided on Vettel as the 2013 champion and Natalie had forgotten what she had previously said (they had previously been in a similar round table discussion with representatives from the magazines like F1 Racing and Autosport) so went for Button. Interestingly in my latest F1 2013 Season Preview I voted for Alonso but to be honest there is so little evidence to make a valued judgement after testing failed to give an answer.
(c) DisneyToon Studio's

Along with finding out about the channel and the future of F1, we also found out a few things about well-loved commentator David Croft. One, he is not a fan of dogs and thinks Lewis Hamilton’s new bulldog Roscoe has “too much skin”. We also got to know about his new role in the Disney Film “Cars” spin-off “Planes” where he will appear as himself but no doubt in the guise of a cartoon plane.

After the round table discussion I then mingled with some of the team. Whilst more professional and serious websites took people to one side, interviewing them one on one, I chose to chat and mingle. It really was crazy. I was having a chat to Martin Brundle, Simon Lazenby and co. Natalie and I chatted about her charity work with the Mirela Fund. She is currently helping raise money to build a children’s home in Romania. She spoke to me about the brilliant total of money currently raised but more is needed to help underprivileged kids in Romania like Mirela, who the fund is named after. To donate go here: We also discussed the lovely Alice Powell, who is a blog contributor with the new series "Powell Post". Natalie said she really enjoyed the first volume which was nice, and we both agreed Alice deserves her seat on the GP3 grid.

During that conversation we also touched on a rather undiscussed topic, her best friend Georgie Thompson leaving the channel. She said obviously she will "miss her" due to their close bond and that because you are away from family and friends for so long it was good after a long day to "kick back and watch a movie", now she has no one to watch it with. Perhaps Ted, or maybe Martin? Bet they love a Rom Com. 

I also had a few nice chats with David Croft, Simon Lazenby and Martin Brundle. The middle of the trio mentioned even said “thank you for all your kind words and help”, should I not be saying that to him?! All the team are really lovely, down to earth people who are easily approachable.

So after spending my morning in the RAC Club on Pall Mall (who would of thought!), I spent the train journey on the way home thinking just how lucky I have been to get an invite, let alone two in a row. I also thought about what a big year it has been for me. I have to sometimes pinch myself to realise I’m only 18 and that there is a long way to go for me to become a fully-fledged journalist. However encouragement like “keep it up” and “what you are doing is fantastic” from the Sky Sports F1 team is a big motivation push.

The past 12 months have been fantastic. My involvement in RichlandF1 has grown; the blog has had so many views, comments and interactions on social media. I have hosted competitions with F1 teams and world renowned companies. I have spoken and interviewed some fantastic people but more importantly I have been doing what I love doing. The trip to the Sky F1 Press Day has made me realise even more that this is what I want to do, even though I was pretty certain already.

So a brilliant day that rounds off with passing 200,000 views. Part of that comes thanks to the channel and team I have been discussing previously, through promotion, advice and opportunities that I’m truly thankful for. Thanks to Alison and the Sky Sports press crew for inviting me, the team who are lovely and supportive and most importantly those who helped me at the tube and train stations. Otherwise I probably would not have even arrived!
(c) Sky Sports F1

Remember, Sky Sports F1 HD is the only place to watch every Grand Prix of the F1 season live. Watch every practice, qualifying session and race on TV, online, on the go via Sky Go, and using Sky F1 Race Control.

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