Rachel’s Diary: Keeping note of two dramatic weeks on the road
Sky Sports' Rachel Brookes on the juggling act in the drivers' pen, hosting that press conference in China, and what you didn't see on the drivers' parade in Shanghai...
Last Updated: 28/04/15 11:51am
Don't hate me but I am writing this while sat by a pool with the sea lapping the shore a few metres away. I have stopped off on the way home from Bahrain for a couple of days R&R.
We have just had the first back-to-back of the year and I fancied a quick break before heading home, especially as we have three weeks until the next race.
We left for China on the Tuesday and I spent a lot of the flight doing prep. My notebook is a bit bigger than Ted's but as you can see in the before and after pictures below, it gets used pretty well too. I draw up the grids beforehand with the drivers' qualifying position and previous race result. Each driver has a box and I write the main incidents from his race in there. I also note down their tyre strategies and laps they pitted on, you never know when it may become the story.
Sometimes there is not a lot to write, as in Jenson's case in Bahrain, and sometimes there is nothing there because nothing of major note happened. We watch the same footage you do, so if you don't see a driver featured because he is just going around driving his race and not involved in any battles, neither do we.
When they arrive in the media pen I am quite often listening to commentary in one ear while interviewing the drivers and listening to their answers with my other ear, while trying to glance at my notes to make sure I don't miss anything.
Qualifying is usually the toughest time. Those drivers out in Q1 are standing in front of you while you are trying to listen to Q2 and remember anything that happens for when those drivers arrive. Then those out in Q2 arrive while Q3 is going on and by the time you have finished interviewing those drivers, Q3 is over and the top 10 are on their way. Hopefully that excuses my messy handwriting!
China was a race of 'firsts' for me. For the first time since working in Formula 1, I missed a show through illness. I have always thought you can get through a show with pretty much anything but having been ill before I left, the long flight didn't help and I was laid up with antibiotics in my hotel room in China as soon as we arrived. That left the boys to do an all-male F1 Show on the Friday night. I haven't watched it back yet but I will with interest!
I made it to the track on Saturday and presented our Practice Three show. Then it was Qualifying - and another first. I had been asked by the FIA to moderate the drivers' press conferences post-qualifying and post-race. I have since been asked if I was the first female to do it. I am not sure, but more importantly I hope I am not the last!
I have interviewed Lewis, Nico and Seb countless times but there was something about the environment of the official world press conference that made me very nervous. You have to prepare questions at a moment's notice as the drivers walk straight from their cars into the room minutes after crossing the line.
Saturday was straightforward. Lewis nailed it, Nico missed out and Seb was third. Sunday was, well, a little bit more interesting to say the least. I had watched the race and written questions accordingly for the top three. I had an inkling Nico had something to get off his chest but didn't realise it would be as explosive as it was.
Also on Sunday I was asked to do the interviews on the driver track parade, which is when another first occurred. It's something I have done many times before without incident. It was on a bus in China (sometimes the drivers are driven around in classic cars) so I made my way to the top deck with my cameraman 'Speedy' and waited for the drivers to climb onboard.
I had interviewed Lewis and Nico and we had got to turn two on the track when the director said he wanted a different angle for the next interview, so could I spin round. As I moved back, I caught my foot on a step and fell backwards into the floor. My notepad and phone in my left hand went flying, not just up into the air but up and over the side of the bus and onto the track below.
Obviously the drivers laughed but a kind Nico Hulkenberg checked I was ok and helped me up. "You've lost your phone" he said. "Worse than that," I replied "that was my notebook too and I can't remember where you are starting!" It was the first time I had fallen over on the track parade, I had had a few wobbles before and had to grab the nearest person to steady myself but I have never actually hit the deck before. Still it broke the ice and gave us all something to laugh about - or should that be laugh at?
Luckily the Safety Car was behind the bus and collected my notebook and phone, which incredibly still worked and was only slightly damaged in one corner. Even better, no one caught my embarrassment on camera...as far as I know.
We flew overnight on Monday night from Shanghai to Bahrain. It was a 24-hour journey in the end with a couple of stops. On Wednesday we had a production meeting in the hotel when I discovered I would be going out for the afternoon with Johnny Herbert. "He's got a plan" I was told...
That plan was driving around the off-road course by the track in a Range Rover. Sounds simple but some of the drops were incredibly steep and I have no idea how we didn't tip over. A lot of me screaming "Johnny!!!" was edited out of the piece before it went to air. So was the moment Johnny stopped on the steepest part of the course and laughed at my panic as the car groaned and shifted backwards a few inches at a time down the slope. Speed I can handle, but inclines and descents that go against the physics I did at school... Well, let's just say that's the way to scare me!
The F1 Show in Bahrain was back to a full complement, in fact more than the full complement. On Friday night there is a paddock bar BBQ where the circuit lay on food and drink for all those with paddock passes. The paddock in Bahrain is one of my favourites. During the day people sit outside and you always see the familiar faces, then at night it is transformed as every tree is covered in lights. The BBQ started a couple of hours before The F1 Show, just as we were rehearsing, and continued until after the show finished.
While Simon and I ran through scripts, Ted and Crofty disappeared off to join the kebab queue. The paddock was buzzing and even the drivers hung around. Apparently all the circuits from now on are going to try to do something similar.
I fear we may never see Ted and Crofty again...