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GP Week : Issue 179
>>> PERSONAL The Formula One paddock holds a strange attraction. There’s the glamour, the globe-trotting, the fast cars, the beautiful women, the Michelin-star food, the celebrities, the feeling of exclusivity and the list goes on and on. But if you want be a Formula One journalist, tear that list up and instead throw hard work, perseverance, a lot of doubt and anxiety into the mix. This is not my first time covering Formula One. I covered a couple of races in 2012 for a well-known news agency that I work for. But this is the first time I am doing it on my own and I’ve realized just how hard you have to work before you even make it into the paddock, especially when you don’t have a major name backing you. I’ve always wanted to be involved in Formula One, ever since I first fell in love with the sport at the age of seven, watching it on television with my father. My dream initially, like all young boys, was to become a driver. But after realizing I was hopeless at karting I decided to write about the sport instead. So I got myself a journalism degree, got sidetracked into a ‘proper job’ covering financial news that paid the bills and the rent, and found myself clueless as to how I could now make the switch to covering Formula One. Opportunity came knocking when the motor racing correspondent of said news agency offered me the chance to cover the Malaysian Grand Prix last year. A second opportunity came knocking when said correspondent of said news agency offered me the chance to cover a second race, the Indian Grand Prix, last year. I was obviously very grateful for the chances I got as they allowed me to build my motorsport file writing for a well- known name, but having had a taste of what I really wanted to do, I wanted more. Two races seven months apart were not enough and I knew if I had to gain any credibility as a Formula One journalist, I had to be ‘seen’ at a lot more races. Covering more races for the news agency was not an option as my primary job there is covering business news, and onceagainIwasatalossastohowI could make it in... until veteran Formula One journalist Joe Saward first put the idea of going it alone in my head during a conversation over the Indian Grand Prix weekend. A month of contemplation followed during which I did a lot of thinking. There were many things to consider, the hardest of which was deciding to throw away a job that paid me a decent wage and exhaust my savings to travel the world on my own dime while earning absolutely nothing. The next step was getting someone to apply for accreditation on my behalf. Formula One accreditation rules are very strict and publications and websites have to meet certain circulation, readership and coverage criteria before they are accepted. I sent emails out to several websites - from the biggies to ones that were still establishing themselves in the hope that someone would bite. I also dropped emails to several Indian newspapers and arranged meetings with sports editors. My pitch to them was -- apply for accreditation on my behalf and you’ll have a reporter on site covering the race for you for free. I got several rejections as newspapers and websites did not want to take a chance on an unknown reporter and pretty soon I found myself getting to the bottom of the list of publications I had decided to reach out to. I thought my grand plans of making it to the Formula One paddock were grounded before they had even taken off but words of encouragement from journalists working within the Formula One fraternity kept me going. Eventually an Indian daily called Mid-Day, known for its sports coverage, decided to take a chance on me and I also secured writing gigs with an Indian and British website. Now it was time to apply for accreditation. Like I said, the FIA’s accreditation rules are pretty strict and the accreditation process can be quite complicated if you’re doing it on your own. There are several documents that need to uploaded – like proof of the paper’s coverage of Formula One, proof of my coverage from the races I had done earlier and application letters for the races you are applying for – and getting all of this paper work together is a real task. Luckily, I had journalists from the fraternity like Kate Walker and Alan Baldwin help me with the accreditation process, including putting my name on the FIA media delegate’s radar, and I realized that for all the stories about Formula One being a piranha-club, F1 journalists are actually quite friendly and more than willing to go out of their way to help someone make their way in. Next comes the hardest part – waiting. You’re never quite sure if your application is going to be accepted, especially if the paper backing you isn’t that well known in the F1 world and after a few anxious emails to the FIA’s media delegate, I was finally relieved to see that my application had been approved. The whole process, from deciding to take the plunge to my application getting approved had taken over three months. A lot of running around getting all my visa documents in order followed, until finally I was walking through the paddock gates on Thursday morning. Strangely, there was no feeling of satisfaction that I imagined there would be, but instead there was a sense of the daunting task that I now faced. Making it through the paddock gates is just the first step. I now have to fight to prove that I can cut it with the best motorsport journalists in the world, who are all massively driven people, and it will be many years of hard work, anxiety, sleepless nights and pain before I do. Bring it on. You think it’s tough to get into F1 as a driver? Try joining the press corps! GPWEEK’s new signing Abhishek Takle knows just what a challenge that can be ... It's a hard road ... to the F1 Paddock 39 GPWEEK.com // 39 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: