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GP Week : Issue 180
GPWEEK: You have been covering motorsport on two wheels and four for quite a long time. What was the first race you remember watching, either as a fan or as a professional? JENNIE GOW: I remember watching Formula One as a really small kid, but neither of my parents are into the sport at all, so it was always a case of Formula One happening to be on TV after something, or before something. I picked it up from that. I can’t remember the first race I watched, and I was in my 20s! I was tiny – I must have been about seven or eight when I first started to dip in and out of them. But I can’t remember what the first one would have been. There are standout moments, like the British Grand Prix at Donington, the Mansell era, but I couldn’t tell you what the first race I remember watching was. How about presenting? I’ve seen you working on races at club level, MotoGP, Formula One... Is any category more fun than the others, or do they all have their moments? At club level, events are more relaxed so you can get away with doing a lot more. Some of them involve six hours of live TV, so you have more time to do a lot more features, and thing like that, whereas if you’re doing a half hour TV show everything has to be condensed into a very tight timeframe. I’m actually very lucky that I get to do so many different things. My work is an interesting mix, and I get a huge satisfaction out of working a range of events and categories. Your F1 debut was probably one of the most famous races of the past few years – the rain-hit 2011 Canadian Grand Prix. Is that your best F1 memory, or has something else eclipsed it since? It was my first F1 memory, which makes it very special. You spend years thinking ‘I want to be there, I want to do that’, and then all of a sudden you’re doing it, and you pinch yourself. It’s a bit like some of the rookie drivers, I suppose – they spend years in the lower categories, working their way up, and then all of a sudden you’re in the Formula One paddock. It’s a bit mind-blowing, because everybody knows everybody else. But they’re really friendly, aren’t they? I’ve been amazed at how everyone has been very welcoming – there’s sharing of knowledge, there’s cooperation, nobody seems to be that guarded. Maybe it’s because I don’t know enough to be threatening to the teams, but I remember going into the McLaren garage and being walked around the car and shown what all the elements did. Moments like that are invaluable. It’s a really nice paddock to be in. When it comes to learning, you work with Gary Anderson, who is fantastic at what he does. Do you learn a lot from him? Massive amounts. If you could choose your ideal scenario for your first year in a pit lane, to understand everything you’re looking at, you’d say ‘please can I work with Gary Anderson?’, because he is the granddad of Formula One. Gary can walk you all the way from Red Bull to Marussia and explain everything that you’re seeing on a car, all the changes that are being made. If you’re at the start of this F1 journey, looking into the garages, like I was at Montreal in 2011, you don’t have a clue what’s going on. Yes, you can understand the car, the engine, and how they work, but until you’re stood in front of a garage and you can see the minutiae of what they’re working on, it’s impossible for anyone who’s not physically worked on a car to gain that level of knowledge, I think. Having Gary has been incredibly lucky. We were laughing yesterday in practice because I was down in the pit lane and on one of the Toro Rossos I saw the team adjusting the torsion bars. I went to the next garage and they were taking some ballast out from under the front wing, under the nose, and replacing it with heavier ballast. I was relaying this on the radio, and Gary and James [Allen] were listening in the commentary box, with Gary saying ‘awww, we’re so proud! There’s my girl, she’s learned well.’ You did Race of Champions last year, once the F1 season had drawn to a close. What was that like? Hot.Iseemtobegoingtoalotofhot places at the moment! But that was good – it was in Bangkok, and it was really nice to meet some of the drivers and team staff away from Formula One. An F1 weekend is really full-on for everybody in the paddock – I don’t think there’s a single person working in the paddock that gets more than five minute breaks over the course of the day. Whereas at Race of Champions you had more time, everyone was a bit more relaxed, you don’t have as much of an agenda. On a race weekend you have deadlines, there are things you have to do. But at Race of Champions you didn’t have that, so it was really nice to sit in the drivers’ lounge with Michael Schumacher, just chatting, thinking to myself ‘I’m chatting with Michael Schumacher!’. It was really nice on that side of things, but it was incredibly hard work – a different kind of hard work. On race day I think I finished at six o’clock in the morning. It sounds so glamorous to be sitting and talking to Michael Schumacher, but in the back of your head you’re thinking ‘this is really interesting, but I know I’ve got to run off and do...’. At a Formula One weekend you must have every minute planned out – what does a typical day entail? Do you have a planning meeting in the morning? Normally in the car. Cars and planes are the best boardrooms for any F1 journalist, I reckon. You can sit there and work out what you want to achieve, what the talking points of the weekend are, if there’s anything you want to focus on in particular. Sometimes you come to a weekend like Malaysia and the script almost writes itself. You know you’re going to be talking about race conditioning for the drivers, because it’s hot, rain, tyres – because of the rain and the heat – so the script writes itself. Some weekends have no obvious hook, so you have to work a bit harder to find stories that people will find interesting at home. Thursdays are our busiest day – we meet all the drivers, all the teams, and get an understanding of how the weekend’s going to develop, what’s going to happen, what the stories are... In the evening on a Thursday we’ve started doing a live show on BBC Radio 5, which is great – they’re really buying into Formula One. Then you’re straight into practice, with three hours of live broadcast on a Friday, qualifying, the race... It’s a full-on weekend! 5 MINUTES WITH JENNIE GOW Kate Walker talks to the former BBC MotoGP host, now BBC 5 Live's pit-lane reporter 5 MINUTES 7 GPWEEK.com // 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: