Over recent years, there has been a change in motorsport. In 2020 multiple drivers, including Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, wore Black Lives Matter tops to support the black community and those supporting it. Another change that happened in 2020 was that the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) wanted to increase female representation in motorsport. So in light of these changes, I interviewed Grid Girls, Catherine, a second-year Zoology student at the University of Leeds and the founder of Grid Girls. Savannah, a fourth-year Sociology student at the University of Edinburgh and dabbles in the marketing and writing aspect of Grid Girls. Finally, Simra who graduated a few years ago and works in both writing, marketing and networking for the group. Grid Girls is a group of women who are interested in creating a community for new and underrepresented voices in motorsport, enabling them to display their passion and talent for the sport. As well as connect with other like-minded individuals. The three representatives speak about their blog, its future and issues within motorsport.
Catherine, you are the founder, when and why did you want to start Grid Girls?
Catherine: Well, this may sound big-headed but I am a big student journalist in the sense that I write for a couple of publications and my university publication. I got into it (motorsport) in recent years and I think that motorsport writing is not really something you can break into easily. There is a publication that I write for and their motto is about student working being written but it does not get published. So, I wanted to make a platform to inspire motorsport writers, mostly female as I feel that it is under-represented, where they can be like: “I’ve written this really cool thing, can you publish it for me so people can read it.” People can get more of their published work out there. It was also a cool way for me to get a bit of experience in the marketing side of things, getting to meet other girls with different expertise as me and now we have all managed to amalgamate it together.
Savannah and Simra, why did you decide to join Grid Girls?
Simra: For me, I have been a motorsport fan for the past ten years. I love writing, so paralleling them both together was why I joined.
Savannah: I have been watching Formula 1 since I was about eight years old, so that is almost 15 years. I joined the whole group in general and I saw Katherine’s post and thought that would be a cool thing to do in my spare time. It has become a sound thing to do and we all get along really well, it has become a really nice group to be with.
The big connection here is motorsport, what got you all into it?
Catherine: I have a really boring story that I will get judged for! I was not into it as a child, I think the other guys have been into it a bit longer than I have. There was a documentary that came out, it is called Drive to Survive, some people may have watched it. That is what got me into it, but then I took it further as I thought: “This is actually really cool!” Luckily, my Dad has Sky Sports and it (motorsport) became one of those things that I just binged and then there was a moment where I thought I could write about this.
Savannah: Mine was actually my Grandad. When I was younger, it was really important to him for me to see role models that were like me; from a similar background. It was as Lewis Hamilton was coming in and I have the same cultural heritage, so it was important to my Grandad to get me into something. Since then I have been into it, watched it, obsessed over it.
Simra: I first started liking it when I got invited by my Dad to go along with him to Silverstone, around 15 years ago. Just the experience, being in the paddock and doing the Pitt Lane walk, I had that ‘oh my gosh’ experience and wanted to continue following it. I wanted to know more about the drivers, the speed they were going, the motivation behind it, which is quite a cool thing. I then kept reading up about it, I have a ‘petrol head’ family, so that inspired it.
So I have been looking at your blog and I understand that you wish to challenge the lack of female representation in motorsport, can you talk to me a little more about that?
Catherine: I feel like it is not hidden that there are no women, it is changing a little more now, especially in the past few months I have definitely noticed a change. However, I think traditionally it is such a male-dominated environment, even when you take away the real Grid Girls, it became even more male-dominated. Then there was no position for women in the sport at all. Not even just women, other minorities such as racial minorities, it is very much a rich white man’s sport. At the same time, it is fun, interesting, and deserves to be experienced. So, it is important to provide a platform to people from other minorities or other walks of life so they can have their say. The pundits, they are all ex-drivers, so they are all old white men, so you only ever get one point of view, especially in the mainstream media.
We just touched on that you want to make a change with ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation in motorsport, would you want to go in there to change that?
Catherine: I think just being there would be changing it, once you start saying: “I am here because I am a women” or “I am from a working-class background”, you are just labelling yourself as ‘the female journalist’ or ‘the female commentator’. So, being there unapologetically and not labelling yourself is what’s important. Obviously, try and actively change something as well, but it would be impressive to have women in these positions and not having to constantly talk about the fact that they are women.
And how well do you think motorsport organisations deal with these awarenesses?
Simra: I would say they have started to. I think within the last year, COVID has forced people to sit down and understand that there are disparities between the groups and it is needed that the BAME group needs more of a voice. To understand that we need to elevate more people, more women and more ethnic minorities into higher positions. The Formula 1 has started to do motorsport women Zoom sessions, spotlighting the different women that work within Formula 1. One of the things Mercedes are doing is putting some of their women who work in their team onto the platform during the podiums.
Savannah: Over the past year, Lewis Hamilton has been very outspoken about human rights abuses, equalities for black people, ethnic minorities and women. I think when you at the top of your sport and a world champion, people do respect him, even if you don’t like him you respect him. It is that type of relationship that a lot of people have with him so when he speaks, people listen. That’s what it needs, like Schumacher and Vettel, being open with opinions has allowed for a step forward instead of it being this generic narrative that sometimes gets mentioned.
Why do you think it has only taken them till now, the last couple of years, to do this?
Catherine: There was recently a change in who runs them. In the old days, when it was Bernie Ecclestone, he was very much like ‘I don’t need to appeal to all these new people as they don’t have the money’. He saw it as a very transactional thing and changing over to Liberty Media, they are much more in tune with younger people and what they want. Also, tragically during COVID, there was the death of George Floyd and Lewis talking about that and actively saying to the other drivers that they are not doing well enough has caused a shift. It is remarkable that one guy can have that much power and influence in sport and I think a lot of it is down to Lewis. I don’t think much would be going in now if it wasn’t for him. For better or for worse, he has made it his own sport. Some people may argue that it is a little showy but that is better than not having anything.
Savannah: I agree with everything you have said, it is better than nothing. Although, Lewis Hamilton got investigated for wearing a political t-shirt, which goes against everything they have previously argued there were going to support. At the end of the day, it is a relatively new shift with the worldwide Black Lives Matter protest and the death of George Floyd, it is a conversation now that people are starting it have. As a result, a worldwide sport like Formula 1 cannot ignore it because it is going on everywhere and it does affect a lot of people.
Catherine: I always think that Formula 1 is going to be behind the rest of the world, just because of how it started and how it is, it will take a while to penetrate those layers. They are stuck in their ways and it is all very traditional. The rest of the world was talking about this a few years ago but it is starting, even if it is slow it shouldn’t be praised but it shouldn’t be criticised as it is better than how it was.
Simra: I agree because, before Liberty Media, they just joined Formula 1 in the last couple of years, they didn’t even have a CSR group or a marketing group. All these things are being put into place and I think when you say: “Why has it taken a few years?” It is because sometimes with big companies, to do a small change can take a while and changing the minds of some of the older generation can take a little development. So, with the world crisis that happened, everyone has been forced to confront racism and all the gender equality issues. Hamilton set up the Hamilton Commission, these guys are top of their field researchers and they are looking into how they can improve the sport and uplifting more minorities. All of these things have happened because of worldwide protests. If they hadn’t happened, Formula 1 might not have taken a drastic step.
You have mentioned Hamilton quite a lot in this interview, do you think or wish that other teams would do more as well?
Catherine: I feel like there are other teams that do other stuff, like Maclaren is a bit of a fan favourite because of how good they are with their marketing and social media. However, you can question is it all just fun and games or are they using the platform for good? Lando Norris, he’s an ambassador for Mind mental health charity and he has used his platform as a Formula 1 driver to talk about other issues that are close to his heart. It would be nice to see that kind of energy for other things. I don’t know if they are not allowed to talk or their teams know it is really bad for PR but sometimes I am like: “why can’t they just say a bit more?” I feel Lewis does so much and if all the other drivers used their platforms the same way Lewis did, maybe he would not seem so controversial because Lewis is not doing anything different from what a lot of my mates are passionate about. He is not doing anything that is out of the box and new, he is just doing it on such a huge scale and I feel like if all of the other driver and all of the other personnel had that same energy then it would not need to be like: “Oh, Mercedes is doing all of this!” It would be like: “As a sport, we are all really inclusive and we all really care about these issues.” With Black Lives Matter, they did not say anything until Lewis said something and I woke up one day and all of the drivers had posted stuff. I wish it had not taken Lewis to call them out for them to say this. I would like to think as people I admire, they would be thinking about this already.
Savannah: Part of the End Racism campaign is that they kneel at the beginning and there was a lot of controversy around people kneeling and whether they were allowed to kneel, whether teams were allowing them to kneel. I think Daniel Riccardo has been very open, so has Lando, Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher. Sebastian, last season, had an LGBTQ thing on his helmet and some of them are slightly more open with expressing the importance to them about like ethnic minority rights, LGBTQ rights, etc. At the same time, there is a semi chance that there are things that go on behind the scenes that we do not see, that does not allow them to express what they would like to. As I said, Daniel Riccardo has also been very open recently about the amount that the streaming platforms play and replay crashes and sort of sensationalises them. He, as a driver, is obviously very vocal about the fact he does not think that is ok and it should stop. So I think some of the drivers are clearly completely comfortable and open and free to speak on things that they wish to but there is a sort of PR thing when it comes to other things.
Simra: I think, adding onto Savannah’s point, the PR side of things, it seems to be the more experienced drivers that are able to speak up than the younger ones because maybe they are a little bit afraid of what backlash or comeback on them.
Catherine: The old drivers do not say enough, I know Kimi (Räikkönen) does not say anything but it would be nice to be like drivers like Fernando Alonso using their platforms, I know Lando is huge but it would be nice to see Fernando Alonso being like: “Yo, you can not do this” You know? I think some people have argued: “Oh, yeah but they are sportspeople, they should not be bringing politics into sport!” But it is like, if that’s the sports is being viewed by millions of people and they have got millions of followers, you would argue that they are actually quite useful for the movement.
Savannah: Adding to Katherine’s point, that point becomes redundant when you look at the work Marcus Rashford has done. He is a footballer, maybe that is slightly more celebrity orientated but at the end of the day, he is still a footballer. A lot of footballers do not do a lot of stuff for charity, instead, he starts lobbying the government. Yes, he could get sacked, he could get dropped at any moment in fear if they don’t like it but at the same time who wants to be the person to drop a footballer because he thought poor kids should eat? So the argument that sportspeople can’t do anything, again there will be contractual ties and I understand that completely but in terms of the weird argument when it comes to: “But he’s just a sports person!” Lewis Hamilton is the same driver as the rest of them.
Simra: In that respect, I think that the community has done a little bit to help elevate the issue that we are facing. I think with AlphaTauri they have Yuki, he’s Asian and the fact that he is also quite young, they’re promoting him into the team and I think that’s one of the great things because it hasn’t been done since Kobayashi. We haven’t had a Japanese driver since. Another thing I would say is that Motorsport UK has now got the girls on track, which didn’t come about until COVID and that’s one of the things that with a community, they’re helping to get more women in.
On the topic of the global pandemic, how do you think that changed motorsport and its future with the changes they’re making?
Catherine: I think it can only get better. With COVID, Formula 1 and I think Formula 2 as well, they were the first international sport to come back. They had cricket here in the summer but all the players had to quarantine for two weeks. COVID affected motorsport just as badly just as it did other businesses but not as badly as the arts or the culture side of things. I think they can adapt much easier. With Formula 1, especially their marketing as they have marketed their drivers as personalities, people are still going to lap up the content even if there are not any races going on. Then, because they are so technical, a couple of the teams went into making ventilators for COVID wards. Hopefully, they may take that kind of initiative into other things. The way they did their calendar during the 2020 season, so they did all of Europe at once, all of Asia, and so forth. However, this year they have gone back to travelling over the world and that’s really bad for air miles and COVID. It will be interesting to see if they take some of the sustainable stuff they did during COVID and move it forward.
Savannah: The drivers are not short of cash, bless them, and on top of that they are selling merchandise. They are making content on other platforms that they will be paid to be doing, they are also attached to Honda, Mercedes, Red Bull, which are obviously multi-million-pound companies. I think that is also what keeps it afloat as well.
Simra: To add to that, I think with the Esports competitions? So the Esports competitions were during the COVID that they could not travel and that is what kind of pushed Formula 1 to the forefront of gaming as well. It helped a lot of people who would not be able to go to the races or people who were not interested in just watching races but actually gaming, which brought more people into the community. Also, the fact that it was not just limited to guys gaming and it was including women, was one. I think it encouraged them and also made them think long and hard who is the actual personnel they need to take with them. Also, the people who could be left at the factories, so it can look at the immediate personnel versus the people who do also help and they can easily do interactive Zoom sessions, I think it was Maclaren where they have a huge room dedicated to all of their race engineers and then also the people at the races and they were all communicating together.
I guess that is one of the factors of your blog is, to raise awareness of these issues, to get women and ethnic minorities into the motorsport industry. Is that the way you are wanting your blog to go?
Catherine: I think it’s providing an opportunity for people who aren’t in that world, like a step up into it. Some of our members are complete examples of this: their parents are in it, their family is in it, they know people who are in it. I think it is not a case of who you know rather than what you know but that can help. It is important if we actually want to make it a completely accessible arena, it is trying to get rid of that element as much as possible. I do not have any connections to anyone at all but it is important for me to not let that be a hindrance and if anything it makes you want to ask more questions. Basically, providing a platform for people to get into the world who their Dad isn’t the owner of Mercedes. Even the commentators that we have now, like Natalie Pinkham, she’s great, she’s a female motorsport presenter but the Godfather to her children is one of the drivers. It is important to provide a platform for people to write about motorsport and if they’re good enough, they talk enough and they write well enough, that should be what gets them in rather than: “I know X, Y, and Z.”
So right now it is just articles, are you wanting to expand that further?
Savannah: We also have a TikTok if anyone fancies watching TikTok’s, that will be a thing. I’m not anything to do with that because my TikTok skills are nonexistent. In terms of podcast, it is me and Paige largely on it and other girls will be coming on and off, and we will have guests. To be honest, Paige joined the group with the intention of starting a podcast and I tagged along. The idea is that we don’t necessarily want to be like: “This is a race review!” And recite everything that everyone has seen in the past three days but we want to talk more about the things we are talking about no, so motorsport but in a wider context. Looking at the sustainability of Extreme E, looking at ethnic minority involvement, female involvement in sport, whether it is still a rich boy sport; looking at the wider issues that are attached to motorsport.
Catherine: What I wanted with the platform is for it to be everyone’s passion project. I wanted to provide people with a team, if people want to write then I can edit it, I can publish it. I want to read people’s work. If people want to make YouTube videos, make a podcast, I want to provide a team for that. It is giving people a chance to show what they want to do and it is like: “Katherine I want to do this.” I’m not really going to say no. That is what’s great about having such a big team is that we can all have our own little passion projects going on at the same time and it all comes together to make something quite cool.
How is it all coming along, how is the podcast going, how’s the articles going?
Savannah: In terms of the podcast, we have no name currently. We have loads of ideas and still no name so if anyone could come up with a name, that would be fabulous! We have got such a good team, I adore them all and it is the sort of thing where someone’s like: “I made this edit, can I put it on TikTok?” It’s like: “Yes, do it!” Although we are all British, not everyone on the team is British so they will send things across being like: “I have written this, can someone check my English?” It then gets published. There is a very supportive network in that sense, everything gets done. Our marketing queen here (Simra) has got so many things lined up for us for the next few months.
Catherine: I think it is because we are not huge, at the time of recording we are not huge, you don’t know what’s going to happen, we could blow up! It’s not really a worry, personally, that is not the point of this. The point of it is to just have a bit of fun and hopefully make stuff that people enjoy and provide a platform for people like: “Here’s all my work for Grid Girls, on LinkedIn.” Everyone asks for experience but no one ever has any experience and then you are caught in the cycle of ‘I need experience but no one is going to give me any because I haven’t got any experience’. Especially in COVID, I feel like COVID is quite a good opportunity to do stuff that is a little bit more not what you would normally do. So, I’m not too bothered about being small. We have all become quite good mates, which is something I didn’t expect. It has actually been more rewarding than the actual making of it, in a way.
Simra: what I love is the fact that this is such a team collaboration platform that we do. We have these Zoom sessions and some of the important things will be done but because motorsport is our passion, we have so much to talk about. We have so many strengths that we bring to the team like Savannah said TikTok. One of the things that make us laugh is that we are all trying to build each other up. That is what I love about this team is that there is such a constructive way that we work with each other. We are a disorganised bunch but that’s what creativity comes out of.
Savannah: It is organised chaos, is how I would describe us. It is extremely organised chaos! So we have a planner for all the social media that needs to go out, we know six weeks in advance what we are doing. Do we still do it ten days before? 100%! Sometimes the day before, sometimes the day of, sometimes it just depends. It is the sort of thing with someone going: “I know I said I would do this but I have got to go to work now, can someone else do it?” So I would be like: “Yep, I’ve got you, it is fine I will do it.”
What has been your most rewarding part of doing this whole thing?
Simra: For me, connections. I wouldn’t normally talk to these people and I think the support from the girls gave me the confidence boost to you know, I said something to a CEO yesterday which was quite funny. I have a bunch of girls who I would call friends and they have been so supportive, anything you want to say, the way it is received is really nice.
Catherine: I agree with all of that. From a personal point of view, when I put the post on, I knew I wanted to go into some kind of communications and I have written a bunch of stuff as a writer, done a little bit of editing. The actual chance to make my own ‘publication’ and for that to do as well as it has done, even if it is small, it is living. There is constantly stuff happening and to be able to see that is actually something that I can do, has given me a lot of confidence. For example, we say: “Can I do this? Can I do that?” We have given each other more confidence in our abilities because we have done it in such a fun way.
Savannah: The main thing that I got really got out of this is a new group of friends. It has been nice to get to know them. I am currently doing a Sociology degree but I will be switching to a Marketing Masters in September and I think this has given me the chance to play with things, I spend half my life on Canva at the moment. It has just been fun and you get to try anything, Catherine is so chill with us all, I’m like: “I’m going to do this!” And she’s like: “Ok! As long as it’s not illegal or offensive, do what you want.”
Simra: Also, looking back at everything we have done so far, it’s been really well received and it is sustaining like how Catherine said. We have interviews lined up with these women in motorsport in Extreme E coming up and that is something rewarding for all of us, that fact that we have done this very, very successfully and people are willing to talk to us about their experiences.
Is there anything new you have done with this?
Savannah: Prior to this I knew a lot about the drivers, I knew a lot about what goes on in the background but this has allowed us to get in touch with so many people who you don’t see. Everyone knows Daniel Riccardo, everyone knows Lewis Hamilton, everyone knows Toto Wolff but I think you find out so much more about what goes on behind the scenes. There are so many people doing so many things day today and you get a chance to really understand that and experience that when you talk to these people.
Catherine: It is almost like there is almost one thing knowledgeable about a sport: “I know who won this thing, I know who won this thing.” But I actually understand this world more than I ever would if I hadn’t messaged people and it is surprising how willing people are to talk to you about what they do.
I was reading that Formula 1 has plans for a Esports Series Women’s Wildcard, is this a step forward for them?
Catherine: I feel like everything is a step forward. I think maybe the way they have marketed it, referring to it as a wildcard has connotations. So it’s like: “We shouldn’t be doing this but here we are!” I think I said earlier, not having these women in these positions, as a wildcard because she’s a woman, she’s there because she’s good at gaming and it has nothing to do with who she is, it is because she is very talented. Everything is a step in the right direction, so you can’t be like: “Oh no this is really bad!” Because it isn’t bad at the end of the day. It is amazing that someone even had the idea to do it, just maybe don’t refer to them as a wildcard.
Savannah: I have a similar opinion, it is very much that weird affirmative action style thing: “We have a token female, we have a token black person.” You see it with TV, sometimes people are naturally brought in and other times it’s like: “Ah, a gay man has arrived in the village!” That is the vibes this gives me, there are connotations to a wildcard, something that’s not supposed to be there but it is. Wildcard does feel very abstract. I don’t think the concept of it itself is the problem, I think calling it a wildcard is what got people’s back up a little bit.
Simra: On the flip side, when you call it a wildcard, I get why. Even though the connotations are not great, I get why they did it because they are trying to dip their feet in the water to see if this is going to be a thing that they can introduce later and keep on going. I get why they have done it like that, to try and get people’s attention, try and get more women and girls involved. At the same time, I think it is a tiny step forward but the way that they marketed it and the way it was received, they could have worked better at delivering that. At the same time we, as girls and women, want to get more involved with motorsports that many people think is a guy’s sports.
Catherine: Also, at least if they market it like this, you are going to know these women’s names rather than just having: “There is a female there, we haven’t mentioned her.” At least these women’s names are going to be there, you are going to have to read them.
Speaking of challenges and end results, have you guys faced any challenges doing this?
Catherine: Maybe it is because we are quite small but we haven’t received any abuse, which is nice. Everyone I had told about, even my male friends like I was really hesitant to tell my male friends about this because I thought they were going to think I was ridiculous. I told them and they were like: “This is so cool, let me follow it! This is great you’re going to be a journalist.” I have noticed my male friends are so for it, which is great. I think one of the biggest challenges was doing this all virtually and the fact that we all have such different lives. Some of us have jobs and some of us are studying at uni, the hardest thing has been trying to fit it all around that and I don’t think we have had one call where everyone has been there. That has not hindered us, which is good but it has made communication quite hard.
Savannah: That is one of the biggest challenges! I think my fear going into this, which I’m sure a lot of us experience and we spoke to a girl the other day and she said the same thing, is gatekeeping. It is like: “Oh I am into motorsport.” And they’re like; “Yes but you fancy the drivers.” Again, I do not sit and watch them drive around with helmets on for 90 minutes because they’re pretty, I can’t see them. I do not study it for hours because I like the drivers because that’s would be a waste of my time. That is what I expected from this but actually, we have received a really positive response and there are other publications similar to us that we have gotten to know as well. Knowing we are not the only people doing it is quite exciting, there are other blogs and podcasts. It really is becoming quite a large shift. Although we are all different publications, we are all going for the same thing which is getting women into motorsport.
Simra: It is a welcoming community. I have been speaking to a few of the different publications that are similar to us and it has been really supportive. You are building each other up and if one person gets into a motorsport organisation, they try and lift the others up as well. Some of my friends when they heard, they were like: “Go you! You’re actually trying to do something for your career and you are trying to get where you want to be.”
You keep mentioning people’s reactions to you coming out and saying you’re doing this, were you expecting the total opposite?
Catherine: I was not expecting the total opposite but I wasn’t expecting my friends and family to be as: “Oh my gosh, yay!” As they were. A lot of them aren’t really into motorsport and they all follow the blog, which is great. I didn’t expect everyone to be as supportive. Everyone gets like that though, they have made something and everyone gets a bit embarrassed. I have been pleasantly surprised as well, people’s mums follow it and their sister. It is realising that it’s not as ‘out there’ as I originally thought, the idea.
Simra: I think we were doubting ourselves a little bit which caused that feeling that it might not be as received as we thought it would be.
Savannah: You are definitely right with that, the support has come from everywhere. A lot of my friends have no idea what is going on will be like: “Oh I saw Daniel Riccardo on this TikTok so I have sent it to you.” They don’t know who he is, they don’t know what he does but they’re trying. That is what we wanted from everyone, we don’t need you to suddenly know 70 years of motorsport history we just need to be like: “Oh, that piece you wrote was cool!” That is what we wanted and that is what we have got.
Simra: I will give you a story, the same thing that Savannah said. I gained a reply on our Instagram DM and I started jumping up and shouting. I ran downstairs and told my Mum and Dad and they were so confused for a second. Then they saw the fact that this lady is quite well known, they were like: “Oh my gosh, well done! You actually put yourself out there and you welcomed what would come back to you.”
Savannah: It is similar to my parents my Step-dad is really into Formula 1 but my Mum has no idea what we’re talking about ever. I’m like: “George Russell is racing for Mercedes, I’m so excited!” She’s like: “I thought Lewis Hamilton raced for Mercedes?” It becomes a process where I have to sit and spend 20 minutes explaining how they have two drivers and Lewis has COVID. I tell her and she goes: “Are you happy?” And I will say yes and she will say: “Well I’m happy for you.”
For those of you that are students, how has it been managing this blog along with your degree?
Catherine: It is important to see this as a hobby rather than a job, personally. I am off at the moment but it’s been quite a welcome release. If I was tired of reading about something, which I was before we started this interview, then I’m like: “I can edit this thing that someone did.” It is still work but it definitely should be seen as a hobby. If anything, it has made me work harder at my degree as I actually know where I want to go now so I need to work hard and it really helps you focus on where you want to go and why you are doing a degree in the first place.
Savannah: For me, I probably should be the same because, in Edinburgh, the degree is four years so I have spent the past three and a half years working really hard and doing everything. Now, I have an essay due today that still needs editing but one of our articles is coming out tonight and when it comes to ‘do I make a Twitter post and Facebook post for this article coming out? verses ‘should I finish my essay?’ The editing tends to win. I’m going to mess about with Canva before I finish my essay. Self-control is definitely a thing that I need to get back in touch with but I think because of COVID I am not at uni, I’ve been at home for the past year so that momentum has fallen a little bit.
Simra: I am in a different group to you guys, in that kind of respect. I work at the same time, five days a week, so sometimes when we have our conversations, like yesterday my face was dead. It is a struggle with multitasking. This is really bad saying this but when you’re working for your career, it is great but sometimes you have to take a bit of time out for yourself. That is something COVID has taught me, I might have a full working day right now but I’m going to take a few hours out to do something that is for my own personal growth.
Where do you see this going, say in five years time?
Catherine: The size of it is all varied on whether people like what we do, that obviously will determine whether it is a hobby or something bigger. There is one pretty big motorsport publication and they started as an amateur blog and now they’re huge, but that’s one of those fairytale stories. Also, that has taken a long time. I want this to be a stepping stone to something bigger but I feel like if that ever happens and I am living my dream life writing for a motorsport publication, I want this still to be something that I can go back to and I still want it to be there for other people to do cool stuff. Hopefully, we’re all going to be here for quite a while. Once life goes back to normal it will interesting, and not just for this but for life in general, to see how much it all changes. Obviously, we are not the only people who do this, so it will be interesting to see what effect it has on this little community we have found ourselves in.
Savannah: In five years I am going to be 27, hopefully, I will have a career and a life. At the same time, I think because we all get along so well, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us are still working I’m this. It may be in a different capacity or working for different platforms similar, it is something that I don’t necessarily see disappearing because I don’t think Formula 1 is going anywhere anytime soon. There will always be content and stuff for us to write about, for other people to write about. Whether we pass it on to other people or whatever the situation is, I just think that we will be bigger and better.
Simra: I agree with that point, I think it is the start of something new. We have created such a great support group and such a food working group that I don’t think for at least the next one year or two years that it is going to change. In five years’ time, I would love to see some of the girls working still with Grid Girls but also they have gone ahead and their career has grown and they have gone into whichever career they have wanted to go. I think Grid Girls will still be here, and same as Savannah said, maybe the people might not be.
What advice would you have for people wanting to start a blog, wanting to go into the media and journalism industry?
Catherine: I really got into journalism and communications halfway through my first year. It was the careers festival and it was about science comms, I got chatting to someone and he said to me: “You just need to write.” He also said to write something every day but I like that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. I had my own blog which has since died, where I published everything that I published. I was published for different places, different student publications and I think that is the perfect place to start. I know we only take people who write about motorsport but we take freelancers. It is really good for your networking skills to just send the email, it’s scary but do it. I’ve had a couple of harsh comments on stuff I have written, it has only made me solidify what I want to do. There is always going to be someone to publish for, whether they’re the tiniest publication. Start with the university newspaper if they have one and then if you want to make a blog, make a blog. If you have an idea, just do it. My idea for this, I was going back to uni because we have to go into labs and I was writing a message on the train and I sent it when I was waiting for my second train and then all this stuff was coming back.
Simra: You don’t overthink it, don’t doubt yourself. I know it is easier said than done. The thing that I did to some of these people is write it out, draft everything that you want to say when you want to target someone and just close your eyes and press the button. That is something that I have done quite a few times with Gird Girls. One of the other things is joining a community, so we all joined the Girls on Track community. That is how we saw this opportunity. If you are on Facebook, if you’re on Instagram or any social media platform, just look at the groups and research what you want to go into. Look at the groups that are already there, join them and see if anyone is looking to expand their group or looking for writers. Then just send an email. There is no harm done, you don’t lose anything by doing that.
Savannah: It is very cliché but they say if you love your job then you’ll never work again in your life and I think that is the thing, for us it’s motorsport but there are loads of pages on Facebook. Whatever you’re interested in, there will be other people interested in it. For me, I was the only one out of all my friends at school that was into motorsport and I thought ‘oh, maybe it’s just me’. I found someone from WTF1 posted: “Retweet this if you’re into Formula 1!” Then I followed the accounts on it and I gained 300 followers from Formula 1 fans. Now all of my Twitter is based around that and I get to interact with people when it comes to races. Even if you’re into studying frogs, there will be people in the world who also like studying frogs. Just look and you’ll find them.
Would you give similar advice for anyone wanting to go into the motorsport industry?
Catherine: It depends what it is but what I know is journalism and it’s the same process. It’s writing about what you’re passionate about. I have written some articles in my time that I did not like but I felt like I had to. You shouldn’t feel like you’re working, it should be fun. Motorsport is a really hard industry to get into because of what we said previously about the nepotism aspect of it but then if you’re good enough, you’ll get there.
Simra: With the fact that we are just starting out, some things that I have learned about wanting to get into motorsport is joining those Zoom sessions. So, look in your community or anything you’re wanting to join, say Formula E. Look online and see if they’re doing any online sessions or anything for fans to interact with and that is one of the ways forward.
Savannah: Going back to the point about COVID, I think it doesn’t completely remove the finance barrier because we are in a fortunate position to own computers and to have access to WiFi. However, it does bring the bar down a bit, so it’s not like: “Oh there is a take in London and I live in Manchester and it’s going to cost me 50 quid to get there.” It’s that sort of thing of, yes I have to afford WiFi and a computer but at the same time, attending it is free. I think that, to some extent, has lowered the barriers a level and that allows for a wider group of people to get involved.
Catherine: I hope they continue that afterwards because it’s getting the chance to talk to people in the industry that you never thought you’d see talk live. When Natalie Pinkham appeared, I was like: “Oh my gosh, she’s real!” Some of the stuff she said really stuck with me and I don’t think these talks would have happened if it wasn’t for Covid because no one had the time as they would all be doing their jobs.
To end, how are we all feeling about the Red Bull and Mercedes title battle?
Savannah: So, my two favourite drivers are from Williams and AlphaTauri, my favourite team is Red Bull but as a British mixed-race person I quite like seeing Lewis Hamilton win. So it is extremely stressful watching this battle play out because part of me is like: “yes, come one Lewis, but oh Max is Red Bull.” Then I go through this battle in my head. Part of it is I do want him to become an eight-time world champion, that would be pretty cool but he has also beat so many other records. It is more exciting than being like: “Ok, I’m going to switch it on, guess the ending, oh look it happened, move on.”
Catherine: That is what’s really unique about motorsport. With football, you support and team and everything else is irrelevant unless you really like football. That is what is good about the sport (motorsport) is that you really get to know them as personalities and that why I think Drive to Survive has been so good. You root for people that you like but there are so many of them. As long as there is a fight, that’s great and that has been the problem recently that there hasn’t been.
Savannah: It’s that whole thing of the driver? Team? Do you have a favourite driver and a favourite team? Do you have a favourite driver because of a favourite team? Which you do not really get with most sports.
Simra: Adding COVID to this, last year there were so many other teams or other drivers who started winning because of some of the upgrades that the teams could not do because of Covid. I can’t say, Mercedes or Red Bull, unfortunately, but I can say having this change of the score is what all of us fans are loving. Especially Pierre Gasly winning last year was one of our highlights. Yes, there is a driver and there is a team but we love the whole race, the whole weekend. I don’t think there is one specific thing that you could point out because qualifying is quite funny because of some of the things that happen, especially in Bahrain.
Catherine: So if you want to get into motorsport this is the season to get into it, I think last season would have been boring. To answer your actual question, I think Mercedes are still going to be miles ahead.
Simra: I think it is possible that Lewis Hamilton might have a less amount of wins, don’t quote me on this. He might have fewer amount of wins but he will probably win. I think that is great because other people battling is one of the best things to watch.
To learn more about Grid Girls and what they do, visit their website.
Or, take a look at their Instagram!