Ann Bradshaw - F1 Trailblazer

How Trailblazer Ann Bradshaw Rewrote F1 Forever
How Trailblazer Ann Bradshaw Rewrote F1 Forever
How Trailblazer Ann Bradshaw Rewrote F1 Forever

In Formula One's long history, drivers and teams come and go. The careers of many people involved in F1 only last as long as they're physically fit. It is, after all, a grueling time for everyone involved, not just the drivers. Yet, there is someone who has outlasted World Champion drivers and even the lifespans of many teams. Someone you might call a trailblazer who joined the sport with a role that didn't exist in the sport beforehand.

Ann Bradshaw became the press officer for Williams when they were at the height of their success. She worked with Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Damon Hill, Ayrton Senna, and many, many more famous names. Since then, she moved to freelance work, where she's represented other championships. Yet Ann also kept close to the F1 world, including advising Lance Stroll for his media duties. She now has added W Series as another feather to a bulging hat, with the all-female championship gaining unrivaled knowledge by having Bradshaw in their ranks. Here is how Ann has lived The Racing Life.

A two-part question to start. You've been a press officer many, many years. Could you describe what a press officer meant when you first made the move from being a journalist? And what does that role mean today?

If you're talking of just a press officer for, like, a Formula One team, yeah, I mean, the important thing is you've got to get the story over to journalists. You've got to make sure all the media can find out what you're up to... what you're doing. You have to manage your time, the time of the drivers, the time of the team. You have to be proactive and reactive. You've got to look to see what your team's doing and sell that out to people.

But also, be ready; if you are, like, in the championship battle or something [...] you know that you're going to have lots of people wanting to talk to you. So you have to manage that and try and get the best out of what sometimes is a limited amount of time.

My first year as a team press officer was '85. You didn't have the amount of media attending the races [that] you have now. I mean, in non-Covid times, you could have had 400 media at a Grand Prix. In the old days, perhaps have... I don't know, perhaps in total 30 or 40 or 50. So then, you did everything by the seat of your pants.

Somebody would come to you and say, "I'd like to interview your driver." So, you would have to then waylay him between meetings with engineers or his lunch... grab him and grab them (the media)! These days, everything is regimented. There's a timetable, and you know if a driver [...] is needed for anything. You actually look and say, "Well, yeah, I've got him for half an hour there."

But with those days, there was no timetable for anything. You just went along, and it happened. The engineers are saying, "Well let's sit down have a chatter," and you have no idea how long they're going to be. And the same with the media. Someone said, "Oh, can I do an interview?" They might have him for half an hour; they might have him for five minutes! And it just happened, and you had to just make it up as you went along. The scheduling probably makes a big difference these days. Everyone has their smartphone in their pockets.

Let's go back further than that. I understand you had a love for motorsports from a young age, as many of us do. I can understand that, as I'm sure most of our readers can. But how did the interest in the press side of things come about?

I actually wanted to be a journalist, and [...] in the old days, you had to do your indentures, and things like that. So, I actually ended up working on a local newspaper. I started off as a journalist. I suppose if you say, "What is your profession?" I'm a journalist by profession, and that was my chosen route. But then, when I got into motorsport, I didn't go in there as a journalist, I went in there as a race organizer.

My first job back in '71 was organizing race meetings. But I've managed to, sort of, mix all the things... I can't say I ever thought, "Oh well, I want to now be a journalist! I want to now be a press officer!" These sort of things happen. People said, "We're looking for a journalist," [or] "We're looking for a press officer, how do you fancy it?" And it was something that I thought, "I'll give it a go!"

So, it was never a chosen course of "This is what I want to do." As I say, from my being contacted by a friend that there was a job going in motorsport, it just all happened from then. I could use my journalism experience, [...] both as a press officer because you know what the journalists want, and as a journalist, because you know how to get stories.

[Fortloc] - It sounds like you followed your heart to start with, and it all worked out in the end?

That's right. Motorsport... it's a family sport. [Some] families have football, some have rugby. My family? It was motorsport, so it was a natural progression. My brother used to do a bit of very amateur rallying. My parents loved the sport, so I was brought up standing at the side of Mallory Park on a frozen day, and things like that. And, you know, was getting blown over at Silverstone when it was blowing [with] wind!

You've done P.R. for British Touring Cars and Motorsport U.K., or RACMSA (Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association) as it was known back then. Then made the jump to Williams F1. How much of a jump was it going from national to international?

Obviously, when I was at the RACMSA, I was doing the press officer role for the British Grand Prix, the RAC Rally... I've never been, what I call, just national, because my roles... I mean, there was the Open Rally Championship, there was a British Touring Car Championship, the RAC Rally, the British Grand Prix, the CART Grand Prix. There was a Rallycross Grand Prix, and there was the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. There were lots of things, and all of those had people from all around the world.

When I had my first job at the BRSCC (British Racing & Sports Car Club), the race meetings I organized were from F1 down to the Formula Ford Festival. So, yeah, I've always had a good mixture. So, never done just one or the other.

So did it change when you were going to be based overseas to do your job in warmer climates?

I mean, obviously, once you get with Formula One, you're traveling more. And as you say, you spend more time overseas, and it's great because you get to see the world. You get to see different race meetings. So, yeah, you have to have [...] a different mindset and, you know, get used to not seeing home for weeks on end.

But it's all good fun because I still love the grassroots of the sport, you know. Actually, if I see it on T.V.... [if] I see something [like a] club meeting or something like that – when I watch the British Touring Cars, I'll always make sure I watch the Ginetta race. Because there's still some great racing, and I just enjoy the racing.

Then a long tenure with Williams, and that's when they were at their peak, in greater days. World Champions galore... How difficult was it handling the egos of the drivers back then?

[Laughter] Some were easier than others! [Laughter] Yeah, I mean, I don't think anybody will pretend that Nigel Mansell's the easiest person to deal with! But he's a brilliant driver, you know? He had these problems and, yeah, as I say, they're all very different. And they all have their good and their bad points.

But you've got to accept that they are superstars. They're in demand. They've got a lot of pressures, you know? Me rushing along saying, "Please do this interview," is, to them, not as important as the engineer saying, "Let's sit down and work out the strategy for the race" or "Let's work out why you lost a tenth of a second to your competitor on that part of the track."

So I'm always aware that racing drivers want to race; that's why they do it. They don't go in it so that they can spend all their time talking to T.V. stations, or, you know, journalists. So that's all part of it. But it's not what they really want to do, so you have to try and make it as easy and quick as possible. You keep their attention while you've got them, and then let them go back to what they want to do.

Did you feel the role was ever like looking after children, and only you got to see that side of things, compared to the world who saw World Champions?

Oh totally! I mean, I often used to say, "Well if I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher I'd have just been one!" It is like looking after children because you know what's good for them [but] they think they know what's good for them. And it's never [that] the two are the same! And they can be naughty! Like you'll think that you know where they are, and you say, "Well I'll come and get you in five minutes," and you find that they've disappeared, hiding from you! If you're taking them away from something that they prefer to do, you're not their favorite person.

I'm guessing that attitude is more relevant to how it was back in the day rather than today? The sport, Formula One specifically, is a bit more sanitized with the advent of the Internet. Were there things back then when you had to beg and barter with the press to keep quiet on?

Absolutely right. I mean, one of the most important things was to have a good relationship with the media. And yeah, you know, in the evenings we would always go out together with the media and the press officers. You'd say, "Come out, we'll go out to dinner," and you had a good relationship where if you've got something difficult, you could discuss it with them.

And I wouldn't say you could do a deal, but they would then help you. Because if they didn't publish it, then it wasn't going to appear. Unlike today, with social media [where] even if they don't put it on their social media, somebody finds out and puts it [out]. So you're stuck. You can't have that sort of relationship of, "I'd rather you didn't mention that," because somebody's going to put on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

So I think it's the world... how we communicate that's altered, and we're all victims of that. And I say victims because I think we are victims, and I think that in some cases, it would be better if some things weren't out there. You know, you could just be a little more yourself. I mean the number of times we've been having fun back in the '80s, '90s, and you could have a laugh, and you could do all sorts of things because there was nobody there with their iPhone taking pictures. Nobody would be there with a camera. You wouldn't have a mobile phone anyway because they weren't invented!

But, you know, you just went out, you had fun, and somebody might, two years later, write it in a book, in their autobiography, or something like that. I see things Damon [Hill] was writing about, and I think, "I remember we did that." But, these days, the media with us would have taken a photo, and within seconds it would have been on social media.

Are there things today that do happen that would stay quiet, or are those days gone now?

They would have stayed quiet in the old days because you know people. Because [with] the media, [you] could do a deal, because... we used to go to races and there were a group of media, obviously – all the nationals. And they worked together. They all sat together. They did interviews together. And they'd go away from their interviews, and they'd all sit down and actually work out what they were going to write. Because that way, nobody got told off for somebody having an exclusive they didn't. It worked well for them, and it worked well for us. So they'd come, do their interview, they'd go off, and they'd do that. And, as long as everybody agreed, it was like a band of brothers.

I mean, there's a group of them that that still regularly get together once a year and have a meal and go to the hotel they used to stay at for Silverstone and go and have curry. And I join them, and we just laugh about the things we got up to. But they all did it together. Nobody broke ranks. But, you know, that's not the same these days because they've all got a newspaper, they've got a blog, and their editor is expecting the moment they've done an interview, it's got to be up there. So they're all there... it's that they all sort of do their own thing these days where they didn't in those days.

You mentioned Damon Hill briefly. Thinking back to his championship win, I feel it has modern relevance because of Mercedes' recent dominance. How is it when you're putting out celebratory news irrespective of the results? That one of your drivers is going to win the championship? Are there thousands of P.R. words and thousands of dollars in the marketing budget that just never got seen for the possibility of Jacques Villeneuve winning the title in 1996?

We didn't... In this day and age, people have all these documents... when we actually were a bit more on the hoof, you know? And, as I say, because you don't have all the pressure [that] you've got to get something out there on the social channels, you had time to think about it. You had time to do it. Certain things were in place, obviously, because we knew that one of our drivers would win. For different areas, it would be a bigger story than the other. Where, obviously, in the U.K., the big story would be Damon.

We'd also got a plan where after the race. On the Monday, we'd get on a train, and whoever won, we'd take them up to Tokyo. And then we went into some studios, and we did all the top morning programs around the world. We were so far ahead [...]timewise. So we'd perhaps start in Germany and then move our way to France and U.K., and then backward. And then, eventually, the last one we'd do would be CNN, and we did that. So, that was all in place, that sort of thing.

Rothmans also, who were our major sponsors, they'd organized a world tour. So whoever won was going to go have the photo taken in Red Square and the Great Wall of China. And that was all [...] organized. You know, that was easy because we knew it would be a Rothmans Williams driver. Obviously, [in 2021] if you're Red Bull or Mercedes, you're standing there thinking, "Is it going to be us? What do we put into place?"

[Fortloc] - It sounds like I found out the real reason Villeneuve never won the title that year... He just wanted to get out of all those horrible press obligations the day after winning the championship?!

Oh, bless him. Yeah, he was very funny. He came partying with us. We all went out partying, and him and David Coulthard, they all shaved their heads! He didn't go away and sulk, and he just went partying with us.

You moved away after Williams from being the press officer for a team. Instead, you had multiple roles, including at the short-lived A1GP, which was at an international level as well. Did you welcome the move back to representing a championship, and was it more of a walk in the park after being an F1 team press officer?

I mean, when I left Williams, I wanted to do more things. I didn't just want to be F1, and I went to TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing), where I could do sports cars, touring cars, even sort of engineering. And even a bike team! So, although I like Formula One, I like motorsport, and I like just trying new things. And, I mean, it was lovely, as you say. I was there for A1GP; I did things like Formula BMW. And, it's just... I just like to keep doing different things.

I have to be honest and say the thought of doing 23 Formula One races one after another... I think I'd tear my hair out because you just want some relief from it. This year, I've done W Series, been to Mexico, going to Abu Dhabi, and they'll be very different roles, and I enjoy that. I see similar people, but I also then see different people, and it's nice to just work and do something a bit different. It's variety; variety is the spice of life.

The freelance work that you were doing... You've bridged the gap from before the social media world and going into the social media world. How much of a landscape change has that been with Twitter and everyone having a camera in their pocket?

It's very difficult. To be honest with you, nowadays it's like communications departments and social media are totally different. You have a different department for it [...] because social media is so full-on. We have dedicated people. I don't get involved from a W Series point of view or if I'm at Williams from a Williams point of view. Obviously, we work alongside them, and we talk, and we know what's going on. But the comms department does not do social media. So there'll be things that suddenly appear out there that you [think], "Oh, God, I wish we could have kept that a bit longer!"

But you know that keeping things quiet is very difficult, but you also know that there are fans out there that day and night, they're on their phones. Looking to see what the latest Tweet, Instagram post, TikTok is coming out of the teams. I mean, the people live by that, and I'm very aware that, in fact, they're getting their news from there more than they are from, perhaps some of the things that we're producing. We put a press release out after the races, [...] but by the time our press release comes out, there's perhaps 20 posts gone out from social on Twitter.

In a way, it makes our job easier because if there's somebody dealing with that, we don't have to worry about it. But then we look and think if we're trying to sell a story. We have to see it from a very different point of view because everybody knows what's going on... everybody's in there and saying, "Oh yeah, we know this," because they've just seen it on, well... I call it Twitter diarrhea!

How do you find it with Zoom replacing in-person interviews with Covid? And going on after Covid, do you think drivers are more under pressure to be available at all times, or is it easier because of the new flexibility?

It's been our savior. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco... it's been our savior during Covid times. Without that, I think we would have suffered. But nothing [is] better than actually seeing somebody in person. But, I think this will go on for a while because we've still got Covid; it's still around. In a way, I have to be honest and say that post-Austin (the final round of W Series 2021), the number of interviews we were able to do with (champion) Jamie Chadwick and with (runner-up) Alice Powell... If we had to organize those in person, and get Jamie with this journalist... we wouldn't have done even half of those.

When I was in the States, I suddenly got a WhatsApp from Craig [Slater] at Sky Sports News: "We'd love to have Jamie on tomorrow on Zoom to talk about F1 and W Series." And, yeah [we got it] organized. Now, if he'd then said, "Oh, can you get her down to Feltham? Can you get her to the Sky offices?" and that sort of thing, I'd say, "Well, no, because she's doing something else and we can't, and she's got other meetings at half-past three." So, I think it has helped us. I think it will stay.

Now, to some of the tougher parts of the job. In 1994 at Williams, you went through probably a rollercoaster of working in the press with the highs of getting Ayrton Senna. And then his accident. What was it like at Williams working there for those months?

When we got him, it was Frank Williams's dream. Him and Ayrton were very good friends, and they often... even though Ayrton wasn't driving for the team... they used to talk a lot. They both loved planes, and, yeah, they had a lot in common. Both driven people. So, that was, obviously, the dream. The start of the season was a nightmare because of the problems we'd had, and the accidents, and that sort of thing.

We'd had the tough winter testing, as well. We'd had some problems, but you know we... nobody lost faith and, you know, Ayrton was very determined to work alongside the team. For instance, if he'd been due to fly home, he wouldn't. He'd come straight to the factory and work. Particularly after we came back from Aida (now Okayama International Circuit), he came straight back to work with the guys to try and work it out.

Obviously, the accident was just a very big personal blow to Frank. It was a blow to everybody in the team. It's one of those things that... you know what can happen in motorsport. Because, if you're a motorsport fan, or you're involved in it, at some point, somebody you've watched or heard about is gonna die. Unfortunately, that used to be quite prevalent. And fortunately, it isn't these days. But, yeah, I know it was very tough. It was difficult. Nobody knew what happened, and there was all sorts of rumors and things, and it was difficult. Getting everybody back to an even keel was not easy because... something like that... everybody's affected by it in one way or another.

Was it one of your hardest days on the job?

Oh gosh, yes. Without doubt. Because, you know, you have to put any personal feelings and that sort of thing to one side and remember you've got a job to do. And, you know, [...] if somebody is killed, you say, "Well, they were doing what they loved, and they knew the risks." But, even though that is a fact, it doesn't make it any easier when somebody like Ayrton Senna or Roland Ratzenberger or somebody else is killed. It's still a devastating blow.

You know, they're racing drivers, but they're sons, they're boyfriends, they're husbands, they're fathers. They're not just a racing driver. They are people who have loved ones, and so you have to remember that. It's not just the fans or the team. It's their family that have lost a person. I mean, his brother was there at the race.

Obviously [there was an] enormous amount of interest from the media. I actually remember a breakfast program saying, "We need somebody to interview." Frank [Williams] had flown to Brazil for the funeral, and it ended up as me in my living room with a T.V. crew at six o'clock in the morning, and things like that. We had a Brazilian T.V. crew based in the U.K., more or less camped outside the [Williams] headquarters.

We had a lot of fans who came. There [were] never any fans getting annoyed or upset with us. I think we gave them somewhere that they could go and show their grief. They'd bring us flowers. They'd bring us cakes. You'd get there in the morning, and they'd be things pinned to the gates and that sort of thing. And we got to know some of them, and they'd come and sit with us because they just wanted some comfort because he was a national hero.

He wasn't just... I mean it's awful to say this... but he wasn't just a racing driver. He was somebody who personified Brazil, a poor country... [he showed] what you could do and what was possible, and he gave them sort of hope. And I'm sure if he'd lived, he most likely [would've] gone on to be President or something like that. Because he had a charisma, and he had beliefs, and he showed that... He was a great ambassador for his country because he loved Brazil.

Moving to more contemporary stuff, working with Lance Stroll, a driver who now holds a pole position, multiple podiums, and clearly can hold his own. But when he first joined... quite a toxicity about his signing. A pay driver tag he struggled to shake off... How did you advise the team and Lance to handle that publicly?

He just had to concentrate on his driving and not let it get to him. It was difficult because obviously, you know... I saw this with Alex Albon, as well, last year (2020)... the media get under their skin. And before they even get there (to F1), they're very defensive and frightened. And I had to say to him, "If you go and talk to them and get out there, they will show you respect. If you run away, that's when they will hound you." And Lance always listened to me.

I'll be honest with you, there were times when his father said, "Well he's not going to talk to the media."

"Well, what will happen..." I said, "...obviously for a start, the FIA will fine you."

"Well, we'll pay."

I said, "But the press will know." He (Stroll's father, Lawrence) has got enough money, you know, but I said, "The press will hit you hard then. If you go there and you stand up to them, and you answer their questions... They will respect you." And, eventually, you know, he got better... the car (the 2017 Williams) wasn't the best, obviously. But, as you say, he got his podium, and then he got his front row start in Monza and things like that. So he grew.

I had a few run-ins with journalists and explained that I thought what they wrote was wrong. And, particularly, one guy who... I tried to find him for a few races. [He'd] been really, really rude about Lance in an article in Monaco, and it's a journalist I knew very well. I'd known his father, who was a journalist, and I'd known this journalist all his life. I'd even taken him into the garage and introduced him to Nigel Mansell when he was about six-years-old.

And it was so funny. I was in Canada, and he was there. So, I marched into the media center, and this guy was sitting there, and he knew I was after him. He pushed his chair back... and the media center was in a tent... and in the wooden flooring there, there managed to be a gap. So, when he pushed his chair, the back of his chair went through this gap. He ended up being tossed over and lying on the floor upside down with me standing over him. Everybody just thought it was the most brilliant thing ever. Anyway, we had a conversation, and then when [Stroll] did a good job, he wrote a really nice article.

I felt for Lance because it's a big responsibility when you're living your father's dream. And that's what he was doing. He was living his father's dream. He got the rich boy tag. He got out there. He got over it. He's got a decent car. He's doing a good job. And I think a lot of people will say, "Well good on him." I still keep in touch. I see him, and yeah, he's a good kid. He's not a bad driver... He's not Lewis Hamilton, but, you know, he's decent. If you give him the right car, he can get a good result.

[Fortloc] - Not many people have told Lawrence Stroll what to do, so you're in a very small club there, aren't you?

I just had to. And it was just one of those things that, when you're standing there with Lance, and I'll give him an answer to deal with, and then he just says, "Alright dad. Ann's right." And we'd go and do it, and then we get over it.

Moving to W Series now. A much smaller championship than F1. Somewhat punching above its weight, I'd say. Do you find that it's a different sense of scale with the work that you're doing? Or is the interest much lower than you're used to?

No, no. We have a lot of interest. I mean, okay, it's only like year two, and we've still got an awful lot of worldwide interest. We're very lucky. For instance, a journalist called Molly McElwee from The Telegraph regularly does articles, and they appear in the Telegraph or the Sunday Telegraph. As I say, sometimes Sky Sports News say, "Oh we'd like to get Jamie [Chadwick] to talk." BBC Radio 2, Dermot O'Leary's Saturday morning program... they asked if she could be on there as a guest.

In fact, it's very high profile, and we're getting some really good interviews. And, obviously, when you're with 18 drivers, you've got more opportunities. The repercussions of Jamie winning twice is still going on. We're still getting lots of interview requests, and it's good. So it's kept us busy, and it's great to see something new, something different. You know when you get something right, timing-wise, and it's just luck? I think that's where W Series came in timing-wise; when everybody was starting to look to female-only.

I know we have people saying, "we shouldn't segregate," but it's not working. If we don't segregate, those drivers most likely would never get thought of. So we did that at the time when women's football, rugby... all those sorts of things were gaining momentum. So it's brilliant. Our timing was perfect. It helps that we've got some great T.V. deals so people can watch it. So I think we are a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, but just we got our timing to perfection.

I get the impression that the W Series paddock is closer-knit than most because of how the drivers got there. Is that a fair assessment? If so, does that make things easier or harder for you working there as a press officer?

I mean, I suppose when you go into a Formula One paddock, every team has its own motorhome. Every driver has his own room. You come into our paddock, and the drivers all have the same changing room. They do everything together. They eat together... There's not the facility for one of them to say, "Oh well, I'm gonna go off and shut myself away." There just isn't that. And that helps because I'm sure if they all had their own rooms, they'd go and sit in them.

I'm not kidding myself that this is how they'd act if they [were in] Formula One, that they'd go and sit with everyone else. They wouldn't. But it isn't possible where we are. If you came into our paddock in Austin or in Silverstone, it was a bit like sort of a concentration camp! We've got porta-potties, and we've got a microwave to do all our meals on, and things like that. But it glues you all together a little more because you're all dealing with the same thing. There's no privilege.

With Williams when you can say "Hill beats his nemesis Schumacher" in wording like that. Do you have those sorts of struggles from your role when you're dealing with the entire championship? Are you trying to pitch people against each other in wording?

No, because they all seem to get on. I mean, like Jamie vs. Alice... Yeah, for social media they, sort of, built it up. "This is the final showdown" sort of thing. But the two drivers... they worked together. They got on well together; it's a very good atmosphere. And it's awful to say it, but Covid hasn't done us any disservice in the fact that they can't bring husbands, boyfriends, managers, brothers, sisters... They were there by themselves this year.

They couldn't go off in little huddles and say, "Well, I'm not going to talk to you, I'm going to go and talk to my my fiancé." And in a way, it was good, because it meant that they got each other and they hadn't got any other support. They've got on well. They've got us and the physios, but they've got each other, and that was their support network.

Have you found that different types of publications have taken an interest in W Series compared to other championships and teams where you've been a press officer?

Well, yes. I suppose we're different. We're all female, so we're not just a male club. We're much more diverse. We're openly diverse, you know because we obviously have three LGBTQ+ drivers, who we applaud. There's no elephants in the corner of the room over sexuality, or anything like that. And I think it's good because people can see that we've got that, and it's almost [like] we don't have any barriers. We've been very open and very straightforward about what they are and who they are.

[Fortloc] - So, do you get interest from publications that you just wouldn't get at say, Williams?

Yeah. We've done quite a lot with Racing Pride and people that they're associated with in other countries. I organized an interview with one of their people in Holland. She came along to the hotel and spoke to Sarah [Moore] and Abbie [Eaton]. So yeah, those sort of things that perhaps F1 wouldn't say is important to them, but they're important to us.

We perhaps would tend to deal with... okay some big publications... but also the smaller ones. Where everyone [else] would say, "Oh no, if you haven't got 100,000 readers we're not going to talk to you," we'd say, "Well, okay, if you've got 5,000, that there might be 5,000 people who don't know what W Series is all about." And if suddenly, we get another 5,000, then we're gonna have 175,000 rather than 170,000 following us on Instagram.

So it's very important to say we want our drivers to be role models. We want young fans. We want people... we want girls of 13, 14, 15 to look and say, "I could do that." Well, it's a little more rarefied [for them to] stand there and say, "I want to be Lewis Hamilton." But [they could say], "Well, I want to be Jamie Chadwick. I want to be Abbi Pulling..." I mean, young Abbi Pulling, she's 18, ran out of money from F4, and comes along gets a pole position and a podium [in W Series].

How do you see the future changing from here on out within the motorsport press world? Video content continues to grow while print content slows down.

I'm the sort of person who, if I read a newspaper, I read a newspaper. If I read a book, I read a book. So I like to pick up a newspaper. But I'm aware that things are moving away. I'm also aware that we're saying about the difference between the fans... what they want, and what the journalists [want]. I am aware that not everybody wants to sit and read a two or three-page article about a driver. They want to see a picture of her.

Like, you know, for instance, we took five of the drivers to New York to do an event for Puma. Kids want to see it. They want to see the bus in New York City and what they're doing, rather than an in-depth "How did you get here, Abbi Pulling?" But, I think there's still room for everything. But I think, thanks to social media, people's attention span has got smaller.

Finally, you've traveled all over the world for decades now. I'm sure there's plenty of stories you have on nearly everyone in the F1 paddock through those years. What's one of your favorite ones that you're able to tell us?

Oh gosh. Well, that's a difficult one. I mean, obviously, things like what we did in Tokyo after Damon won the world championship... Well, first of all, we all played in Suzuka... we all went into karaoke rooms, and there was Damon and Michael [Schumacher] in the same karaoke room. We were all singing in there, and they were singing, "Who do you think you're kidding Mr Hitler?" That sort of thing.

And then we went up to Tokyo, and we had the man from The Sun, the man from the Daily Mail, the man from The Express... we had a group of the national media who came in with us. And we all went out in Roppongi and had a great evening. We found this cabin bar in Roppongi with a Beatles lookalike group on the stage, and Damon ending up singing along with them. Because I mean Damon actually would love to have been George Harrison, and George Harrison would love to have been Damon Hill. I always said that! And, you know, singing "Drive My Car" with The Beatles lookalike, and things like that. It's just... we did [have] a lot of fun, and they're memories. Nobody's got a camera, as I say, nobody's got a phone [or] a camera and was Tweeting it. We were all just having fun.

And then, I always remember, when we came back into London the next day... this is obviously before 9/11... that I was invited up into the cockpit for the landing. And we were coming in, and they said, "Well you know we do this, this and this [in the cockpit]." And suddenly, the pilot said, "My gosh. I can't believe it. We are allowed to go straight across central London, which we never get to do." And then Damon and [his wife] Georgie were on the plane... they'd written Damon and Georgie as like a windscreen sticker and put it on the front of their jumbo as it came into land. That's quite a privilege to be part of all of that.