Interview with Jennie Gow
By Sasha Macmillen, Edited by Harshi Vashee
For those who follow F1, and motorsports in general, I’m sure that many of you have grown accustomed to the TV presenters and journalists working in the industry. Whether it be the commentators who bring you live race coverage, professional journalists writing analytical pieces of dramatic talking points, or processing a boring race rundown late at night, they all put tremendous work and effort into their passion. Here on Project Divebomb, Jennie Gow, a lead figure at BBC F1, as well as commentating on Extreme E and appearing on Netflix’s popular series Drive To Survive, has joined us to discuss her path into motorsports media, and her experiences within the racing world.
SM - To start off, what’s your first memory of motorsports?
JG - I used to watch rallying when I was young and remember thinking how cool it was that women were competing in such a great sport. I think it must have planted a seed without me realising!
SM - Was there a point at which you realised that you wanted to work in motorsports?
JG -I knew I wanted to work in sport but motorsport was a lucky find for me - we had a sponsorship deal with a local speedway team in Somerset when I used to work there on the local radio breakfast show. Someone asked me to do some more work and that was the start of the love affair!
SM - Do you have any specific advice for those who aspire to work in a role similar to yours? (For example, qualifications and experience)
JG -Everyone’s journey into motorsport seems to be very different - for me University was something I tried but didn’t get on with so I took a Journalist course where I learnt the legal aspects of the job as well as shorthand -which is still really useful. There is no set way to get into the industry but you will have to work hard whatever path you take!
SM - What’s your memory of your first day working in F1? Did anything shock you in particular?
JG - My first weekend in F1 was the Canadian GP in 2011 so EVERYTHING shocked me. It was the longest race in the history of F1 with no action on track and me, on my own in the paddock, having to fill. I didn’t know who anyone was, I just had to get on with it. You learn the most from days like that!
SM - What was the appeal of Formula E for you to host the series on TV, in 2014?
JG -I love new motorsport - it's not all about tradition and history. It’s also about developing new technology and new motorsport people can fall in love with. I loved the idea of all electric city centre racing and I’m really keen to try and do whatever I can to help promote sustainable and environmentally friendly transport solutions. This seemed like the perfect platform for that and let’s face it - who doesn’t love presenting live TV!
SM - Are you able to provide us with an update on your work in FIA Girls on Track?
JG - Every year the FIA Girls on Track scheme hosts loads of events to get the next generation of females interested in STEM and Motorsport. I really feel it’s a key part of the future of F1 to have a more representative paddock. I'm looking forward to being at more events and trying to inspire more young women and girls into the sport - it's just a shame that my job keeps me so busy as it’s hard to find time when I’m not at a race weekend.
SM - What’s your experience like working with Netflix on Drive To Survive? Do you think they provide an entirely realistic view of the sport? Will we see you in Season Four?
JG -Surreal! I was really keen to be part of the show as I thought it was a great opportunity to have more females represented. Females make up the vast majority of pit lane reporters in the paddock so it seemed logical. The box to box team who produce the show are SO talented, it's a real pleasure working with them and their dedication to the show is incredible. It really has been a pioneering project as more and more sports seek the same sort of publicity that D2S have created for F1. Covid has made it really hard for the team behind the show as they have been limited to how many crew they can have on the ground - believe me - they do an amazing job to reflect the events of the season. It has brought in a whole new fan base and while I appreciate the purists don’t always like what they see you can’t say it hasn’t added to the drama of the sport! I'm looking forward to season 4 but I can’t give away any secrets!! You’ll just have to wait and see ;)
SM - Who do you think are the unsung heroes of the F1 paddock?
JG - There are SO MANY. Thousands of people travel the world to bring the sport we love to the fans. The team who had to come up with the Covid F1 Calendar are amazing. They did such a brilliant job to get 17 races away in 2020. They deserve a shout out but up and down the paddock there are some amazing people and we should never forget the marshals who make it possible for us to go racing in the first place. They do a phenomenal job as volunteers!
SM - Across your entire career, who has been your favourite F1 personality to interview? (You can’t say Daniel Ricciardo!)
JG -That’s SO tough because there have been SO many. John Button - Jenson’s Dad was always great to chat to - on and off the mic. The medical team who helped save Romain Grosjean were a brilliant pair to talk to and of course, Sir Jackie Stewart is always good value. Every opportunity you have to interview a driver is special. We don’t get many sit down interviews with them anymore and they all have something unique and special to offer you - you just have to ask the right questions!
SM - Was your first driver interview a daunting experience? Who was it?
JG -One of my first driver interviews was with Daniel Ricciardo in Canada 2011 - it was a Thursday and I had a sit down with him and we just had a really great chat about how he found himself in F1. He was just starting out, as was I, in the paddock so it was nice to speak to someone so grounded. My next interview was with Michael Schumacher - that was a little different!
SM - What’s your hot take for Formula One in 2022?
JG - The cars are going to look and feel very different but the rivalries are going to be the same! Max vs Lewis but hopefully with Charles and Carlos in the mix too and maybe even George Russell. I think there will be more variety in who wins but I’d be amazed if there aren’t some horror weekends to come - the tech is new, the cars are going to have very little testing and while some will fare well there will be others who get caught out. It should be fascinating to watch. I also think Lando will get his long awaited first win!
SM - What did you find different between working in MotoGP and Formula One?
JG - The MotoGP paddock was a very Spanish place to work in and not speaking the language was a real disadvantage. It’s the opposite in F1 and everyone is expected to speak English. Both sports are the pinnacle of their own disciplines and have amazing people to chat to!
SM - Who’s a member of the F1/Motorsports media world who you think should receive more recognition for their work?
JG - There are too many to name! For fairness I should say my producer who has to put up with me! He’s a saint for that.
SM - What do you find important in Extreme E’s appeal as a championship?
JG - SO MANY THINGS! Gender equality, raising awareness of environmental concerns, the legacy project and scientific committee, the fact that they were brave enough to put me in a commentary box! It’s a really exciting and bold championship that has so much it wants to achieve - the list is endless.
SM - And finally, what would be your #1 recommendation for those who want to work as motorsports journalists?
JG - WORK HARD. There is no substitute for that and you meet some wonderful people along the way. Networking and having great contacts is really important but get yourself out there - get as much experience as you can and realise that it is almost impossible to start at the top - you have to put in a lot of hours of work and very unglamorous conditions to make it. Even then, most of the time, the conditions are still far from glamorous!
We would like to thank Jennie Gow for her time and wish her the best for her career.
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