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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

The return to my F1 happy place

Have to say, it's been a while since I've done a life update on here, and for one I'm happy to be doing so for this specific instance.

What instance I hear you ask? Well that instance would be the fact that for the first time in 11 years, I found myself back in the Formula 1 paddock and working as media. A significant moment for me given that arguably my biggest media and career dream (that's at least achievable) is to work in the world of F1 and be a constant figure in the paddock of the sport. And for a glorious weekend at Albert Park in March 2024, that dream became a reality once again.

I should reiterate that it wasn't my first time in the F1 paddock. In fact it was my third time. The first two times came an eternity ago, namely at the Australian Grand Prix in 2010 when I was with Edge Radio, and then in 2013 at the Malaysian Grand Prix when I was then doing work for, a site that changed into one of the worst named websites of all time that I also don't think exists anymore. The less said about my experiences with them, the better.

Just a few things looking different since 2013 here.

However, the fact that it took me so long to get back was a shame, but a shame that was ended in the most perfect way. I was there through my writing with The Roar Sports, and this time I knew exactly what to do, expect and had a plan of action to make sure I got the absolute most out of the experience.

Third time around it was vastly different to my two previous visits to the F1 paddock. Namely this came in the form of a certain 'Netflix boom' that has occurred in the world of Formula 1 over the last six or so years. Since the introduction of the show Drive To Survive, the sport has surged in popularity. And while this has been a mainly good thing for the sport, it has also brought a vast array of negatives and one that I did feel in the paddock.

While the paddock of F1 used to be an exclusive domain for team personnel and media, with only a few VIPs and other people allowed access, now it is seemingly the opposite. On all days in the paddock across the 2024 Australian Grand Prix weekend, it was very hard to make your way through without bumping into some form of fan who had splurged to buy a paddock pass and was just constantly hounding every driver or notable person they saw.

It was a real shame to see this, as my past experiences in the paddock showcased a side to a F1 driver you wouldn't often see: that of a relaxed and calm driver enjoying their time away from the spotlight and preparing for the action on track. Now it is just another area where a driver is hounded by the public, and it was not fun to see just how many drivers reacted to this intrusion.

Outside of that difference, not a lot had really changed. It was still almost surreal to just casually walk around a place where you can just bump into Lewis Hamilton, or say a brief hello to Damon Hill and Juan Pablo Montoya. Given that these are all people I grew up admiring, it tows an interesting line of remaining professional for my role and why I was in that position to also the deep F1 fandom that I have had my entire life.

Just casually bumping into a seven time World Champion.

But I was able to curtail that part as I did have a job to do. I set myself the goal of interviewing every driver on the grid at least once across the weekend. That was something that I ended up achieving to which I was immensely proud of. This brought about a great collection of articles and quotes and some real fun vibes from the drivers. From getting what you imagine you'll get from the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, to seeing a really nice and fun side to Max Verstappen, it was great to chat to all 20 drivers on the grid and get some amazing content.

Through my interviews I managed to also secure a one-on-one interview with Williams driver Logan Sargeant, an interview that turned out to be quite topical given he quickly became the centre of attention that weekend due to him being benched for his teammate Alex Albon once the team only had one car available after Albon crashed in FP1. With the amount of Netflix cameras that were hovering around all weekend, I could easily find myself appearing in the show that has done so many good and bad things for the sport next season.

Soon to be star of Netflix Logan Sargeant.

I also set myself a unique goal of shadowing a certain Lance Stroll to get as much out of him as I could. This was something that was a very 'Ben thing' to do, given I'm basically the only defender of him on the planet. So it was a great chance to bump shoulders with Lance and get up close and personal for a fun article that I ended up writing.

Keeping an eye on all things Lance Stroll.

Mainly though I used it as an opportunity to get a taste of that world once again and really showcase my abilities as to what I could do and how I could use the privilege of being there once again. If I'm being completely honest, I felt my first two times in the paddock were somewhat wasted for a variety of reasons. Yes, I interviewed Michael Schumacher in 2010 which stands as maybe my greatest interview I've ever done, and yes I did achieve a lot in 2013 as well. But reflecting on both I only did a few minor things while admittedly being out of my depth and star struck by the occasion. Third time around, I kept that side to a minimum and got on with my job.

I'll always take any moment like that in my life as an honour and a privilege as you never know just when you'll be back again, especially given I was technically doing it as a freelancer and nothing more. But it also did open a can of worms for me that I feel I can't let stay inside as long as I did before, giving me hope and ideas for future appearances in the paddock in a variety of different locations moving forward. Oh, and the fact that Ferrari won and did so with a 1-2, only made it an even more epic time.

My time back in the F1 paddock was as easily as memorable as my first two times and an experience that I won't ever forget. Let's just hope it can become a more permanent fixture moving forward.


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