Three months ago I was asked by David Hobbs, Executive Editor, Huffington Post UK, whether I would be interested in covering the British Grand Prix 2013 as a bonafide reporter. I said yes, but in all honesty did not expect it to ever come to fruition - how wrong I was. It has been about a month since being at Silverstone and now that the experience has truly sunk in I wanted to share it with you.
Despite doing the preparation work for the weekend it was not until the Tuesday of the week leading up to the race when I received the hallowed FIA Press Accreditation for a weekend pass into the F1 Paddock. The thought of "is this actually going to happen?" changed immediately to "this is actually going to happen!". Let's just sit back for a second: I am an F1 fan. I have followed the sport for 21 years and been to eight Grand Prix, sitting in the grandstands in searing heat and in miserable cold. I have looked on from afar wishing I was in the Paddock Club so I could see my heroes up close. All of a sudden I am going to be in amongst the most exclusive of areas at one of the crown-jewel events on the F1 calendar. Holy shit.
Fanboy thoughts aside I had work to do. Eight articles over the course of a weekend - easy for seasoned journalists, but I am not a journalist. I work in Human Resources and have done a blog for a year for a bit of fun. Crash course in journalism received (no longer using double-spaces...damn my 1990's IT classes at school), @HuffPostUK twitter account access granted, accommodation booked - for three days I was Huffington Post UK, F1 Correspondent - at least that was what I was calling myself.
So...up nice and early on Friday 28th June the drive up to Silverstone and veering off into the Press Only entrance my iPhone random music selection opts to play Alistair Griffin's Just Drive as I turn into Silverstone. Press pass collected I'm waived through to park inside the circuit - no end of beaming smile on my face and a genuine sense of surrealism. Car parked, I board the bus to take me over to the F1 paddock.
Now, I get a bus every day from my apartment in Redhill to the rail station with fellow residents and normally (annoying) teenage schoolchildren. My fellow passengers today were about 14 (stunningly beautiful) Santander-dressed pitbabes, BBC TV camera crew and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. Just too weird.
So I get to the entrance of the paddock, convinced that something will still stop me from entering through, a simple wave of my pass across the sensors brings up a picture of myself and a "Welcome, Tim Goodchild". I am in. The wave of euphoria in walking around the corner to see the motorhomes of the 11 F1 teams and FIA offices is immense.
Over the following three days my base of operations is in the vast media centre at Silverstone where international news publishers and radio broadcasters report directly to the worldwide audience. When action was on track I was following the races from there, tweeting and reporting as live as possible. When there was no action on track...I had the F1 paddock to walk around - and in the words of 'fellow' editors at Huffington Post I was told to enjoy myself.
I can only analogise the experience by imagining you are in your favourite TV programme. F1 is often referred to as "the show" and with F1 very unapproachable; access to it is purely through BBC or SKY (in the United Kingdom). The personalities were suddenly there in front of me and I had become a character within that show for the weekend.
As for the work itself it was a great experience to be responsible for sports editorial in a time constrained and deadline driven environment and gave me a whole new dimension into the work of journalists I have recruited for Huffington Post UK since its inception in 2011. It is fitting therefore that as I sign off from working at AOL next week that I can appreciate their working lives so much more.
It amused me in the media pack I was given on the friday that the media centre closes on the sunday "when the last journalist leaves". Instead, I finished up at around 5pm, packed up and had one final walk around the paddock. Sky Television were wrapping up their coverage and my childhood hero (and fellow HuffPostUK blogger) Damon Hill literally walked over and stood next to me, off camera. Sod the professionalism, he agreed to a photo!
As Sky finished their broadcast, the dismantling of the paddock started in earnest and I saw that as the perfect time to leave. It was a special weekend and one I will never forget - I have no idea if I will get the opportunity again but at the very least, I realised a dream. Thank you Huffington Post UK.