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From a Joke to Formula 1

I am trying really hard to put into words what this week meant to me. In my short career I have worked at Cowboy’s games, UFC events, NBA Playoffs. At the end of the day none of them come close to the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix.

This week was a dream within a dream which will be impossible to forget. Working at a Formula 1 Race is by far the best job in the world. I came back to the United States thanks to F1. The way it all began was kind of a joke. I was looking for tickets to come to the United States Grand Prix in Austin as a fan but without a job it was hard to afford. I tried looking for freelancing jobs that could send me there but that also did not work. I had been wanting to go to this race for the past two years but it just wasn’t happening. I then had the idea of asking a friend, that had worked there the year before if she was going back, unfortunately for her, she wasn’t. Then as a joke I asked if I could take her spot. Before I knew it I was being contacted by a german tv station to help out at the USGP. I did not think twice, and said yes to the offer no matter the conditions.

I knew I was heading to a big event but many times the expectation I have of something does not live up to its hype. Formula 1 definitely lived up to it and even surpassed it. Here is why.

The first day was pretty simple with the exception of buying groceries for about 40 people, it took forever but we got it done and then headed to the circuit where I saw where the media outlets from around the world were setting up. Then went up to the tower that overlooks the where you can see the whole circuit. It is an iconic part of the Circuit of the Americas I got to experience without making a long line. The next day the highlight was going for a run around the circuit. I’ve ran around the “Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez” a few times but this is a much more complex race track. More curves and more hills where turn one is by far the hardest one even for the cars but once you get up there the view is great. It was a short run but I loved every step of it.

On thursday I started to meet some of the drivers as I realized I had access to the paddock. That when I was starting to really realize when I was getting into and it would just get better. Just that night, since I was working for a german tv station we got to do an exclusive interview with 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Even though I did not understand what was going on during the interview (all in german) I was just happy to be there.

On friday I spent most of my day in the van driving the crew around the circuit and barely had a chance to see the F1 cars in action but I did get to meet even more pilots that day and walk around the pits while the teams were getting ready for the second round of practice sessions. At that moment I knew this was already better than what I expected to do this week and I still had the two most important days ahead of me. I had heard a lot about the low sound that the cars make this year since they have downgraded to a V6 engine and have a 100 kg limit on fuel for every race. I remembered well how in the French GP of 2006 I was barely able to hear a thing after the race but this time my ears never popped no matter how close I could get.

Saturday was a bit more hectic as it was the first time the station would broadcast live so everything had to be done quick and in time. Traffic started to become an issue as more people were coming to COTA. That day the highlight was meeting Pamela Anderson, one of the VIP guests at the race and someone who was really easy to talk to and approach. At the end of the day out of nowhere I met Nico Hulkenberg who was riding his bike while his mechanics ran around the track in a small race for media and F1 entourage I was not aware off. This was done at the same time as the paddock girls rehearsed the routine for the national anthem ceremony. Now the countdown was on for the big day.

Having to buy groceries at 8 am was the start of probably the most exciting day in my post-college life or probably my life. I headed out to the track a few minutes before 10 and made it there around 10:30 thanks to me avoiding a close to one mile line to get to the circuit, if not I probably would have been in line for about another hour. I unloaded the car and then headed to the paddock to help out the production crew and later on we went into the track for the driver’s parade. It was an awesome experience to have all the drivers walk right in front of me. Then walked along the pit lane while mechanics were making the final touches on the cars. Continued with going to turn one to watch the beginning of the race and then to the hospitality suite of Mercedes. For the next hour I walked around the track to see the race from different points and just before the race was over I had the chance of seeing the finish from the Mercedes garage. It was just the icing on cake that was needed to make it an almost perfect week which was slightly damaged when Sergio Perez was out after the first lap.

Things slowly unwinded from that point on, but it was just the right moment to think about everything that went on in the past six days. I was and still am at a loss of words to say how I really feel about it. I knew it really happened since it is now a thing of the past but something I will remember for a lifetime. I went to heaven and came back, I lived in a fantasy world for six days that I will never forget for as long as I live. All I know is that I am beyond lucky to have this on my resume from this point on. It was a job that definitely took me further than I could ever imagine.

Standing next to a legend. Niki Lauda.
Standing next to a legend. Niki Lauda.
Running on the track was definitely a highlight.
Running on the track was definitely a highlight.
A picture with Nico Rosberg was probably one of the highlights.
A picture with Nico Rosberg was probably one of the highlights.

Changes at the Speed of F1

When the 2014 Formula 1 Season started in march there were big changes to what we were used to see before. For the first time in a very long time Sebastian Vettel wasn’t the winner and he still hasn’t managed to be on top of the podium with less than half the season remaining. The sound of the new engines was widely criticized by fans which now creates part of its power by a Energy Recovery System. On the bright side we have seen a tougher competition among the whole field with the exception of the Mercedes Benz drivers who have won all but three races of the season so far.

Ferrari has not been the same team ever since Michael Schumacher left the team. They have not lived up to its name and Stefano Domenicali resigned from his position as team principal of the Ferrari Formula One team on mid-august. Marco Mattiacci, former president and CEO of Ferrari North America replaced him. Fernando Alonso has done more for the team than what his car has to offer. The two-time world champion has repeatedly performed at a world-class level but will not be with the “Cavallino Rampante” starting next season. Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel is about to make his move to Ferrari official any minute. Alonso could be going back to McLaren.

I’ve been following Formula 1 for a bit now and I can assure you that this one has been the most exciting one. Besides Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo being the only three pilots who have won races this far, the battle for second to 23rd place is always up for anyone. Mexican driver Sergio Perez is having his best season. He finished third in Bahrein and has been able to rack up some points in nine races currently sitting on the tenth spot overall. Esteban Gutierrez had a strong finish in the 2013 season, but the changes to his car have not been positive and so far he has no points, either has his teammate Adrian Sutil. Hamilton leads the board just ten points over Rosberg.

Just to show how tough these drivers are, they have endured extreme temperatures in places like Singapore and a close typhoon in Japan. At the first one Danii Kyvat and Kevin Magnussen reported burns and dehydration during the night race. That was nothing compared to what happened in Japan. The race started under a yellow flag due to the heavy rain. After a short pause it resumed and it was impressive to see how short of a visibility range drivers had along the course while still driving over 200 km/h.

The race was about to end when Adrian Sutil lost control of his car on turn 12 and crashed with a safety wall. There was a provisional yellow flag issued (which should have resulted in the safety car immediately). One lap later Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in the same exact spot. The result was him crashing against the crane that was lifting Sutil’s car at around 160 miles per hour. it took a while for the press to know what was going on since there was no video of the incident.

What should have been a week of celebration in the wake of the first Russian Grand Prix ever, has been a week where Bianchi is fighting for his life in Japan and all the attention is on increasing an already tight security around Formula 1 plus really knowing what happened in what is surely Bianchi’s last lap ever as a F1 driver. Some experts say that race should have not even happened under the conditions it was raced in.

Sergio Perez at the Japan GP under heavy rain conditions. (Force India)
Sergio Perez at the Japan GP under heavy rain conditions. (Force India)

But now Russia is set to host a Grand Prix. Next year Mexico will have the return of the highest category in automotive racing come to a city where many stories were written. Austin is setting itself as one of the driver’s favorite places to race at with just two years in existence, the rumor is New York could be next and it could actually be a street-circuit and not on an actual track. You can already tell safety will be made an even higher priority from now on at old and new circuits.

Safety measures are bound to change, but what spectators around the world hope that does not change is the excitement of the current F1 season. Many of us were tired of the dictatorship that drivers like Vettel and Schumacher had at every race. If Bernie Ecclestone wants more fans to tune into F1 activities, a season as exciting as this one should be a common situation.

But for now lets just hope Jules Bianchi survives a horrifying incident. #ForzaJules

Viewer Discretion is advised to watch this link containing the crash of Jules Bianchi.

Top 5 Drivers: 1) Lewis Hamilton, 2) Nico Rosberg, 3) Daniel Ricciardo, 4) Sebastian Vettel, 5) Fernando Alonso

Top 5 Constructors: 1) Mercedes, 2) Red Bull, 3) Williams, 4) Ferrari, 5) Force India

Races to go: 4 (Russia, United States, Brazil, Abu Dhabi)