This year marks my 8th season working in and around Formula 1. Every season has presented me with exciting opportunities and different challenges and it seems this year will be no exception. My first season was in 2013 and was a real learning curve – I knew very little about the sport and hardly anyone that worked in it, so I quickly set about trying to meet as many people as possible. Since then, I’ve come to realise that you spend the majority of your time in the F1 Paddock while you’re away at races, so much so that it starts to feel like your second home and you really begin to rely on the friendly faces around you.
Friends often ask me if I get lonely when I’m away travelling and the answer is categorically no. It’s always quite surreal getting to Heathrow Airport and bumping into people before you’ve even checked in! It’s then almost guaranteed you’ll sit next to someone you know on the flight and then weirdest of all, you can be walking around a city as big as Melbourne or Austin and see someone you know just on their way to get a coffee! Perhaps because I know there’s this amazing support network right there if I need it, I rarely feel homesick and have no trouble being away for weeks at a time. That said, I also enjoy spending time on my own while I’m away. I love going for a coffee, glass of wine or dinner by myself – just to read a book or watch the world go by. There’s something quite empowering about it. One of my Australian friends calls it ‘elegant solitude’, which I love.
Just this week I spent a few days practising elegant solitude (as well as self-isolation!) in Melbourne before the chaotic Australian Grand Prix weekend. I loved the freedom of being able to wander around the city taking in the sights and sounds, visiting cafés and places on my list. I could take my time and go at my own pace – usually a brisk walk! I think over those few days I managed to cover almost 40 kilometres on foot! I love discovering a city without relying on public transport or taxis – it helps you join up all the areas and get a real feel for the place. It also gives you time to think and with the new F1 season approaching, it’s always good to get some perspective on what you’d like to achieve over the year.
Of course, the long-awaited and record-breaking F1 season has already changed somewhat as far as the race calendar is concerned but it’s nice to start preparing yourself mentally for what’s to come. It’s amazing how organised you have to be when you live the majority of your life on the road. You also have to be prepared to miss special moments of your friends’ and families’ lives; I’m well practised in turning down wedding or 30th birthday party invitations. Unfortunately, as a freelancer you feel pressure to prioritise and accept every job offer, never assuming your next job is a given and during these difficult times with the spread of the Coronavirus, you become all too aware of that. The next few months are going to be scary for everyone but particularly for the freelancer community.
It’s at times like this that you rely on friends and family and their unwavering support. While I’ve been in the Southern Hemisphere my parents have been taking care of my life admin back in London – this week it was making sure my boiler had its annual service but of course it will be more emotional support they provide once the season finally gets underway and sadly probably more so if it doesn’t restart.
This week friends at home sent good luck messages for the upcoming season and when the Grand Prix was cancelled those messages turned to ones of concern to check I was ok. It’s not just friends from the UK that were in touch either. You’ll be happy to hear that not all of my time in Melbourne has been spent practising elegant solitude, I was also able to spend time with my wonderful Australian friends who I’ve known since I lived out here from 2005 to 2006. As I was walking back to the hotel yesterday one of those friends even happened to be stopped at the traffic lights waiting for me to cross the road! What were the chances! He called out to me from the car, asking about the race being cancelled, knowing that I would have been affected by it. Of course, the F1 family has also really rallied together – we’ve all been messaging each other to see how each of us is holding up.
Whilst a little elegant solitude and self-isolation has served me well this week, I’m now switching my focus from solitude to the oft-mentioned cultural zeitgeist that is gratitude. Firstly, having been tested for Coronavirus, I am so grateful that I’m fit and healthy and while it seems like my eighth F1 season won’t be anything like my first, hopefully once the sport is back up and running again I can start planning more adventures both for work and play, on my own and with the amazing friends I’ve made along the way.
Below are some of the fantastic places I visited on my own and with friends this week. All come highly recommended and feature in my I’d Go Again Instagram album.