Jennie Gow

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

To grid walk: To amble up and down a group of racing cars or motor bikes while rambling to a live audience and interviewing relevant subjects found present…

In reality, this usually means flying by the seat of your pants while praying that someone who speaks the same language as you happens to walk past at an appropriate time, before you totally dry up on air.

My first grid walk was not in F1 but at the 2010 season-opening MotoGP race in Qatar, as we broadcast to millions on the BBC. It was not something for which I had been trained. The riders were accessible and, being BBC TV, you have a certain amount of clout when you stick a microphone in front of someone and ask them about the race.

It was challenging but I loved it. That feeling of unpredictability, the lack of script and the knowledge that it could go wrong at any given moment, as well as the fact that you had no control over what anyone was going to say, was the antithesis to well scripted and rehearsed presentation.

The grid walk officially became a thing in 1997, when ITV won the rights to broadcast F1. It fell to Martin Brundle, who had retired from grand prix racing the previous year, to introduce viewers to his now familiar routine. It happened during the British GP at Silverstone and TV executives wanted to try something different.

Martin and I chatted ahead of the Canadian GP this year and he told me: “The ITV guys said walk down the grid, say what you see and let’s see how it goes.”

Martin’s close relationship with so many of the stars meant the viewer was able to experience something that is still pretty rare in sport: getting up close and personal with sporting heroes just moments before the action starts. Could you imagine trying to speak to Ronaldo or Neymar shortly before kick-off? It just wouldn’t be allowed.

Done right, the grid walk offers incredible insight into drivers and team members – each of them very different. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff gets highly nervous before a race and, during the final five minutes before we clear the grid, he often admits to feeling fear at what is about to happen.

Lewis Hamilton doesn’t do grid interviews – aside from the occasional chat at Silverstone. He likes to focus and we have learned not to approach him. Conversely, other drivers are happy to talk and the relationships you build with them through the rest of the season can really help those short, snatched moments on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas, for example, is a delight and always gives me a little gem of information; like how hard the start may be because of a change in the weather, or what it feels like to be part of the F1 circus.

Daniel Ricciardo and I had a fabulous chat in Italy last year, as he made his way to the back of the grid – he was starting P19 – he was very candid and, as a bee chased us down the Monza asphalt, he spoke of his frustration at starting almost last and how his resolve was unbroken… for now. A driver can be at their most genuine in those moments before a race, a rare time that they let their guard down and don’t have anyone to monitor what they say.

“A driver can be at their most genuine in those moments before a race”

Of course, the grid was a very different place 20 years ago. According to Martin when he first started doing it, there was no question of drivers not talking to you: “Back then I was the only one on the grid and every driver was willing to talk. On one occasion, I stood talking with Michael [Schumacher] and Gerhard [Berger] at the same time.”

For me there is always a sense of jeopardy. I remember when I first started covering F1 for the BBC, my producer at the time told me, “Nail the Monaco grid walk and you’ll have a job for another year…”

And whether it’s F1 or MotoGP, British Touring Cars or World Superbikes, we have all had some stinkers. From fancy celebs who come onto the grid and don’t want a mic anywhere near them (Owen Wilson declined to speak to me live on air in Canada, when promoting the movie Cars, and Rita Ora turned me down at Silverstone) to drivers who simply avoid eye contact and pretend you aren’t there.

The worst grid walk I’ve had was at Monaco in 2017. For the record, I don’t follow the celebrity circus. I don’t keep up with the Kardashians and Love Island is lost on me. However, that means that when I was interviewing James Marsden (X-Men actor), mistakenly thought he was Daniel Brühl (Rush star) and asked what it was like to play Niki Lauda… it didn’t go down well.

Finding anyone on the grid can be problematic as ever more people have access, but there is still something thrilling when the klaxon sounds to warn all but the mechanics to clear the area for the start. It’s when the buzz reaches its crescendo.

But I’ll leave the final words to Martin . “It’s unique,” he says, “live sporting access moments before ‘kick off’. In team, field and ball sports you can’t get near the competitors, let alone chat to them, along with their teams and the glitterati. It’s part of what makes racing like no other sport in the world.”


Jennie Gow has formed a staple of the BBC’s Formula 1 broadcasting team since 2011, working across both TV and radio
Follow Jennie on Twitter @JennieGow

You may also like

Related products