Laura Winter (@LauraCWinter) is a sports broadcaster, event host and journalist. “The new girl in the paddock”, she is a relatively fresh face in the world of motorsport.
In 2019, Laura presented four rounds of the World Rallycross Championship, before making her debut in the world of F1 at the fateful Belgian GP. Once the season gets underway, she will be presenting F1 once again, as well as Speedway Grand Prix and Speedway of Nations.
In a guest article for Motorsport Broadcasting, Laura recalls her broadcasting journey so far…
My earliest memories of F1 are far from ordinary. My younger brother Will first spiked my interest, with toy car F1 races that dominated playtime in our home. The races snaked from the lounge, down the hallway, into the dining room, before doubling back. The start and finish line were the sofa closest to our patio doors.
Forget Silverstone, forget the ITV television coverage. The championship really reached fever pitch in a suburban detached house in Cheltenham, as drivers from the late 90s and early 2000s would come together for Will’s all-star weekend Grand Prix.
Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher would usually win. Occasionally Rubens Barichello would sneak a race. David Coulthard, racing in a toy McLaren car that failed to get good traction on the thick carpets, only won a few, my brother wanting to ensure his toy championship was “realistic.” Giancarlo Fisichello, Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine, and Mika Hakkinen also lined up on the grid, although the qualification system is still unclear.
Each driver would have the same car for each race – obviously – and the odds were strangely somewhat stacked against Hill. His car would veer wildly to the left so Will, who usually wanted the British driver to win, would have to point him to the right when launching him forwards so he stayed “on track.”
The races were at times unpredictable and highly dramatic – like any good toy car race should be. One Grand Prix famously saw just five cars finish. The commentary team (my brother) went WILD for that one. I’d have to take extra care walking around the house, stepping over the twisting line of cars so as not to disturb the race.
Despite this early exposure to top class motorsport, as a child I was obsessed with swimming, and Olympic sport. I swam competitively, mornings and evenings before and after school, and raced at the weekends, from the age of seven to 19, before taking up rowing at university.
My career in sports media began in rowing, and I soon began riding a road bike too, as my interest swung to cycling. As both a sports journalist and sports broadcaster, my early experiences were mostly in rugby, rowing, cycling, netball, tennis, and swimming. Motorsport didn’t really feature. But that changed in 2019.
I was asked to present four rounds of the World Rallycross Championship. I jumped at the opportunity, never one to shy away from a challenge, or a new sport, before frantically googling, “what is rallycross.” I approached my first event – Barcelona RX – with trepidation. Keep it simple and be yourself, I told myself.
I needn’t have worried. The IMG broadcast team were some of the best I have ever worked with, and lead commentator Andrew Coley firmly took me under his wing and showed me the sport he loved. I quickly fell in love too. I truly hope that came across on camera during what was one of the most exciting seasons of Rallycross for years.
I then got a call-up from F1. This was beyond my wildest dreams. I never for a moment thought I would or could be an F1 presenter. Yet, suddenly I was standing in the paddock on day one of the Belgian GP at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
What started as a glorious weekend quickly became one of the darkest in motorsport’s history, with the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert in the F2 race on Saturday. I will always remember standing in the pit lane on that awful afternoon, the silence deafening. It became all too apparent that the drivers are truly pushing the limits every time they take to the track. The experience was one I’ll never forget.
There is something about motorsport that is difficult to convey unless you’ve been at the heart of it. It is intoxicating, it is addictive. From the noise of the racing, the smell of the engine and the speed and energy of the pit lane, to the glitz and the glamour of an F1 paddock, it sucks you in and will not let go.
The 2020 F1 season will start, when it is safe to do so. And I cannot wait to get stuck in. See you in the paddock.
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