A Peek at Life in the Paddock with Sahara Force India

VJM08 Sahara Force India, Kettle Mag
Written by Rebecca Rose

Picture this. I arrive at Silverstone Circuit on Monday morning and saunter straight into the paddock. Past all the communications headsets, past the viewing area and past a handful of team members to finally position myself a meter away from Nico Hulkenberg’s 2015 VJM08. Sounds like a dream, right? 

Last month I was fortunate enough to spend a whole day working with the Sahara Force India Formula One Team for their filming day. A 5am wakeup call didn’t deter me either, as I was fresh and ready at Force India HQ come 6:15am.

The Calm Before The Storm 

After a quick introduction from friendly team member Will Ponissi and donning my brand new uniform, we headed off to Silverstone for what can only be described as the most fascinating 12 hours of my life. 

The Siverstone paddock silent at 8am.

It was a cold start to the day; visible in the fact I was “dithering like a ferret”, according to one mechanic. Determined to carry on trooping, however, by 8am I’d already seen the team work on the VJM08 before setting up the car for track use. 

Not being lucky enough to have ever attended a live race, let alone see an F1 car in person before, I was shocked by the deep rumble of the engine echoing through the paddock and causing my stomach to flip with excitement.

The tease of exhaust fumes and the first overwhelming roar of the V6 filling the garage marked breakfast, though the morning so far had been the calm before the storm.

Lights Out and Away We Go 

Within five minutes of leaving breakfast I’d already come across Martin Brundle being briefed, Sergio Perez having a casual chat and almost bumped into Nico Hülkenberg in the corridor – only to awkwardly shuffle past him before he offered me a warm ‘hello’. 

After slowly recovering from my star-struck state, the hard work began. In between handshakes from the team and headsets being claimed, the filming began, and there was a lot of it. 

Martin Brundle in the VJM08

At 9am Martin Brundle took his seat in Hülkenberg’s car, media littering every spare centimeter of space in the garage as he did so.

Seeing the car leave the pit with a roar was spine chilling; it was an indescribable experience witnessing everything from inside. Something I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how clueless you feel about what is happening elsewhere on the track when the car disappears from view at the end of the pitlane. 

The action didn’t stop there either, as next I found myself assisting Sergio Perez with his filming. Holding up a plethora of cue cards, I hadn’t realised how much work goes on behind the scenes for a simple one-minute promotional video. 

After being crouched for a good half hour flicking through sponsor messages, I was free to stand again and wandered over to the second garage to watch Hülkenberg’s photoshoot with the talented F1 photographer, James Moy. 

A friendly mechanic, noticing my brief idleness, offered me the chance to use a jack as Brundle took the car out for another spin. I will admit, my 5’3 self struggled to get enough momentum to pull it away quickly. The pit crew make it look so easy!

Once in the team, always in the team

All day I witnessed the camaraderie in the team, it’s all one big family. There were several laughs and enjoyable moments in between the chaos; from Checo trying to fix his hair in a camera monitor to Hülkenberg cracking harmless jokes about his repetitive script. 

Moments such as those are what really made the day special; the moments that money can’t buy and that made me really feel like part of the team. 

Nico Hülkenberg poses for photos

The following hours consisted of more promotional work. An elaborate camera rig positioned on top of an intimidating SUV tracked the drivers as as they walked, with helmets going on, overalls being zipped and the pair walking down the pit lane all ticked off the recording list.

After lunch and up until 3pm, I spent my time logging more filming and exploring the paddock in between takes. I was really astounded by the trust the team put in us, allowing myself and the other visitors to roam where we wanted, causing me to flit around like a kid in a candy store. 

I was warned that not all days were this exciting and eventful though. But when working for a well-performing team in Formula 1, I couldn’t imagine how any day could ever be boring. 

A Hard Day’s Work

The Formula 1 world I experienced was a well-oiled machine, everything and everyone having their place. And after falling in love with the pace of it all, I am determined to have a place in the paddock one day.  

Martin Brundle interviews the two drivers for Sky F1

Once packing up and leaving Silverstone 12 hours after we started, the day finished with a quick tour of an almost silent team headquarters; a rare occasion, I was assured. 

Full of insider tidbits and extra facts, Will was generous with his information as he guided us around the factory, showing us behind the scenes of the more technical side of the sport.

This final adventure proved, as I’d suspected all day, that I really did have #SFIAccessAllAreas. And despite spending 13 hours with the team, there was still so much I didn’t have chance to take in. 

What I did learn however was that; television doesn’t do the sound of Formula 1 cars enough justice, you should never waste time standing still if there’s work to be done and most importantly, the team are a bunch of incredibly hard working and friendly people that were a pleasure to work with. 

A special thank you to each and every member of the Sahara Force India Formula One Team for making Monday a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

This piece was first published on the Sahara Force India website