Inspirational, Interview, Women In Motorsport

Jennie Gow: “The vibe of a race weekend, the passion, it carries you away. . .”

Hey, everyone! Today’s post is an interview with Jennie Gow, motorsport presenter and journalist. Enjoy!

I first heard of Jennie’s career about a year ago, when my father started watching Drive to Survive. If you haven’t heard of Drive to Survive before, it’s a Netflix show following the action and drama of Formula 1. Motorsport experts feature on the show to provide insight and commentary – Jennie included.

One day, my dad suggested that I look into Jennie’s work. At the time, I had only just started to properly get into F1. Well, I ended up spending the entire day watching Jennie’s webinars. Hearing so many people’s stories in an industry that felt so far-fetched and out of reach helped me realise it was possible for my passion to be my career. I owe a lot to Jennie for that. In our interview, Jennie shared the purpose of her YouTube channel and those webinars with me; 

“The two different strands online are the webinars, and Fast Talkers, which is a panel show. They both had different purposes and reasons for being. With the webinars, it was trying to inspire, help, and advise the next generation coming through. And hopefully we did that, we reached out to people and gave back. I wanted to give something back to people, so hopefully that did its job. 

“Then with Fast Talkers. Its creation was led by the call for greater diversity within Formula 1. I felt like we had the same people talking about the same things all the time, and I just wanted to mix it up. So, I wanted to try and show people that there are more people who know about F1 and who are F1 journalists or broadcasters than those just in their world.” 

Diversity in motorsport is a topic I often discuss with the people I speak to for On The Pit Wall, as it’s one that needs to be focused on. Especially in Formula 1, which reporter Natalie Pinkham stated was 88% male and 91% as of August 2020. Jennie shared her thoughts on this issue. 

“Diversity quotas, positive discrimination and things like that are very awkward subjects. And it shouldn’t be. Because the argument is always ‘we want the best person for the job’. Well, of course you want the best person for the job. But at the moment, it is changing slowly. Everybody is so blinkered that the best person for the job must be x. And actually, the best person for the job might not be that obvious, it might not be the person that you expect it to be. Unless we take responsibility as a community of motorsport to broaden the arena of people coming through, it will not be relatable in the future. Formula 1 risks alienating itself and, quite frankly, dying out.” 

Another of Jennie’s projects includes commentating for the new Extreme E series, which is electric rally racing with SUVs. The importance of electric vehicles is something Jennie’s very passionate about, and she’s of the belief that if F1 doesn’t become more environmentally friendly, it will again risk becoming “a historical championship”. Jennie emphasised the need for F1 to move with the times and that protecting the environment is the way to go. 

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Rosberg Racing’s Extreme E car. Credit: Extreme E

“Electricity might not be the only solution out there, there might even be better ones. The wonderful thing about working in Formula One is that they have so many resources and great minds, who can solve problems very quickly. We saw that during the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when they came together and created amazing help for the NHS and for medical services. So, they’ll find the best solution. But it’s not going to happen overnight.” 

Extreme E has broken many barriers in motorsport, for (a) being an all-electric rally series and (b) for mandating that each team must have one female and one male driver. This is known as positive discrimination, “the practice or policy of favouring individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination. . .” I further discussed this in my post, ‘Where Are The Female F1 Drivers?’. As for Jennie’s view? 

“Should there be a female driver attached to every single team in Formula 1, even if it’s an ambassador role or sim role, that could be a way forward so that every team has a talent pool of more than predominantly white male racers. We must make sure there is a more diverse panel of younger people coming through. And that’s not just women and girls, it expands out to every single arena.” 

It’s safe to say that each team, as well as F1 as a whole, are beginning to take steps to push for greater diversity in our sport. As they should, of course.  

2022 brings a lot of change for Formula 1, with the new aerodynamics rules being a major standout. These rules are supposed to aid wheel to wheel racing by reducing the loss of downforce that would typically occur when one car closely follows another. With all these new additions, anything can happen. Perhaps even a current midfield team being in competition for the title? 

“You can see the intent from some of them really pushing, like an Aston Martin, poaching a lot of staff. Red Bull as well, poaching staff, trying to place themselves in a position where they can come out of the blocks charging. Red Bull will have the toughest challenge, I think, because they’re clearly desperate to win the championship this year. So how much of your attention, focus and manpower do you take away from this season – when you’re in such a close championship battle – to develop next year’s car? It’s tough for them. Whereas, for the other guys at the back, they are fully focused on next season. They don’t really care so much about this year. Williams, do they need to develop their car this season at all? They’ve got the points in the bag, they can sit there, finish in eighth, and know what a fantastic job they’ll have done. And they [Williams] can deploy all their resources towards next year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.” 

At the end of our interview, I had one last question saved for Jennie. I couldn’t help it, because as someone who has never been to a race before, I love hearing about the atmosphere of a race weekend. 

“If you’re used to watching F1 on the tele or listening on the radio, then it’s quite a repositioning of the mind when you’re there at the race. You obviously don’t have all the information you’re used to at home. The vibe of a race weekend, the passion, it carries you away and you can make some special bonds through F1. I’m sure it’s the same for fans as it is for us working in the media. You all have something in common.  

“I think it’s a real shame that we’ve seen this nasty side of F1 over the last year and a half, where it’s become very partisan. Where you can’t like Hamilton and Verstappen, it’s got to be one or the other. That’s just not the way it has to be, and it frustrates me that there seems to be this inability to hear somebody else’s opinion without just shouting at them. In the past, it’s always been a whole mishmash of people that go into Formula One, because they love it. And they may have a favorite driver or team, but they can appreciate everybody driving out there because it’s people putting their lives on the line. People spending their entire lives dedicated to Formula 1 and driving. Or engineering or being a mechanic or wherever it is. I hope it goes back to that general level of appreciation for each other as fans and for each other as supporters of particular drivers. We don’t have to bring hate into the paddock of the sport.” 

Though the passion and excitement of Formula 1 are two of my favourite things about the sport, it has recently become glaringly obvious that the title fight has divided fans. As Jennie said, we as a community of fans need to go back to that environment of appreciation and respect above everything.  

Reflecting on this interview brought many lessons, including that of the above. The Formula 1 community is so strong and most of us fans can testify as to the people we’ve met through our love of the sport. We can’t let our differences get in the way of that. 

Thank you, Jennie, for all your time, knowledge and patience throughout the process of this article! A massive thank you to you all, too, for taking the time to read this post! I’m ever so grateful for your support. Head to my Instagram at @otpwblog for more content like this. 🙂 

Cover Image Credit: Jennie Gow