F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham is a woman of multiple talents.
She’s got a veritable encyclopaedic knowledge of all things sport related, along with being a mum of two who travels the world reporting from Formula 1’s pit lane for Sky Sports F1.
Her career as a presenter has been long and fruitful, she’s covered a diverse range of sports events, including Master’s tennis, Poker and of course motor sports. She’s also known for regularly appearing on The Wright Stuff as a panelist.
Now, Natalie’s starting to dial back her hectic schedule of country hopping while following the race season – instead focusing on the European circuit so the kids can tag along. Sounds like a pretty epic way to grow up if you ask us.
loaded caught up with the gorgeous motor-head to discuss all things Formula 1, including what she really thinks of Lewis Hamilton.
loaded: What’s it like being a professional woman in the F1 world?
Natalie: It’s fantastic. Such a forward thinking space and place to be. A lot of people have asked me for a long time if it’s a sexist environment. The truth is, they’re all brilliant in there, the aerodynamicists, mechanics, and engineers. They are all far too clever to be sexist. If you work hard and know your stuff, you’re accepted regardless of gender or background. It’s one of those places that’s really aspirational, you feel like the thickest kid in class because everyone is so smart, but you learn a lot (laughs).
“I’ve always been a bit of a tom boy.”
Women are present throughout the sport – you’ve got a team principal who’s a woman, I think the biggest issue for young girls growing up is feeling that something is unattainable but if they can see strong role models in areas like Formula 1, then skies the limit. For me, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a female champion.
loaded: You have a diverse and long career in sports, from Tennis to Formula 1. How did you get into the world of sports presenting?
Natalie: I’ve got a big brother; initially I pretended that I liked cars just to hang out with him. Then I realised they were kind of cool, and so I learned everything from him. Then I think he felt pretty grieved that I got his dream job as pit lane reporter in F1 (laughs). I’ve always loved sport, always been into it. I used to be a runner, so track and field was a real passion of mine. My parents taught me you’ve got to love what you do in life. I’m happy to work so hard because I love it so much.
loaded: Is keeping up with the season’s timetable exhausting?
Natalie: It’s pretty full on with races all around the world for nine months. Now I’m a mum of two; it’s obviously hard. The first year of my son’s life I took him to ten races with me. I didn’t see the point of becoming a mum and leaving them at home. For me, I figured just because no one has done it before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I thought let’s go for it. So I strapped him to me in a Baby Bjorn and off we went. This year I’m only doing European because it’s tougher with two. I will say though when F1 is on, they both sit up. I think it has something to do with being pregnant at races. They will sit down and watch all of the qualifiers and all of the races. It has an almost calming effect.
loaded: So you won’t be visiting other countries?
Natalie: No but I have to say it’s a fantastic sport to be involved with because it takes you to all corners of the earth. I’ve discovered loads of different cultures. Also, if we haven’t got a chance to fly home between races a lot of the team stay back and absorb the sights of the country we’re in. It really is a dream job, but not something I can do forever. It does a take a toll, especially because I’ve got kids. So finding the balance is important.
loaded: Lewis Hamilton is someone who divides people in racing. Do you think people often get the wrong impression of him?
Natalie: I get quite defensive of him. We should be so proud of what he’s achieved. He’s a black racer who’s the first one in his sport and a multiple world champion. He doesn’t come from money; this is a guy whose family gave up everything to back his dream, it’s not been easy for him. Plus, he’s getting the sport on the front pages and the back, he’s mixing with stars like Rihanna and getting young people interested in F1. He’s making it exciting; we should be thanking him for what he’s doing for the sport. Of course, he rubs some people up the wrong way, but come on the guy’s not perfect. Sometimes he wears his heart on his sleeve and says things he later regrets but he’s a human being, and there is a ton of pressure on his shoulders.
loaded: What are your thoughts on Nico Rosberg’s retirement?
Natalie: Well I was really surprised, as was everyone. I do get it, this was his year, his stars were aligned this year, and it’s not going to get better than that for him. He drove so well. Also, F1 takes a massive toll on your family, he’s got a gorgeous young daughter, and I can’t imagine being away from my children as much as he is. A lot of the racers that I spoke to said they wouldn’t be able to do that; they’d want to defend their title because they’re racers and nothing beats that. But Nico’s a smart guy and can apply himself in different arenas. Having said that he might get to Melbourne and be like ‘Oh God I want to get back in that car!’ However, right now he says he’s made the right decision, he seems so chilled and so at one with himself. Good on him.
loaded: How hard is it to get the latest tech info from one of the most notoriously secretive sports?
Natalie: Well, you’re right it is notoriously secretive. It’s interesting how much the insiders kind of let on what they want you to know. I just did an hour long show with two technical specialists and learned an enormous amount from both of them. Honestly though, no one really knows what goes on besides the teams. I think that adds to the mystique of the sport and you know the interest of it for me. It’s like a giant onion with so many layers – you peel one away, and there’s twenty more. That’s what makes it so thrilling; it’s this massive game of brilliant minds and technology, and then on top of that, you’ve got these brave drivers. They’re talking about seven seconds a lap quicker this year, which is amazing. Though they’re going to have to be physically very strong to do it.
loaded: How will the sport be different as a whole this year?
Natalie: There are loads of new regulations, which means they’ve had to adapt the cars. The sad thing for the smaller teams is that if you’re rich and you’ve got a lot of money you’re going to keep the pressure on much more than smaller teams down the grid. You’re going to see upsets at the beginning of the year. I expect a kind of two-tier championship where you’ve got three top teams, then a big midfield of smaller teams fighting it out. People’s criticism of the sport is that it’s only been one team at the top for a while: Mercedes. You know ‘is it Nico or is it Lewis’ but Ferrari is starting to look good again now….which is why it should be different this year’
loaded: Who is the team to watch this year?
Natalie: I think that Redbull is going to do very well. At the moment in testing they’re holding back, and everyone’s talking about Ferrari and Mercedes. Redbull is playing their cards very close to their chest. There is going to be a battle between the two Redbull drivers; they are both so talented. I’m sure we’re going to see Ricciardo on the top step, winning races. This is a pretty compact race of six cars and drivers who could all win this year. We will see!
loaded: What car tech should we look out for?
Natalie: Well, I use Engie which is this amazing app for your car. It’s this all-encompassing solution. You plug it into your dashboard and it goes into the onboard computer of your car. Its simplified version of what we have in F1 but plays into the consumer’s hand brilliantly. So simple and so effective. It tells you what the problems are in your car, whether its an engine issue or fuel consumption. I love the security it gives you as well, I can walk into a garage knowing exactly what the problem is and not get overcharged.
We look forward to seeing Natalie in the pit this year!