In our latest interview, we caught up with Sky Sports F1 reporter, Rachel Brookes to discuss her journalistic journey into Formula One and female representation in sports coverage.
Having initially started out without a career plan other than an ambition to work in radio, Rachel has slowly but surely risen up the media ladder to become a member of Sky Sports F1 on-screen team.
Now, Rachel shares her experiences and offers advice for teenagers looking to venture into sport journalism.
Who or what inspired you to become a journalist?
Brookes; “I fell into it really. I have always been a really inquisitive sort of person so I guess it was inevitable.”
Unsure of your career plan, you initially started out on radio before deciding to venture into the sport media media industry. What was the toughest aspect of that period in working out your career plans and what advice would you give teenagers unsure of their future?
Brookes; “I never really had a career plan other than knowing I wanted to work in radio.
“From there I just heard about other opportunities and went for them which is how I have ended up in every role I have done.
“You know when an opportunity comes along that appeals to you and you have to go for it. Also don’t be afraid to take risks. Even if it goes wrong, you will learn from the experience and you never know what other opportunity may arise.”
Having spent several years persistently chasing Sky for a job, you’ve since been part of an evolution in Sky Sports’ expanded on-screen female representation. How proud are you to be part of a growing change in attitude towards female presenters across Sky Sports?
Brookes; “I am really pleased there are more women than ever working in sports coverage. I am also really pleased that we are part of an era where we are highlighting all the women doing all sorts of jobs so that those young girls at home can see all the opportunities available to them.
“I didn’t see women presenting the Formula One when I was little but hopefully young girls now will see me, or Lee McKenzie for Channel Four or Nicki Shields presenting Formula E and realise it’s an option for them.
“But perhaps more importantly, I want them to see Ruth Buscombe the Alfa Romeo strategist, or Michelle Creighton who is the composite technician at Aston Martin Racing or any of the other women who work in motorsport.”
Since Sky secured F1 rights in summer 2011, you have slowly seen your role expanded to include hosting various F1, F2 & F3 sessions. With Sky now in their tenth season covering F1, what has it been like to slowly become more prominent in Sky coverage across the years?
Brookes; “It hasn’t been easy. I have always taken any opportunity that has come my way with both hands and tried to do the best possible job I can. Sometimes though that isn’t enough and you need to be ok with that.
“I told recently in a podcast interview how I was once told I wasn’t attractive enough to be a presenter and that wasn’t an isolated incident. You need a thick skin in this job and you need to work out quickly who has your back and who doesn’t.”
When not covering F1 on location, you are often in Sky Sports News Studios. Compared to on location shoots, how different do you find the studio environment and what advice would you give young journalists in terms of adapting to studio and on location shoots?
Brookes; “Knowledge! The studio work relies heavily on me having a broad knowledge of many sports and that means constantly making sure I am up to date with all the latest sports stories, from football to cricket to rugby to golf and everything in between.
“Many people assume you just turn up and read an autocue but there are shifts on Sky Sports News where you will be updating live Premier League, live Spanish football, Live England cricket, Live county cricket and maybe some golf and tennis too.
“You need to have prepped those matches fully so that you know what any given result could mean and can put it into context in an ad lib. You need similar knowledge for Sky News but there you have the benefit of time to prepare for your hourly or twice hourly bulletins so it’s less demanding.
“Either way you need to know your stuff and you will quickly get found out if you don’t. You need to be prepared to do hours of reading and prep behind the scenes so that you are fully prepared for any eventualities.”
Throughout your time in F1, you have interviewed various stars from Lewis Hamilton to Lando Norris plus more. Out of all those interviews, which figure did you enjoy interviewing most and what advice would you give young F1 journalists when interviewing drivers?
Brookes; “I enjoy every interview as every driver is different. You need to take your time to work out how to get the best out of each individual.
A question that might work for Lando may not work for Daniel and vice versa. Lewis wears his heart on his sleeve so you need to be aware of how he might be feeling heading into the pen.
“Always take into account what has just happened or why you want to talk to them.”
Across your entire career, you have enjoyed plenty of highlights, so which moment would you rank as your all-time favourite if you had to choose?
Brookes; “I think it would have to be getting my race licence and taking part in two races back in 2016. I enjoyed the whole experience even though it rained for every session I was in the car!
“It also gave me a massive appreciation of how difficult the interviews can be once you get out of the car and are faced with a microphone.
“I would like to think it has made me more empathetic but you would have to ask the drivers!”
Finally, what are your career ambitions for the future?
Brookes; “I have plans, for once, but you will have to wait and see!”
Special thanks to Rachel Brookes for kindly taking the time to participate in this interview.