The difference is vast. In an Indycar paddock you are the sole broadcaster. You have completely free reign to go where you want, walk into any garage, grab hold of any team boss and driver and stick a camera in their face.
An F1 paddock is totally different. There are set times when you can talk to people. You stand in a pen with probably 30 different crews. And you have to try and elicit something unique and interesting in the 2 questions you get to ask. There is no time to pause, no time to compose your thoughts. You’ve got 30 seconds, GO!
I’ll always remember being at Indianapolis on qualifying day for the 500. It was my first televised Indycar gig on NBC and I had a driver ready to go live on an interview. But then I got told we were going to a commercial break. Indy radio asked if they could jump in for a few questions and so, with my F1 head on (because we work together and there’s an unwritten code we all have with each other), I agreed but let them know when I poked them in the side we were coming back and I needed the driver.
I’ll be honest, I got into a fair bit of trouble down my headset for doing that.
We came back from break, I got the driver back, and it all worked out fine, but I never did that again.
A few months later I was at Milwaukee and the race had just finished. I was standing by with Will Power who had just finished 3rd. The podium hadn’t yet taken place and again I was waiting for the guys to throw to me… and again we went to commercial. I felt awful. So embarrassed.
I apologised to Will most profusely. After all, he’d just slogged his guts out to come home third, the podium was waiting and here I was asking him to wait while we came back from a break. I felt like the biggest prat. But he just smiled and said, “No worries mate.” Because that’s how Indycar works.
Can you imagine first getting to interview an F1 driver before the podium, and then delaying the podium ceremony because you’re at a break and still need to talk to the guy who has finished third? Wouldn’t happen, right?
Totally different worlds.
As for which role I prefer… that’s really tough. I spent six very happy years as commentator on GP2. I never had any training, I just picked up a microphone and got excited about something I loved.
Ultimately it was that commentary that saw me land the pitlane job at SPEED and then NBC, and I guess Stateside it is the pit lane gig that I’m best known for. It is a job that I love. Running around grabbing information and talking to the drivers, figuring out what is happening behind the scenes and working on strategic permutations is a huge buzz. I adore it.
This year will be very odd without GP2. I guess I’ll know at the end of the year how much I’ve missed it, and how much more I’ve been able to bring to the pitlane gig now that it is my sole focus.
Ultimately would I like to be lead announcer for F1 or Indycar? Absolutely. But I don’t want to leave NBC and we already have one of, if not the best lead announcer in the business in Leigh Diffey. His enthusiasm is infectious and genuine, his knowledge of the sport is supreme and he can turn even the dullest race into a thriller. I can’t see Leigh hanging up the microphone anytime soon, and I don’t want him to. I'm a huge fan! But I’m only 33. I’ve got a few decades left in me yet. And if the day ever comes that Leigh decides it is time to move on, I’d love to be taken into consideration.