In the latest instalment of a new series delving into the work of those behind-the-scenes figures in the Formula 1 paddock, we meet AlphaTauri head of communications Fabiana Valenti.
Formula 1 is full of hidden heroes doing behind-the-scenes tasks that ensure team operations go without a hitch on a race weekend, regardless of whether or not they make the car go faster.
One such example is the communication staff who manage access to the drivers and team bosses, responsible for giving the world’s media access to F1’s most newsworthy individuals, while making sure that their schedules are not unduly interrupted.
It’s a tricky balancing act, but one of the most accomplished in the role is Fabiana Valenti, the long-time head of communications at Scuderia AlphaTauri who has been with the team since its Minardi days.
In the latest instalment of a new series on Autosport bringing you the personal stories of the hidden paddock heroes, she shares the nuances of the role.
My job is…
Mine is really a dream job. I am head of communications for Scuderia AlphaTauri, travelling all around the world taking care of everything which has to do with the team’s communications.
I’m very often the first point of contact for the outside world to get in touch with the team, with one big group being the media. I’m also taking care of all PR activities at and away from the track.
My race weekend schedule…
It’s quite busy looking after the daily agenda of the drivers and main management. Being part of the PR and marketing team is much less physically demanding than being part of the operational team on track, but it’s quite stressful as well. We need to make sure the drivers’ and management’s schedules run without delays, as every minute in F1 counts.
We arrive at the track and we have a breakfast all together, with mechanics and engineers at the same time. When the breakfast is done, I immediately check emails to see if anyone has any new requests and then I see whether I can accommodate anything more to the schedule. I check it once again to see if everything is under control. We have to make sure we always have a plan B ready.
We do not transcribe every interview and report them to the management. In general our drivers are free to say what they think, but if there’s any controversy, I’ve got the possibility to check what’s really been said, to clarify any possible misunderstanding
Thursday is considered to be the drivers’ preparation day from an engineering perspective, and the real media day for them as there’s more time to allocate interviews, PR and fan events at the track. From Friday, when free practice starts, time for these things is certainly more limited, while on Thursdays we have time for both open sessions and one-to-one interviews.
It’s important however to make the drivers available to media also when there’s action on track, so we still have our media slots every day, until Sunday after the race.
Most important thing in my job…
It is the relationships with people. I like this aspect a lot. I’m a very sociable person and I could not think of myself being in front of my computer for hours all alone. Inside the team, I like to have good relationships with the drivers and the team members, and maybe because of my age – and possibly my general attitude – they tend to call me “racing mum”.
At the end of the day, I spend more time with them than with my family, so I always try to be as accommodating as possible. While sometimes I have to be firm and speak my word, I also want to be able to listen a lot and create the nicest environment possible.
I like to have good relationships also outside the team. I like to get to know new people and I like to look after the ones I know already, while being as efficient as possible professionally, in my daily contact with the media.
My motto is: “I need a reason to say no!” I have the feeling this helps when I actually have to say a “no”, which is difficult for me, but people accept it better.
Three tools I can’t do my job without…
First one is my laptop. I carry it everywhere I go, even on holidays. You never know what happens, I always want to be able to react!
Second: a dictaphone, to record all the interviews and open media sessions. But not because we want to control everything that’s said. We do not transcribe them all and report them to the management. In general our drivers are free to be themselves and say what they think, but if there’s any controversy, I’ve got the possibility to check what’s really been said, to clarify any possible misunderstanding.
In addition, we can provide files from the open sessions to media who missed the slot in case they need it. Sometimes I find myself listening to some interesting interviews again and it’s a good way to get to know the drivers more.
My third tool I can’t do without is my phone. We travel a lot around the world and people most of the time do not know where you are, but they can always find you! At the track it’s essential in your daily routine. I never turn it off, I want people to think I’m always reachable. In addition, I’m away a lot during the year, and I want my family at home to find me at any time, day and night.
People I’m always in contact with…
Obviously, my colleagues from marketing and communication departments, but I would say everyone in the team. I speak quite often with our team manager, Graham Watson, but also with the race engineers, and maybe more with Dany Kvyat because I’m also his press officer.
I’m also very close to Franz Tost, and whenever I see his name on the phone I stop doing whatever I’m doing to answer ASAP! Then I have all my friends and journalists. With some of them I also keep contact outside the race track, and I find it pleasant to talk about personal things, others than our work, from time to time.
When not at the track…
I work at the factory, in the office, where I plan the racing weeks and look after everything which is factory related.
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Nothing will change. The comms group would be efficient also without me, and this is something which makes me very proud. A team is a team when everyone brings something to the community, everyone knows everything.
Many people have to find the right boost to go to work every day, but I have to say I wake up happy in the morning to go to work
We are all useful but no one is essential for the good outcome of our job. Otherwise it’s just not right. You should never put the team in a situation where if you’re not there, everything stops or there are problems. This is what I would want if I were my boss.
Formula 1 is…
My second family! I feel at home when at work, both in the factory and at the track. And even if Formula 1 wasn’t in my dreams when I was a child, it has become my passion and such an important part of my life.
Formula 1 is definitely addictive and it just seems you can’t do without it. Many people have to find the right boost to go to work every day, but I have to say I wake up happy in the morning to go to work.
I’m lucky and I feel privileged that my sliding door took me to F1.