Doing PR for a Formula One team is a tough job with short deadlines and high pressure. But PR and Communications is even harder when you have several races over a weekend with some being in different time zones. This is a reality for Anna-Maria Gittins who works for Theodore Racing. I spoke to her about her career, working with many of Ferrari’s junior drivers, and being a woman in a series outside of F1.
Having only started watching racing in 2012 whilst trying to avoid doing her homework, Anna-Maria has an unusual story behind her love of the sport. “I was meant to be doing homework for school, and being a typical teenager, I thought ‘oh what’s on TV?’ So, I was watching it and started really enjoying it,” she described. “I really liked Jake Humphrey and he was on the BBC and I wanted his job. I thought it was the coolest job ever, travelling the world and being able to do a job that you enjoy”.
Although it was originally F1 that got her interested in motorsport, Anna-Maria soon found that the lower series provided more entertainment. “It’s not that it’s a lot better,” she explained, “but there’s more action and drama, overtaking and competition in the championships. I started finding them more interesting than F1.”
Now working in PR for Theodore Racing, Gittins started in the way that many others do. “I started emailing loads of people, anyone and everyone in motorsport,” she said. “I was just trying to find someone who I could ask for work experience for the summer after I finished my A-levels in 2014. I didn’t hear anything back and so ended up going to Budapest for GP3 and was trying to find some work experience then and it was quite tricky because not many people were interested.”
Having tried to get work experience, Anna-Maria decided she “couldn’t go into motorsport” until her former boss got in contact. “I was actually in a Tesco car park when my old boss phoned me and asked if I wanted a job,” she told me. “I started off doing an internship, doing everything really, and after 3 months they offered me a job. It was probably a bit of a gamble, and I guess maybe I hit it off with them.”
Her role for Theodore Racing is officially communications and PR, but being in a small team means often she has to do other jobs. “My job is mainly the press side of things but I sometimes end up doing other bits and bobs because it’s not like a massive F1 team,” Anna explained. “It’s quite good because every day is different, which I love, but then sometimes I think I really need to take a step back. It’s a bit crazy, but the craziness and stress are what keeps you going and motivated and if you didn’t enjoy it, you wouldn’t do it.”
Continuing, Anna-Maria described how hectic a race weekend can be for her. “When I look at my calendar, I have about 95 races this year. Some weekends I have double or even triple races, which can be difficult because I do the social media and sometimes it can be in different time zones,” she said.
Working with Theodore Racing and Prema means Gittins works with many of the drivers in the Ferrari Young Driver Academy, all have been selected because the Italian team see them as potential F1 drivers for the Scuderia Ferrari team in the future. We asked Anna-Maria who has impressed her most since she has been working there. “Well, the Number One would be Charles Leclerc,” she said. “He was my driver last year and him going to Sauber F1 was quite obvious for us at the team because he’s just got it. He’s got the personality, obviously the driving skill, and really down to earth, he’s probably the most down to earth person I know. It’s quite hard to pinpoint one, because all of my drivers are ace.”
“Another driver in the lower categories that is doing a very similar thing is Marcus Armstrong. He’s again, a lovely chap, and probably one that you’d look out for in the future. He’s got the personality and the driving skills, so it will be interesting to see what he does this year in Formula 3. All of my drivers are great. We also have Mick Schumacher who is also quite good.”
She was also very complementary of all her drivers saying: “they all have a joke and are all the same at the track, there’s no arrogance. They all respect each other and respect me and the whole team, which is always nice”. Continuing, she added: “what is really brilliant is with the Ferrari Academy, they all stay together, they all make friends with each other and they (the academy) make sure they have everyone around them that they need. They are never left on their own to feel homesick.”
Her first love was broadcasting and was something she always wanted to do, so I asked whether this would be something she would still like to do. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” Gittins replied. “A part of me still wants to go into broadcasting, but I’m quite happy with what I’m doing at the moment. A lot of people tend to go from PR to broadcasting because it’s quite progressive and flows easily because it’s similar in some ways.”
Anna-Maria is also a proud member of Dare to be Different saying: “I saw it through social media early on when it was starting up and I thought it sounded quite cool. I thought it would be nice to see what other people wanted to do in motorsport and how they want to get there and to try and make a community.”
“I think some people would be surprised at how many women work in motorsport, but I think this is why D2BD is great because it showcases all the youngsters as well as all the people who already work in motorsport, and brings them all together to help each other.”
She also had her say on Carmen Jorda’s recent comments. “It’s a shame for someone like her, who is a driver herself, to make that comment because it’s like ‘why are you bothering then?’ if you don’t think you can achieve that dream. And it’s not a dream, because it is a reality that women can compete with men,” Anna said.
We finished by asking her about the advice she would give to others. “Don’t give up, and there’s always going to be a stereotype, but I think that’s dissolving quite quickly, so you should never give up on your dreams. Ultimately if that’s what you want to do, then definitely go and grab it,” Gittins advised, adding: “networking is such an important feature, you should definitely not be afraid to email everyone, even though you think you’re spamming their inbox, just do it.”
Anna-Maria Gittins is only at the beginning of what is surely going to be a long career in motorsport. Whether she remains in PR or moves into broadcasting, we will have to wait and see, but her personality and journalism talent would certainly help her on the broadcasting side of the industry. However, for now she is enjoying working with some of the most promising young drivers and really honing her skills.