Williams are one of the most prestigious teams in Formula One and doing any role within the team is a great honour. One of those working in a senior position is Sophie Ogg. Head of F1 Communications, she is also an excellent female role model having worked her way up through many series of motorsport. I spoke to her about her career so far and the challenges the changing sport presents.
Many people’s passion for motorsport starts at a young age and Sophie was no exception. Speaking of her youth, she said: “my first experience was a British Touring Car Championship race at Oulton Park that my dad took me along to when I was about 12 years-old and I immediately caught the motorsport bug!”
Her career in the sport also started young with work experience at 15 years old where she “started washing wheels and helping out on events, basically doing anything just to be involved and learn more about the sport and make as many contacts as possible in the industry”. She continued helping out and building up a list of contacts whilst studying a Public Relations degree.
Sophie then went on to work for a London PR agency to allow her to gain experience in the media industry. “Over the years I then worked my way up through a number of motorsport series including Formula Ford, Formula BMW, British GT, A1GP and the World Touring Car Championship before finally stepping into Formula One with Williams back in 2010,” she explained.
As Head of F1 Communications, Ogg has a vital role to play throughout the season. “I am responsible for creating and implementing a communications and digital strategy,” she told me. “I oversee two press officers but also work with all the divisions across the company regarding F1 looking after internal and external communications, social media platforms, announcements, launch events, fan engagement and this year, our 40th anniversary activations.”
A very busy woman, but her work doesn’t stop there. On a race weekend Sophie has a “schedule which constantly evolves, social media to manage, news to monitor, media interviews to oversee and content to create”. Speaking of her role she said: “whatever happens, it’s up to me to handle it from a communications point of view, whether it’s a good result or a bad one!”
Her job has also had to change since Liberty Media’s takeover. In 2016, US media conglomerate Liberty Media bought Formula One from previous owners CVC Capital Partners, with the deal being finalised in early 2017. One of the first changes they made was to how social media is utilised within the sport.
I asked how this had altered her job. “It has given us more work to do! But in a good way,” she replied. “When I joined we had 10,000 followers on Twitter and posted maybe one tweet a weekend. We now have an 8-page content plan for every event covering Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and have nearly 800,000 followers on Twitter! Opening social media up to more video content has made it so much easier for us to bring fans closer to the action.”
However, the Head of F1 Communications went on to say “there is still a way to go but so far the steps that have been taken are positive and there is a much more open conversation between Formula One and the teams as to how we can collectively help make the sports better for fans on all levels.” She reassured that there are still plans to improve the media side of the sport.
Working for a team such as Williams comes with high expectations of success and throughout Sophie Ogg’s 7 years with the constructor, the team has had many accomplishments. One of her best memories from her career so far was in 2012 when Pastor Maldonado unexpectedly won the Spanish Grand Prix describing it as “a great moment”. Yet, the double podium in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix remains one of her proudest days as it allowed the team to secure third place in the Constructor’s Championship. “We achieved so much that year,” she said, “and I was a part of that change, which felt really special.”
Although a life in F1 may sound glamourous, Sophie told me about the challenges it also presents. “I’ve missed many birthdays and weddings over the years,” she explained. “It can also be quite emotionally challenging as you spend a lot of time away from friends and family”.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad as Ogg thrives on the unpredictability of her working environment. “I love the challenge of being on constantly changing time-zones,” she told me. “One minute my office is a tiny, hot and humid room next to the kitchen, the next week it can be an air-conditioned office overlooking Yas Marina!”. Furthermore, she says she is “extremely grateful” for what her job has given and continues to give her.
As a high-profile woman in an influential position in F1, Sophie also had some advice for young girls looking to follow in her footsteps. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you that you can’t do something,” and “don’t be intimidated and don’t try to be something you are not,” she explained, adding “work hard, gain experience and don’t see yourself as any different to anyone else trying to become successful in motorsport”.
We finished by asking who Ogg would choose, excluding Williams’ drivers, if she had the chance to choose 2 drivers from the 2017 F1 grid. “Aside from Williams drivers, who I would clearly always choose,” she declared, “I would pick Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo!”.
Having worked her way up through many series of motorsport, Sophie Ogg is a clear role model for young people hoping to work in the industry. As a face regularly seen at press conferences and media briefings, she represents an increase in females in high powered positions within Formula One, something she is especially proud of.