Natalie Pinkham: “I want a world where my little girl knows she has all the same opportunities as her big brother”

The motorsport industry, as with other sports, is known for being male-dominated. However, with women working in the majority of areas, it’s important that these inspiring people are showcased to allow young girls to aspire to work there. A part of the industry where we do see such women is in the media. Natalie Pinkham has been working in F1 for several years, having been a pitlane reporter for both BBCF1 and SkySportsF1 and now being based in the interview pen to get quick reactions from drivers following Grands Prix. She told me about this, her work with Dare to be Different and her lifelong interest in sport.

Coming from a sports-obsessed family, there was no doubt that Natalie herself would too be interested. “Our family is sports mad, so every weekend growing up was taken over by either playing or watching,” Pinkham said. However, her interest in motorsport, the industry she now works in, stems from her older brother Sam. “He’s always been into cars, and as a kid, I pretended to enjoy F1 too so I got to hang out with my big bro… I always thought he was very cool. Then the penny dropped and my love for it blossomed,” she explained.

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Pinkham’s desire to work in TV also began when she was young, with her admitting she was “fascinated” by it as a child. “I always wanted to work in TV. Everything was a performance at home, my mum describes how I couldn’t even make a sandwich without pretending I was hosting a cooking show,” she described. With her enjoying meeting new people and finding out interesting stories about them, this and her interest in TV married well together leading her to decide on a career in the media. “This line of works guarantees I get to do that every day (meet new people). I feel very lucky, and certainly passionate about what I do,” Pinkham told me.

Natalie’s first role in sport came in an activity that some may not consider a sport. Having worked as a presenter covering Poker, she would argue that it is, and with this being her first presenting role, was where she began to hone her style. “There is an element of competition and there are raised heart rates, so I would argue it is (a sport) … It was great because it was on in the middle of the night, so most people watching were half asleep or drunk, and therefore didn’t notice my mistakes,” she said. After impressing and working hard to get her name known within the industry, Pinkham was approached to work for BBC 5 Live as a F1 pitlane reporter. “I knew this was my opportunity to travel the world following the sport I loved so I jumped at the offer. Pounding the pit lane looking for stories, interviewing the drivers and team personnel… it was a wonderful learning curve!” Natalie explained.

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After working on BBCF1 for only 1 season, Pinkham was invited to continue working in the sport by Sky who bought the rights to Formula One in the UK from the 2012 season onwards. Along with David Croft, Anthony Davidson, Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle, Natalie joined Sky Sports continuing her previous role as a pitlane reporter. “I felt so lucky to embark on this new challenge with my friends. The team also included Georgie Thompson who had been one of my best mates since we were school mates of 12. It was the dream job…. and still is, although it’s changed a lot since then, as has my life – now a mother of two,” Pinkham described. As Natalie said, she is now a mother of 2 and with her children still being so young, one of the greatest challenges of her role is juggling family life and spending time away from them. “The only hard bit is being away from my kids, the actual content of what we all do is wonderful,” she told me.

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Throughout her career, Pinkham has had the opportunity to interview many people with many different stories, however her favourite interview would be with someone who is famously tight-lipped. “Ice driving with Kimi (Raikkonen)! I crashed his car. I was mortified – but it was the first time I had heard him laugh!” Natalie said. With this being one of her favourite moments from her time working in F1, it’s certainly one among a number of unforgettable experiences that the sport has been able to provide her. “There have been so many fun moments. We are genuinely all mates within the team, which is lucky given how much time we spend together. Korea was a crazy place to visit… pretty grim in many ways, but we made our own fun so I have some funny memories of the place. Dune buggy racing with Lewis (Hamilton), Nico (Rosberg), Damon (Hill), Lazers (Simon Lazenby), Johnny (Herbert) was a real laugh, as well as the jet ski race we had against the same drivers in Monaco,” she told me.

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Natalie is also a proud ambassador for motorsport initiative ‘Dare to be Different’. Having been asked to become an ambassador by founder Susie Wolff, she is hoping to make a difference for women working and aspiring to work in the motorsport industry. “It’s amazing work by Susie, I’m so impressed that she’s had the passion and tenacity to do it. If even one more girl gets into motorsport because of it, it will be a success. I have no doubt that many more will follow suit. It’s all about perception; young girls just need to feel the sport is accessible – and they will come. I want a world where my little girl Willow knows she has all the same opportunities as her big brother Wilf,” Pinkham explained.

Natalie Pinkham is among a growing number of female role models regularly seen on our screens covering motorsport. Having worked with both BBCF1 and Sky Sports F1, she is extremely experienced in her role. With her interviewing drivers almost straight after a race, she has developed a skill for understanding how to approach them when they are experiencing both the highs and the lows of racing. As an ambassador for ‘Dare to be Different’ she hopes her work with Sky and the D2BD organisation itself will inspire young girls to consider roles in the sport. Her advice for those hoping to follow in her footsteps would be: “work hard, and then work a bit harder… there is no substitute for it. Don’t lose sight of your goal, your passion will take you far. I always used to write down the names of the producers of shows I enjoyed and then inundated them with emails and letters asking them to give me work experience. I think they just let me in in order to shut me up,” Natalie said.

All image credits: Natalie Pinkham, @NataliePinkham

You can read about Natalie’s SkySportsF1 co-star Rachel Brookes here: https://fast-and-fearless.com/2018/06/11/rachel-brookes-i-am-proof-that-if-you-work-hard-and-are-very-determined-you-will-eventually-be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time/

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