Formula One is a global sport with fans across the world, however there aren’t many that are more passionate than supporters in Italy, particularly Ferrari fans, also known as the ‘tifosi’. With a rich motorsport heritage, racing is part of the culture for many Italians. Mara Sangiorgio first got involved in the sport in her early teens but didn’t start working in it until a twist of fate lead her Sky Sports Italia in 2008. I spoke to her about her work, travelling the world and interviewing some of F1’s biggest stars.
Although she now works covering Formula One, it was actually racing on 2 wheels that first attracted Mara to the world of motorsport, before she moved on to try her hand in karting. “I’ve always done sport since I was a child. When I was about 13/14 years old, I fell in love with a motorcycle. An old friend of mine made me try his motocross bike and it was love at first sight. When I turned 14, I asked my dad to get me one. I liked the feeling of having a helmet on my head, driving, being alone with my thoughts. From bikes I also tried karts. Let’s just say that before it was a job, it was a passion. Ah, and I’ve always been a big fan of Valentino Rossi,” she told me. However, it wasn’t only sport that she was interested in, with her having been a keen reader and writer since she was a child. As she grew up, it became clear that making a career out of writing and journalism was what she wanted to do with it allowing her to travel and tell stories from around the world. “When I was little, I would devour books about books and from there my passion for writing was born. I wanted to be a writer: traveling, telling, describing the world, other people, my feelings. In the end, if I think about it, I succeeded,” Sangiorgio explained.
Despite these 2 passions, combining them was never something Mara had considered. In fact, she believes it to be fate that she is now working in the motorsport media industry after an accident made her re-evaluate her career plans. “At first, I never thought of turning it into a job. It was fate. In 2008 I had a bad motorcycle accident in downtown Milan. In that year my desire was to find work in New York and move there. I did it, but after the accident I didn’t want to leave and so I responded to an announcement from Sky Sports who were looking for journalists for a new sports channel …and here I am,” she described. Sangiorgio applied for a job working with Sky Sports Italia, and after being successful, was assigned to cover a range of sports. However, when circumstances at the channel changed, and her bosses discovered her love of motorsport, it seemed she was the perfect person to report on one of Italy’s most popular sports. “When I arrived at Sky Sports in 2008, for a few years I did a bit of everything: football, motorsport, tennis, basketball. What they asked me to do, I did. My directors knew of my passion for the world of motorsport and when Sky bought the rights for Formula One and MotoGP, they thought of me to be one of the pit reporters,” Mara said.
11 years on and Sangiorgio is still with Sky Sports in Italy. Looking back at how she started covering motorsport, she said: “I think I found myself in the right place at the right time, but above all with the right people who trusted me.” For Mara, it is more than just a job, it is her passion. There are so many elements of the sport that she loves, and when they all come together, it creates the crazy world of Formula One. “It was a dream come true,” she explained. “I always like being at the track, understanding what the drivers feel, especially when they have a helmet on their head. I like the races, the smell of tyres, the asphalt, the adrenaline, the competition, the dreams and goals of these guys who run at 300 KM/h. I then had to learn to transform all this in the best possible way with my interviews and my stories.”
When it comes to a race weekend, there is little time to relax for Mara. With her work being mainly live on TV, being prepared for any situation is vital. “I never stop! Always being live means being alert, ready and curious to look for news and know how to tell it,” she told me. For Sangiorgio though, an important part of her role is translating what she sees and experiences at the track, to those watching at home to help make them feel a part of the sport that they love. “I have to describe what I am experiencing and tell it to those who watch us from home, who do not have the same luck that we have to experience a Formula One race so closely so they can understand what mood Hamilton or Vettel or Verstappen are in after a defeat or a victory, after a pole or after a mistake,” Mara described. Another part of her job is interviewing everyone from Team Principals to drivers, celebrity guests to engineers. When it comes to memorable features she has done, she admitted it was difficult to choose due to her having done so many. However, there were 3 particular interviews she has done that she will always cherish. “I interview drivers, and not only drivers, every time I’m at the track. I especially like understanding how to compare myself with them based on what they are experiencing. I like to remember that I was lucky enough to interview three people who are now gone: Jules Bianchi, Niki Lauda and Sergio Marchionne,” she said.
During her time covering F1, there have been many thrilling moments and seasons, but the highlight for Sangiorgio was 2016. “The best season to live and tell was that of 2016. The challenge between Hamilton and Rosberg until the very end was exciting,” she explained. Mara may have her dream job, but that doesn’t mean everything is always easy, especially with the amount of time she spends away from home and this is one of the challenges. “Always being curious and remembering how lucky I am, even if friends and family at home are missing from time to time,” she explained.
Mara Sangiorgio grew up with a love of motorsport and writing, but never thought to combine them. That was until she applied for a job with Sky Sports in Italy. The role allowed her to continue with her work in journalism and explore the world of racing. Speaking of her advice for those wanting to work in the industry, Mara said: “don’t stop chasing your dreams and try. And live everything with passion.”
(photo credits: Alberto Crippa and Hasan Bratic)