How Formula One Got Me Through Lockdown

Penny Post contributor and modern pentathlete Eda Onay from Wantage explains how Formula One got her through lockdown.

Lockdown 3.0 could not have come at a worse time for me. Online A-level content learning with the build up of mock exams made me anxious every second that I was not sleeping. And with my pentathlon competition season supposedly starting up and then being cancelled then re-scheduled, it was unbearable to train through. Every day’s uncertainty of whether I would compete and do well at school played on my mind constantly.

I have never really been that interested in Formula One and it was only a mere fluke that meant I became a huge fan.

I remember the 2020 Drive to Survive season had just come out on Netflix on the day that I had had a terrible streak of online lessons, with my internet repeatedly going down and missing most of what my classes had learnt. I was desperate to be back in the classroom and thought I would just lie in bed and cry for the rest of the day. I turned on Netflix (in search of a comfort movie) and stumbled across the trailer for Formula One Drive to Survive.

Watching this gave me goosebumps as the cars raced at unimaginable speeds, occasionally crashing against the barriers. The drivers raged after bad races, wept on the podiums after good ones and argued over next season’s seats. As I was watching the trailer, I thought to myself about how much I could relate to the drivers through the highs and lows of sport and all the responsibility that comes with being an athlete – managing time, eating properly, having a positive mindset and keeping on top of your game day in, day out.

So, I pressed play and binge watched all three seasons.

Before watching Drive to Survive, I had no idea about how much the teams rely on a connected and co-ordinated efforts. The sponsors, the mechanics, the drivers (of course, who need to be on top of their game), the press officers, the transport people who need to take care of little details like getting the drivers to the right place at the right time, the catering team, the staff who set and pack up and get the pitlanes ready for the weekend, the stewards and the media for creating exciting content for the viewers. All are essential parts of the jigsaw. What I like about this is that it is a team effort. Sometimes one mechanic will make a mistake, or the team principal will, or the driver and the whole team suffers because of it but when they win, it is a team win, not just the driver’s.

On top of this, there are 23 races this year in the Formula One Calendar and every driver is fighting to be the World Champion and for the team to win the Constructors’ Championships, to win as much money as they can to create a world championship winning car for the next season. So, if a team has one bad weekend, it does not necessarily matter, because it is a long-term competition: they are always looking forward and do not have the time to worry about the past. This helped me think of my academic studies as just such a long-term competition – every week I am learning something new, making mistakes and working with my teachers, friends and family to get the best outcome I can at the end of Year 13.

As well as this, Drive to Survive has steered me into wanting a job in the motorsport industry, preferably as a reporter or a press officer so I can watch intense races and write about them for a living!

I have set a goal for myself which I am now aiming towards every day in my studies and sport.

I created a profile on DriveTribe where I post my articles about the practice sessions, qualifying and the Grand Prixs. I also send my articles to the Williams Junior Press Officer, who gives me feedback and some great advice on how to work my way up into the industry – the main point being to get as much work experience possible. I emailed about 30 people working in media in teams and freelance in motorsports, asking for the chance to shadow them and for advice. Many of them got back to me with suggestions but unfortunately all of them have declined me of work experience because of Covid. However, I am keeping my head up and will not stop sending emails until I get the answer “yes, we would love for you to do work experience with us over the summer.”

Thanks to watching the Netflix series Drive to Survive, I have set myself clear goals for this summer, my A Levels – long-term goals for the future, as well as finding a new hobby that I enjoy so much. Formula One helped me get through lockdown and has kept me motivated academically and competitively. That is why I am thankful for the sport and love every second of watching it.

And I was so very lucky to have been invited by a friend to Silverstone for the Grand Prix in July 2021 – see my report here of the amazing weekend.

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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale