F1 drivers are just normal boys
Photos courtesy of Peter Fox, Getty Images
The Formula One drivers are in the limelight all the time, but there is always someone there by their side. What is the life of an F1 press officer like? Find out more from Scuderia Toro Rosso’s pretty press officer Marieluise Mammitzsch.
Every Formula One driver will have a familiar face around him all the time, except when they are within the paddock. But once outside, the press officers assigned to them will always be at every event or appearance that they have to make.
Marieluise Mammitzsch is in her sixth season of F1 as a team press officer, starting out with Toyota Motorsport GmbH which withdrew from the sport after the 2009 season. Currently based in Italy with Scuderia Toro Rosso, the 29-year-old Japanese-German never expected to enter the sport, but has no regrets about it.
With a strong command of language in English, Japanese, German and Italian, Marieluise shared that knowledge of languages is essential in securing a job in F1 – other than being a driver, that is. Instead of facilitating an interview for her drivers, Marieluise goes behind the mike this time.
Briefly describe your job scope.
MARIELUISE MAMMITZSCH: As press officer to the team, you are the link between the team and the outside world like the media. We represent the team in the public and along with two colleagues, we manage the public relations (PR) and media liaisons for the drivers as well as the team.
What led you into this job?
It was a bit of a coincidence. I studied international business in Bond University, Australia, and then I completed marketing internships in Japan and Germany. However, I’ve always interested in communications. So when I was living in Cologne, Germany, I was looking for a Japanese company based in Germany. That was when I discovered Toyota Motorsport!
It was a perfect match because I’m half-Japanese and half-German, and I can speak multiple languages. Even though I didn’t have any PR experience they gave me a chance because of my language skills and I just learnt on the job as I went along.
Which drivers have you worked with?
Back at Toyota I worked with Ralf Schumacher (Michael Schumacher’s younger brother), Jarno Trulli (now with Lotus Racing) and Timo Glock (now with Virgin Racing). Right now at Toro Rosso I’m working with Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.
The job of a press officer seems to include following the drivers around a lot. Is that tough?
The most obvious person to follow is the driver, but actually my job entails more than just taking care of drivers. I also handle the team’s communication matters, so we deal a lot with the engineers, mechanics, designers and the bosses. We also have to constantly seek new angles to appeal to the media.
What do you like about the job?
This is one of the few jobs that is really special. If you like working with international people and you know a few languages, it’s the perfect job because you get to use multiple languages within a day. I consider myself very lucky that I am in an environment where it’s so normal to use multiple languages.
What are some of the challenges?
The travelling and being away from home is the biggest challenge, but you can’t really do anything about it as it is part of the job. I only see my family once a year during the Japanese Grand Prix, because after the season ends you are just so tired of travelling that you just want to stay at home.
But I see myself doing this as long as I have the energy. This job keeps me young! You see some of the F1 journalists or photographers who are over 60 years old but they are still running around after drivers with all their bulky equipment. If you love your job, the physical demands of it here will actually keep you young and I hope to be like that.
How is it like working directly with drivers?
When I started in F1 I was working with older drivers like Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli who are more experienced and have been in the sport longer than me, so it was hard for me to tell them to do things. But here in Toro Rosso, the boys are the youngest on the grid – Alguersuari is 20 and Buemi is 21 – so it’s easier to educate them and they do listen.
Tell us something about the drivers.
F1 seems so glamourous and at the top, but the boys here at Toro Rosso are teenagers and they really are just normal boys who like to listen to music and play jokes on each other. Many will not see this because they only see them on TV in the cars.
Advice for communications people?
Be open and honest. For example, if something bad happens, it’s important to keep your credibility so you should be as honest as possible. You may cover up the truth, but don’t tell lies because if the media loses trust in you, then the human relationship is gone. Also, have an open-minded personality and always be ready to share about your company.
Advice for someone considering an F1 press officer role?
Language skills are very essential. Even if you don’t have any PR experience, having the language skills will still open doors for you. It might seem hard to get into F1 but you never know, seek out possibilities and grab opportunities!