Laura Winter: “It’s mad and ridiculous but it’s a hell of a lot of fun”
“Saying yes is really important, as long as it's to something that you know you can fulfill and you know you can do justice,” says Sports Broadcaster Laura Winter. “There’s nothing worse than going into something half-baked and thinking you didn’t do as well as what you wanted to.”
For the past six years, Laura Winter has worked as a freelance broadcaster across some of the biggest sporting competitions in the world, including Formula 1. However, F1 isn’t the only sport Laura covers, mixing between cycling, rugby and some cricket too.
Growing up in Cheltenham, England, she was quickly gripped by sport and soon realised that she wanted to work on the media side of things.
“The BBC was the pinnacle for me,” Laura tells Females in Motorsport. “Working for BBC Sport was the dream I had so Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Sue Barker were all women I looked up to. They were doing exactly what I wanted to do and doing it in the way I wanted to present myself as a female broadcaster too.”
As well as following sports, Laura was a competitive swimmer growing up, training up to 20 hours a week and competing regionally at weekends. Her experience in the water has helped her channel what athletes may be feeling after their performances.
“I was exceptionally hard on myself growing up and used to think myself out of races because I was so nervous,” she says. “I learnt a lot about how the mind works and how the body reacts to pressure and equally the way the best athletes react.
“It has helped that I understand what it’s like to compete, albeit on completely different levels. Competition is competition and sport is sport. What you see isn’t always going to be what that athlete is feeling, so it’s important not to push your own agenda or story onto them.”
In her first role, Laura recalls being dumbfounded by a comment her female manager made to her whilst working at the 2012 London Olympics.
“She said to me that I needed to watch how I act around men because I’m a pretty girl,” she says. “I was devastated. That was a real moment of realising that misogyny is everywhere. It’s not just men that are doing this.”
After working across cycling and rugby for a few years, Laura’s first motorsport broadcast role came in 2019 when she signed a four-round contract for the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
“I joke about it now, but I agreed to everything and signed a contract and then Googled ‘what is Rallycross’,” she says. “It came at a point in my life where I actually probably really needed a change. I needed to move out of certain worlds and branch out.”
Working in that paddock for the first time, Laura was overcome with how warm and friendly it was.
“It was beyond my wildest dreams and expectations of any sport when you’re new and going into it,” she says. “I was greeted with such generosity that it genuinely felt like home.”
After this, her motorsport journey continued when she worked in F1 for the first time same year. In 2020, she covered testing and the Eifel Grand Prix for F1 TV and Sky Sports F1, as well as virtual driver and fan sessions.
“Being relatively new in F1, you worry that you’ll annoy someone,” she says. “It’s a case of asking the questions that need to be asked and about those key moments, and asking in a way that’s human and that won’t get their back up. These athletes have millions of followers and are absolute superstars, but they are still human beings. They have emotions, feelings and insecurities just like the rest of us. That’s the thing to remember - these are people.”
One of the personalities that surprised her in the paddock was Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, with Laura noting the difference to how he was portrayed on Netflix’s hit show Drive To Survive.
“In the first series they showed as having a fiery side but he’s really lovely,” Laura says. “Some of the responses he’s had post-race this season at a time when you’d grant any athlete the chance to be pissed off, he’s been very humble and magnanimous. We’re seeing him go from boy to man, literally maturing in front of us.”
With Laura’s broadcasting career taking off and exciting plans coming together for the rest of 2021, it’s perhaps hard to imagine that two years ago she was at rock bottom.
2019 was an incredibly tough year for her. After being physically attacked by her ex-partner, she was diagnosed with PTSD. This is now something that she speaks openly and honestly about to give strength to other people who may have experienced a similar situation.
“You feel like you’re in the centre of a storm and you can’t get out - I waited until the end of the year and reflected on it then,” she says, speaking of her powerful blog post about surviving an abusive relationship.
“I posted photo after photo of me looking gaunt, almost ill. It saddens me because I look at the person smiling and know inside I was dying. I was broken. It’s not a club that I would want to be in or wish upon anyone, but it’s a club that I’m in. I put a purpose to the pain and that’s by raising awareness and speaking truthfully about it.”
After the trauma Laura experienced, she has come to a place now where she is the happiest and most confident she’s ever been.
“The best version of yourself comes from the worst journey you can go on,” she says. “The only way is through and there’s no way out but it’s worth it.”
Laura will be working at the next three rounds of the 2021 F1 season: Baku, France and Austria. You can follow her Twitter here.
You can find more about help for victims of abuse here.
All images are credited to Laura.