Katy Fairman started being interested in Formula 1 when she watched races with her dad, and from there it grew into a passion and then a flourishing career that she had never dreamt of before.
F1 can be a tricky sport to get your head around. With all of the statistics, drivers, teams and behind the scenes knowledge, not to mention finding your niche that sets you apart from the competition, but Katy was a natural. It all came to her like it was second nature.
“I found myself knowing who all the drivers were on the grid, their teams and nationalities,” the WTF1 Editor told Females in Motorsport. “I didn’t even realise how much I was learning and enjoying it until there was the lightbulb moment that I really loved it.”
Once the realisation set in that she had an unfound love for motorsport, one summer she decided to embrace her hobby and do something that she enjoyed, while still in school. That was taking pen to paper - or, in this case, writing on her laptop.
“In the break between my first and second year of A Levels, I started a blog because I was bored,” she says. “I decided to write about F1 as it was something to do. The rest, I guess, is history.
Skip forward seven years and Katy is now the Website Editor for WTF1, a platform that has over 1.2 million followers on their social platforms. Katy decided against going to university and began freelancing for various publications alongside her blog.
Now her role at WTF1 isn’t writing; she’s also become involved in their podcast and other aspects of the platform since joining just over a year ago.
“It’s a dream job in the sense that I absolutely adore my job,” Katy says. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I get paid to do this. It’s not the job I dreamed of growing up because I thought that someone like me would never be able to do something like this.”
Being an Editor is a demanding role and one that requires a wide range of skills in order to jump on anything necessary.
“I love getting my hands dirty with a really good feature, researching and putting all of the pieces together,” she says. “It’s something that you can be creative with. Breaking news stories is something that all journalists like.”
When she was working in the Formula E paddock, a person had told her about AttackMode. She looked around online and by the time she’d posted the article, she was the first person to break the news.
“It’s frustrating because I was just this little independent blog at the time,” she says. “I spoke to a well-established publication about it and that person claimed it to be theirs - but it wasn’t, it was mine.
The stigma of women not belonging in the motorsport world still, sadly, exists. Women who have grown through the ranks through their sheer hard work and determination, whether that’s with roles like Katy’s, engineers, hospitality management and many other titles still get derogatory and sexist comments.
Even today, many girls do not realise that this world exists and that women do belong, and can be incredibly successful. Katy was one girl who only found out later in her teen years that she could actually work in the industry, but has still felt out of place at times.
“It took me to 16/17 to even dream about the idea of working in F1 as it seemed so unattainable,” she says. “I know that F1 does the F1 in Schools programme but I’d love it if there were more and better things out there to shine a light on it for women and younger girls.
“It’s important to get young girls interested in STEM and have that filter through to motorsport. There are so many aspects to it that it needs to start young. There are a million things that would make the world a better place if they started at smaller levels.”
Embarking on a career in journalism can be tricky. Approaching people - in person - and carrying out your interviews can be an incredibly daunting prospect. But, to be a journalist, you’ve got to go out to get the content.
“For my first race that I did in Monaco as accredited media, the schedule of the weekend is that everything is one day,” Katy says. “Friday is media day and you have very specific times to chat to the drivers. I had a breakdown at the thought of going down to the media pen. I struggled with having to make that decision and going through with it.
“The idea of going there was unknown and I’m not very good at dealing with that. It was similar to feeling glued to my seat but I couldn’t stand up and move. My friend gave me a pep talk and said I was going to be okay but I couldn’t do it and I didn’t do it. By not going down there, I didn’t have any content. The aftereffects of that - I knew I couldn’t just come to these races and just take some pictures for social media.
“Now I love the media pen! I can push my way through people because I’m quite small and after Rome a few years ago I was the first one there. I was the first journalist to speak to Mitch Evans in that pen after he’d won.”
Katy now has a routine before she goes into an interview whereby she writes notes and questions in her notebook and uses this as an aid throughout the discussion.
“There’s the worry that I’d go into an interview and go completely blank,” she says. “It’s happened before where I hadn’t prepped notes. That spooked me. I’ve got to a point now where I’ve interviewed enough drivers. You can be fairly open with your first question and go from there. You listen in to what they’re saying and pick up on that.”
Listening to industry professionals for advice is something that can really kick off or uplift your career into the motorsport world. It’s a tough industry to work in, and you have to be ready to work hard and make sacrifices to be where you dream of being.
“Make contacts, be kind and polite - as that takes you a long way - and if you’re passionate about something I’m a big believer that things will work out,” she says. “Be prepared that your life could change overnight and you could get that big break but at the same time don’t expect it all to happen quickly as it’s a really long process.
“It took seven years of me paying for myself to go to races - flights, hotels and transport - to land the job at WTF1. I had the view that it was a cool hobby because I got to a point where I didn’t think it was going to work.”
And, of course, fairytales don’t exist in the world of motorsport...
“Start small and work your way up,” she says. “F1 doesn’t happen overnight. It’s brutal to hear but it’s not the case - it’s rare to go straight out of uni and into F1. Working your way up the ladder is half the fun of it. You learn so much from working in smaller teams and championships. I wouldn’t be in F1 if I hadn't worked in Formula E.”
To see the work of Katy and WTF1, follow the link here.
Images are thanks to Katy and WTF1.