Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham has told the awkward story of her very first interview with an F1 driver.
While the current Sky F1 line-up is made up of seasoned broadcasters and journalists, every single one of them had to start off somewhere.
Natalie Pinkham began her F1 career at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix as a pitlane reporter for BBC’s Radio 5 Live, and was thrown into the deep end as her first F1 interview ended up being with seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher.
Natalie Pinkham details awkward first F1 interview after ‘grabbing’ Michael Schumacher
With Pinkham waiting in the media area during the Grand Prix in Melbourne, Schumacher’s retirement on Lap 19 meant that he headed to the paddock to chat with the media – with an extremely nervous Pinkham waiting to pounce.
Recounting the story as she spoke to the audience at the Autosport International Show 2023, Pinkham was asked as to which interview she’s found most intimidating in her career.
“My first-ever live interview – it was with Michael Schumacher. I thought, ‘Oh my god, are you joking?’,” she said.
“The guy [producer] said into my ear, ‘We’re coming to you live in 10 seconds.’
“[Michael] had crashed out of the race early. So, as they said ‘…one’, I just grabbed him.
“I was just holding him! He just looked down as if to say ‘What are you doing!?’
“I went, ‘I’m so sorry. So sorry!’ But then we kind of had a bit of a laugh because I just literally grabbed him and then he gave me lovely answers! So I just thought ‘Well, I’ll just keep grabbing them and hope for the best!'”
The current F1 drivers that have impressed Natalie Pinkham in interviews
As for the drivers on the current grid that Pinkham has interviewed over the years, she explained how two of them in particular have impressed her for their willingness to engage and be friendly and polite.
Put to her that she has to deal with the drivers in good times as well as at potentially very awkward and low moments after on-track disasters, Pinkham said she tries not to take bad interviews to heart.
“The key thing is to remember it’s nothing personal – they may well have just had a bad race,” she said.
“But I’ll never forget Daniel Ricciardo saying to me something after a horrible race. He crashed out in a race full of promise.
” I said ‘I’m so sorry!’ And he said ‘Why are you sorry? My bad day is better than most people’s great day. I’m so lucky to do what I do. Please don’t be sorry.’
“I thought ‘What a legend.’
“What you want is raw emotion, isn’t it? You want to know how they feel the moment that happens. I mean, the last thing they probably want is a microphone shoved under their nose.
“But actually, what they need to remember and what we all need to remember, is that that’s their opportunity to tell the fans what actually happened.”
Pinkham was also full of praise for Lewis Hamilton as she remembered how the World Champion had spotted her nervousness and newness and made an effort to put her at ease in her first interview with him.
“I’ll tell you what, when I went to testing [in 2012], Lewis was my first interview but it didn’t go out. This was more of a kind of chat,” she said.
“I was really nervous but he was just so lovely. He just said, ‘Well first and foremost, welcome!’
“I thought that was great. You know, he’s such a trailblazer, but he’s also just such a kind person.
“Actually, there’s a bit of a myth with drivers. I think people assume they’ve got big egos and they’re, in some ways, a bit aloof maybe.
“It really isn’t the case because it’s the ultimate team sport, it’s a massive team sport.
“As a result, everybody knows they’ve got their part to play – including the driver. So there isn’t room for ego in the same way.
“You might not believe me, but it’s the truth! Pretty much 90 percent of them are good lads. I want to say lasses at some point but we’re not there yet!”