Naomi Schiff: From racer to a key part of Sky F1’s presenter line-up

Thomas Maher
Sky Sports F1 presenter Naomi Schiff.

Sky Sports F1 presenter Naomi Schiff.

Naomi Schiff has become a key member of Sky F1’s broadcasting team in recent years, having risen through the ranks as a racing driver.

Naomi Schiff is a full-time member of Sky Sports F1’s broadcasting team, having joined as an occasional pundit during the 2022 Formula 1 season.

Schiff’s most recent background had been as a racing driver in the all-female W Series category, with her presence on the grid elevating her status to the point where Sky F1 gave her a call-up.

She has proven immensely popular and knowledgeable in her punditry role, with a long-form interview with the likes of Lewis Hamilton earning her plenty of praise.

Naomi Schiff: Racing career and background

Born in Antwerp, Belgium on May 18th, 1994, to a Belgian father (David Schiff) and Rwandan mother (Alice N’Dahimana Schiff), she and her sister Sarah grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa after a family move.

At the age of 11, Schiff went go-karting after attending a family friend’s birthday party and was intoxicated by the experience. Wanting to take her first steps as a racer, she and her father visited karting circuits across South Africa in order to prepare for her maiden season in karting.

Winning the Zwarthops Club Championship in her category, her second year was a step up to national level. Ending 2008 as runner-up in the South African Championship, she went on to represent her country in the World Karting Championships for the next four years. In 2010, she made her single-seater debut racing in the South African Formula Volkswagen series.

Moving outside of South Africa at 18, she was signed as a junior factory driver for Reiter Engineering in the KTM X-Bow GT4 after winning the Clio Cup China Series. Racing in GT4 categories for the following four years, Schiff didn’t score any notable results.

Applying for the new W Series series upon its foundation, Schiff was selected as a driver for the 2019 season. Driving for Hitech GP, she scored two points from the six races, finishing 16th overall.

W Series had already earmarked a new role for her for 2020: Schiff became the W Series’ diversity and inclusion ambassador ahead of the 2020 season.

“W Series has made an incredible difference to my life,” she said at the time. So, although I haven’t qualified to race in the 2020 championship, I’m still committed to pursuing a racing career and I’m more determined than ever to win a place in the 2021 championship.

“In the meantime I’m delighted to be working with the W Series team in London – not only to help spread the word about the unique role that W Series is playing for female drivers worldwide, but also to attract the best drivers to us, whoever and wherever they might be.”

As it happened, the 2020 season didn’t take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Schiff failed to qualify for the ’21 campaign.

Naomi Schiff: How she landed top presenter role with Sky F1

Having begun to gain broadcasting experience through W Series in 2021, Schiff was selected by Mercedes to co-present the launch of Mercedes’ W13 alongside the veteran Natalie Pinkham.

As well as this appearance, Schiff was appointed as a presenter for the post-race Sky F1 programme Any Driven Monday and quickly impressed. Dovetailing these duties alongside occasional on-site punditry work at Grand Prix events, Schiff’s calm and personable style meant she quickly became a fan favourite.

She’s opened up on being surprised at the approach from Sky, explaining since that her experience as a racer allows her to offer expert analysis – even if not quite at the level of other pundits such as Damon Hill or Nico Rosberg. Schiff’s appointment as a full-time broadcaster coincided with the departure of Johnny Herbert and Paul Di Resta from their roles.

“I did that for the whole season with W Series, really, while still kind of working a little bit in the office,” Schiff said last year.

“And then I was like, ‘OK, I think, ideally, I’d like to do the TV stuff and not the office stuff’, because I wanted to use the time in between to maybe do more stuff again, like stunt driving, and more stuff focused on my career. So we kind of had a discussion, and I was very surprised to have a call from Sky.

“Weirdly, I didn’t ever think that they would consider me as a pundit because of the fact that I’ve obviously never driven an F1 car, but I was so delighted when they suggested it because I was like, ‘this is kind of going to fill the void in my life of not being a driver anymore right now’ – and I can still speak from a point of experience.

“Whether it’s an F1 car or a Formula 3 car or a KTM GT4 or a Ferrari Challenge car, like whatever it is, I’ve driven so many different cars and racing at the end of the day, is racing, and drivers are drivers. Yes, the pressure is higher and, yes, the equipment is quicker and more technologically advanced, but it’s the same thing.

“I might not be able to talk about the absolute minutiae of when you do this in this car, but I can definitely speak about why a driver has chosen to do something, how they might be feeling in a moment, why they’ve had understeer or oversteer in a moment – so I was really glad that they gave me that opportunity.”

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Naomi Schiff criticism: Defended by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel 

During 2022, Schiff found herself at the centre of a social media storm, after a Twitter poster shared an image of Schiff in her W Series racing suit, with a caption expressing doubts about her qualifications for her new-found TV role.

With the post generating further negativity to cast aspersions on her background, there was also plenty of support as the post began to go viral. Schiff herself acknowledged the post, retweeting it with a ‘yawning’ caption to signify her disdain.

Lewis Hamilton, having sat down with Schiff for a long-form interview in early 2022, further retweeted her response, lending a huge voice of support to the inexperienced broadcaster.

“Naomi is an ex-professional racing driver & totally qualified to give her opinion as part of the Sky team,” he wrote.

“She’s been a great asset since joining & we should welcome more representative broadcasting with open arms. Still have a long way to go to change these attitudes in sport.”

Sebastian Vettel also leapt to her defence, voicing his support at the following Grand Prix in Montreal.

“I only found out after because I’m not as active (on social media),” he said.

“But I think it’s a horrible testimony that there are still people out there that…I guess in the end it must be you’re extremely unhappy with your own life, you’re extremely jealous.

“I think she’s a great woman, a very strong woman, she’s beautiful, good looking and I think she does a great job. I understand lots of things to be jealous about but it doesn’t take any courage to write hate messages like this. It’s really mean and it hurts. It’s absolutely disgusting.

“Those people should be ashamed of themselves and I wonder whether that’s everything they can do with their lives.”

Speaking that same weekend, Hamilton further expanded on why he felt the need to lend support to Schiff.

“Naomi doesn’t need me to speak out for her, but I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of abuse and racial abuse,” said the Mercedes driver.

“For me, representation is so important. We live in a male-dominated sport and to receive the hate for nothing is disrespectful and unacceptable, so I think it’s important we all stick together.

“I think she’s doing an amazing job. For all the young girls out there from different backgrounds, looking and seeing it’s possible to be in our sport and to have a role in this ecosystem, I think it’s so important.

“But ignorance is bliss, right?”

Naomi Schiff husband: Is Naomi Schiff married?

As of 2023, Naomi Schiff is not married but has been in a long-term relationship for over five years with Ygal Levy – a computer programmer.

Meeting in 2017, Schiff and Levy are regularly pictured together on their social media as they head off on holidays and trips.

The couple also attended the 2022 Autosport Awards together, heading along to the JW Marriott Grosnevor House in London last December.

Naomi Schiff Instagram: Where to find Sky F1 presenter on social media

Naomi Schiff is a regular poster to her Instagram profile, where she updates followers on where she is in the world, her behind-the-scenes work in Formula 1 with Sky Sports F1, and even just casual shots from her home and social life.

Schiff boasts over 170 thousand followers on her Instagram page, and just under 50 thousand followers on Twitter.

She is also a Twitter user, as well as maintaining a Facebook page – however, her Facebook page does not appear to be as regularly updated.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/NaomiSchiff

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/naomischiff/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/naomischiffracing