It’s been a few days since the British Grand Prix and I’m still feeling slightly surreal. Wow, what an experience!
This all started a couple of months ago when David Richards told me that he was arranging for his opportunity, as the Chairman of the MSA, to present the third place trophy on the F1 podium to be handed over to me. At the time I was absolutely speechless but it never really felt real until the beginning of last week. The weather was forecast to be glorious and there’s no better place in the world to be than at Silverstone in the sunshine.
Andrew and I had been invited by the MSA to join them in their hospitality in the Brooklands Suite on the Saturday and we very much enjoyed watching the F1 and F2 cars defy physics with their braking capacity into Brooklands. The view from the balcony is probably the best on the circuit, giving you three corners and most of the Wellington Straight. After watching a few races, we went across to the F1 paddock to check out the podium and familiarise myself with the presenters’ protocol. The Wing is a very familiar place to me with Spinal Track running nearly all of their days there but being up on that podium didn’t feel familiar at all! Was I really going to be doing this the following day? I still had to keep pinching myself.
We’d been with Red Bull Racing the Wednesday before the weekend at Wings For Life’s Clay Day (more about that in my blog next week) and had very kindly been invited to the Red Bull Energy Centre over the F1 weekend. After having some late lunch and some incredibly good ice cream, we got chatting to Max Verstappen shortly after quali had finished. Max had heard my speech at the Wings For Life day so we instantly got chatting about Porsches. There were two drivers I wanted to present the third place trophy to and Max was one of them. Despite qualifying fifth, he promised to try and get to third for me! As we said goodbye, he was kind enough to pose for a photo with me and off I went to go back to the car.
On our way back we saw Kimi Raikkonen being hassled by some overly enthusiastic fans clearly on his way out of the paddock after qualifying. Despite Kimi looking like he had somewhere to be, I decided to introduce myself. Kimi was the other driver I really hoped I might be presenting the award to. I boldly strolled up to him extending my hand and said, ‘Hi Kimi, can I introduce myself? My name is Nathalie McGloin and I’m presenting the third place trophy on the podium tomorrow’. His face instantly broke into a smile and he very kindly agreed to have his photo taken with me. As we were posing for the photo, I asked him how he’d done in quali as I hadn’t seen the results yet. He told me he was third on the grid and I said that it might very well be me who would present him a trophy in that case. He smiled politely and told me that he was hoping to finish higher up than third and maybe I should ask if I could give one of the other trophies out! I wished him luck and headed home for the evening.
As race day rolled around, I was nervous and excited in equal measures. Following a morning of FIA hospitality and after seeking reassurance from several different people on my outfit choice, Tim Swietochowski from the MSA had managed to arrange a live interview on Channel 4 with Susie Wolff about my podium presentation and my new role with the FIA. The interview went really well and I managed to get some great publicity for the new FIA Disability And Accessibility Commission. Shortly after this we headed on to an extremely busy grid with supervision from two FIA ‘bouncers’ who would make sure I didn’t get trampled. It was a great experience and despite my best efforts not to run anyone over, I did manage to almost knock Chase Carrey off his feet – of all the people! After some apologies and a handshake with Chase we headed back to the FIA hospitality truck to watch the start of the race and to await my call to head to the podium.
I didn’t know who had finished third as I waited at the bottom of the podium as we had had to leave the green room before the race had ended to get onto the podium via the specially installed wheelchair access lift arranged by the MSA and Silverstone Circuit. As I sat waiting in the English sunshine, it dawned on me what a momentous occasion this was. I was about to become the first disabled sports person to ever present a trophy at a British Grand Prix. Sitting there in front of a TV audience of 400 million, we were making a very clear statement: Motorsport is for EVERYONE.
What happened next is something I did not expect and something that completely blew me away. As I approached the podium with the third place trophy on my lap to give to Kimi, he recognised me from meeting him the day before and his face completely lit up. He came down from his podium with a huge smile on his face and helped me pick the trophy off my lap to give to him. ‘It’s you!’ he said, to which I responded ‘I told you I’d be here!’. He then shook my hand with an enormous grin and went back up on to the podium to show off his trophy to the crowds. I couldn’t get passed the third place podium due to the lack of space so waved to Lewis and Seb my congratulations. Both of them then got down from their own podiums to shake my hand with Lewis giving a lovely warm two-handed handshake. As I left the podium I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, I was so emotional. All three of the drivers stayed to chat to me and have pictures taken and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception from all three of them.
I don’t think any of the drivers knew what my role was or that I race but all three of them couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. It felt like such a perfect metaphor for Motorsport. A disabled female and three F1 World Champions all brought together by competing in the same sport. The best thing about it was that the whole world was watching. If you didn’t know it before the weekend, you most certainly know it now: this sport is for all of us and I can’t wait to start welcoming more disabled drivers to join the party.