A working week in the life of Matthew Franey, editor of Formula 1 magazine
The final sections of the magazine go to print tomorrow, so today is typical of many a press week – last news pages going down to repro, the odd moan at printers or colour houses and some last-minute juggling of advertising pages. With things under relative control I’ve got time to compile a synopsis of next month’s issue for a meeting tomorrow with Bernie Ecclestone, Formula 1’s commercial boss and the “proprietor” of the magazine.
Half an hour in F1’s head office in Knightsbridge and next month’s cover idea gets the Ecclestone seal of approval. Credit to Bernie in that he’s hands-off when it comes to direct editorial involvement – what he really wants to see is that the magazine carries the values of F1 – glamorous, exciting, passionate, high-end.
Back in the office and just as we’re getting ready to close the issue, a nice little bombshell from motorsport’s rulemakers, the FIA. The much-anticipated banning of electronic driver aids on F1 cars has been postponed from this summer’s British Grand Prix until 2004. That means it’s more calls to the printer, frantic confirmation from the FIA that its press release means what we think it means and a rewrite of the relevant news articles. Lastly there’s just time for a hasty revamp of my editorial to reflect the rule changes.
A three-man team – art director, journalist and photographer – flies out to Maranello, the home of Ferrari, today to discuss some ideas for the issue. They will meet with the Ferrari PRs to arrange several key interviews and also discuss locations for possible cover shoots. One market square in Tuscany can be ours for the day on the proviso that we agree to the local mayor’s request to give away a bone-handled knife – a speciality of the region – as a competition! Not sure what the implications of giving our readers knives areÃ‰ I’ll leave that one to the publisher.
While they’re out enjoying the Chianti, I’m minding the fort in the UK, which means a weekly meeting with the advertising team, a first draft of the May issue flatplan, and then an afternoon with a potential advertiser who is keen to get the magazine’s involvement on a major product launch at the Monaco Grand Prix. Our “official” status means we can exert more influence than other racing magazines when it comes to access at Grand Prix weekends and so on.
A quick sprint up the M40 to Silverstone. The Princess Royal has been invited by the board of the British Racing Drivers Club to attend the unveiling of the circuit’s plans for a complete renovation of its facilities. Silverstone has come in for a great deal of criticism over the last few years following the debacle over the muddy car parks and terrible traffic. The quality of race tracks remains a thorny issue for F1 – with hundreds of millions being spent on new circuits round the world, it’s hard for existing venues to keep up.
The race reporters fly to Brazil today for this weekend’s grand prix. For the journalists and snappers that attend every race this is their third long-haul in less than four weeks, following the opening rounds in Australia and Malaysia.
Word comes through in the afternoon that a British journalist – as yet unnamed – has been quarantined in Brazil with suspected SARS, the highly infectious pneumonia virus. Con-sidering everyone on the F1 circus invariably flies together, stays in the same hotels and shares the same media centre, that’s got a few people thinking.
With the new issue on the shelves this morning it’s time to start PR-ing. We have an agency whose job it is to promote our content to daily papers, radio stations and so on, which means a fair amount of my day is spent conducting or agreeing to radio interviews and the like.
Compared to last season, these are a joy – since the racing kicked off we’ve had proper entertainment, new winners, young drivers coming through and so on which means interviewers aren’t looking to stick the boot in and people are genuinely interested in the outcome of the races.
Today it’s LBC wanting to know who will win in Brazil (if I knew that I’d be in Ladbrokes not here typing this) and how Briton Justin Wilson will fare after he suffered temporary paralysis in Malaysia when his safety collar dug into his shoulders.
Frantic phone calls to Brazil at the end of the day to arrange the delivery of a car to Italy, via Britain, for next Tuesday. Possibly the trickiest part of editing this magazine is the fact that the people you really need to speak to are normally half-way round the world. It’s a constant to-ing and fro-ing of e-mails and mobile phone calls drowned out by the scream of F1 cars in the background. I might ask Bernie if we can have all the races in London…