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Formula 1

‘This is history’ – F1’s new face is a breath of fresh air

by Katy Fairman
3 min read

During the Bahrain Grand Prix, social media was overflowing with compliments for the newest member of the Sky F1 team: Naomi Schiff.

The racer-turned-presenter will be a familiar face to those who watched W Series last year, but her pitlane reporting and interviews have quickly made her a Formula 1 fan favourite too.

Schiff herself is half-Belgian and half-Rwandan but grew up in South Africa from a young age. She started karting aged 11 and has gone on to race in GT cars, prototypes and single-seaters, including the first year of W Series.

In 2020, she became the W Series’ Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador and would frequently help with online coverage and presenting, which she too has a gift for. Her appreciation for W Series, which is now a Formula 1 support series and gives a platform to women in a free-to-enter motorsport championship, can be seen at all times with her unique ‘W’ necklace, which she wears with pride.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

After first appearing for some pre-season testing coverage with the Sky broadcast team last month, her first real moment in front of a larger audience came during the Bahrain weekend.

Instantly, her professionalism and knowledge of the championship, all delivered in a gentle and compassionate manner, made her a figure to respect and trust. Then we were treated to a sit-down feature with Schiff and Lewis Hamilton, which won over those watching and made her an instantly treasured team member.

The interview began with a trip down memory lane, as Schiff shared several photos from 2010 of her meeting Hamilton at a promotional event at the South African Kyalami circuit. Schiff was 14 years old and revealed she had skipped school that day and stood at the fence to the venue before Hamilton eventually came over and signed her school uniform.

As one of only a few long-form interviews with the seven-time champion after the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it was inevitable that journalists would ask questions about the last year’s season finale, which Hamilton described as “manipulated” on team radio at the time.

However, despite the 20-minute conversation about Abu Dhabi, his new team-mate George Russell, and his continuous push for diversity in all projects he works on, it was the final few moments of the interview that touched the hearts of those who watched it.

“I have heard you say many times that if you just made a difference in one kid’s life, that it would all be worth it,” Schiff stated.

“So, I would like to take this opportunity to say I am one of those kids, and I know I am part of a very long list of kids, women, and just people who you inspire continuously.”

Earlier in the interview, Hamilton had also mentioned that it could possibly be the first time he had been interviewed by a woman of colour in Formula 1. “This is history”, he called it.

Schiff’s addition to the Sky broadcasting team has been referred to as “a breath of fresh air” by those on social media, and it’s true. In a championship that is seeing a significant shift in its audience, from age, background, and gender, it’s important to reflect that too and give opportunities to those deserving of them.

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