Julia Piquet on F1, her famous family and what it's like to be motorsport mad
An exclusive interview with Julia Piquet....
The Piquet surname is one well-known in motorsport, with Nelson Sr a 3-time F1 world champion and son Nelson Piquet Jr having raced in F1 and winning the inaugural Formula E championship, in which he still races. However, they are not the only members of the family working in the sport, with daughter/sister Julia working with Motorsport.com. I spoke to her about growing up at racetracks and working in a constantly changing media age.
Julia’s father had retired from Formula One before she was born, but with her brother 7 years her senior, she spent most of her childhood supporting him. “I was always following Nelson’s career, so from when he started back in Formula 3 in Brazil and then the British Formula 3 Championship,” she said. “At that time, I was living in France with my Mom so would go to every race and we’d go on so many trips up there (UK), and I’d spend time around the track with Nelson. I’ve got so many relatives in motorsport that I’ve always been around it. My interest grew with it, I always loved being around everything.”
As she grew up, and her brother’s career took off, more people would recognise both him and their father. Although to most children this would be unusual, for Julia it was normal. “When you’re used to that at an early age, it’s normal to you. It was definitely cool though,” she explained.
Julia was no stranger to racing herself when she was young, participating in friendly go-kart events. “When I was about 10, I started go-karting a little in Brazil. Nelson always organised go-kart sessions with his friends and I was always quite good. I liked going fast, I was never scared and was very determined in my driving. He said to me: ‘you should start racing!’ so I did a few karting coaching sessions and I was doing well, but to be honest my Dad wasn’t sure about it, it made him too nervous,” Piquet told me. “Funnily enough, two years ago when I fell off my horse in competition and tore all my ligaments in my right shoulder, Dad told me the worst mistake he ever made was not let me race go karts. ‘Horse riding is a much more dangerous sport’ he said.”
Having moved to the US when she was 19, Julia studied at the University of Miami, earning a bachelors in Management and Economics, after which she went on to get her MBA (Master of Business Administration). 6 months into her course she was offered an internship at Motorsport.com, and after impressing her bosses, was presented with a job offer. “I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought about motorsport as a career before because it was something I really enjoyed and I knew a lot about. One thing led to another and here I am and I’m really happy.”
Julia spent several years working towards a degree in Economics, but that doesn’t mean she no longer uses the skills she learnt despite now being in motorsport. “When you attend a great school like the University of Miami, especially the Business school, it prepares you no matter what area you go into. I think more than anything you take the different tools and lessons you’ve learned along your life, because when you start working for a company it’s about not just what you are able to do, but how you deal with people and how you present yourself,” she told me.
Now working at Motorsport.com, Piquet is responsible for developing online news content such as the Fast Track podcasts and Motorsport Report episodes. Speaking of her job, she explained: “Motorsport Report is released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a focus on 2 or 3 major headlines. The show is in video form so you have graphics that help support the story you’re telling. With our Fast Track Podcast, it’s more like you want to hear the biggest racing headlines in 3 minutes. The podcast is released weekdays, and we typically feature 12 or 13 headlines - so it’s just a different way for our audiences to absorb motorsport news. I write the scripts every day, taking the most important and relevant news segments from our website, and then our editor does a fantastic job reviewing everything before we air.” Although Motorsport Report tends to be more F1 focused, the Fast Track podcast covers a variety of motorsport categories, meaning Julia must have a good knowledge of many series. Luckily, her childhood has prepared her for this, as she has been learning about several forms of racing since her youth.
These online episodes often include Julia interviewing drivers and those involved in the sport, something she really enjoys doing. “It’s always nice to have someone in (the office) and research about them and then get their view point on different subject matters. I tend to get a bit nervous, but for me that’s normal. It’s hard in Miami because we’re in an area where there aren’t that many drivers compared to somewhere like London or Switzerland,” Piquet explained, adding: “one of my favourite people that I interviewed was Kurt Busch, just because he was very enthusiastic, extremely friendly and I just got a very easy-going vibe from him.”
With a family involved in the sport, Piquet has had to interview people she knows very well. “I don’t get nervous or anything when it’s my brother, but he doesn’t really like interviews so I try to keep it short for his sake,” she said giggling. Having spoken to many interesting people, there are still 2 drivers on her list of those she’d love to interview. “Realistically, Helio Castroneves,” Julia explained, “just because I know he lives in Florida and we’d all like to know a little bit more about what he’s going to be doing in the upcoming years.” However, speaking of her dream interview, she said: “I’d really like to interview and just get to know Max Verstappen. He’s quite the Formula One sensation. I also come from a Dutch background, my Mother’s Dutch and I have a Dutch passport. Also, I have a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to people, and he seems like a great guy.”
Working online can be challenging with media and fan engagement constantly changing. This means sites such as Motorsport.com must also adapt to keep up with their competitors and keep their fans interested. “We’ve got lots of big plans, but it’s all dependant on a series of things in the company,” Julia told me, “we definitely have ideas for new shows, and really what we’re trying to do is engage with the younger F1 audience. Nowadays with the declining attention span of online users, people want to watch short entertaining videos, so our goal is to produce content that’s fun and that people can watch on our website as well as social media platforms.”
Julia Piquet is at the forefront of a new way of interacting with motorsport, providing podcasts and online episodes to racing fans around the world. With her childhood spent around circuits and cars, there is really no area she was more destined to work in. When asked about her advice for those wanting to work in the industry, she replied: “if you happen to have contacts, don’t be afraid to use them. Even if you don’t, shoot someone an email, connect on LinkedIn - don’t be afraid to TRY! The worst that can happen is you either you get declined or don’t get an answer. Also, most importantly, always be true to yourself. F1 and motorsport are male-dominated environments that require you to be sharp and on your game at all times. I’ve always had a strong character, which I think comes from my Dad, and it’s allowed me to never back down from what I believe in and never be afraid to give my opinion.” A strong female working in motorsport, Julia is a great role model for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.
(heading picture credit: motorsport.com)