Formula 1 press officers are the most diverse group in the sport. Today, there is specialised training and languages are important, but PR in F1 has always been a job with no set qualifications. And a look back reveals that while some PRs were ex-journalists (as might be expected), others had amazing backgrounds.
Anna Guerrier, a former McLaren PR, for example, was a theatrical, trained at Guildford School of Music and Drama. She ended up on the radio before joining McLaren. Ben Taylor, a one-time Tyrrell PR man, had previously promoted English sausages and pork pies for the Meat and Livestock Commission. Peugeot’s Jean-Claude Lefebvre was a racing driver and rallycross champion while Chris Williams and Dany Hindenoch (both Ligier PR men) were rally co-drivers, although the latter also ran his own agency for fashion models. There was also the extraordinary Christine Gorham (Arrows), who arrived in F1 with sponsor MTV. Born in Austria, she had worked with most of the big name rock and roll stars – and was even married to one.
Mercedes’s Wolfgang Schattling, on the other hand, started out as a school teacher, while university lecturer Stuart Sykes (Stewart GP) and Ellen Bernfeld (Tyrrell), formerly of the Oriental Antiquities Department of the British Museum, were notable additions to this diverse world, as was Phillip Morris’s Nigel Wollheim, who started out with Pirelli, because he spoke four languages fluently. He had previously been a manufacturer of snow boots.
There was the Italian aristocrat Francesco Longanesi Cattani, the son of a celebrated submarine captain, who came to F1 with the FIA after a career as a professional yachtsman, before becoming aide de camp to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Other PRs, notably Sauber’s Gustav Busing and Marlboro’s Agnes Carlier, came from the world of politics, while sports also provided some interesting characters, such as Texaco’s Paul Bray, a former handball international, and Brazil’s Betise Assumpcao, a former volleyball player, who would become Ayrton Senna’s PR.
There were some interesting transfers within PR as well, with Sabine Marcon, a Ford PR, having been EuroDisney’s first international ambassador, and Benetton’s Elizabeth Wright, who arrived in F1 from Vogue magazine in New York.
Of the current generation, McLaren’s Silvia Hoffer was trained as an architect at the elite Politecnico in Milan, before designing merchandise for Bugatti and then getting her first PR role with Ducati. Toro Rosso’s Fabiana Valenti is also remarkable. She was previously a postwoman, who represented Italy in archery…