From football to Formula One — Ben Hunt on life in the fast lane as The Sun’s F1 correspondent
The Sun’s F1 correspondent Ben Hunt sits down with Umar Hassan to discuss how he got into F1, his current job and how young journalists can work their way up the motor racing journalism ladder to cover F1.
Travelling the world to see the fastest cars race at speeds of over 200mph and write about it is a dream job for die-hard motor racing fans. For Ben Hunt, he has been reporting on Formula One as The Sun’s F1 correspondent since February 2012.
In his role, Ben reports from inside and outside the paddock, interviewing the likes of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, while attending press conferences involving teams such as Mercedes, Red Bull and more.
Senna’s passing and early Formula One memories
Three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna tragically passed away on Sunday 1 May 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
The Brazilian’s death was the second driver to lose his life that weekend as Austria’s Roland Ratzenberger was killed previously in qualifying on Saturday 30 April 1994.
The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, despite being the darkest weekend in modern-day F1 history was one of Ben’s first memories of watching the sport.
“I remember being at my dad’s work and seeing it from a news point-of-view and seeing how the paper reacted to such a devastating story.
“It was quite interesting and that has stuck with me throughout my career going forward. A bit of a morbid start I suppose to F1 life but it has been good since then.”.
While the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was one of his earliest F1 memories, Ben admitted he was not a dedicated F1 fan.
“I watched F1 on Sundays but I wasn’t an avid fan from early doors, there was no particular incident or driver I followed. I was always keen to follow F1 but I was never a die-hard fan as I didn’t know too much about it.”
All roads lead to The Sun and F1
Prior to reporting on F1, Ben had completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at City, University of London from 2002 to 2003.
His first full-time sports journalism job came in January 2003 when he worked for Hayters Teamwork, writing exclusive stories on football, motor racing and golf for national and international newspapers and magazines.
Ben worked at Hayters until November 2007 when he joined Wardle Whittell Agency. He juggled working for the agency with his other role as assistant news editor for The Sun.
The opportunity to report on Formula One came when Ben was working on an evening shift at The Sun.
“While working at The Sun on one evening shift, I was chasing the football job and the editor at the time said do you fancy doing some F1 for us?
“I said yes and a couple of weeks later, I was on the plane to Australia for my first race in 2012, which was the first year Sky came in to cover Formula One.
“I’ve met Jenson Button, Vettel was at Red Bull, as well as (Fernando) Alonso and (Michael) Schumacher competing that year. There were lots of stories to cover so plenty for me to get stuck into which was great.”
Travelling and covering a different sport
While there is plenty of travel for reporting on football, life as a F1 journalist comes with spending most of the year on all forms of transport.
Ben has reported on F1 for 10 seasons at The Sun, covering some of the biggest stories in the sport.
When asked about his highlights of covering F1 for The Sun, he said:
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing Lewis’ (Hamilton) rise through changing teams from McLaren to Mercedes as well as his relentlessness and ability to grind out results.
“From a personal level, I’ve enjoyed the travelling, going to new countries and experiencing different cultures and ways of life. F1-wise, I’ve enjoyed covering a different sport and seeing how that works, as well as the politics of the sport, which is different to football.”
Breaking into motor racing journalism
Motor racing journalism is extremely competitive to get into for young journalists and can take years to go from reporting on domestic championships to Formula One.
Journalists who have gone to cover Formula One have started their careers covering another beat or other motor racing disciplines.
Meanwhile, with Ben, he had covered a wide range of sports for over 10 years, before reporting on F1 for The Sun.
“People need to remember that there is no direct route into reporting on F1. You don’t have to do a degree if you don’t want to or go to university at all or you could start at an early age.
“A lot of people want to get into F1 but rather like an apprenticeship, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. These days, most people assume they will go straight to the top with reporting on F1 and I was fortunate in the sense that I could do it with F1.”
“With football, I was covering non-league stuff before reporting on the Premier League. You have to be prepared to work hard, take knocks to your confidence, believe in yourself but the main thing is getting out there, starting at a low level and working your way up.”
Life outside the F1 paddock
Outside the F1 paddock, Ben is an avid supporter of his beloved AFC Wimbledon, who are currently playing in League One of the English Football League.
Ben said about his hobbies outside of F1:
“I like to spend time with my family and ride my motorbike. Recently, I’ve moved to the seaside recently so sitting on the beach and being on my phone.
“My phone is always with me because as a journalist, you have to be prepared to react to stories, but try not to go on Twitter and look at the abuse, trolls, good and bad stuff. Trying to take yourself out of that environment and make time for yourself is key.”