How to do a grand prix Aussie Grit style

on August 17, 2013 Off the track news with 20 comments

For most people, grands prix are 90 minutes of action-packed sporting drama unfolding on their television screen. However for Mark they are the culmination of several intense days in the host country out on track and in the media spotlight. As the world of FormulaOne becomes ever more global, the demands on him continue to rise.

In the first part of a brand-new ‘Getting to know Aussie Grit’ series, Mark gives us a unique insight into his hectic grand prix routine and how he manages to relax in his downtime.

The decision making actually begins long before he takes to the cockpit of his RB9 and dons his famous yellow-topped helmet. The first thing on his to-do list is pack in preparation for a busy week ahead. “I don’t really pack that much,” says Mark. “I just need jeans and t-shirts and maybe a jumper to go out for dinner. Unless there is a specific function which is rare, I don’t carry any suits or black ties.”

Three or four days before race day it is time to set off from his home in the UK to the host country. With over 200 grands prix to his name, he’s been in a fair few airports around the world and bumped into a few other famous names. “You always see people here and there,” says Mark. “I met Jose Mourinho quite recently. I went up to him, introduced myself and told him I thought he was good for sport and he jokingly acted surprised that I had recognised him. We had a good laugh. I’ve also bumped into Bear Grylls at Heathrow and Sharon Stone.

“Naturally the public also come and say hello. In the UK there are always people that recognise you and when you land in the F1 host country, people always gather to greet you. It’s great to see that passion about the sport.

“Nowadays I tend to use a private plane to European races. In such an intense sport you’ve got to find all the little tricks you can to keep your energy levels up and it’s the travel that saps it out of you.”

Once he has arrived, he will transfer directly to his hotel, which will be his base for the next four days. “I like to stay close to the track,” adds Mark. “For example in Shanghai, lots of guys stay in the city because the hotel is good there but I have found a hotel not too far from the circuit that I like. It’s not the Ritz but it doesn’t need to be. I hate sitting in traffic and hate being driven. In some countries I have to be a passenger which is an experience to say the least, so I like to keep the drive to a minimum.

“When I’m not eating at the track, there are also specific restaurants I like. Melbourne has some fantastic restaurants like Rockpool which I love. Canada also has some great places but anything that is Italian or Thai suits me really. I also enjoy seafood but that’s something I stay away from on race weekends.”

He has a busy day of media commitments on Thursday, followed by an even busier day of practice on Friday, before qualifying on Saturday and the all-important race on Sunday. “Friday night is always very late at the track, generally I leave at around 9.30pm,” reveals Mark. “Thursday and sometimes Saturday can be a bit lighter but it depends on how the car is feeling. However if we have had a strong day, these are the days when there is an option to see family or relax a bit.

“Annie, my partner, will probably come to about 50% of the races, my dad 30% and my mum even fewer. However they know I’m there to do a job. I might be able to sit down and grab a quick bite to eat with them whilst I prepare, but that’s it.

“My dad is starting to use FaceTime but when my family aren’t there in person I only tend to send the odd text message once a weekend to let them know if it’s looking good on the car front and how I am.”

It is vitally important in such a high-pressurised environment to relax, so away from the track Mark tries to avoid any unnecessary fatigue at all costs. “I’ll spend most of my time in the hotel. You definitely won’t see me lining up for cabs,” Mark adds. “I can do that away from race weekends. Instead I might watch television because I like chat shows with good interviews or documentaries.

“I’m also a bit of a reader. I enjoy books by managers and captains of industry and I’ve read a few sporting autobiographies such as Roy Keane’s which was pretty fiery to say the least. Andre Agassi’s was also very good. Both are guys who have had long careers at the top level of their sport. However I struggle with films, because they usually don’t grab my attention.”

You’d be wrong in thinking the race, his post-race media interviews or the engineers’ debrief brought an end to Mark’s weekend. “If I win or have a phenomenal race, I might have 100 messages on my phone,” Mark says. “You’ve got to reply to them all which is never straightforward. Even if I have a bad day there will still be messages, although most people don’t tend to get involved as they don’t know what to say.”

More often than not, it’s then back home to the UK to recharge his batteries and spend some time in the simulator at the Red Bull Racing factory in Milton Keynes before it starts all over again at the next race.

Like what you’ve read? Keep checking for the next instalment in the ‘Getting to know Aussie Grit’ series.

By Jonathan Campkin


No reproduction permitted without prior written consent


  • Dave Tett
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    Man I am devastated you’re leaving F1…..your biggest fan!

  • Henrietta Faskova
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    Great stuff 😉 can’t wait 4the next one.. 🙂 Mark have a good week and “come on Spa”!! Cross fingers+ good luck in Belgium.

  • Pat Gough
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    This is a great idea letting marks fans know what happens before races keep this up waiting for from Mark

  • Annie Lambert
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    so loved this. cant wait for the next one. F1 is such a closed circuit (no pun intended) to fans that these little insights of what goes on behind the scenes is lovely to read about. Keep ’em coming Aussie cos we love you. x

  • JJ
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    Still can’t quite believe AuusieGrit will give up F1 at the end of the season but reading this I understand the demands of his time & commitment to the sport he has dedicated most of his sporting life to. All good things come to an end sooner or later & F1 will be losIng one of the most genuine characters to grace the sport. Red Bull’s loss but Porche’s gain & I hope more time with family & friends who I believe are the back bone & key element to success

  • ann
    on August 17, 2013 Reply

    A great read. Looking forward to the next installment.

  • Sean
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    great read! never thought about what happens outside the race track. very interesting

  • Scott Bonetti
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    Absolutely cracking article. Great insight into what really goes on, and looking forward to the next one. A must read for any F1 fan!

  • Kate G
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    Great article Jonathan, loved the insight!

  • Jill and Brian
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    A great insight into your race weekends Mark, can’t wait for the next one. Please keep them coming when you go to Porsche, we”ll be following you in WEC. All the best at Spa mate, we’ll be there supporting you.

  • Charlotte
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    Great article, some really interesting stuff and great to read something different. Keep them coming!

  • Jacqui
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us about the build up etc to races. I shall miss your honest and straightforward take on life – and racing!!! You are an impossible act to follow X

  • Neil Hopkins
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    Really enjoyed the article and look forward to more Aussie grit stories !!!
    It would be nice if the next one is about winning the Belgium grand prix

  • ricky May
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    A great piece to read. Often wondered how Mark got around via air. Do you sit up front on the long haul flights mate?
    Also wonder if you’re into music like Daniel…either to pump you up of unwind? Looking forward to following the WEC in 2014

  • Mark
    on August 18, 2013 Reply

    I hope you have started writing your own book about your F1 career, it will be a best seller!

  • Maria
    on August 19, 2013 Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this….can’t wait for the next installment.
    Aussie Grit to win in Belgium :o)

  • Chris Borkenhagen
    on August 22, 2013 Reply

    Keep up the remarkable attitude and stage presence maRK.
    You’re balance in life and sportsmanship professionalism are classy examples to follow.
    Kick a$$ in Spa!

  • Carol
    on August 24, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for sharing with us Mark … looking forward to the next one. Best of luck at Spa!

  • Petra
    on September 5, 2013 Reply

    Lovely story…pls tell us more about your feelings on the track and in the box and the moments you’re leaving the box…. My sadness about you’re leaving F1 seems endless! I will cherish my visits to the Shanghai circuit … awesome memories I share with the Shanghai MW fans. Wish you a marvelous weekend @ Monza.Sad to miss your good bye party :-))
    Cheers from Germany

  • Johnny the fox
    on September 12, 2013 Reply

    Top article mark gutted your leaving f1 but looking forward to porche races

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