Sunday, 25 January 2015

EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Formula One Audio Visual Technician Ben Hebbourn

(© Ben Johnston 2014)

Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in Formula One? If so, it’s a very special edition of Paddock Eye today, as I am joined by Ben Hebbourn who works in Formula One as an Audio Visual Technician. Ben, thank you for joining me

Hi Ben, no problem, glad to be here.

Firstly, can you tell me what the role of an Audio Visual Technician within a Formula One team entails?

The role is very varied, the title Audio Visual Technician is the easiest way to describe it but I also provide first line IT support and a small amount of telecoms support.

The main role is to set up and maintain all the audio visual elements of the team’s hospitality area. This includes screens, speakers and a PA system for press conferences and VIP events which can involve sponsor launches and events, book launches and dinner speeches.

I need to make sure that the screens are showing the correct content at the right times and there is appropriate music playing. You don’t what Hip hop at a VIP dinner for example!

I set up and manage any presentations or filming shoots that may occur in the building. Taking media content that needs to be used and formatting it for use within our AV system and providing support in any way that is needed.

I also help team members and guests with any IT issues they have from Wi-Fi connection to syncing team mailboxes etc. I am also on hand to manage conference calls that team members or team partners may need from time to time.

For anyone hoping to become an Audio Visual Technician in Formula One, what is the best way to go about it?

To be honest I am not the best person to answer this question. I came across the job as a circumstance of luck. I was at the right place at the right time. However I would say that firstly it would be good to gain a base knowledge of AV working/volunteering for club nights and theatre productions for example. I have a Bsc Hons in Music Technology which gave me some good knowledge and the scope to help out in various productions and AV set ups. Some teams hire in guys so working for a AV company may lead to a post in the paddock.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

I have two highlights. Both coming from previous roles as a radio and communications technician. The first is being a part of a team that won a world championship. The buzz and excitement leading up to it and the feeling of playing even a small role in that championship was a very proud moment. The second comes from having the opportunity to work directly with one of my racing heroes, Mika Hakkinen. To go from watching him on the television to be actually there in a garage working with him is something I never dreamed would happen and will remain with me forever.

What, in your opinion is the best thing about working in Formula One?

The best thing about working in F1 is working in F1! To be around the cars and drivers some of which you looked up to as your childhood heroes is something that I will never fully get used to. Also the occasional trip into an airport executive lounge is a treat!

What are your thoughts on the new era of Formula One?

I think the new era of cars has created a good ‘shake up’ and has promoted some very good, action packed racing that is attune to times gone. The nature of the engines/power units and how they deliver their power has meant that drivers have had to adapt and this has created excitement and highlighted new talents in drivers new and old. It also has effected the way in which they are driven and we have seen some examples of great car control, again attune to times gone.

F1 is about innovation and being at the pinnacle of motoring so the new power units are a perfect reflection of that although the noise is a issue it is not the be all and end all.

The introduction of Honda for 2015 only adds more excitement and another dimension to the technological advances in hybrid power units. I think it is safe to say that the future of F1 is assured. 

© Ben Johnston 2015

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