This is a difficult post to write. I wasn’t going to but it’s easier to say it once than lots of times: unless something radically changes that makes things better, I just travelled to my last Formula E race. I’ll might be in London, given I live there but I’m meant to be working on other things. Like most of the last two years.
There are lots of reasons, the most inescapable one is financial: there aren’t enough commissions for FE right now to justify the travel expense and so that’s it. The maths doesn’t work and there isn’t a way for me to game my way around that — I’ve rolled the dice a couple of times this year and even the Gen3 launch couldn’t generate enough so at the end of the day, there’s a hard ‘no’ from my bank; I’m not wealthy and I can’t do this as a hobby. So it’s not a choice and I’m not going to pretend it is one, on that front; I don’t think there’s anything more I could have done to try and pick up pieces, it’s simply how it is right now. It’s not just drivers who find the money runs out, I guess.
Part of me wanted to try to get to the end of the season but I don’t think there’s any point to that, now. I’d only be doing it to try to get my pass for next season and I don’t know what I’d be doing there, either. The reality is there are two full-season, english language writing jobs in FE and I don’t have either of them and I won’t ever be in with a chance of getting them, so this is where it ends.
I feel strange about it. Almost everyone I know in motorsport I know through Formula E. I didn’t get into Formula E because I wanted to be in Formula 1, in fact I used to work in Formula 1 to support sneaking off to Formula E every other weekend. It was a choice because it was the series I wanted to believe in — yes, of course, I knew a ton of the early stuff was the showboating bullshit, plate-spinning PR that kept the lights on and the bailiffs away from the door but I love that kind of skin-of-your-teeth energy and it felt defiant and exciting, the opposite of the monolithic, rigid structures of other motorsport.
In 2016 Formula E saved my life. Like a band that saves your life, it gave me something to decide to get ambitious about, to want to be part of when I mostly wanted to die. I’m a bit prone to suicidal tendencies but in the bleak period of a painful divorce and a strange life on a freezing boat with no door, Formula E was something to keep going for, an adventure that made me feel capable and confident and like there was a future I could form doing something very different than what I’d planned. It made me who I am now, for better or worse — because it’s why I’m still here, if nothing else.
I don’t feel that way about FE now, which is part of why it’s time to step away. It’s gone from being something that buoys me up and makes me happy to something that psychologically crushes me over a weekend. It’s difficult to keep optimistic and thinking it’s going to all eventually click back into place when I know it’s not; I should have left before but being freelance, there’s kind of nothing to leave except a bit of yourself. It’s sad that it ends on a bitter note, of the championship having made it too hard to cover.
The teams have always been amazing to work with, as have the drivers. Our lot — well, their lot now, I guess — are unguarded and funny and will give you the blunt truth. I’m going to miss everyone in the paddock so much it’s making my eyes sting writing this. A lot of the people around, especially some of the photographers (you know who you are) are my best friends. It honestly feels a bit like a breakup and that sucks, especially since FE had been the thing that got me through two pretty bad ones but then, it’s pretty silly to put your heart in the path of a 170mph race car.
There are people who know more about Formula E than me but it’s not very many. There are people who’ve been to more of the races than me but it’s not very many. There are people who know more about batteries than me but probably not a lot of them who can turn it into 280 pithy characters seconds after waking up on a Ryanair flight. I know I am good at what I do, there just isn’t a way to keep doing it.
I’m not really very good at giving myself credit but this didn’t not work out because I wasn’t good enough, it just didn’t work out because things don’t sometimes. Motorsport can be dangerous, as the pass warns you and one of the biggest dangers is it’s just not fair sometimes. I am trying very hard not to frame it as a personal failure but it definitely feels like one. I have cried about it a lot. And it’s doubly painful because there was a bit of pride to being a woman who’d made it work, on my own and for that to fall apart feels — well, if it wasn’t me I probably wouldn’t be blaming myself over it and that’s probably as much self punishment as it’s sensible to write about.
Anyway, that’s the end. I don’t have anything big I’m going onto. Maybe this is it for me — if so, I’ve had a fantastically privileged few years in a completely insane world hardly anyone gets a chance to be part of. I’ve broken into more after parties and events than anyone has any right to and I’ve cried in more media centre toilets than you’d probably believe (my definitive ranking of circuits to cry in the ladies’ loos of, coming soon) and I’ve done some really cool interviews and most of all, seen incredible races. Been there when teams and drivers are angry and hurting because of how much it means — and when they’re celebrating the same.
It’s a little bit tempting to just give up and curl up and say I can’t take the cringe of trying again. I may well never get another opportunity, in any case but I like to think if I did then I’d grab it with both hands and be able to make the most of it. For now, who knows. I need to go away and rebuild the confidence I’ve lost this year, let go of feeling sidelined and everything slipping helplessly through my fingers.
Obviously, I’ll miss it. But for now, at least, this is goodbye not au revoir.