How did you or how are you planning on spending your 21st birthday? A lot of people would probably answer along the lines of getting smashed with their mates – which is exactly how I intended to spend mine. However, mine ended up being very different.
To get to how I spent my 21st we have to rewind a few months to October when a lecturer invited a friend down to Falmouth (where I study). This friend happened to be the Executive Producer at CNN. Now, those of you who are Formula 1 savvy can probably tell where my mind went, but if you aren’t F1 inclined let me explain, it’s very simple.
CNN sponsor McLaren.
Now if I’m honest that isn’t where my mind immediately went but I was writing an article about Formula 1 and I got chatting away. He said he’d been to McLaren HQ, I said I’d love to go one day and I thought that was that.
Fast forward over the weekend and my lecturer emails me, the gist of it was: “How would you fancy going with CNN to watch a programme being filmed at McLaren HQ?”
“YES!” I replied, well it may have been a bit more formal.
So, myself and the executive producer email back and forth until he gives me the date. 6th December. “Really?” I was thinking, “I had to get all the way up to the CNN London Bureau and then to McLaren and then back home again… on my birthday”.
But then I caught myself, “Maddie, you’re going to McLaren!”
It wasn’t until I got to CNN when I realised just how incredible this experience was though. When I arrived, I was told what my job would be. My job for the day was to look after the guests on the show ‘Unseen Earth’, one of which was Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut.
I’m not going to lie, I was geeking out, not only was I at a place any F1 fan dreams of going but my inner child was dreaming up endless questions to ask this astronaut (he was super friendly by the way and answered all my ‘highly scientific’ questions).
Not only did I have the coolest job for the day but I was also surprised with a tour of the HQ. The best bit? Their ‘rubbish draw’, you know the draw in your house where you just dump stuff you don’t want to deal with? Well they have a tunnel full of old Formula 1 cars and old show cars that they just store there because they don’t know what to do with them.
From there it felt like a bit of a daze, we went through a secret door (only McLaren would have secret doors), on the other side of that door was their trophy hall and boy did it shine. I tried hunting down Kevin Magnussen’s 2014 Australian GP trophy but there were too many and they weren’t in chronological order, it did my head in a bit to be honest.
And then the infamous boulevard of cars, all the names are there and for the first time I could touch a Formula 1 car. So many times, I’d been to museums and been a foot away from them but here there were no barriers, they told you to go and get up close and touch them.
I sat on the front tyre of one of Senna’s cars, I marvelled at Hunt’s ’76 championship winning car, I fangirled over Hamilton’s 2008 car and I couldn’t get my hands off a number of Button’s cars.
It was genuinely a dream come true.
Not only did I have an amazing day with an astronaut, a cave photographer and a microbiologist (not the start to a joke), I was able to walk through Formula 1 history. I was able to see where they practice their pit stops. I could see the wind tunnel. I saw Bruce McLaren’s first race winning car.
So, what do I want you to take away from this story? Go back to the start, the only reason I got to do any of this was because I love chatting about Formula 1, because that’s what I’m passionate about.
Find what you’re passionate about and never stop talking about it because you never know where it will get you.