MY DREAM JOB

Head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Scud­e­ria Toro Rosso

F1 Racing - - MY DREAM JOB -

The For­mula 1 pad­dock is pop­u­lated by two types of per­son: those who work in the sport for a few years be­fore mov­ing on to pas­tures new – and the F1 lif­ers. The lat­ter group com­prises those com­mit­ted souls who spend their whole ca­reer trav­el­ling be­tween races. And Fabi­ana Valenti is one of them: a main­stay of the F1 pad­dock for 13 sea­sons.

In her cur­rent role, she is the head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Toro Rosso. “I’m the point of con­tact for the ex­ter­nal world,” she ex­plains. “Some teams are very re­stric­tive, but in my view we should be very open, so my job is to help fa­cil­i­tate what the me­dia need to es­tab­lish our im­age for the team.”

Valenti grew up – and still lives – in the small Ital­ian town of Faenza, home to the Mi­nardi team, which later mor­phed into Toro Rosso. Her in­ter­est in F1 be­gan as a child, when she would watch races with her fa­ther on Sun­day af­ter­noons: “I loved him, and it was a way to spend time with him.”

Her path could have taken a very dif­fer­ent route. Aged 13, she went to watch her un­cle com­pete at archery and had a go her­self. A hid­den tal­ent was un­locked, and so be­gan a bur­geon­ing sport­ing ca­reer. She was duly tal­ent-spot­ted and even­tu­ally rep­re­sented Italy in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. “There was a chance of go­ing to the Seoul Olympics in 1988, but I stopped,” she says. “It’s a men­tal sport and I didn’t have the right mind­set to com­pete prop­erly back then.”

She stud­ied lan­guages at univer­sity and worked as a post­woman af­ter grad­u­at­ing, be­fore learn­ing that a com­pany in Faenza was look­ing for English, French and Ger­man trans­la­tors. When she dis­cov­ered it was the Mi­nardi F1 team, she never be­lieved they would con­sider hir­ing her.

“Be­fore I knew it, I was em­ployed as a switch­board op­er­a­tor, tak­ing in­com­ing tele­phone calls and rout­ing them to the dif­fer­ent de­part­ments,” says Valenti. “I learned so much about the team at that time and quickly moved on to help­ing with lo­gis­tics, book­ing ights, ho­tels and hire cars. When Paul Stod­dart came in to buy the team in 2001, I was asked to trans­late be­tween him and Mr Mi­nardi. Then I got to un­der­stand all the op­er­a­tional as­pects of the com­pany and went on to be­come Paul’s per­sonal as­sis­tant.”

Valenti’s rst race was in Aus­tralia 2004 where she was asked to work with the press. She quickly went to nd her for­mer col­league Sil­via Hof­fer [now McLaren’s press ofcer] to help pre­pare her for the role. Over the next decade, she has pro­gressed from that po­si­tion, as Mi­nardi was bought by Red Bull, to be­come Toro Rosso’s head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

She says her ca­reer high­light so far was work­ing with a young Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and wit­ness­ing the mo­ment when he took his (and Toro Rosso’s) rst win at Monza in 2008.

“There were so many tears that day, it was so emo­tional!” she re­calls fondly. “We see re­peats of the videos in the fac­tory from time to time and there are big guys at the team who have been with us since they rst en­tered F1, and they were like lit­tle kids bawl­ing their eyes out. I didn’t know what to do; I knew I had to get him a cap, but I wasn’t sure where to go, and ev­ery­one was say­ing, ‘Fabi – this way!’ And I said, ‘Where do I go, what do I do?’ It was re­ally very spe­cial. I’ve got a photo of him hug­ging me, say­ing, ‘Fabi, we’ve won a race!’”

Since Toro Rosso is the feeder team for the Red Bull young driver pro­gramme, Valenti con­sid­ers her­self for­tu­nate not to have to deal with long-es­tab­lished driv­ers who can be more prickly when it comes to me­dia work. “No, I’ve never had big prob­lems with my driv­ers. Some­times I feel a bit like ‘mummy’ when of­fer­ing ad­vice or try­ing to con­vince them to do some­thing for the press. That’s be­cause all of them are young driv­ers who have come through the driver pro­gramme – even Se­bas­tian Vet­tel when he was here.

“I love my job. I’m lucky to have been in the right place at the right time and this is my life. Hav­ing been here so long, Toro Rosso is my sec­ond fam­ily. I feel at home.”

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