Each circuit has a media centre, an area where journalists, photographers and team press officers spend a lot of their time working during Grand Prix weekends. Since 2010 it is Frine Velilla, Media Manager of Dorna Sports, who has opened the doors to this travelling editorial office at all the circuits where MotoGP™ takes place.
With an eye to the future but with attention always focused on the present, Frine tells us about her professional career which began as a translator and interpreter of motorsport competitions, until she joined Dorna Sports in 2004 as a translator. How, within the same company, she faced new challenges and covered different roles until she became one of the most admired and well-known #WomenInMotoGP in the paddock.
With a degree in translation and interpretation in her locker, the desire to know the world and to deal with different cultures, Frine landed in motorsport as a translator of the Costa Brava Rally races, immediately understanding that this is where she belonged. "They started calling me to translate other motorsport events until I sent the curriculum to Dorna and since 2004 I have been part of this company,” says Frine.
“I started by translating the contents of the site from English to Spanish, then for a period I was part of the 'customer support' team and from there I switched to 'media sales'. From that moment on I had the opportunity to attend the Grands Prix dealing with the sale of television rights, satellite connections and, having already travelled for half the season, I was offered a position in the media team.”
The debut in this new role took place at the 2010 Qatar Grand Prix and, like every beginning, Frine’s wasn’t without difficulties: “It was very hot, much more than I could have anticipated. The event takes place at night so we finished late at night and found myself dealing with tension and fatigue. The list of things to do was very long, but over time, I adapted that list to the new needs of journalists and today it is very different, even if it remains a constant evolution.”
Circuits and technology change, but Frine’s mission is always the same: “To make the work of journalists and photographers as easy as possible,” she says. The week of a Grand Prix for Friné begins with the management of the accreditations, the organization of the Press Conferences, the drafting of press kits, documents that are essential for journalists to have every detail on the riders, the circuit and the current events of the Championship at their disposal. Then Frine continues with the coordination of the television interviews and all this while managing every need of the press room.
“During the Press Conferences, I coordinate the questions, organise the meetings between the riders and the various broadcasters, I try to facilitate the connections between the media and the press officers of the teams so that they can then carry out reports and interviews.”
These activities are carried out by the media centre, which Frine defines as: “A small meeting of the United Nations. I like to know that I always meet people from all over the world and that every time we take our office to a different country, this is the aspect that fascinates me most about my job. Having the opportunity to be in constant contact with different cultures, speaking many languages and observing the working methods and ways of doing things that distinguish each country.”
And it is precisely the human aspect that makes every event magical: “I love listening to the stories of the riders and their families,” Frine explains. “Finding out what sacrifices they have made so that the world can enjoy a fabulous show. When we watch the races we enjoy the show but not everyone knows what these guys and their loved ones do to be on the World Championship grid.”
Working in MotoGP™ is fascinating but requires great commitment, as Frine details: “Every Sunday we are there, we miss birthdays, family and friends weddings, we give up everyday life with our loved ones but we are always there, at the circuit to ensure an incredible show goes ahead for fans from all over the world.” And if you look for a rational explanation for all this, the answer comes loud and clear: “We live in a parallel world made up of so much passion that makes it unique and inimitable.”
The fact of carrying out a job that requires a lot of time and energy is not always understood, but the enthusiasm and adrenaline that drives this environment, according to Frine, is something priceless: “From the first moment you realise that you are not just in any place with anyone. Many companies talk about financial statements and sales forecasts, but we are eagerly awaiting the release of the new calendar to find out when and where we will be, how much time we will have to get to know one of the many countries we visit a little better.”
To repay the efforts, there are also the bonuses of the communication professionals who praise the facilities they find in the paddock: "When journalists or photographers who follow several sports tell me 'In MotoGP, you work very well', I am happy. We do everything we can to interview whoever they see fit or take photographs from every angle and for as long as they want, and when I receive these compliments it is very gratifying.”
But, being a Media Manager also requires determination in order to comply with the established rules: “With the journalists I have known for the longest time, we sometimes joke that I am the teacher and they are the students because sometimes I have to shoot someone or remember that there are rules to be respected. But joking aside, there is a nice environment in the press room and a lot of solidarity, human needs have priority over professional ones and it is admirable because it cannot be taken for granted.”
The situation generated by the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a sudden change of habits for everyone. Once MotoGP™ announced the competition was returning, Frine knew she was going back to work but, for the first time, with an empty, silent press room and the commitment to facilitate the work of journalists connected from home. The targeted use of technology has allowed Frine to transform the physical absence of professionals into an increase in accredited media committed to following the Championship.
“We have always tried to facilitate access as much as possible to those who have always been part of the paddock. But, at the same time, we have seen a growing demand for publications from all over the world. By moving conferences online many more journalists have the opportunity to ask riders questions during each event.”
In a year like 2020, where numerous challenges have followed, Frine has been able to make the press room an eco-sustainable place: “I have always tried to reduce paper consumption. It was not easy to introduce this change, but it is important to keep up to date and respect the environment. We printed dozens and dozens of sheets for each session and it was a waste of paper. Everyone works with multiple digital devices and can consult the results from the tablet and write an article on a laptop. In any case, I noticed that it was not necessary to print so many sheets and no one has complained.”
Frine is also a reference outside the paddock. In fact, many university students and aspiring journalists contact her to enrich their degree theses through her testimony: “In the last year there has been a boom in students who have interviewed me and it’s an honour to know that they want to know what my job is and that they see me as a point of reference. I'm supporting a new generation of journalists, the ones who will tell the story of MotoGP.”
In addition to describing the technicalities of her work, she is often asked to explain what it means to be a woman in an environment that, despite constant evolution, is still dominated by men: “I have never perceived the gender issue in this environment, instead I have always noticed how professionalism makes the difference.
“There are women working as professionals in every area of the paddock,” adds Frine. “When I started you saw a woman every now and then. Now, even in the pits, it's much more common and I think it's fantastic when the starting grid is empty and alongside the two or three engineers remains the rider and one of them is a woman. Over the years I have seen that the presence of women in MotoGP has normalised.”
Enthusiastic to be part of this world and to have experiences that she would never have imagined, proud for having carried out innovative initiatives and projects, Frine is not satisfied and looks ahead: “I would like to reduce the environmental impact even more at every Grand Prix. But this requires a great effort from the circuits, with some we have already been carrying out interesting initiatives for years but I would like to see more and more.”
From the future, attention then turns to the past, to the first page of this rich album of memories to find out what she’s learned the most? “Carpe Diem. In reality, it is a philosophy that has always accompanied me, whenever there was the possibility of doing something new I launched myself and so I saw places that I never imagined I could visit, such as NASA, or to explore corners of distant cities.”
The ability to know how to grasp the moment is also preserved in small gestures and in the ability to know how to show what one is capable of. But there are characteristics that have allowed Frine to make a difference: “Knowing languages and being able to multitask, proving to be a reliable person at all times.”
With a few weeks off to recharge the batteries, Frine will return to open the Red Bull Ring media centre doors for the Michelin® Grand Prix of Styria, with enthusiasm and motivation that has allowed her to stand out over the years.