Joe Lloyd: "It was an absolute stroke of luck"
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Usually, you hear stories about how those working in Formula 1 have loved the sport for a long time, either by growing up surrounded by motorsport or realising it could be a potential career path during school. However, it was slightly different for Joe Lloyd. In his own words, he’s a result of the recent Netflix boom through Drive to Survive.
Now a Camera Assistant at Formula 1, it was through the hit Netflix series that Joe began to learn more about the sport which he dedicates his entire life to. And, he’s pretty bored without it during the winter break. Aren’t we all?
“Now, I love it. Now, I’m a fan,” Joe tells me. “All my friends and everyone I speak to now speak about F1, and two years ago, that wasn’t the case. No one in my circle knew anything about F1.”
Of course, motorsport has always been popular, but in recent years, after Liberty Media took control of the reins in 2016, there’s been a clear increase in fans.
Despite having a background in sport, motorsport was never on Joe’s list.
Throughout his time in education, Joe’s studies were never related to television broadcast or the media. At A-Level, he studied Geology, Biology and Geography, then studied Environmental Science at the University of Leeds. However, he left at Christmas because he wasn’t enjoying university and went straight back into work.
Joe’s first work experience opportunity was as a production runner for CTV and Sky Sports. As a runner, he was responsible for taking papers and getting lunch orders, which aren’t closely linked to broadcast or using cameras. However, being around an operating broadcast with rigged cameras is an important, and invaluable, aspect of being a runner.
“That’s where I was first introduced to TV and how the TV world operates,” Joe explains. “I was asked to go back for the two following summers to do some paid work.”
Whilst working with CTV and Sky Sports, Joe gained vital skills as a runner, even though it wasn’t his job to control or work directly with a camera to capture footage. He was responsible for setting the cameras up around the cricket ground, as well as the studios, and ensuring they were in working order.
“You’ve got so many tools available to you as a runner,” he says. “It’s a really good place to start, to learn about cameras, studio and how TV works.”
"F1 was looking for someone to fill a camera assistant role."
After working in cricket for three seasons, Joe forged many connections with colleagues and those working in the same environment. He recalls being close with one cameraman in particular, one he always spoke to whilst working. Also, importantly for Joe, this cameraman had a friend working in F1.
“I was getting a bit restless with my future,” Joe explains. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to stay as a runner.”
After stating that he wanted to work with cameras, Joe got lucky and found a role in F1.
“It was an absolute stroke of luck,” he smiles. “F1 was looking for someone to fill a camera assistant role.”
As full-time staff in a race role, Joe travels to every race.
Joe is part of the creative media department at Formula 1; he works in a small team, with one other assistant and six cameramen.
“As a department, our main role is to create edits and packages to give to sponsors or other broadcasts.
“When I say I work in Formula 1, people don’t think that’s anything to do with TV,” Joe says. “People don’t realise that Formula 1 is one of the only sports in the world that has its own in-house production company.
Away from the creative media department, the live department consists of freelance cameramen, who work around the track to record live footage from each session across a race weekend.
“We fly on the Monday, set up on the Tuesday and Wednesday, then start filming from the Thursday onwards,” Joe tells me about a typical race week schedule. “On the Tuesday, we get our container full of kit, unload it and build the garage, which is usually on the pit lane. We make sure it’s a working space ready for filming.
“Thursday is media day, so a lot of interviews and different content needs to be filmed.”
"I have never been more nervous in my life."
At the beginning of the week, a schedule is forwarded to each member of the camera team with their allotted job for each day.
“It involves audio mixing, camera work and whatever digital F1 content needs to be produced or anything on YouTube,” Joe says. “Also, we produce the pre and post-race shows on race day.”
Since Sky hold the main broadcasting rights for Formula 1 in the UK, the content produced by Joe’s team won’t be shown there. Instead, the focus is on F1TV or for other broadcasters around Europe, and of course YouTube and Formula 1’s other social media channels.
In Brazil, there was a shortage of cameramen within the creative media department, so Joe was asked to cover a live, on-track camera. Prior to this opportunity, Joe worked on camera briefly, to film driver arrivals or other smaller pieces of content, but this was his first time covering a live feed.
“I have never been more nervous in my life. It was the scariest experience in the world,” Joe remembers. “I felt like I was going to be sick, but I absolutely loved it.”
In the two years he’s been working in F1, Joe has only missed one race because of COVID.
However, he spent every session in the pit lane on one of the cameras in Brazil, and when Abu Dhabi came around, he was on a pit lane camera again, before filming on the podium camera. On both occasions, Joe was able to contribute to the live, global broadcast.
“Even if it’s only a few shots of the race, just being able to contribute to the live feed is amazing,” Joe says. “That was the most rewarding part of my entire year.
“When that light comes on, there are millions of people watching that shot there and then, so that’s scary, but that is the most rewarding.”
The final race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi will be remembered by millions, for a very long time. Watching it on television cannot compare to actually being there, and playing an important role in broadcasting different sessions and the race itself.
In terms of work, Joe’s routine was the same as any other weekend. With lights out at 5pm local time, the working day began a little later than usual, but the schedule was still the same; meet with the team, discuss everyone’s particular role for that day, and get to work.
“The schedule was much busier on Sunday because of the scenario,” Joe explains. “We were a bit more flexible than usual. Even though it was such a huge day for the sport, we just went through the routine.
“As an assistant, we have our cameramen – they do the filming – and I’m just there to help them do their job. We keep the garage in order, we keep the kit ready, and we’re ready to assist whenever they need us.”
"We watched them come across the line, fireworks went off, the entire place was erupting."
Although Joe hasn’t been a fan of Formula 1 for as long as some people, he appreciates the sport he works in as much as the next fan, and being at the Yas Marina Circuit for the final race of the season is something he will never forget.
During the race, Joe was in the Pit Lane but towards the end of the fifty-eight laps, he made his way to the podium. With the start-finish line right before his eyes whilst watching the drama unfold on track, Joe recalls the moment Verstappen crossed the line.
“We watched them come across the line, fireworks went off, the entire place was erupting,” he smiled. “We saw Red Bull just start sprinting down. Being there, in that moment, it doesn’t seem real when you look back at it. You’ve got to pinch yourself.
“I wasn’t a fan and now I’m getting goosebumps.”
After the race, Joe spoke to one of his good friends who, before Abu Dhabi, had never watched a Grand Prix. Although he doesn’t exactly know why, he was feeling emotional over a sport he’d never actively engaged with before. Crazy, right?
“I’m very lucky,” Joe smiles. “I can’t wait to get back already. I get so bored when I come home.”
We pause for a second and look ahead to the 2022 season. After Verstappen’s Championship win in Abu Dhabi, to Russell finally making the move to Mercedes… there’s so much to look forward to when Formula 1 goes racing again.
“It’s going to be such a busy year,” Joe says. “But just to be part of the circus again – that will be nice.”
Photo credit: Joe Lloyd