Ross Grant: "I could see myself being at F1 for the rest of my career"
Growing up in Inverness, Scotland, Ross Grant knew he had to leave the small city to land his dream job in sports media. Now working in Formula 1 as a Senior Production Assistant, Ross moved to London for university where not only did he find the opportunities he was looking for in television, but also a position in the sport he’s loved from a young age.
Having always enjoyed football and supporting Inverness, Ross was first introduced to Formula 1 by a friend when they played F1 2006 on the PlayStation. The 2007 Australian Grand Prix was the first race Ross ever watched and throughout his childhood, with nobody else watching, Formula 1 became his own little thing. Alongside watching football and Formula 1, Ross also immersed himself into Sky Sports News.
“Growing up, that [Sky Sports News] was pretty much the only thing I watched when I realised that I wasn’t going to make it in professional sport,” he says. “Although there wasn’t anything in particular that I wanted to do, I was just trying to find something where I could still be involved in sport as closely as I can.”
Ross decided to move to London to study but also because of the serious lack of opportunities for him in Inverness.
“If you wanted to work in sport in Scotland, opportunities were few and far between,” Ross says. “You could go to Glasgow and cover Celtic and Rangers but they don’t interest me at all.
“I had to leave Scotland for the opportunities that I wanted to pursue.”
Ross studied five Highers – the Scottish equivalent to A Levels in England – in English, Maths, Modern Studies, History and PE. Despite having other university options in Scotland, he decided to move to London to study Sports Business and Broadcasting at the University Campus of Football Business (UCFB) at Wembley Stadium. UCFB completely specialises in sport, so it was an absolute perfect fit for Ross.
“It was ideal for me because it was what I wanted to do. You couldn’t get any more specific,” he says. “I couldn’t find that course anywhere else.”
Of course, Wembley Stadium isn’t a purpose-built university and instead is one of the most well-known stadiums in the world. The idea of studying at Wembley is one of the main things which sold UCFB to Ross.
“It’s a football stadium, an events stadium, so in that aspect, it was quite bizarre,” he says. “And the people in charge of my course were great. They were still working in TV so they knew exactly what was happening.
“There was a Channel 4 documentarian, someone who worked at BBC Sport and someone who worked at SNTV. The people teaching the course weren’t just qualified in teaching, they still had a job within the industry.”
Throughout his three-year degree, Ross was given multiple industry opportunities, as well as the chance to develop his skills in sports broadcasting as part of different modules. With his degree came business related modules, media law and practical broadcasting, which consisted of making TV shows, radio shows and documentaries from scratch.
“It was a really compact studio but it was the studio that Sky or ITV would use,” Ross says. “It was inside the stadium, that same box, which looks massive on TV but it’s actually really small.”
One of Ross’ documentaries was motorsport based and told the story of Scottish racing driver, Michael Macpherson, who was racing in Formula Ford at the time. This wasn’t Ross’ only motorsport project at university, after deciding to go to testing in Barcelona in 2018. One of Ross’ lecturers worked for The Telegraph and focused on F1, so he asked for any contacts who might’ve been able to help him gain some sort of media access, however, didn’t expect to hear anything back.
“A couple of days after we asked, he forwarded an email on from Rosa, who is Senior Public Relations Manager at Mercedes and she was like ‘here are two VIP passes for Mercedes’,” Ross says. “I’d never been to an F1 race before or been in the paddock, so we were just absolutely stunned.”
Not only were Ross’ lecturers able to help him with opportunities like that one, but they had contacts which essentially helped him secure his job at F1.
“They guided me in the direction that I’m going in now,” he says. “How I got this job was lucky really, because the application had closed but someone from F1 came in to speak to us about broadcasting and how F1 operated.”
Although the applications were closed, those who were interested applied to their lecturer, who then narrowed the applications down to a few before passing them on to who is now Ross’ current boss.
“It wasn’t a linear process at all,” Ross says. “I genuinely did get lucky with it because of the people I knew at uni."
Before securing his role in Formula 1, and even before studying at university, Ross spent a week with the BBC in Inverness.
“I loved it,” Ross says. “That was when I decided that TV and radio, or written press, was the way I wanted to go.
“I was quite lucky in that in Inverness, there weren’t many people trying to apply for it, whereas if you tried in Glasgow or Edinburgh, the popularity is quite high.
During his time at university, Ross worked with different football to gain that vital experience in production and broadcasting, including Bromley, QPR and Wycombe.
UCFB had a partnership with the National League during Ross’ time there and he was able to secure a placement with Bromley Football Club, where he would turn up with a camera borrowed from uni, record as much footage as possible and edit it himself. He worked to create behind the scenes episodes of match days at Bromley.
“Any opportunity that came up, I said yes to. I threw myself into it,” he says. “At that level, they don’t have people in every position like F1 do, they have one person who does everything so I took a couple of jobs off him.
“They gave me a ground work of what it’s like in the real world. I can’t praise them high enough.”
Now, Ross is a Senior Production Assistant at F1, but he knows it’s not the role he wants to be in for the rest of his life. However, it won’t be a linear path to get to where Ross wants to be and it may involve getting his elbows out.
“My end goal is broadcast journalism or reporting,” Ross says. “You can’t be scared to take risks, but now I've matured and realised how big everything is, I'm more cautious than I used to be.
“When I set my head and heart to something at 18, I just did it and didn’t overthink it, whereas now I take a step back and overanalyse everything. But, I could see myself being at F1 for the rest of my career."
Ross joined Formula 1 in 2019 as a Junior Production Assistant and his first working weekend was the Belgian Grand Prix, where he worked on team radio. When he first started, he was quite inexperienced and he was taught the ropes; it took about six months for him to find his feet in his new role.
“My main role is to research footage when I’m at Biggin Hill and help editors and producers get projects off the ground so they can get going with it,” Ross says. “That’s always been the bread and butter from junior, to normal, to senior now but as I’ve gone further up, I’ve had more responsibility.
“When I became Production Assistant, I was then able to travel. Now, as Senior Production Assistant, I manage a team of two or three freelancers who work alongside me in footage research. So, when I’m travelling, nothing gets missed and we’re still making sure everything gets done.”
Ross’ job in London and his job at the circuit is completely different. Instead of managing people at the circuit, Ross manages media instead.
For a normal race, there are six cameras which record to card, and it’s Ross’ job to manage that. His role requires the copying of video files onto hard drives and making sure they get back to Biggin Hill safely, where they’re stored and archived. Throughout the weekend, he also has to send footage back to Biggin Hill live; two systems are used so that footage can be sent back to Biggin Hill as fast as possible, but so that they can also be accessed at the circuit.
“The person at Biggin Hill has more access to files than I do at the circuit,” Ross says. “If there’s an incident, the FIA may come and ask for onboard cameras from the drivers involved with the lap and time code because they want to investigate it.
“That’s unlikely because they have access to all the feeds anyway but just in case there was an issue, they could come to us with something they needed.”
When Ross is working in London, he tends to work more traditional office hours during the week compared to an actual race weekend. There used to be two people who did Ross’ job at the circuit, but because of COVID, it was split, so one is now at Biggin Hill whilst the other is at the track. It’s not the same job, but it comes with the same responsibilities. Ross shares his job at the track with a freelancer and in total this year, he’s working at 14 racing events.
“I don’t travel to every race which I’m glad about because it’s a lot,” Ross says. “It is quite difficult to find the balance [between working in London and at the track] but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Once you’ve done it a few times, you get into the routine.”
Already this year, he’s worked at both testing weekends in Bahrain and Barcelona, as well as the Australian, Miami, Spanish, British and Austrian Grands Prix. Depending on the event, days at the track across a race weekend can be much longer than a typical working day, like on race day in Saudi Arabia last year, where Ross started work at midday and returned to his hotel at 3am the following morning.
“The days at the circuit can be long but you don’t realise because it’s just constantly busy,” he says. “That’s the other big difference; at the circuit you’re constantly busy, you’re working a live event but in the office, it’s a bit more controlled and calm. I prefer the busyness and chaos. The adrenaline rush is great.
“Whenever I travel, I always get the same feeling of ‘I’m so lucky that I travel for work’. I don’t think I’ll ever fully appreciate how cool that is.”
Image credit: Ross Grant