Saul Taylor / December 12, 2018
Kate Beavan is Formula One royalty and when she offers you the keys to the kingdom you jump at the chance. So, we bombed down to the principality to watch her in action and enjoy the exclusive privileges and perks at the F1 Paddock Club.
Why Formula One?
I qualified as a lawyer and shortly after began working for Tom Walkinshaw who bought the Arrows team. That’s how I first started in Formula One about 20 years ago, quite by accident.
How did you work your way up the ranks?
In 2003 Bernie Ecclestone asked me to work for him, but Bernie doesn’t do job titles. My remit was pretty wide, which was basically commercial opportunities. I spent my time looking out for and sealing deals on commercial opportunities, whether it be IP (intellectual property), licensing, theme parks or F1 in cinemas. He sent me to scout out all kinds of opportunities. One of the things was to look at the hospitality business that they had just reacquired from Paddy McNally — the Formula One Paddock Club — and I became hooked. I loved the hospitality side of the business; it really appealed to me. Since then I have just thrown myself into it and it’s now my full-time role.
What’s so attractive about hospitality?
It’s what I was born to do. It’s a combination of business, creativity and people, and I’m very much a people person. When you combine that with a scope for being creative, innovative and running a business, it’s perfect.
How has the Paddock Club evolved?
The Paddock Club has been going for over 30 years. F1 was the first modern sport that understood the need and potential for premium, high-end hospitality. What changed radically in the last decade is how you deliver what the client wants. The key selling point of most hospitality used to be fine dining and a great location. In less than 10 years that has changed and now it’s all about the experience. You can no longer distinguish your offering with great food. Now what everyone wants are rich and meaningful experiences. We have had to turn that whole concept of hospitality on its head.
“Formula One is colour, noise, atmosphere, excitement — it is an assault on the senses!”
What does that entail?
We know we can do impeccable service and good food because our partner Do & Co. is world class. But that’s not enough. And that’s why we’ve spent the last few years just adding experience after experience so that a guest that comes to the Paddock Club is overwhelmed with the sensory overload that is Formula One. Formula One is colour, noise, atmosphere, excitement — it is an assault on the senses and that’s what your hospitality experience should be. We don’t want it to be quiet and refined. We want it to be exciting and buzzy and noisy, full of behind the scenes and in-depth experiences that keep people hooked on Formula One.
Can you give us some specific examples of how it works?
We have always offered exclusive access to the pit lane so that you can see the cars being worked on in the garages. You are at the heart of it and that’s one of the most popular assets we have. But we’ve also gone one step further. We can take small groups of clients to the most inaccessible areas of the circuit where you need the approval of the FIA. We take guests down there through security and get close to the cars whizzing past at 300km per hour in front of your nose. We’ve taken the championship trophies and we’ve built a podium and we allow people to hold them and touch them and have their photo taken with them rather than the obvious, which would be to put them in a glass cabinet. We don’t just have a store selling normal memorabilia. We have artists like Paul Oz — one of the preeminent Formula One artists — who paints live over the weekend and guests can participate. So, it’s turning the simplest things into an experience.
You have been there for a long time — what is so good about working for F1?
Formula One is about excellence and being around a family of people who share one thing in common — they are all at the top of their game. To be in that environment is intoxicating, it’s addictive. And that raises your own performance. That’s the environment that I love more than anything, just being around excellence.
It is certainly quite an icon. What makes Monaco such a special Grand Prix to visit?
The Monaco Grand Prix is special because of Monaco. Monaco makes the Monaco Grand Prix stand out — it’s glamorous. The race has heritage, going back to the very beginnings of Formula One. It always produces great racing and the setting is stunning. You put all of those things together and you create an event that has to be on everyone’s list of events that they need to go to. I’m not into sports but I’m into Formula One because of the events it puts on. You don’t need to be a Formula One fan to really understand the feeling of being there, the atmosphere, the buzz, the excitement, the glamour.
And what is it about some of the newer races that we should be excited about?
They’re all different — they’re like your children; you can’t choose a favourite. Abu Dhabi is huge, modern and really showcases Middle Eastern hospitality. It’s great fun. Mexico is messy, vibrant and noisy but the atmosphere is absolutely electric, and the fans are nuts over there — it’s a very iconic event that returned to the calendar only recently. Singapore is Asia’s glamorous street race and it is like the 21st century version of Monaco. Monaco is chic and glamorous: a gem in F1’s crown. Singapore is an amazing place. Abu Dhabi is amazing. Mexico is amazing. They’re all unique.
Why do you keep doing it?
It’s addictive. Like good champagne!