Science, sex, sizzle – and sustainability

Nicki Shields 2014

Welcome to one quarter of the Formula E television line-up. Female faces have been in short supply in the build up to the new motorsport, but that’s set to change with the appointment of Nicki Shields as official pit lane reporter and show anchor. She brings brains, beauty and serious scientific interest to the role, and we won’t have to wait until September – when the first race will take place, in Beijing – to see her in action.

“We’ll be all over the place, meeting all the teams and the drivers in the lead up to the first race,” Shields tells Current E. “There will be a lot of digital content being broadcast this summer, to get people excited before Beijing . And we’ll be going out to the race venues days before each event, to capture even more content.”

Shields will be working as part of a close knit team for Aurora Media, which is the in-house broadcaster for Formula E. It is Aurora’s job to create and curate content, and then distribute feeds to international media channels such as ITV4, Fox Sports and TV Asahi.

The blonde presenter will be sharing screen time with four time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, who will join Jack Nicholls in the commentary box, and Robert Llewellyn, an actor and technology enthusiast best known for TV shows Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge, who will be presenting a technology-based YouTube series getting under the skin of the Formula E Spark-Renault racing cars.

Shields studied biological science at university, and has turned her hand to a variety of presenting and modelling roles. Motorsports and the environment are her passion, though. “I was the 18 year old girl who was going on track days instead of spa days,” she laughs.

The Formula E connection was made when Shields was filming a series last summer examining climate change issues, and exploring the future of electric vehicles.

“I was linking up with manufacturers such as Renault and Nissan, driving fantastic cars such as the Leaf and the Tesla Model S,” she says. (Read about what the power to weight ratios of electric vehicles means for Formula E performance here). “My contact at Renault asked if I’d heard of Formula E and explained it as a sort of electric F1. I just thought that sounded amazing: sustainability and motorsports – both passions of mine – together!”

Shields contacted Aurora and was invited for screen tests. “I think I was the last person they saw,” she confesses. “They’d been looking for quite a while!”

It was evidently quickly apparent that Aurora had found its winning candidate in Shields. Formula E organiser FEH has been clear that it intends the electric championship to appeal to a new generation of fans on two levels. Firstly, the series holds the promise of fast-paced engineering and technological innovation, particularly from the second year when more than a single constructor is permitted. Secondly, the series aims to change the perception of electric vehicles, marketing them as sexy speed machines to help boost global sales. Shields is aware that her role will be something of a juggling act to incorporate both goals.

“Formula E will be a real spectacle,” she says. “You won’t have to be a petrol head to enjoy it. The racing will take place in glamourous cities, and city circuits really bring the ‘wow’. Look at Monaco and Singapore – people don’t just go to the F1 races there because they’re racing fans. Formula E will attract a younger generation though, a whole new audience. But it will also have strong tech transfer to road cars. Just look at the tyres – you’ll never see a road car with slicks like in F1.” Formula E, of course, will use treaded, 18” low profile tyres, just like you’d expect to see on a road car.

It’s not yet clear whether Shields will be the sole pit lane reporter permitted at Formula E events, and other major broadcasters are jockeying for the opportunity to pick up Formula E rights. But her enthusiasm for electric vehicles and environmental issues, which bubbles to the surface effortlessly and regularly, her deep love of motorsports and her self-assured camera manner will be a hard combination to match.

“Leonardo DiCaprio is the first thing a lot of people ask me about,” Shields says. (The Hollywood A-lister is a co-founder of the Venturi GP Formula E team and is expected to attend some of the races.) “But I met Alain Prost for the first time at the tyre testing in France last week – for me, that was really exciting.”

It looks like the Formula E pit lane is in good hands. 

Follow Nicki Shields on Twitter: @NickiShields

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