Shannon Penny's journey as an F1 fan began with active loathing, but after forcing herself to watch with her motorsport fan mother she quickly became hooked.
While her burgeoning passion kept her glued to the sofa on race weekends, sharing that passion for the sport with other people proved trickier – until TikTok and a group of like-minded female fans came to the rescue. Becoming an I / AM member and joining Girls Across the Grid (GATG) has given Shannon a safe space community she can call her own, taken her out of her comfort zone at Grands Prix campsites and given the world a series of Mike Krack bracelets.
As we continue to shine a light on you, our fans, through I / AM A FAN and celebrate your unique fandom by giving you a platform to share your passion for the sport, Shannon tells us how she found her home in F1…
'"Growing up, I never liked F1, but now it's my whole life"
My granddad was into racing and loved F1. He and my mum also did banger racing, so my mum got that passion from him. F1 was always on the TV at home but growing up I hated it! I never watched it – I think because it was something that my mum liked, and it wasn't mine.
Eventually, when I was around 18, I thought, 'you know what, it's always on, so I might as well just sit down and watch this.' The more I watched, the more I learned and the more I learned the more I loved it. Sometimes, when you don't understand something, it seems incredibly boring, but once you begin to see how many layers there are to F1 it becomes more exciting.
It got to the point where I was watching every practice session, every driver interview – everything. And then I found GATG and it just blew up even more. It's basically my whole life now!
"I found these girls and they were all in the same situation. Now, none of us are alone"
GATG is a community for women where they can make friends and have people to watch races with. I came across it on social media and since I got involved I've met so many people who say, 'oh, my husband's not into it or none of my family or friends watch it' and they don't have anyone to enjoy it with. For a lot of people, and I think for women in particular, that can be quite isolating, especially because I think when you love something so much, all you want to do is share it with other people.
So, it's invaluable to be a part of a community that feels the same way you do. It's a place you can talk to people for hours and hours about F1, there's always someone to share that passion with. And that's what GATG is all about – making friends. We have events every race weekend, somewhere to go and watch the race with a group of likeminded girls. You never have to watch a race on your own, which is lovely.
"I went to Silverstone for the first time – it was such a weird experience"
With GATG I got to go to my first Grand Prix. I went to Silverstone and also to Barcelona and it was such a weird experience. After liking F1 for so many years and seeing it on TV, seeing it in real life was like, 'Wow, these cars actually exist!' The whole weekend was so overwhelming and so emotional because I just didn't realise how much I was going to enjoy it. When I booked it, I didn't know any of the girls but by the time Silverstone came around, we were all really good friends.
If you're a fan, you're a fan and that's it. That's why it's so important to create a safe environment where people can just be free to enjoy the sport however they want.
"I don't understand gatekeeping in F1, we're all fans of the same sport"
It's really important for a lot of women to have that sense of community, a safe environment, because a lot of the people I've spoken to have said that they haven't been met with the greatest response by some fans, especially if you're a woman who's new to F1 and you don't know everything there is to know about the sport.
What's great about AMF1 Team with its I / AM community, and also GATG, is everyone is welcome. You don't have to know the whole history of F1 to be a fan. You don't have to watch every practice session. You can be a fan and watch casually.
Personally, I haven't experienced a massive amount of negativity as a fan, but you do get the occasional person, say on a dating app, who'll ask you who won a particular Grand Prix in some obscure year, almost like you have to prove yourself as a fan. It really shouldn't be like that. If you're a fan, you're a fan and that's it. That's why it's so important to create a safe environment where people can just be free to enjoy the sport however they want.
"Social media is huge for bringing new people to F1"
F1 fandom is changing a lot, and for me, it's because of two things: Drive to Survive (DTS) and social media. Sometimes that comes with a lot of negativity and there seems to be a big stigma around being a 'DTS fan'. But how can new fans be a bad thing? I understand that people are protective of the thing they love, but I think we have to embrace things like Drive to Survive.
Social media is having a big impact, especially TikTok. It's so accessible, everyone's on it, everyone's scrolling and everything is bite-size. It's so easy to consume content on TikTok and I think that's probably why it's had a massive impact in bringing new fans to F1.
For GATG, TikTok has been really positive and it's done a lot for us. It's been our main way of reaching new members. We've found that whenever a video we've made goes viral, we get a big influx of new members. It's a really good tool to have.
I'm now the community and events lead for GATG and my main role is, overseeing all the girls organising events, wherever they are. We have a moderator for each region – whether it's in the southwest or southeast or in France, Spain or Germany, and I'll oversee the events they're planning, giving them whatever support they need.
"Having a team like Aston Martin to follow, you feel really connected to it"
I have a massive AMF1 Team flag above my bed. I love Sebastian Vettel, so when he joined the team that caught my eye because it was a fairly new F1 team. I love Fernando Alonso, as well, so when he joined that was it. I was hooked.
To see the massive change in the team this year, fighting at the sharp end of the grid has been a real 'wow' experience for me. It's been incredible to see the growth of the team, especially over this year and it's just great to have a team to root for. You go with the ups and the downs and when the team does well we can feel it, especially when the team's on the podium and all the mechanics are so happy. You feel that, watching on TV. You feel connected to the team and the journey.
I've taken my own fandom a little bit further. I've got a lot of merch – T-shirts, flags, caps – but I've also started making my own.
"There might be a Mike Krack bracelet…"
I've taken my own fandom a little bit further. I've got a lot of merch – T-shirts, flags, caps – but I've also started making my own. So yeah, there might be a Mike Krack bracelet! There's a thing with the Taylor Swift 'Eras' tour about making bracelets – friendship bracelets – and me and the girls have become obsessed with them. So yeah, I've made quite a few of those.
We had had a bottomless brunch a couple months ago and I made a GATG bracelet for everyone that came. I think I made like 50 in the end. I was sick of the sight of beads at the end of it! But it's like a connection thing as well. It's handmade, we'll sit together and make them.
Being an F1 fan and a fan of AMF1 Team, there's such a sense of belonging. It's like, 'Yeah, this is where I'm supposed to be, this is what I'm supposed to be doing.' That sounds quite dramatic but it's just a great community to be a part of. We all love the same sport and that's what brings us all together.
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