Meet Gonçalo Gomes, an expert host who helps cater to VIPs’ every need inside exclusive F1 hospitality garages.
Enjoying the true VIP experience a Formula 1 race has become a premier status symbol around the world. For up to five figures, high rollers can access the exclusive Paddock Club and the 10-team garages throughout race weekends, including on race day. At the Miami Grand Prix in May, the three-day F1 Garage Hospitality package — also available at 11 races this season — featured an a la carte menu curated by two Michelin Star chef Tom Sellers, who Boardroom profiled earlier this month.
“When guests come in, they’re absolutely blown away,” Charlene Nyantekyi, the head of hospitality at Formula 1, told Boardroom.
The food is only a small part of the experience. The dedicated hospitality garage in Miami sat next to the Red Bull Racing garage, with viewers witnessing F1’s most dominant team up close along the pit lane. Many of the drivers were doing interviews inside the garage, including Max Verstappen on Saturday. And when Verstappen left, Nyantekyi said, Lewis Hamilton walked right in. It’s a type of access few sports can match.
This bespoke treatment isn’t limited to the confines of the garage, however. F1 employs a group of current and former racing drivers to act as expert hosts at races around the world, taking guests around the paddock area, along pit lane, on a photo “safari” truck tour of the track itself, and catering to guests’ individual and collective needs throughout the race weekend. Expert hosts even provide live analysis for guests during the race, offering exclusive insights that take advantage of the more intimate setting.
“Pretty much anything other than getting into an F1 car,” Nyantekyi said, “we try to do for these guys.”
Gonçalo Gomes has 30 years of racing experience, from 24 Hours of Le Mans to single-seaters and prototypes. He’s also a race analyst and serves as a driver coach for the Pure McLaren Drive Team, which gets enthusiasts with a real on-track experience with some special professional guidance.
In Miami, Gomes’ main duty as expert host was to take care of billionaire Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and her family.
“They’re a big family and super nice, and very enthusiastic about F1,” Gomes told Boardroom.
As he walked along the paddock area and across pit lane, Gomes described his four years as an expert host. The Portugal native is based in both Porto and Dubai and said he hosts at six to eight races per season as part of a rotating group of hosts who travel the world and provide their expertise to F1’s ever-growing premium clientele.
“We can literally answer any questions or doubts you may have about what’s happening on-site,” he said.
Expert hosts must figure out all their guests’ likes and dislikes, then be able to accommodate them down to the last detail, including in real time. If a guest is a huge fan of a certain racing team, for instance, Gomes said he could organize specific moments of access to that team, whether with drivers, garages, team executives, or the cars themselves. It’s all in the spirit of an expert host’s responsibility to be ready to adjust or pivot to things that aren’t planned to meet the guests’ lofty expectations so they can get what they paid for and then some.
For these VIP Formula 1 guests, the hospitality garage experience ensures they’re well-fed, well-informed, and well-cared for throughout a race weekend; that was no different in Miami. As Max Verstappen successfully gambled with a late pit stop that guests could see right outside the garage and held on for the win, an expert host provided live analysis on what they were seeing not only on the TV screen inside the climate-controlled space as they enjoyed the open bar and Sellers’ menu, but on pit lane with their own eyes.
For Nyantekyi and F1 hospitality, it’s about providing an even more memorable weekend than a fan could have imagined.
“We just try to deliver as much as we possibly can,” she said.
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