The past three seasons of Formula 1 coverage by the BBC had made me forget just how bloody irritating advert breaks are in the middle of practice sessions and qualifying. Sky Sports F1 seemed to feature rather a lot of them during its broadcasting including, ironically, a lot for its own F1 channel. But, in between watching advertisements, did Sky manage to live up to the hype? Yes-ish.
Producing and directing any new show can’t be easy, especially one with so many parts which need to coordinate together. There were a few blank stares and missed links over the weekend, but the Murdoch money-machine will iron them out over time I’m sure.
Overall it worked; the F1 Show on Friday was a notable success, I generally felt well informed and the HD pictures looked deep and glossy. Everyone’s favourite Dutch-sounding Englishman, Christian Horner, made a number of appearances, we got many pictures of a (more) miserable looking Alonso and there was no Anchorman style confrontation with the BBC.
With Sky having such a disparate roster of individuals working across the weekend, it’s perhaps easier to assess them individually. Here we go then:
Possibly the man with the biggest weight to carry, replacing Jake Humphrey in the eyes of former BBC viewers. It might have just been first race nerves, but from what I saw he could have been presenting anything, anywhere on any channel. Came across bored, soulless and disinterested; check out this from the post-race interview with Eric Boullier for example:
Kept forgetting things like his iPad or to take the microphone off the person he’d just interviewed. Brundle and Hill looked awkward in his presence. Who knows, he might grow into the role as the season progresses but for now he looks out of his depth.
Having commentated on F1 since 1997, Brundle’s television career is now actually greater in length than his time spent behind the wheel. He didn’t seem quite as comfortable as normal and the grid walk failed to hit the spot, getting there too early to bag the top drivers. In truth that’s more the producers fault than his, but it did undermine his role as chief pundit. However, in the commentary box at least, he was on usual form.
“Crofty” as everyone calls him (including himself) spent several years commentating on F1 for BBC Radio 5 Live before jumping ship to Sky. His radio history shows; he sadly seems to suffer from Jonathan Legard syndrome. This irritating affliction involves stating every little detail of what’s going on as if the commentator was on the radio and thus having to give a vivid description to help the listener. This isn’t necessary with television; we can see what’s happening for ourselves! Generally knowledgeable, and really nowhere near as annoying as Legard (or James Allen, thank Christ). If he calms down and lets the pictures speak for themselves he’ll be fine.
Like Brundle, another F1 TV journeyman, having spent time with both ITV and the BBC before moving on to Sky. Kravitz (or Theodore Slotover as he was originally named) is consistent, insightful and eager to please with his pit-lane updates. Aside from the rather excellent F1 Show with Thompson on Friday he felt underutilised this weekend, which is a real shame. Less Lazenby, more Kravitz.
Another BBC Radio 5 Live refugee. I had never heard much of her on the radio, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The result was some incredibly lightweight questioning and confused looking F1 drivers. Highlights were discussing koalas with Sergio Perez, lowlights being the stupidity of asking Alonso if Ferrari planned to update the car between Australia and the next race weekend (which begins in only 5 days). The irritated look on Fernando’s face said it all.
Went to the same school as Pinkham and, according to Wikipedia at least, is her friend. Georgie proved to be something of a revelation this weekend as, to be honest, I didn’t really expect a great deal from her. She co-hosted the F1 Show on Friday with authority and professionalism. In my opinion she could quite easily replace Lazenby as anchor for the whole weekend, such was the impression she made. Before anyone says anything, the above isn’t related to her looks. Yes she is easy on the eye, but not my type; this praise is purely for her presenting.
The only member of the team whom I have an incredibly tenuous personal link with; a result of vaguely knowing his younger brother many years ago. Davidson is another under used part of the group, with great professionalism onscreen and astute commentary on practice sessions. His chemistry with Thompson seems to be the most natural of any pairing across the line-up. Also seems to be the only person capable of working the SkyPad display.
The Roman Grosjean equivalent of pundits, going above and beyond what anyone must have expected from this former F1 World Champion. Charismatic, clever and (according to my girlfriend) a bit of a silver-fox. Apparently only scheduled to be doing ten races for Sky; they desperately need to get him onboard for the rest to give some weight and magnitude to proceedings. Undoubtedly the star of the weekend.
Like a timeless, neatly coiffured squirrel Rider presents the Legends show, which I haven’t seen and thus can’t comment on. But his inclusion is a nice throwback to the original days of Grandstand on the BBC.
So there you have it. The 1996 World Champion leading the pack, with the rookie anchor trailing in last place. I sincerely hope Lazenby at least attempts to look more interested in Malaysia; otherwise it’s going to be a long road to November.