In case you were wondering, I have decided against writing a review of F1’s ‘bigwigs’ — for the sake of my health. I just wrote a big rant about Max Mosley the other day anyway.
My next post was going to look at F1 websites. But this week Ollie White wrote a post about podcasts, so I thought I would move my post on podcasts to this week.
I’m a relative newcomer to podcasts. As a concept, they have grown much more quickly than blogging and I would bet that ‘podcast’ is more of a household word than ‘blog’ already. But they never really grabbed my attention because, for me, they are rather inconvenient to listen to, as I wrote a few months back.
I have to say, mega thumbs up to the people at Apple who have made keeping up with podcasts so easy! The iPod takes away so much of the hassle that existed with my old iRiver.
At first I only listened to podcasts on my commute through to university. But soon enough I found myself subscribing to more and more podcasts and not having enough time to listen to them all. Now I am such a podcast addict that I actually set aside some time every day to listen to them by going out for a walk (with the added benefits of exercise and fresh air that this brings).
So, from my mild scepticism in the late summer, I have turned into a full-on podcast addict. And right at the top of the list comes the F1 podcasts that I have gradually discovered. This post will review my favourites. They are listed in alphabetical order, in case you’re wondering.
AT&T Williams Podcast
As far as I know, Williams is one of only two Formula 1 teams who produced podcasts this year. Maybe it’s just me, but I would never have expected Williams to be so hip. They always seemed like a team that is mainly supported by middle-aged men, the kind of people who prefer Fifth Gear to Top Gear.
Maybe this is actually the case, because for me the Williams podcast is the least fulfilling of my regular listens. It is produced by USP Content — the same people who produce the excellent programmes for Radio 5 Live and Renault’s podcast. But the Williams podcast misfires a bit.
So what’s the problem? It’s just a bit too cheesy. It is a bit like a local radio programme. An example regular feature is ‘2007’ (pronounced ‘twenty-oh-seven’) where presenter David Croft talks to Alexander Wurz at 8:07 PM on the Saturday before the race. I don’t know, but that is quite a hollow feature to me. Yeah, neat pun, but it’s a bit meaningless when you’re listening at whatever time you choose. Besides, we don’t even know that the interview was conducted at 8:07 PM and apart from that there was nothing much to the feature.
The interviews, conducted by Tom Clarkson, were normally a bit too fluffy for my liking. I can remember actually cringing at some of the questions. It is probably reasonably entertaining for some fans. But if you’re looking for insight and analysis it is best to look elsewhere.
Worst of all, some kind of glitch towards the end of the season meant that the podcasts weren’t getting delivered (at least to me — and I remember Sidepodcast mentioning a similar problem). The podcasts for Japan, China and Brazil all arrived on my iPod weeks after the season had finished. Does this mean that they were not getting published? To think about all the work that must have gone into producing them, only for them to be inaccessible until they were completely out of date.
All evidence that the Williams podcast existed seems to have been removed from the Williams website, which perhaps suggests that the podcast won’t be making a return next season. A list of old episodes is available on USP Content’s website though, and the iTunes link is here.
The BBC’s Formula 1 podcast is one of the best for my money. The centrepiece programme is The Chequered Flag, which provides analysis soon after the end of every race. But when you subscribe to the feed you also receive other F1 programmes broadcast on Radio 5 Live including the race preview show and occasional editions of the 606 phone-in.
There is not much else to say apart from the obvious. I already covered Radio 5 Live’s coverage in last week’s post, and the same applies to the podcast. They contain excellent interviews and top-notch analysis. The kind of quality you expect from the BBC. Great stuff.
Direct from Australia comes the funniest F1 podcast I have come across.
The website is dedicated to the “heroic failures” of Formula 1 — the people at the back of the grid who regularly put their lives at risk despite the fact that they have no hope of achieving any success. The podcast has a similar vibe, with a kind of attitude towards bad drivers that is a curious mixture of disgust and awe — an attitude that I broadly share.
But while the podcast revels in its celebration / castigation of F1’s rejects, it has plenty to say about the world of F1 in general. If you are looking for a humorous take on the world of F1, look no further. I have only been listening for a couple of episodes, but already F1 Rejects is one of my favourite podcasts.
On balance, this is probably my favourite Formula 1 podcast. It is American, which is an advantage because it doesn’t fall into the trap that Brits have fallen into by dividing into two camps — pro-Hamilton and anti-Hamilton. Formula 1 Blog is more neutral in this regard — a great dose of reality in this world of Hamilton hype and anti-hype.
But Formula 1 Blog certainly isn’t a neutral podcast, and it prides itself on being a journal of opinion. Negative Camber is a Ferrari fan (no, I don’t understand either) and his sidekick Grace is a McLaren fan. As a result, the banter between them is fantastic to listen to!
Negative Camber is also quite nifty at doing impressions. His impression of Patrick Head’s grumpy expression is hilarious and a couple of weeks back he did an impression of Ross Brawn that had me in stitches on the train. I do worry about his strange obsession with Matt Bishop though. Any discussion of a McLaren press release soon turns into a discussion about Matt Bishop and how he copes with wearing the grey McLaren uniform instead of his normal loud shirts.
The podcast also touches on other motor sports, particularly MotoGP and WRC. But the centrepiece of the podcast is F1.
The podcasts are a tad on the long side — typically lasting almost an hour. The long idents also grate a little bit. They are an entertaining listen the first time round, but after that it takes about two minutes from the start of the podcast until the actual discussion begins. Nevertheless, it is always an entertaining listen.
Note to Williams: this is how you do an F1 team podcast!
The most astonishing thing about the Renault podcast is the fact that important people who probably have a lot on their plate take a great deal of time to appear on the podcast. After every race, Radio 5 Live presenter Holly Samos visits the Renault factory to make the podcast. It is a brilliant way for an F1 team to reach the fans.
Pat Symonds in particular should be applauded for his dedication. It is always worth listening to what he says, and he provides refreshingly honest answers. He has held his hands up and said that Renault produced a bad car this year, and he has been completely open about these faults on the podcast.
The interviews with the drivers are also worth listening to, as they manage to avoid the fluff and cheese of the Williams podcast. It is strange that both podcasts are produced by the same company, USP Content, as the difference in quality could hardly be more stark.
I really do hope that Renault continue the podcast next season. More teams should follow suit, and the Renault template should guide them because it really is top-notch stuff.
This was the first F1 podcast I started listening to regularly, and I still loyally follow it.
I am in two minds about Sidepodcast, because I really like it when Christine and ‘me’ have an opinionated discussion, but the more factual and newsy elements of the podcast are not my cup of tea. For instance, a lap-by-lap review of the race sends me to sleep because I already know what happened. After all, I watched the race. However, I can see how it could be useful for those who missed the race.
Sidepodcast should be applauded for its experimental variants on the format. From time to time, for instance, short series are produced. For instance, last week there was a series called ‘Days that Shook the F1 World’ — a short daily podcast, each one focussing on a different pivotal moment in F1 history. Again, for me, these series are not so entertaining because I am personally the type who would rather delve into Wikipedia and books to find out more about such events.
There is a spin-off podcast called F1 Minute. It is a daily, 60 second long podcast rounding up the day’s F1 news in brief. Again, for me, it is not very useful because I usually keep up with news using RSS feeds and I already know most of the stories featured in the podcast. Nevertheless, it must be an excellent resource for those who are unable to keep up with the news as much.
However, I am in awe at the Sidepodcast video podcasts, which are top quality previews of each race. How do they do it?
Sidepodcast should also be congratulated for offering podcasts in the ‘enhanced’ format. These divide podcasts into DVD-style chapters. They also have the capacity to display images as the podcast is playing, which can be quite good if your are sitting around or in the train or something, although rather more off-putting if you’re going for a walk!
All-in-all, the content of Sidepodcast is not all my cup of tea. But in terms of effort, there is no doubt about it. Sidepodcast takes the crown.
That’s it for my review of my favourite F1 podcasts. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I have already mentioned Ollie’s post which contains some other suggestions that I will be trying out in the future, so take a look at that as well.