The news that the BBC have got the rights to show Formula 1 from next season have been very exciting. Articles about what we might be getting from the BBC still pop up from time to time on various blogs and occasional snatches of news and rumours make the picture clearer slowly but surely.
But we still know remarkably little about the BBC’s plans. We know that the races will probably be broadcast on HD and that ‘red button’ coverage is almost a certainty, with the BBCi channels carrying coverage of practice sessions.
But who will front the coverage? This is one of the most important aspects of the move to the BBC, as so many people have been begging ITV to get rid of the terrible James Allen. So in the quiet period before the German Grand Prix I thought I’d have a go at constructing my own BBC ‘dream team’.
James Allen currently does this job for ITV. And while he is near-universally disliked, there is always an outside possibility that the BBC will hire him. Against Allen is the fact that he is not a BBC man, and the Beeb are thought to be eager to stamp their authority on F1’s coverage next year and take a very BBC approach to the coverage with BBC people.
In that case, current BBC Radio 5 Live commentator David Croft could well be in for a shout. It seems as though ITV were lining him up for a job on their F1 coverage as he has been fulfilling the main commentator role on the channel’s GP2 coverage this season. I have a soft spot for David Croft, but he has only been commentating for a few years and I don’t think he’s ready for the big gig just yet. He has been known to put his foot in his mouth on the odd occasion and does sometimes have the same cringeworthy James Allen style approach. Croft will probably stay on the radio.
The other obvious choice from within the BBC is Jonathan Legard. For a number of years he was main commentator on Radio 5 Live but left at the height of Schumacher’s dominance in 2004. Since then he has been the BBC station’s chief football reporter. That is a pretty big job. But the job of lead commentator on BBC television may be enough to lure him back to F1. His style is typically BBC: authoritative, but not too excitable. He is probably most likely to get the job.
My choice: Ben Edwards
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Ben Edwards is a quality commentator who can often be heard describing a variety of motorsport events. But the main F1 job seems to elude him. He provided commentary for Eurosport and F1 Digital+ in past years, and he has done the narration on the official F1 review video for several years now. But Edwards has never been part of terrestrial F1 coverage.
I don’t see why because he is a perfectly good commentator. He knows his motor racing inside out and conveys excitement better than any of the above names ever could. That style may not suit the BBC too well though. He may also be hindered by the fact that he is not a BBC person, so if the bigwigs at the Beeb want next season’s coverage to have a very BBC flavour, he may well be ignored yet again. Shame.
Martin Brundle is one of the few popular elements of ITV’s F1 coverage, and rightly so. His ability to come up with a witty, pithy comment on the spot leaves you in awe at how this person is not a trained broadcaster but a retired F1 driver. However, his gridwalks of late have descended into farce and does not seem to be quite on top of his game at the moment. He also may be seen as too much of an ITV brand by the BBC.
David Coulthard is currently looking for a job, and he is strongly rumoured to have put pen to paper on a BBC contract. However, DC is an unknown quantity as co-commentator and may be better suited to a punditry role.
Maurice Hamilton currently does this job on Radio 5 Live. He is very knowledgeable about F1 but I feel he doesn’t quite have the razor-sharp mind required for commentating. He is fine on Radio 5 Live, but the TV gig may be better suited to a more polished broadcaster.
My choice: Anthony Davidson
Anthony Davidson would probably be reluctant to take the role. He is, of course, fully focussed on getting a drive in F1. However, pragmatically the chances of that are slim.
He is ideally suited for the role of colour commentator. His performances on Radio 5 Live (and a one-off appearance in the role on ITV) over the years have been nothing short of outstanding, and his colleagues have commented on their awe at his ability to read a situation. Unlike Martin Brundle, he is fresh out of the cockpit as well so knows contemporary F1 better than almost anyone else.
This is much more difficult to read. I have not seen many rumours as to who might get this job on the BBC. Nonetheless, there is a gap here that I need to fill so I’ll have to go for it.
Ted Kravitz currently does this job on ITV. As with many of the people above, the BBC may not touch him for this reason. However, he is quite impressive as a broadcaster. You never see him with his feathers ruffled and he often does a good job of digging out stories in the pitlane. However, he has been known to be the king of statement of the obvious: “And they’re putting some fuel in… and some new tyres are going on.” Puh-lease.
My choice: Holly Samos
Holly Samos does an adequate job on Radio 5 Live at the moment. However, rather oddly she seems to be responsible for listing all of the retired drivers from time to time which is very odd. Whether she moves to TV or stays on radio, this unsettling feature of the BBC’s coverage should be dropped.
Steve Rider is currently in contract with ITV so will almost certainly not front the BBC’s coverage. That is a bit ironic as Rider orignially moved from the BBC to ITV specifically so that he could present F1 (having previous described his regret that coverage was no longer on the BBC).
Martin Brundle is strongly rumoured to be the anchor of the BBC’s coverage. However, I fear that Brundle will simply be too knowledgeable to be the anchor. The anchor’s role is to ask questions, not answer them, and I think Brundle’s ability is obviously in answering questions. If he is the anchor, he may step on the toes of the pundit beside him. He already does a lot of James Allen’s job currently.
Adrian Chiles has also been rumoured to front the BBC’s coverage. He is genial enough and has a history of presenting sports programmes — though I’m not sure what his knowledge of F1 is like. However, he already has plenty on the go at the moment and his already heavy workload has taken its toll on his private life recently.
I hope the rumour that the Top Gear presenters will be involved is wide of the mark. I haven’t heard anything about this for a long time, so presumably this idea is no longer on the go. Having said that, the Top Gear website has recently launched an F1 blog — another sign that the BBC intends to heavily “cross-fertilise” the two brands.
My choice: anyone from the BBC
The BBC could well choose to give this job to an established BBC sport presenter. It could be someone we don’t really know yet. After all, who was Ted Kravitz before he was ITV’s pitlane reporter?
David Coulthard would be the ideal paddock pundit. He is fresh out of the cockpit and has a way with words.
Martin Brundle would also be good in this role if he is not the co-commentator.
Mark Blundell does an okay job on ITV, but has joked that he will be buying a new sofa to watch next season’s coverage.
Maurice Hamilton is also a good analyst.
My choice: all of the above (and more?)
The BBC may opt for a revolving door approach to this role, with one person (or maybe two people) doing it one race, and someone else doing it the next. I wouldn’t argue with that.