This morning Pitpass has a scoop that reveals details of the BBC’s team that will be covering Formula 1 next season.
The names mentioned are Martin Brundle (the only person to move from ITV), David Coulthard, Jonathan Legard, Lee McKenzie and Jake Humphrey. Some of the names are not connected to any roles, but it seems pretty clear who will be doing what.
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Jake Humphrey’s name entered the frame in the rumour mill a few weeks ago, and the more you think about it the more he makes sense. He may not have any experience in F1 broadcasting, and frankly we don’t know if he actually likes F1. However, he is clearly a rising star and, moreover, a thoroughly competent presenter with a background in a diverse variety of sports.
Despite a background in children’s television, Jake Humphrey started climbing the BBC Sport ladder when he presented Sportsround, a children’s sports news programme. Since then he has become the youngest person ever to present Football Focus and Match of the Day. He also attracted widespread acclaim when he presented the BBC’s coverage of the NFL Superbowl earlier this year.
Pundit: David Coulthard
This has been widely expected for weeks, months, perhaps even years. As a highly experienced British Formula 1 driver, DC was always likely to start a career in broadcasting once he retired from driving.
Coulthard will not just bring his driving expertise to the role — he is also a very entertaining speaker and is not afraid to speak colourfully. Some have noted that the BBC may want to rein in DC because he is not the most politically correct person in the world. He notably exclaimed live on British breakfast television earlier this year that he wanted to kick “seven colours of shit out of the little bastard”, referring to Felipe Massa. I doubt DC will launch into such a tirade in the relaxed atmosphere of a studio in London, but his colourful style will entertain viewers.
Main commentator: Jonathan Legard
Perhaps at the different end of the scale to David Coulthard, Jonathan Legard is a conservative choice for the BBC to make for the role of main commentator. He is a safe pair of hands. Perhaps not the most entertaining of speakers. He is certainly not a Murray Walker. But nor does he have James Allen’s cringeworthy faux-excitement. Legard is a calm, analytical commentator.
A BBC man through and through, Legard used to commentate on Radio 5 Live’s F1 coverage before leaving to become the station’s football correspondent. I had read that Legard was reluctant to take on the role, having ruled himself out earlier. But this is an important one for the BBC to get right given the sticks and stones that have gone ITV’s way as a result of James Allen over the years.
Colour commentator: Martin Brundle
Despite the BBC wanting to put their own mark on F1 coverage next season (as is evident from the choices above), Brundle has become almost as indispensable as Murray Walker was when coverage moved from the BBC to ITV back in 1997. It was feared that Martin Brundle would not be a part of the BBC’s team, but he is simply too good for the BBC to ignore.
It would, in fact, have been a bit of a farce if they decided not to hire Martin Brundle. He has won an armful of awards for his commentary while at ITV. His ability to come up with witty, pithy quips on the spot has won him legions of fans. That’s not to say that Brundle is perfect, and mistakes seem to be creeping into his commentary more and more as time goes on. But this is clearly the right choice for the BBC to make.
Pitlane reporter: Lee McKenzie
Lee McKenzie is the daughter of F1 journalist Bob McKenzie and has previous experience presenting motor sport highlights on ITV. More recently she has presented Sky’s A1GP coverage.
I was just recently wondering whatever happened to Lee McKenzie (I don’t have Sky) so it was a pleasant surprise to see her name in the Pitpass report. I have no idea what she is like as a pitlane reporter, but she has been presenting motorsport coverage for some years now so this should work out fine.
It would be interesting if this is the entire BBC team. ITV have had two pitlane reporters ever since they got F1 coverage, with one person chasing drivers for interviews while the other hunts out stories from the garages. If the BBC have only one pitlane reporter, this will be a big drawback of the coverage.
According to the Pitpass report, the BBC will be spending less on their F1 coverage than ITV. It seems highly likely that the coverage will be anchored from a London studio, although surely the commentary team in addition to the pitlane reporters at least will travel to the races. It would be quite strange, though, as MotoGP is always presented from the paddock just like ITV’s F1 coverage.
However, I personally wouldn’t mind the coverage being presented from London. I don’t see the big advantage of having Steve Rider and Mark Blundell standing in noisy garages with engines roaring so that you can barely hear them speak. Keeping the coverage in London is a sensible scheme that will save license payers’ money.
The names now out of the picture
The omission of Holly Samos is interesting, as I had earlier read that she was already privately confirmed as the pitlane reporter. Samos is okay, but she has made a few bad mistakes during her Radio 5 Live coverage this season, completely ruining my understanding of the race on at least one occasion.
As for the main commentator, if Jonathan Legard had decided to rule himself out, David Croft would probably have been in line to take the job. I am slightly relieved that he hasn’t got the job. While I think he is a competent commentator, he does make mistakes and he has a bit of a James Allen thing going on.
My preferred choice for the role would have been Ben Edwards. However, I have heard that it is a precondition of being part of the BBC’s F1 coverage that presenters will not work for any other broadcaster. Given that Ben Edwards has his fingers in many pies, this will have ruled him out.
What is really interesting is that no-one from the current BBC Radio 5 Live team has made the jump to the corporation’s television coverage. This is not entirely unexpected. When it was originally announced back in March that the BBC had acquired the rights to broadcast F1 on television, I suggested that the BBC might keep the current team on Radio 5 Live.
Even this is not confirmed however, as the contract to produce Radio 5 Live’s F1 coverage, currently held by USP Content, is up for renewal for 2009. It could be a case of so near yet so far for the 5 Live team. Both Holly Samos and David Croft were strongly linked to roles on BBC television, yet according to Pitpass neither has got the nod. Might they even be absent from next year’s radio coverage as well?
Update: Here is more opinion on the news from Keith at F1 Fanatic.