A look at BBC’s Qualifying highlights programme

One thing you may have noticed over the past few months on this blog is how I have written more blog posts about Sky Sports F1 compared with BBC’s Formula 1 coverage. The simple reason for that is that there is more scope to cover with Sky Sports compared with BBC as they have a channel rather than a programme so there are more areas to talk about both within a race weekend and outside of the race weekend.

Admittedly, I have watched a lot more Sky Sports F1 programming compared with BBC F1 programming this year, hence why I have not covered BBC a massive amount on this blog yet, in fact there are 29 posts in my BBC F1 category compared with 61 posts for Sky Sports F1. With that in mind, I thought that I would use this post to look at BBC’s coverage a bit more, in particular, their Qualifying highlights programme for this weekend’s German Grand Prix. While watching I will also take the opportunity to make general comments about BBC’s coverage. As well as today’s programme, I also watched the latter stages of the British Grand Prix on BBC Two as well as the F1 Forum for that race. Of course, BBC’s coverage began in 2009 and like many of you I also watched every race on the BBC from then to 2011.

The first thing you hear in any F1 programme on BBC television is The Chain. The famous riff as the pace speeds up, for me, nothing beats The Chain when it comes to Formula 1. As good as Just Drive by Alistair Griffin is (and yes, I very much enjoy hearing it), it will never beat The Chain for me. There is something about The Chain that for me sends a shiver down the spine. You know hearing that theme that you are not long away from seeing the famous red lights going off. The Chain, in my opinion, is the definitive Formula 1 theme. The visuals however? If I am to be brutally honest, I’m really not a fan of the intro visuals. The Chain makes up for it somewhat, but the visuals just shout out “tacky” and lacks class. In a dream world, we should combine the Sky Sports intro visuals with The Chain. Now that would be perfection. One day, maybe.

(For clarity, the above paragraph only refers to one minute onwards in this video. The first minute before that is, again, perfect)

The VT intro focussed on Michael Schumacher’s quest to get back to the top podium, as well as looking at Sebastian Vettel’s rise to the top with Schumacher’s thoughts in the background. The VT made super use of the archive footage which I thoroughly enjoyed. It probably helped that I am a Schumacher fan, so I may be slightly biased in this respect, but I would take archive footage over computer generated footage any day of the week. From there, Lee McKenzie and David Coulthard discussed the possibilities for Schumacher this weekend, before a look at the drivers’ standings. Some people at home may have been wondering this season why BBC do not just go straight into the race. There are several reasons for this. The first one is that the BBC team wanted to keep the best of the live shows and build a more ‘concise’ highlights show, this was something Jake Humphrey heavily emphasised in the BBC F1 preview magazine and something that they have aimed to do. The second reason is almost certainly a contractual obligation, in that they are not allowed to broadcast an entire Qualifying session without truncating it, so I suspect there are clauses saying “World Feed footage must not exceed X minutes for Qualifying and Y minutes for the Race.” It would also make the contract a bit worthless for Sky if BBC were allowed to go and broadcast the Qualifying and Race sessions in full, hence why there are likely to be clauses in place to prevent them from doing that.

Following that, we had an interview with Pastor Maldonaldo from Tom Clarkson, Ben Edwards with the news and Gary Anderson looking over the technical features. The thing that I liked here is that each team member had their own little feature so the pre-show was balanced out in that respect. Also, and a side effect of the above paragraph, it has to be said, by having less World Feed footage it means that you can have a longer pre-show and post-race show to cover the latest stories and events. Comparing Anderson’s technical analysis with Ted Kravitz’s Sky Pad analysis makes for interesting reading. I remember back at the start of the season when you had Kravitz on the Sky Pad and Anderson, quite literally, using a pen and pencil, in terms of technology, worlds’ apart from one another.

BBC’s graphics used during the 2012 German Grand Prix Qualifying session to help explain McLaren’s upgrades.

Does it make for better analysis though? The above is Anderson talking over a shot of a few arrows going from one part of the car to another. Simple, but it shows beautifully what the latest McLaren upgrades are intended to do. It depends what exactly the upgrade is and where about on the car it is, sometimes having the Sky Pad shows it better, sometimes it doesn’t. As a technical expert doing pieces to camera, though, Anderson has improved a lot compared with the start of this season in my opinion from when I remember watching him in Australia.

I won’t comment too much on the commentary, purely because both sets of commentary teams are as good as each other. At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. Me, personally, I value Martin Brundle’s opinion a lot, and therefore I prefer him and David Croft, but that does not mean Coulthard and Edwards are bad. It is personal preference, plain and simple.

While the pre-Qualifying show has to be recorded before Qualifying, the post-Qualifying show can be done anytime after Qualifying. So today, the post-Qualifying show could be filmed anytime from 14:00 to 16:30, to allow adequate editing time before that portion of the show makes the air at about 17:50 on BBC Two. Those that watched the Bahrain Grand Prix forum will know that BBC were filming that after Sky Sports had gone off-air, about 16:50 UK time, allowing them to get the opinions of people you normally would not hear from (ie Jo Ramirez in that particular forum), leading to a much better and enjoyable show. The same applies for post-Qualifying, and also for between the sessions. While of course the interviews would have been done in one ‘take’, the programme is not live and therefore there is no urgency to get the driver who they want to interview as soon as possible, allowing the editor to wait a short time before getting the person who they want to get, hence why McKenzie and Coulthard interviewed Mark Webber during the GP2 race, a long time after Sky went off the air. After the session, you also had Anderson outline the relative strategy options, which presents an interesting take on things, notwithstanding the accuracy of it come the Sunday race. I do recall seeing this back in Australia, so I assume this has been around for the majority of the races. For both the hardcore and casual viewer, by showing the differing strategies, it helps the viewer know what to look out for in the race and what sort of race to expect, whether it will be a ‘pit stop fest’ or a ‘overtaking fest’. Or neither.

Unrelated to the structure of the show but, for future reference, it is me worth noting that I spotted Clarkson holding two microphones, a TEN Sport microphone and a BBC Sport microphone, meaning that he is more than likely working with both broadcasters’ this weekend.

The highlights programme produced by BBC, as you would expect, is an extremely well-produced programme, and while it is always better to be live (to give it the ‘raw’ feel), the programme that BBC produces definitely brings out the good for everyone involved. As noted above, the show also brings with it certain benefits which enhances the quality of the BBC programme. As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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