The news yesterday evening that Georgie Thompson has left Sky’s Formula 1 team came as a surprise to myself and also to those that read this blog. It would be wrong to speculate exactly why she has left, or whether she has been pushed from the position, as no details have yet been revealed by Sky or Thompson. One thing I said clearly at the end of 2012 was that Sky had to have stability heading into 2013. Last year was about building the foundations, and this year is about ironing out the weaknesses and making the product they put out even better. It looked like they were going to get stability, however a month before the start of the season, that is now not going to happen.
What questions must be asked though is where does the Sky Sports F1 team go from here. Normally the first question is, as was the case for example when Jake Humphrey announced his decision to leave the BBC F1 team, who will replace her. The problem here is that we are just four weeks away from the new season, which makes the probability of Sky finding someone to fill Thompson’s shoes highly unlikely. You’re asking them to find someone who not only is a competent sports’ presenter, but also has an in-depth knowledge of the sport so they could fill her position. Instead I think, for 2013 at least, we are just going to see her position dissolve – in that the current roles will just be re jigged with people taking on extra responsibilities. That is not uncommon within broadcasting. You may remember at the end of 2010, Jonathan Legard parted company with the BBC F1 team, instead of them bringing someone else in, they simply expanded David Coulthard’s role so he was pundit and commentator alongside Martin Brundle for the team. The problem with that though is that we now have less people doing more work.
So, how will that work for Sky? We already know one thing – Natalie Pinkham will be alongside Ted Kravitz as the new presenter of The F1 Show going forward. That was evident on last night’s show, whilst the Sky Sports F1 website references them both as hosts of the show. The F1 Show is live on Friday’s, so it should not be a major issue for Pinkham to present it then as well at the start of race weekends, but time will tell if they bring in either Rachel Brookes or Craig Slater for The F1 Show on some of the Friday’s depending on who is reporting the race for Sky Sports News.
On Friday’s, the workload more or less will be the same as 2012, as Thompson’s only on-air role was presenting The F1 Show. The problem comes with Saturday and Sunday during a race weekend. Normally in 2012, Thompson presented the Saturday morning practice session and was alongside Anthony Davidson on the Sky Pad. For the Saturday morning practice session, I can see either Pinkham or Simon Lazenby taking over duties, in this case however I hope it is Pinkham. In my opinion, Lazenby was presenting too much during 2012: two practice sessions, Qualifying and the four and a half hour race show. With 2012 being his first season, I felt too much emphasis was put on Lazenby and not enough on Thompson – as both were labelled as presenters’. With Thompson now out of the Sky team, it means that the imbalance is unlikely to be addressed, meaning that Lazenby will still be presenting too much. I think by presenting too much, it makes his job more difficult because of the amount of air-time he has to cover.
Moving onto the Sky Pad, and the logical option will be to have David Croft alongside Anthony Davidson before and after the races on the Sky Pad, which did happen on a few occasions in 2012. The other option would be to ditch the Sky Pad concept altogether, but considering the amount of resources Sky put into it last year, I cannot see it happening, and by making that move they are saying, in my opinion, “it didn’t work”, which I can’t see them doing. The absence of a replacement for Thompson means that other potential expansions to Sky’s coverage are highly unlikely to happen in my opinion, such as adding ‘colour’ to the GP2 and GP3 Series with a brief pre-race and post-race build-up. With one less member of the team, it would mean that resources will be stretched, making the above improbable.
It’s difficult to say at this stage whether Thompson will be a significant loss to the team, but it is definitely a set-back for the channel who would have been hoping to stabilise their line-up heading into this season.