This past weekend, Sky Sports performed two Formula 1 broadcasting firsts. The broadcaster not only shown live coverage of testing for the first time ever, but did so in both 2D and 3D. For the purposes of this blog post, I will be focussing on the live testing aspect of their coverage. I have not seen any of their 3D coverage, so I can’t comment on that.
The four days of testing seen Sky broadcast eleven hours of live coverage, two and a half hours on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with three and a half hours on Friday including The F1 Show. Coverage of all four days began with a ten minute introduction with Simon Lazenby and a member of the Sky team, before handing over to David Croft and special guests. Croft then handed back to Lazenby just after the chequered flag to round up the coverage. As an aside, Sky produced both the 2D and 3D feeds, an unusual statement in recent times when it is normally Formula One Management (FOM) producing the feeds.
In my opinion, the crew performed a fantastic job across the four days. For the most part, the production was good, although the lack of timing graphics did let them down a little occasionally. Nevertheless, this was their first time producing Formula 1 live, and they hit all of the right notes for me. I would have liked them to have maybe used a few different angles instead of sticking to the normal FOM positions just to show what they can do, but I guess there was their 3D coverage to consider as well in their decision making process. Another thing I liked is that they did not ‘jazz it up’ in any way shape or form, or make it seem disproportionally important. It was just cars going round and round, with discussion in the background. Just as it should be.
Which leads me onto the brilliant job David Croft did at guiding the coverage – one of the four testing stand-outs. Croft along with a host of guests, such as Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg, provided an entertaining few days in the box. This is where Croft excels, it harked back to the BBC Radio 5 Live days where it was Croft and Anthony Davidson discussing all things Formula 1 and answering Twitter questions. It was great to listen to, and unusually enticing to watch. Croft and Johnny Herbert in particular on Thursday were a great combination in the box. I do wish they go to a discussion based approach for practice, like they had on 5 Live, but I don’t forsee a change of direction there.
Also alongside Croft, but never on screen, was the commentary box director Mark Hughes. On the screen on occasions, you had Hughes’ predictions come up from time to time, which I thought made for interesting reading, and I hope occurs more in the season, just to get a different take on things. Unfortunately, I suspect the way the rights are laid out with Formula One Management prevent Sky from overlaying whatever graphics they want, and also from taking a split screen approach, which is a much better way to show an interview rather than completely cutting away from the action.
The last two stand-outs have to be Ted Kravitz and Marc Priestley. Kravitz’s Notebook’s continue to excel in just about every way possible, informative, witty and highly entertaining. Things such as Development Corner have been thoroughly informative to viewers such as myself, Kravitz picking up the smallest of things that are not noticeable to the naked eye. His look into Sky’s 3D coverage on Saturday and the huge operation involved makes you appreciate the coverage ever so more. I hope the Notebook’s continue in a similar vein in 2013 with their sporadic nature. Lastly, Priestley brought a new level of expertise to the coverage thanks to his recent involvements with a top-level F1 team. Priestley was informative alongside Kravitz, with the two discussing things such as wheel nuts and other technical areas in their coverage. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily see Priestley playing a role in Sky Sports’ coverage during every race, the odd appearance on The F1 Show and during a race weekend would definitely be worth seeing.
Overall, Sky’s testing coverage throughout the past four days has been what I expected it to be (which is by no means bad, as I have illustrated above), and I hope the same format occurs next year.