Ahead of the return of live motor sport to ITV’s main channel this weekend in the form of the Formula E championship decider, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has decided to take a trip down memory lane, looking back at ITV’s past Formula 1 intros. Whilst ITV’s Formula E coverage this weekend will have the generic World Feed intro, ITV came up with four distinctive titles for their Formula 1 coverage from 1997 to 2008, with each iteration lasting three years.
ITV’s coverage began in 1997 with an instrumental from British jazz band Jamiroquai, who were asked to produce the intro and outro track. The band, who were approached by ITV F1 producer Neil Duncanson, were paid £100,000 to compose the theme.
The basis of the title sequence is a car unveiling, followed by a pit-stop, before the car is unleashed towards the camera, a sequence which was executed superbly and comes across well, even looking back at it nearly twenty years later. The nature of the soundtrack is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, although Jamiroquai’s version doesn’t quite build up to a climax with the same amount of energy as The Chain. Was it as good as The Chain? Of course not, but it was probably as good as what it was going to be.
Most sporting theme tunes on commercial television tend to have a life span of between three and five years, before they become old, and this was the case with ITV’s Formula 1 coverage. At the turn of the millennium, Apollo 440 provided the theme for ITV’s coverage through Blackbeat, with the car unveiling of Jamiroquai being replaced by a more upbeat, fast-paced intro that showed off Formula 1 to the maximum.
The intro showcased moments from the late 1990s alongside the latest British contenders on the grid, a narrative that would remain in ITV’s coverage until the end. This theme was the F1 theme when I first properly began getting into the sport, meaning that it is undoubtedly my favourite of the ITV era. It portrays everything that there is about Formula 1, and helps get you in the frame of mind to watch a motor race. They key words there are ‘motor race’, it has to fit that agenda. Blackbeat fulfilled that role perfectly. Of course, there’s another reason I remember the Blackbeat era fondly, and that is the Texaco break bumpers! Break bumpers like that are so much more memorable, unlike the break bumpers of 2015 (yes FairFX, I’m looking at you).
Michael Schumacher’s dominance, alongside the fall of F1 Digital+, meant that ITV’s coverage was overhauled in 2003 in an attempt to win back lapsed viewers. A remix of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, originally performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was on the table from 2003 through to the end of 2005. The original plan, according to The Music & Media Partnership, was to have a remix of The Who’s Baba O’Riley, but plans were dropped following the arrest of Peter Townshend.
The style of the intro is similar to Blackbeat before it, except it looks and feels more technical than before. However, I don’t think the You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet instrumental is as hard hitting as Blackbeat, which is it’s downfall. 2003’s intro lacked any car sounds, although this was fixed for later iterations in 2004 and 2005. Don’t get me wrong, it is okay, but it never really hit the sweet spot in my opinion. Trying to incorporate technical aspects into the theme titles was not going to work, whilst the map at the end of the titles was unnecessary. The idea was good, but the execution here I don’t think was great.
You’ll probably find it easy to like or dislike either one of the three themes above, but what happened next was unexpected. Opinions on ITV’s last F1 theme, Lift Me Up from American songwriter Moby, veer from brilliant to downright awful. The intro marked a distinct change in coverage for the start of the 2006 season. Steve Rider replaced Jim Rosenthal as lead presenter, the graphics set was completely overhauled and a young Brit was entering the fray. By the time ITV’s Formula 1 coverage ended in 2008, he would be world champion.
The change of approach to their introduction was solidified in their coverage overall, with more emphasis on British drivers than ever before, this fuelled on further as Lewis Hamilton made his debut at the beginning of the 2007 season. In isolation, there is nothing wrong with Lift Me Up, but this is a case of ‘wrong song, wrong sport’. I’d love to know what the aim of this piece actually was, because some aspects of the intro clearly have nothing to do with Formula 1 and clearly were only there to try and glamour up the sport. An early version of the Lift Me Up intro exists over at Reelthing Animation, for anyone wishing to take a look. I probably look back on Lift Me Up more fondly than what I should given that it concluded ITV’s F1 coverage, but it certainly won’t top any “best sporting intro” charts any time soon.
Or… will it?
If ITV and Formula E remain partners for a second season, it will be interesting to see if ITV choose to create their own titles for the coverage, or whether they take the World Feed titles, as they have throughout Formula E’s inaugural season.