Predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team (part 3)

The series of posts predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team comes to a conclusion with part three, as The F1 Broadcasting Blog looks at the role of technical expert.

To recap, parts one and two focussed on the other roles within Channel 4’s setup. So far, I have predicted the following:

– Presenter: Suzi Perry
– Magazine: Jake Humphrey
– Commentator: Ben Edwards
– Commentator / Analyst: David Coulthard
– Pit Lane: Nicki Shields
– Analyst: Eddie Jordan
– Analyst: Allan McNish

Admittedly that line-up looks like a repeat of BBC’s talent shop from 2012 to 2015, as well as having Jake Humphrey back in the fray. The exception is Nicki Shields, who is currently pit lane reporter for the electric Formula E championship. It looks like Lee McKenzie will not be part of Channel 4’s team based on her recent tweets, hence me placing Shields as pit lane reporter. You could argue that such a line-up would be unimaginative, but you have to ask how Channel 4 can improve on the current BBC line-up. In my opinion, ‘ripping it out from the core’ is not the answer, but comments have varied. On the whole, the audience liked BBC’s coverage and I will be shocked if there is not some element of ex-BBC in the Channel 4 line-up.

The last role to look at surrounds the position of technical expert. The technical role is similar to that of pit lane reporter, but the two should not be confused. Whilst they may be positioned in similar locations within the paddock, the purpose of the technical expert is to update viewers on the upgrades that teams may have chosen and to show viewers around the new formula from a DNA perspective. It is important that the person chosen for this role has technical understanding of the sport.

Before we look at the candidates, there will no doubt be a question about the necessity of the role. In my opinion, it is critical that there is a technical view point represented in Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage. As I have discussed previously, experts such as James Allen, Ted Kravitz and Gary Anderson have helped convey the information towards the casual audience. It is important that the audience watching appreciates the technical element of motor racing.  Yes, we watch for the overtaking and the personalities, but we also watch to see the technical advances that Formula 1 is making in the wider world.

One of the failures of BBC F1 was to part ways with Gary Anderson in early 2014, and then (according to Anderson) make the claim that viewers are not interested in technical analysis. In a poll conducted on this blog, 71 percent believed that BBC’s coverage needed a technical expert. As good as Tom Clarkson was in 2014 and 2015, he was no match for Anderson through no fault of his own. Although as Anderson himself said following the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix: “The casual viewers is where the big viewing numbers are and many of them don’t give a damn about what’s under the bonnet of an F1 car.” We could debate this all day, but if Channel 4 are to be taken seriously, then there needs to be some technical element.

So, who are the contenders for a technical analyst role with Channel 4?

Craig Scarborough – The popular technical writer has been talking about motor racing for print and television since the early 2000s, writing for publications such as AUTOSPORT and F1 Racing. To date, Scarborough has yet to appear on terrestrial television with a UK broadcaster covering Formula 1. He has made sporadic appearances with on the Midweek Report show on Sky Sports F1, alongside working for foreign broadcasters. If you’re looking for someone who has television experience and can convey information to a casual audience, Scarborough is likely to be one person on Channel 4’s technical list.

Gary Anderson – As I noted above, the former Jordan technical director appeared on BBC’s Formula 1 programming in 2012 and 2013. Anderson currently writes for AUTOSPORT answering readers’ questions. From reading his series of posts with AUTOSPORT, it appears Anderson was not in the paddock during 2015 and was commenting from far afield. My gut instinct is that, even if he is asked, Anderson will not return to the broadcasting fray.

Mark Priestley – A former McLaren mechanic from 2000 to 2009, Priestley has been a regular in the broadcasting scene over the past few years. Priestley was one of the highlights in Sky Sports F1’s live pre-season testing coverage in 2013 and has since been part of ITV’s Formula E coverage as a regular studio guest. I’d like to see Priestley part of Channel 4’s team purely because there is a lot that he can bring to the programming, along with being a fresh voice that viewers have not heard before. Priestley has the added advantage of having been part of the inner dealings with a world championship team.

Ross Brawn – Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn and Mercedes. Technical director and team owner. His CV stands alongside Adrian Newey in terms of what they have achieved in Formula 1, which makes Brawn a contender for a role at Channel 4. Brawn has not been part of the Formula 1 paddock since the end of 2013, but would bring with him a huge amount of expertise from his decades’ worth of dealings in the Grand Prix world. My personal opinion is that Brawn would choose to stay away from the paddock if he was approached by Channel 4, but don’t rule out the odd appearance here and there depending on what other programming the station plan on airing.

Tom Clarkson – A familiar face covering Formula 1 for Australian television, Clarkson initially joined the BBC F1 team half way through the 2012 season deputising for Lee McKenzie. Clarkson became a full time member of the BBC team in 2013 alongside McKenzie in the pit lane, eventually covering the technical side of Formula 1 in 2014 and 2015 with Anderson now absent. If Clarkson is not part of Channel 4’s team, I don’t think it would be a major loss. As a pit lane reporter he is good, but he should not be a technical analyst in my opinion, unless Channel 4 run out of options from those already discussed above.

There are not many candidates to fill the technical role. Out of the five above, I would narrow it down to two people: Scarborough or Priestley. For me, Priestley edges it because he has experience within a top tier Formula 1 team. Therefore…

The F1 Broadcasting Blog predicts: Marc Priestley to become Channel 4’s Formula 1 technical analyst.

Which means that my predicted Channel 4 line-up is as follows:

– Presenter: Suzi Perry
– Magazine: Jake Humphrey
– Commentator: Ben Edwards
– Commentator / Analyst: David Coulthard
– Pit Lane: Nicki Shields
– Analyst: Eddie Jordan
– Analyst: Allan McNish
– Analyst (Technical): Marc Priestley

In there, you have your recognisable front three faces from the BBC, along with some new blood in Shields and Priestley. For the lead commentator and technical analyst roles, there are not many candidates, which leaves Channel 4 with not many options, whereas there is a vast array of talent to become either presenter or analyst. It will be fascinating to see how the line-up unfolds over the coming weeks as we uncover more clues on the road to Melbourne.


13 thoughts on “Predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team (part 3)

  1. Really can’t see Jake Humphrey being in any way involved. As for Suzi Perry, I hope she isn’t either.

  2. I would be surprised if any bbc talent other than Eddie Jordan and tom Clarkson go to channel 4… They will largely want names they know already (hence my predictions in the comments of part 2)

  3. Mark Priestley I do like, however I do feel at times that he comes across as rather bland on ITV’s FE coverage; I’d much rather see Scarbs get his big break, and he would be a good fit for C4 having a lot of experience not just of TV but also having starred in a lot of internet features. For example, there was one channel on YouTube which was effectively: “Formula E: How does it work?” in which a lady would ask Scarbs rather obvious/mundane questions and Craig would give very erudite and detailed answers:

    But if they feel that’s too big a risk I’d imagine they’d go for Gary Anderson; he does write for Autosport but this has been a long running thing. Him and Scarbs actually did a lot of collaboration over the years for that Magazine so I’d imagine that as a possible duo tech/analyst they’d work together quite nicely.

    1. oh dear god. that yt link is just pure pain. so stale, its pretty badly edited, they don’t work well together and that fact that when they speak they always look at the camera. that was fucking dreadful.

  4. Nobody has talked about website..BBC F1 website is the best. BBC has Andrew Benson, Lawrence Barreto now at Autosport. SKY has Mark Hughes and Co. C4 will generate lots of revenue from traffic & can put paid adverts on.

    1. Channel 4’s Racing website is a good example of what to expect with F1:

      I don’t think it will be as expansive as BBC’s current website offering – which will continue (excluding video) don’t forget.

      Channel 4’s Racing website looks like mostly video based (presumably features from their coverage) – in fact that layout can be copied straight over for the F1.

  5. I have to agree that your predictions are logical, my prediction is quite different but I am thinking more long term.

    Presenter: Tom Clarkson
    Magazine: Jake Humphrey & Nicki Shields
    Analysts: Paul Di Resta & Martin Whitmarsh
    Technical Expert: Craig Scarborough
    Pitlane Reporter: Nicki Shields
    Lead Commentator: Ben Edwards
    Commentator: David Coulthard
    Extras: Susie Wolff & Eddie Jordan (not full time)

    Also, moving on to timing, I think that Horse Racing will lose out to Qualifying in 2016 and of course there won’t be a broadcasting clash from 2017. I think the timings will look like this:

    Magazine: 20.00 – 21.00 (C4)

    FP1: 08.45 – 10.45 (More4)
    FP2: 12.45 – 14.45 (More4)
    Friday Report: 19.30 – 20.00 (C4)
    FP1 & FP2 Repeat: 20.00 – 23.30 (More4)

    FP3: 09.45 – 11.30 (More4)
    Qualifying: 12.30 – 14.30 (C4)
    Saturday Report: 19.30 – 20.00 (C4)
    FP3 Repeat: 20.00 – 21.15 (More4)
    GPQ Repeat: 21.15 – 22.45 (More4)

    GPQ Repeat: 10.30 – 12.00 (C4)
    Grand Prix: 12.00 – 15.30 (C4)
    Sunday Report: 19.30 – 21.00

    GPQ Repeat: 18.00 – 19.30 (4seven)
    GP Repeat: 19.30 – 22.00 (4seven)

    Whereas, highlights will probably look like this:

    Magazine: 20.00 – 21.00 (C4)

    Friday Report: 19.30 – 20.00 (C4)

    GPQ Highlights (C4)
    (Morning): 13.00 – 14.30 (C4)
    (European): 17.00 – 18.30 (C4)
    (USA): 21.30 – 23.00 (C4)

    GPQ Highlights: 09.00 – 10.30 (More4)
    GP Highlights (C4)
    (Morning): 13.00 – 15.00 (C4)
    (European): 17.00 – 19.00 (C4)
    (USA): 22.00 – 00.00 (C4)

    GPQ Highlights: 18.30 – 20.00 (4seven)
    GP Highlights: 20.00 – 22.00 (4seven)

  6. Commentating team, David Addison (itv 4 touring cars) with David Coulthard. Analyst Ross Brawn and Alan McNish NOT Eddie Jordan. Presenter Jake Humphrey

    1. I thought about putting David Addison in my top choices, as I think he’s brilliant. But then I decided that as I enjoy his commentating on ITV4, I would prefer him to stay there!

  7. The one role that stands out as an obvious opportunity to improve, to me (matter of opinion of course), is that of the main commentator.

    Brundle is the beat since Murray Walker. The challenge is to find someone at least as good as Brundle. The voice of F1 is important, and for me Ben Edwards is not the voice of F1.

    As regards main presenter, Perry has settled in well after a pretty ropey start. She’s quite ‘mumsy’ and nice to watch, with her focus being on getting the most interesting comments out of those around her. Nothing really wrong with that.

    Tom Clarkson is an interest and bold shout in the comments. Might be a bit early to make him the face of the coverage, though. Could perhaps be given an extra role in the Magazine show to up his profile with viewers. He could even be an interesting shout to front that show, alongside Webber, Wolff & Coulthard (perhaps alongside a different mix of those 3 every week).

  8. As for the dropping of Anderson… we have to remember that this is television, and Clarkson is much more ‘television’ than Anderson would ever have been.

    For the same reason I wouldn’t envisage the otherwise enormously-qualified Ross Brawn going down well on screen. F1 needs to be good television more than ever.

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