The news that Whisper Films are going to be producing Channel 4’s coverage of Formula 1 has started a chain reaction of the faces that may be involved with Channel 4’s programming.
According to Charles Sale, Ben Edwards and Eddie Jordan are set to become members two and three of Channel 4’s Formula 1 on-air team. The Edwards and David Coulthard duo therefore looks set to continue on Channel 4. Edwards shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it is great news to hear. As David Croft discussed at the AUTOSPORT show, there are not many other lead commentators out there. Jack Nicholls is presumably locked in with Formula E which means the only other option is James Allen. In previous broadcasting changes (BBC to ITV, ITV to BBC and then BBC to Sky), there has always been a commentary change.
But based on early indications, Channel 4 and Whisper Films want to keep a winning and successful formula. Jordan continuing might disappoint some readers, opinions on him were split during the recent survey. In my opinion, this was always a case of whether Jordan wanted to continue, and based on the comments from Sale, it looks like we will see Jordan for the live races only. However, an interesting subplot that Sale referenced is that Jordan’s son Kyle currently works for Whisper Films. His LinkedIn profile says he is “Commercial Director at Whisper Films”, although he is not listed as one of the key personnel on Whisper’s website.
One face that is unlikely to be involved, according to those that this blog has spoken to, is Suzi Perry. Perry, who presented BBC’s Formula 1 television coverage from 2013 to 2015, is not likely to make the jump to Channel 4. Assuming Jake Humphrey and Lee McKenzie are not candidates due to their relevant roles with BT Sport (football) and BBC Sport (Six Nations, Wimbledon and the Olympics), it means that Whisper Films’ choices for lead presenter are not immediately obvious.
Based on the choices readers of this site made, Jennie Gow and Andy Jaye are next down on the potential list for those likely to become lead presenter. Aside from Jaye stepping in for Gow for ITV’s Formula E coverage, I have not watched any of Jaye’s work, so I am not in a position to say which of the two I prefer. There was an argument that Coulthard could lead the coverage, at least for the highlight races, but I’m not convinced myself. Whilst I am a fan of Coulthard, I don’t think having the same person present and commentate is necessarily a good idea, although Murray Walker did so back in the 1990s with BBC’s old highlights package, when there was nowhere near as much analysis as we see today.
During the AUTOSPORT show today, Allan McNish made a brief comment about his BBC Radio 5 Live F1 role. McNish noted that he is “in the middle of discussions of what and how that all sits right now” with regards the current arrangement, as McNish used to appear on both BBC television and radio. Charles Sale’s piece says that “C4 do not want all the BBC team involved in their GP production,” which lends further credence to the theory that Perry will not be involved in Channel 4’s on-air team. As always, plans can change (and journalists can be wrong), but there are only nine weeks until Melbourne as we speak.
Behind the scenes, Coulthard tweeted out an interesting picture on Wednesday evening (see above). Aside from himself, there are three interesting faces in the picture. The first, sitting to the right of Coulthard is Sunil Patel, who formed Whisper Films alongside Coulthard and Humphrey. The second person to mention is Steve Aldous (second left). Aldous has been involved in Formula 1 television now for two decades, dating back to ITV’s first year on-air in 1997. He joined the BBC in 2009, remaining in the role of Assistant Editor. The third person is Richard Carr (to the left of Coulthard). Carr has worked with two wheels and four wheels, directing most of BBC’s Formula 1 programming in recent years.
In other words, three of the biggest five names on the production side of BBC F1 will be involved in Channel 4’s coverage. They are Aldous, Carr and Mark Wilkin. The two names missing are Ben Gallop (currently BBC’s Head of Interactive and was Head of F1) and Andrew Benson (BBC’s chief F1 writer).