A few weeks ago, I announced the results of the survey covering Channel 4’s Formula 1 team. Behind the usual suspects for the punditry roles, we had three names. They were Graeme Lowdon, Martin Whitmarsh and Susie Wolff. It looks like one of those three has indeed been approached by Channel 4, and rejected their offer.
That person is Martin Whitmarsh. Members of the media, including James Allen and Craig Scarborough were invited to a dinner hosted by Ben Ainslie Racing on Thursday evening. Allen has since blogged about the event. In the piece, Allen notes that Whitmarsh “is in no hurry to step back into F1 to offer comment on the current situation in the sport, particularly the problems for his old team [McLaren], despite offers from both SKY and Channel 4.”
For those who read my series of predictions over the Christmas period, I said that Whitmarsh should be one of the first people on Channel 4’s list. It looks like that assumption was indeed correct, although as I noted later, the chances of Whitmarsh actually returning to the paddock were incredibly slim. I always thought Whitmarsh was a possibility, but not a realistic one, although readers rated him highly in the survey.
What this tells us is that Channel 4 want a new name on board, hence the approach to Whitmarsh. Who else they have since approached, we don’t know. But you can probably deduce that Mark Webber, Lowdon and Wolff may also have been on Channel 4’s list (although if Eddie Jordan is staying, as mooted last weekend, you would presumably not need Lowdon). Interesting also to see that Sky is mentioned by Allen in relation to Whitmarsh. I’m not sure if we can read anything into it – we don’t know when the approach was made, whether they were hoping to replace someone or use him in a full time/rotation role. I’d assume Channel 4 were hoping to use him for the live races, plus a few highlights, similar to the Jordan role.
The most mysterious aspect so far though is the role of lead presenter. It is over a month since the Channel 4 deal was announced. Is there much to read into the lack of announcement and the lack of speculation in the press? Are Channel 4 and Whisper Films planning on doing something different with the lead presenter role? By ‘different’, I mean someone you would not expect. Channel 4 had NFL fan and entertainment presenter Vernon Kay (All Star Family Fortunes, amongst others) present highlights of their American Football coverage. Could we expect someone similar for Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage? Just a thought…