Martin Brundle is to reduce his commitments with Sky Sports this year and will be absent from three Formula 1 race weekends.
Writing on his Twitter, Brundle said “I’m not in Azerbaijan this weekend (or Sochi and Suzuka later in the year) but my great and very talented friends at SkyF1 are of course. Because only Sky invest in bringing you every single minute and lap of F1 live, on various platforms.”
Brundle has been commentating on Formula 1 for UK viewers since 1997 with ITV, BBC and more recently Sky Sports. During his early ITV days, Brundle missed several races due to his sportscar commitments, as well as missing the Hungarian Grand Prix on occasion. Brundle called every race from 2009 until the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.
Immediately after the chequered flag waved in Monaco, the former Jordan and Benetton racer suffered a small heart attack, resulting in him missing the Canadian Grand Prix that season. One week later, Brundle also skipped the Baku race weekend, which clashed with his Le Mans commitments.
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Fast-forward to 2017, and Brundle was taken ill prior to the British Grand Prix race, having been caught up in a sickness bug that affected a portion of the Formula 1 paddock. The bug caused him to miss the Hungarian Grand Prix as well. On three of the four occasions, Paul di Resta replaced Brundle in the commentary box. Anthony Davidson was the super-sub in Hungary 2017 when di Resta was himself replacing then-Williams driver Felipe Massa in the cockpit.
It is unclear if Brundle’s absence from this weekend’s proceedings, or Russia and Japan later this season, is on health grounds, or whether there is a scheduling conflict that prevents him from attending, although it is slightly odd that Brundle’s absence was unreferenced during Sky’s Chinese Grand Prix coverage.
Nevertheless, his reduced schedule gives him around a three week break between China and Spain, and a further four weeks between Singapore and USA.
First and foremost, from the outset the thing of utmost importance is Brundle’s health, and I absolutely hope that everything is okay with him. His tweet leaves open room for interpretation as the tweet does not say why he is missing the races, but this is not the forum for speculation about his health.
The Formula 1 calendar this season is 21 races, the joint longest it has been, and may only increase in size moving forward. This length takes its toll on those working in the sport, travelling the world, away from home.
Brundle has been part of the paddock for over thirty years. At some point, in the same way others have, he may want to reduce his Formula 1 broadcasting commitments partially, or fully. It is unknown if this is part of that wider picture.
BT Sport’s MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder retired from his MotoGP duties at the end of 2017, citing the ever increasing travel as one of his key reasons. For Sky, their key on-air personnel will be, or have been, going through a contract renewal process ahead of new contracts kicking in ready for 2019.
I hope we see Brundle around for the medium to long-term in the commentary box. If not, I would be unsurprised if Paul di Resta is indeed in line to succeed Brundle as Sky’s leading Formula 1 analyst.
Updated on April 29th to correctly reflect that Davidson replaced Brundle for Hungary 2017 and not di Resta.