Sky Sports F1’s newest recruit Karun Chandhok says that there was a “genuine interest” from the broadcaster for him to join ahead of the 2019 Formula One season.
Following his departure from racing in F1, Chandhok initially joined Sky’s F1 team in a supplementary role from 2012 to 2014, before joining Channel 4 in 2016 as their regular pit lane reporter. Now, Chandhok is back with Sky, although he says the decision to switch was not straightforward.
“It wasn’t an easy decision [to join Sky] because I’ve enjoyed my time at Channel 4,” says Chandhok, talking to me at the Autosport Show. “We’ve had three fun years, the people were lovely, and they all knew each other from the BBC days. I was the new person lobbed into it, but they were very welcoming.”
“I really enjoyed working with them, but when I started speaking with Sky around the middle of last year, I realised that there was a real genuine interest in wanting me to join the team. Scott Young [Sky’s Head of F1] made a really good case for wanting me there, and really made me feel wanted.”
“For me personally, I was going back to a team that I knew, that I’d worked with in the past, they’re all people who I call friends, even when I was with Channel 4. I’m looking forward to working with them again.”
The former F1 driver joins Sky’s existing roster of talent for 2019, which this year also includes 2009 Drivers’ Champion Jenson Button, who joins Sky for five races after a one-off appearance with them at last year’s British Grand Prix.
Chandhok, who says that he will be with Sky at most races this season, added that Channel 4 were aware of his negotiations with Sky early in the process, and was complimentary of the Channel 4 team on his exit.
“I signed a three-year deal with Channel 4 at the start [in 2016], so it’s a natural point, it’s not like there is any breaking of contract. As far back as the British Grand Prix in the Summer, I told Mark Wilkin, Sunil Patel, and Stephen Lyle at Channel 4 that I was talking with Sky, so they already knew.”
“I left things in a good way, Sunil sent me a lovely Christmas present for my little one, and I still trade texts with Mark [Wilkin] and DC. I’ve left on good terms, which for me is very important, it’s like changing race teams.”
“You’ve built up a relationship as friends,” he added. “There is a professional side, you make decisions for your professional life, but there’s also the personal side. While I’ve changed professionally from one side to the other, personally I’m still friends with these people.”
“At the very first race in 2016, I said to Mark [Wilkin], ‘I don’t want to know what I’m doing well, tell me what I’m not doing well’, and DC was like that, he would never want people to praise him, he only wanted people to tell him what he was doing wrong.”
“I think that’s the same with most racing talent, you come into the pits, you look at the data. You don’t look to see what you’re doing well, you look at the data to see the bits you need to improve on, and I think in many ways racing drivers carry on that same mentality to everything they do in life.”
Ahead of 2019, Sky’s first year of their new contract which runs until 2024, Chandhok is excited at the potential that Sky has to offer.
“Sky’s resources are amazing. We’ve got opportunities to do stuff with historic F1 cars,” he said. “Sky are really embracing the history of F1 through new marketing material that is coming out soon. They’ve got such a massive team of resources that we can tap in to, there’s great potential for great television and we have the air time to do that.”
“If you look at it today, Sky are the biggest investors in F1, bigger than any sponsor. To be a part of that programme, you know your part of something that’s in it for the long-term and believe in the sport.”
“They’ve been doing a great job ever since they arrived in F1 in 2012, if you’re a keen fan, and you’ve paid to be a subscriber, then I think Sky tick a lot of the boxes. There’s always opportunity to juggle things up, and I think in some way that’s where I come in, just to change it up. It’ll be interesting to see what we make this year.”