Channel 4 have officially confirmed their coverage plans for the 2019 Formula One season.
Despite a reduced presence in 2019 compared with previous seasons, the free-to-air broadcaster has retained the core of its presentation line-up. The broadcaster this year will air highlights of every round plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend.
As announced by the man himself last week on Twitter, Steve Jones continues in his role as presenter. David Coulthard, Mark Webber, and Eddie Jordan join Jones in the paddock, whilst Ben Edwards remains as lead commentator, with Coulthard remaining alongside him in the booth.
In a surprise move, Lee McKenzie continues in her role as reporter, having previously noted as recently as January that she was not covering Formula 1 in 2019.
The main on-screen addition is that of 19-year old Billy Monger, who will provide analysis throughout the season alongside his racing exploits. Monger continues to impress fans and pundits alike following his life-changing accident in April 2017.
Channel 4’s Head of Entertainment and Events, Ed Havard said: “Channel 4 will once again be the destination for F1 fans to enjoy the action free to air throughout the year, including live coverage of the British GP.”
“I’m delighted that the young racing superstar Billy Monger will be joining our team alongside F1 legends David Coulthard and Mark Webber. We’ve got a truly world class presenting line up for F1 on 4.”
Monger added “I’m delighted to join the Channel 4 F1 team this season working around my own racing calendar.”
“I’ve been watching the F1 coverage on TV since I was little and whilst my goal remains to be racing in one of the cars out on track one day, I am really excited to get broadcasting from the paddock this year.”
Strong team for C4 F1 in 2019
Despite a reduced offering in 2019, Channel 4 have survived the winter with just one of their on-air talent (Karun Chandhok) opting to move to Sky. Mark Webber, who was also rumoured to be making the switch, has remained with Channel 4.
The other on-screen change concerns Susie Wolff. Channel 4’s press release does not reference Wolff, Wolff now busy in her role as Venturi Formula E team principal. As in previous years, expect Jones, Coulthard and Edwards to be on-site at every race, with the other analysts rotating throughout the year.
The addition of Monger is unexpected, but could fit in with his own driving activities this year. Over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend last November, Monger spoke of his aspiration to be in Formula Three this season.
Of course, Formula Three is part of the overall F1 weekend offering, and if Monger was successful in getting an F3 drive, then logistically the Channel 4 deal makes sense as Monger would already be on-site in the F1 paddock.
The size of Channel 4’s team fits in with the notion that their package will remain comprehensive, as reported last September.
As previously noted, the overall length of the highlights programme will drop slightly this season, with the race edit itself taking the hit. This explains why the shape and size of Channel 4’s team remains like last year.
It may also explain why Channel 4 have not directly replaced Chandhok, who reported from pit lane during each race. I suspect Whisper will use both Webber and McKenzie during commentary as necessary to fill the gap that Chandhok leaves behind, as difficult as that is to do given the role he played in their coverage from 2016 to 2018.
Crucially, Channel 4’s line-up has not been decimated meaning that their overall product will remain distinctive, and more importantly UK fans still have three different teams of personnel on offer to choose from (Sky, Channel 4 and BBC 5 Live).