Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict

The chequered flag has fallen on another year of Formula 1, and with it the end of the 2019 motor racing season.

Despite both MotoGP and F1 having a relatively predictable outcome, the journey to the destination has been enticing throughout. From the thrilling German Grand Prix on four wheels, to Alex Rins beating Marc Marquez at Silverstone by milometers on two wheels, there was something for everyone this year.

Off track, 2019 has been a year of change for fans of F1 in the UK. Live coverage of the sport aired exclusively on Sky Sports for the first time ever, following in the footsteps of MotoGP which moved to BT in 2014. Only the British Grand Prix aired live on free-to-air television.

In the social media space, F1 continues to make excellent strides in an ever-changing world, whilst others have had to rethink their strategy to work out how best to engage with their audience.

Now, Motorsport Broadcasting wants your opinion on the past twelve months. Which personality has shone in 2019 and deserves a bigger presence in 2020? What was the low-light from a broadcasting perspective for you this season? And, if there was one thing you could change next season, what would it be?

As always, the best thoughts will form an article on this site over the festive period.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal


19 thoughts on “Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict

  1. Of the two, I’ve only been following Formula 1. As I’m unsure about whether I’m character limited for this comment, I’ll focus on the TV offering for now.

    I’ve split my season between Channel 4 (Australia to Japan) and Sky (Mexico to Abu Dhabi).

    The Channel 4 coverage has come across very much as being run because the rules of the game say it must be run. We know the coverage, bar Silverstone, has all been pre-recorded. Exciting moments have been lost and the highlights transition between sections of the races hasn’t always been coherent and clear, particularly I felt in Germany. In Belgium, I think there could have and should have been more devoted to Antoine Hubert. In Brazil, a significant amount of the overtaking was cut from the highlights. Yes, I accept that because it’s highlights there will be stuff to cut out, but there was so much cut from Brazil it was ridiculous.

    I’ll now turn my attention to the Sky coverage. Highlights have, in my opinion, been vastly superior compared to Channel 4’s offering. Live coverage of both F1 and F2 has been good, but will reserve proper judgement of F2 until I’ve hopefully seen more races next year. I certainly won’t be bothering with Porsche Supercup next year. (this championship, for those not aware, is available on both Skyf1 and Eurosport, with Eurosport airing some races live and others highlights only. Sky have, as far as I’m aware, had all races live) My areas for improvement with Sky and NowTV for next year would be:
    1) Clearer indications about what the following program is going to be. Particularly with race highlights, it’s not always been clear if Sky are going into the 30 minute “best bits” program, or the 60 minute “highlights” program.
    2) Assuming that the F1 Season Pass returns for 2020, both Sky and NowTV need to promote this much more, as well as much clearer indications that it is a time limited offer and when it will cease to be available. I only found it existed after it had been withdrawn from sale for this year and a friend told me about it.
    3) Whilst some of the pre-race features have been interesting, I think in the main Sky’s pre-race show could quite easily start 30 minutes later, with an hour build up rather than 90 minutes.

    So what am I planning for next season?

  2. Not sure what happened there but WordPress decided to post my comment before I was finished and won’t let me edit it. Anyway,

    So what am I planning for next season?

    Assuming it’s available, the NowTV season pass and watching online. Highlights for Australia, as Australia is known for being quite dull, then either live or full reply for all other races

  3. @SeanBarlow.

    Sky have put restrictions on Ch4. We know some of them, such as banning Ch4 from doing a grid walk and interviewing drivers in the pen. We don’t know all of the issues Ch4 have put up with, but I’d not be surprised if they are affecting the actual race coverage. To be honest, a highlight show could easily cut out the rubbish, viz spectators/pit crew/Toto banging the table, etc etc. But we still get that crap shown by Ch4.

    There’s an ongoing AutoSport thread about how bloody awful the broadcasts have become in recent years, despite a media company taking over the sport. Today’s coverage was that bad, I doubt if Ch4 could have made much of what they were given.

  4. @Jon Bee, as someone who watched Abu Dhabi live, I agree the race was VERY dull. Didn’t even have the intrigue of split strategies between teams and drivers. Whisper and Channel 4 had the opposite problem in Abu Dhabi to what they had in Germany and Brazil. In Germany and Brazil, it would have been a case of what to cut, in Abu Dhabi it was a case of what to leave in

    1. I watched F1’s Sky broadcast advert free via ESPN2 in the USA…
      it was a pleasure compared to the NBC coverage of years past.

      That said I also enjoyed the Sky F1 coverage of Indycar here in the UK.
      Great pub fodder.. My local had Indycar nights on Sundays and the place was constantly packed.

      I’d like them to expand their promotion of the program a little by offering full replays around 9 pm on Mondays or whatever.

      Also wish someone here would pick up the fabulous IMSA series races.

      Not the same having a bunch of folks crowded around my phone trying to watch the races.


  5. Even at a £32 minimum for Sky Sports F1 so you can get full recording, pause and downloads (as it should be) compared to the £50+ a couple of years ago its still way too much. Id pay £10 per month for F1TV Pro and wouldnt moan about it but we dont have that choice until at least 2024. I have binned Sky Sports F1 and the rest of Sky will follow after contract. I’ll try the C4 race highlights next year which I have watched a couple of times and compared to the full live coverage on Sky and they are not too bad at all. I’ll also use F1TV access for extended highlights of the practice sessions which give you about a 10 min cut for each which is much better than the 1 1/2 mins on youtube. I quite like it for watching classic races off season as well (Just watched the 1999 Malaysian GP and the quality was superb).

  6. Seems that so far the views aren’t that positive. My own feeling is that Sky’s actual output, ie the wrap around stuff, has improved this year. A few people seem to have stepped up a bit (although Paul Di Resta is awful still, Simon has really found his feet and is running well now – I’ve been quite scathing about him in the past.) I haven’t watched any Channel 4 coverage – I’m paying for Sky, I’m making the most of it.

    I agree that their planner can sometimes be confusing. The Classic F1 stuff is the same output as it’s always been. I’ve enjoyed watching IndyCar on the channel and all of F2 and F3. I’ve only caught bits of Porsche Super Cup as it never seems to be well promoted.

    In fact, outside of F1 and the Indy 500, I don’t recall seeing any promotion of the channel and I think if they highlighted some of their other content more it would be useful for them!

    The actual race coverage is decent. As mentioned elsewhere, sometimes the direction appears to lose threads or highlight things for no good reason. Things like missing overtakes is pretty silly to be honest. We only saw Sainz’s last lap move on board in the Sky coverage afterwards because they made a point of finding it during his interview.

    Ted not being there for every round was a disappointment but better than the alternative or having no Ted at all. Karun, while ok, doesn’t seem to have the depth of knowledge that Ted does.

  7. A couple of other niggles that have just occurred to me:

    Virtual advertising – they need to either be used less or blend in more to their surroundings. I know they have been around a long time, but I haven’t noticed them quite as much as this year in the past. At least the messages on track have stopped…

    David Croft’s use of “Powered by AWS”: I know the F1 Insights are powered by AWS, it says so on the graphic. It’s probably insisted by FOM, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Very Americanised. However, in the IndyCar coverage, the sponsored onboard cameras don’t annoy me, and I think it’s because the viewer sees that they’re getting something from that sponsorship. In F1, all cars have them regardless and we’re used to them being part of the coverage. If they only existed because of some benevolent sponsor, I wouldn’t mind that. Again, that onscreen sponsor promotion isn’t new – timing screens in particular, with Olivetti logos appearing back in the day, for example (funnily enough, I can’t actually recall seeing Rolex anywhere apart from the standard clock ticking shot – if it is there, my brain is blocking it out). The F1 insights though have been a positive addition to the coverage, even if the tyre wear graphic just appears to be made up!

  8. It’s been an odd year of F1 for me. We resubscribed to Sky for the first time in 4 years just before last Christmas so I took on Sky F1 in March just before the start of the Indycar/F1 seasons.

    I watched the first six or seven F1 races live but totally zoned out after that. I watched a few on record and a few more live but in the end I cancelled the Sky F1 subscription to coincide with the end of the Indycar season.

    Since then I haven’t watched any races live and only watched the Channel 4 highlights of Brazil. I don’t feel I’ve missed out by not watching any of the races since mid /end of September.

    As a Ferrari fan (and fan of good racing) I just don’t get excited by watching another year of Mercedes domination and some dull races. When MSC was winning I was 11 – 15 and didn’t have much else to do but watch the F1 with my Dad. Now I’m 30 and my wife and daughter have no interest in F1, I’d rather be spending my Sundays with them. If the championship was going down to the wire, even if it was HAM and VER I’d be more inclined to watch.

    Saying all of that, I’ve started consuming F1 in different ways this year, I subscribe to at least 4 F1 podcasts, Box of neutrals, Missed Apex, Back of the grid and FF1S and listen on a weekly basis. I also watch the six minute YouTube packages of qualifying and the races plus the little best on board videos.

    Outside of F1, Indycar, Formula e and BTCC all had cracking seasons. All 3 have commentary teams better than the F1 offerings and much better racing.

  9. Watched a few practices on Sky and some live coverage but mostly watched Channel 4.
    My impressions:
    1) the Channel 4 team is great Jones as the fulcrum who is there to be educated, DC and Mark as the link between but also relaxed enough to have some fun. DC has also grown in commentary and his relationship with Ben is very good.
    2) on the marbles from c4f1 is great and is the closest thing to the f1 forum in it’s Suzi Perry heyday. It’s a pity it comes before the weekend and I feel it could be boosted a bit more.
    3) radio 5 live’s podcast effort is also good. I really like Jolyon and Jack’s butting heads and Jennie holds it together well.
    4) some of the direction has been abominable. That’s not the fault of the broadcaster but the stories have sometimes been missed to see Lewis driving in clean air.
    5) thought losing the chain would be horrible for Channel 4 but I actually prefer the new theme music and the intro fits well with it and the hexagonal graphics suite it gorgeous.
    6) the one thing I’d change… get it back on TV… come on even if it’s the 2/3rds that Liberty have been talking about I’d even cope with that but the whole being away is making it less pressing for me to watch. I watched the whole W Series and Formula E because it was accessible to me despite not being too big a fan of Vernon Kay I tolerated him (a little addendum – I won’t turn on my computer to watch practice and the warm ups, I’m quite young if I say so myself but if I’m watching sport I want it on my telly so I can keep track easier not having to set multiple reminders on my phone to then create space in schedules).

  10. I think there’s real problem with F1 looming which is mainly due to the lack of access to free to air, ie exposure. I fail to understand how F1 teams can be happy with less than 1m SKY viewers in the UK. Multiply that by the number of countries where F1 is available on satellite and chuck in a bit of FTA, like Ch4, and the result is pathetic. It’s a strange correlation – F1 banks TV money but no one is watching! How does that work with advertising revenues? I think the answer lies in the lack of sponsors on the cars and the absolutely essential support required by Liberty/F1 to teams outside of the top two or three obvious ones. But how long can that last before the game’s up I wonder. Lewis Hamilton should by rights win BBC Sports Personality of the Year but I bet he doesn’t – the fan base is shrinking and it’s becoming a niche sport. I visit France a fair bit and no one talks about it anymore even with Renault and French drivers involved.

  11. The C4 coverage has not been as good this year, but I’m confident this is to do with the restrictions placed on them by Sky, so not their fault. Really like their coverage though taking the restrictions into account.

    I have listened to a number of the Chequered Flag (BBC) podcasts, and like others have been impressed with Jack & Joylon’s commentary & opinions. I feel that this pairing could keep going and be the next TV pairing long term. I’d be happy with that.

    The highlights on YouTube – Still not keen on Crofty, his style really grates with me compared to Ben (C4) and Jack (BBC).

    Podcasts – I’ve listened to some of the ‘On the Marbles’ (C4), they’re not bad. I do listen to the WTF1 podcast after each race & I enjoy them a lot.

    As mentioned by others, most races, there has been actioned missed (sometimes until a couple of days after the race), which is really baffling and frustrating at times, it had happened too often. I think the race director seemed to have a vendetta against Sainz this year, saw little of him but he was such a standout performer this year.

    Lando Norris I think is going to be the stand-out social media star, he just seems to have such a knack for it. The McLaren Unboxed videos on Youtube have also been fantastic – McLaren as a whole have been amazing this year & I hope they continue on this trajectory.

  12. Sky’s F1 coverage has had positives and negatives. I’ll start with the positives.

    Karun Chandhok has been a good addition to Sky’s broadcasting team, it’s nice to get a new face to ‘mix it up’ as it was starting to get quite stale on Sky in recent years. I was disappointed with how he was used post race when he just walked along with a driver who finished in the points for a short interview e.g. Kvyat, Perez, Sainz. I wanted to see him give his post race thoughts along with Paul Di Resta and Simon Lazenby not be bumped down to a secondary role. Hopefully Sky make more use of him next season. He did well as the pit-lane reporter whenever Ted Kravitz wasn’t with Sky for a race. I don’t understand why he was getting so much criticism earlier in the season. He did a good job, obviously he’s not Ted Kravitz and I think people were taking it out on him when earlier this season #WheresTed was in full force but I feel it was very underserved and quite frankly ridiculous. He is very passionate about F1 and has done a great job. I look forward to his contributions next season.

    Jenson Button only appeared at a few races in 2019 but he was always great to have on Sky’s coverage, he did 17 seasons in F1 so he knows the sport inside out. As this was a decade on from his world championship winning season, Sky did some great features to mark the occasion which were fantastic to watch. I don’t know if C4 did anything similar but Sky’s features on it were very good.

    Ted Kravitz gets a special mention because it could’ve been so different, Sky’s pre-season advert which went through the different eras of F1 was fantastic but Ted was nowhere to be seen. His non appearance led to the creation of #WheresTed, a social media frenzy where people questioned what had happened to Ted. It seems that Sky’s head of F1 Scott Young had originally axed him but the decision was then overturned and it let to him only doing two thirds of the races this season. All I can say to that is thank god! Losing Ted would’ve been an absolute disaster. I can’t believe they even considered getting rid of him? Why? He’s fantastic! He’s an F1 fan and his character and personality really come through when you watch him. His Notebooks are always fun after a race (even though the Qualifying Notebook has sadly been discontinued so it’s just the Race Notebook now). The way he is so easily distracted by what he sees and randomly talks about other things is very entertaining e.g. Sergio Perez paying the hefty landing fee to land at Le Castellet Airport. General rumours going round the paddock like Latifi going to Williams for next season and Simone Resta going back to Ferrari. Even if a race is boring the Notebook never is. I’m so glad Ted Kravitz was part of Sky’s coverage in 2019, if we had lost him it would have been so much worse.

    Other mentions go to Martin Brundle, who as always is a key cog in Sky’s coverage. Paul Di Resta seems to be getting more airtime as one of their main pundits and Anthony Davidson who is not at every race but always adds good insight when he does the Skypad after qualifying and a race. I wish he did more races but this is sadly not possible with his WEC commitments.

    However, there were a few negatives with Sky’s F1 coverage in 2019.

    Sky opted to change their opening titles having used ‘Just Drive’ by Alistair Griffin since they started covering F1 back in 2012. They replaced it with ‘Outlands’ by Daft Punk. My main problem with the visuals they created was that they were too fast for the music, you blink and the titles are over. It’s like the music doesn’t match what you’re watching. There were rumours Sky were going to use the classic BBC F1 theme ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac. This would’ve been so much better but sadly I fear we are stuck with these titles for a few years. I just don’t like them. At least with the previous titles you could see more of what was going on, with this it’s all too fast and not inspiring.

    Johnny Herbert has been part of Sky’s F1 coverage since 2012, sadly I do fear his time is coming to the end. He just doesn’t add enough to Sky’s coverage unfortunately. He has been demoted to the ‘class clown’ (his antics on the F1 Show support this) and usually on a race day stands with Rachel Brookes where loads of fans are situated and just says the same thing ‘This is great place to watch F1, the fans here are great etc’. It’s just become very stale. Look at Paul Di Resta and Karun Chandhok, they provide proper analysis on F1, sadly Johnny Herbert doesn’t do that often enough. Maybe I am being too harsh but unless they make him a more serious pundit, I do wonder what is left for him to do on Sky’s coverage.

    The F1 Show needs to be scraped. Watching various drivers and team principals play jenga, darts or remote control cars is not required during an F1 weekend. Maybe this is something that could be shown during a midweek but there are times when this is shown live instead of F2 which is completely wrong. Most people would rather watch the next generation of drivers who may make the step up to F1 in the future as opposed to a magazine style show that can be shown at anytime.

    I feel that Sky’s pre-race show is too long. If a normal European race starts at 14:10. They have Pit Lane Live from 12:30-13:30 and then On The Grid from 13:30-14:05 before the race starts. That’s 1 hour and 40 minutes. I feel they could easily cut this down to one hour and have Pit Lane Live start at 13:00. Personally I’m not really bothered by the track parade, the features they do pre-race are very good (I have no problem with them). I don’t need to see drivers being interviewed on the truck every single race. Because Sky’s pre race is so long if you end watching Pit Lane Live all the way to Ted’s Notebook, you end up watching F1 for 5 straight hours. This is quite a stretch especially if you watch every single race. Just trimming some of Pit Lane Live would help reduce the length of the coverage.

    This may have been said before but I feel Sky’s clear and obvious bias towards Lewis Hamilton is quite frankly embarrassing. I understand that he is the best British driver at the moment as is winning so many races and championships but Sky need to understand that there are other 19 other drivers on the grid. This isn’t the Lewis Hamilton show. You could argue that broadcasters in other countries are biased towards their best interests e.g. Italy towards Ferrari, Germany towards Vettel, Netherlands towards Verstappen etc. But Sky just constantly pander to Hamilton. Simon Lazenby and David Croft are the main culprits of this bias. Most of Sky’s broadcasting team are biased towards Lewis Hamilton in different ways but they are on another level. I don’t watch C4F1 but the impression I get from people who watch their coverage is they don’t have this level of bias. They understand that no one driver is bigger than F1, maybe Sky could learn some valuable lessons from them…

  13. I’ll start firstly by talking about the Indy 500. I thought Sky did a decent job on this and they clearly made an effort, with Alex Brundle (who sounds eerily like his dad) filling in the NBC ad breaks. The only problem was the NBC feed cut to a very long helicopter shot so Sky may as well have cut to an ad break themselves for all the good it did. I do appreciate the effort, however.

    I avoided Channel 4 altogether this year, although the one time I did see it was Azerbaijan qualifying highlights, when Mark Webber replaced Coulthard in the commentary box. I do enjoy Webber’s commentary, although his comment of “Verstappen is the best qualifier in F1” was a little odd given that Verstappen had never had a single pole position at that point. I have always felt that Channel 4 suffered from Hamilton bias on levels not seen since James Allen, particularly last year (2018). Two examples that has been etched into my mind over C4’s nonsense were: the 2016 Italian Grand Prix, whereupon Steve Jones said “if Lewis loses the title this year, God forbid…” and a practice session in 2018 when Coulthard and Chandhok oozed glutenous praise over Hamilton’s “elegance” and how smoothly he turns the wheel… pass the sick bucket.

    For this reason, Crofty’s bias seems quite mild in comparison and Brundle is positively neutral. To use a 2019 example – this is a 2019 review after all – the Vettel/Hamilton incident in Canada had Crofty asking the question over a penalty (in much the same way Hamilton did over the radio) and Brundle dismissing it altogether.

    Crofty continues to divide opinion although I like him a lot more than most. Incidentally, I’ve noticed he seems to be commentating on race starts by looking out of the window, which says a lot about FOM’s direction. This year, however, I felt Crofty/Sky was/were being heavily leaned on by FOM/Liberty to say nothing negative about the broadcast. Gone are the days of James Allen and Martin Brundle calling the director a “numpty”, it would seem! Every time that the Skypad was used from Belgium(?) onwards they gave lip service to “powered by AWS”, and some of the new graphics this season from FOM (the “battle forecast” and “tyre performance” in particular) were just numberwang, and you could almost sense Martin Brundle wanting to shout at the screen.

    The directing was nothing short of appalling this year. Twice – at Silverstone and Monza – the director cut to the crowd whilst we were in the middle of something happening. To be fair to him, Crofty managed to smooth over the Silverstone one very well…

    There also seems to be a delay with onboard cameras playing about half a second behind the action, which is very odd.

    The other key evidence for Crofty – or maybe Sky itself – having been leaned on by FOM/Liberty is the way that discussion about qualifying sprint races for 2020 was shut down completely. One of the biggest stories of the Russian weekend was not mentioned after FP1.

    Thanks to FOM moving the post-race interviews to Parc Ferme, this completely pushes the podium sequence back and really disrupts the flow in my view of the celebrating drivers. Sky’s “Brundle substitutions” as a result have been mixed but this year they were a lot better. Anthony Davidson is a much better commentator than Paul Di Resta and it’s a shame Sky aren’t seeing it like the rest of us (Hungary 2017, where they had a free choice between Davidson and Di Resta, they later said Di Resta was meant to be commentating but he was drafted into Williams as a last-minute sub). Thank goodness they weren’t tempted to try Herbert in a race again (Russia 2018), although I feel that squeezing 4 people into the box for practice is a little on the “too many cooks” side of things. At times Crofty was sharing a box with Di Resta, Herbert, and Jack Aitken.

    I’ve never been keen on Chandhok so his move to Sky was not welcomed by me. Ted Kravitz was much better in every way and the fact that he wasn’t there at every race showed how much he was missed. You never know what you have until it’s gone!

    The use of having an extra voice, usually Davidson, Rosberg, or Chandhok, in the gallery truck simply served to give us radio messages 20 seconds early. And for the love of Christ, can we get someone other than Christian Horner on the pit wall??

    I don’t mind the length of Sky’s buildup and I notice they seem to rely less on VTs than any other channel has ever done since they became a thing. The post-race stuff could be a little more active, as this season they’ve taken to some decking more often than not, and Ted’s notebook should go out as part of the programme as opposed to a separate feature altogether.

    The British Grand Prix was besotted with the burden of being during the Cricket World Cup final. I was working at a cricket game that day and had a ridiculously high amount of screens being used and used up a huge amount of data. The F1 calendar really should plan ahead.

    I’ve probably missed something in all this but I’ll leave that there for now.

    1. Agree about some of the clashes. There are further possible clashes affecting the Canadian, French and Austrian GPs. The England and Wales games for the Canadian GP weekend should finish before F1, although the Wales game will compete with F1 free practice in the event that that games goes to extra time. The other two races are France and Austria. If France 2019 is a benchmark, I don’t think that will be a great loss to anyone. Austria will be more of an issue. The good news is that from the Euro2020 Quarter Finals onwards, there is no clash with F1 at all

  14. Incidentally, I’ve had Outlands virtually on repeat non-stop since March. I love those new Sky titles.

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