Scheduling: The 2020 MotoAmerica and IndyCar season openers

After a two-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, motor racing is back! Over the next few weeks, the schedules will begin to fill back up with live motor racing action taking place from across the globe.

Kicking us back into action are two stateside championships: MotoAmerica and the IndyCar Series. MotoAmerica is the American equivalent of the British Superbikes championship, with ten race weekends featuring on the revised 2020 calendar.

This weekend’s MotoAmerica race (30th and 31st May) is the first of two stops for the series at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, with both races airing live on Eurosport for UK viewers.

One week later, the IndyCar Series begins its 2020 tour at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday 6th June. For the first time ever, in addition to qualifying and the race, practice also airs live for UK fans on Sky Sports F1.

Elsewhere, there is a plethora of new programming on Sky Sports F1 and BT Sport, whilst there is plenty of Esports action also on offer. RaceFans has a complete list of the Esports events taking place this weekend.

Of interest also to UK readers is the fact that Formula E documentary film ‘And We Go Green‘ premieres on Channel 4 on Tuesday 2nd June at 00:05 (Wednesday morning).

IndyCar Series – Texas (Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Mix)
06/06 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Practice
06/06 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying
06/06 (Saturday night) – 00:30 to 04:00 – Race (Main Event and Mix from 01:00)

MotoAmerica – Road America (Eurosport)
30/05 – 20:00 to 22:00 – Day 1
31/05 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Day 2


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Scott Young to step down as Sky’s Head of F1

Scott Young is to leave his role as Sky’s Head of Formula 1 after a three year stint with the broadcaster, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal.

The Australian was a major part of motor sport broadcasting down under for three decades, playing a pivotal role in the V8 Supercars offering at the time.

Young joined Sky following the retirement of Martin Turner in late 2017. Since then, Young has helped Sky navigate the past two Formula 1 seasons, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At times, Young’s decision making has attracted criticism, however under Young’s leadership, Sky have also brought the likes of 2009 Drivers’ Champion Jenson Button and Karun Chandhok into the F1 line-up.

I understand that Young is to leave Sky following the conclusion of the European season. Whether Young has opted to return to Australia, or move to another company within the F1 sphere, is currently unclear.

Relationship between F1 and Sky
Speaking publicly at the Black Book Motorsport Forum last August, Young denied suggestions that Sky’s relationship with F1 had become ‘strained’ in recent times.

At the time, Young said, “The relationship hasn’t improved because they have not strained,” Young said. “We have an extraordinary relationship with every aspect within Formula 1, including the 10 teams and the 20 drivers. And without that relationship we can’t create a narrative.”

“There’s a daily dialogue that goes back and forth between Sky Sports Formula 1 and the team at Biggin Hill, at a granular level of making television, and the team at St James’s Market on an executive level,” he added.

“Whenever they call us seeking content that they like, we always share it. They’re always very good in providing us content or footage that we need to produce our story.”

Since then, the two parties have been working together on a film to commemorate F1’s 70th anniversary.

Sources suggest this has not gone as well as anticipated, evidenced by the lack of reference to the documentary by F1 themselves across social media, with only a passing mention on Sky’s own social feeds.

Update on May 31st at 16:25 – In response to a request for comment from Motorsport Broadcasting, Sky Sports Managing Director Rob Webster said “Scott Young has made a huge impact on our F1 coverage and helped drive the team forward since joining at the start of 2018.”

“He will be with us to lead the F1 team through the restart of the season and through the European races before moving on to a new challenge. He goes with our best wishes and thanks for everything he has done during three seasons of F1.”


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Behind the scenes with RTL F1 reporter Kai Ebel

In a guest article for Motorsport Broadcasting, Edmund Wareham reports in from overseas again, giving insight on a recent podcast featuring RTL’s F1 reporter Kai Ebel. For those that missed Edmund’s first piece on RTL’s Florian König, head over here

There are few F1 pitlane reporters who have rap songs written about them. But in 2010 the German rapper Eko Fresh produced Kai Ebel Style, in honour of the German TV legend that is Kai Ebel, renowned for his striking fashion sense and his exuberant interviewing style.

Following on from their interview with König, the German podcast Starting Grid caught up with Ebel, who would have been reporting on his 28th F1 season this year but instead is biding his time at home.

“I should have been coming back from Vietnam at this point, but instead I’ve just come in from my garden.” In the wide-ranging interview with Kevin Scheuren, Ebel discusses his long career in the pitlane, how he reacts to criticism and how he makes no apology for regarding F1 as entertainment.

Ebel’s entry into F1
As with König, Ebel studied sport’s journalism at the German Sport University in Cologne and in 1988 was able to secure a four-week internship at RTL during UEFA Euro 1988 which West Germany hosted.

In 1992 RTL lost coverage of the Bundesliga football rights and Ebel considered whether it was better to leave what he feared at the time could be a “sinking ship”, however their decision to ask him to join the channel’s F1 coverage swayed him otherwise.

Ebel admits that he was not a fan before (he uses the same phrase as König: “I didn’t have petrol in my blood”) and as with his on-screen colleague saw this as an advantage. “You don’t see the bigger picture as a fan. I could learn from a distance and then gradually get closer,” Ebel told the podcast.

When Ebel first joined RTL, he believes F1 teams underappreciated the value of the press and media. The media conducted post-race interviews in a mixed zone (like football), where broadcasters and journalists vied to get a word with a driver. Together with a group of other broadcasters, Ebel was a driving force behind the introduction of the more professionalised media pen.

1994
He also had the idea of introducing live interviews during the race from the pitlane, arguing that it could break the monotony of more boring races. RTL first introduced this at a weekend which still leaves a mark on Ebel. Over the course of his long career, Ebel has been present at some of the most important junctures of F1’s history, and none more so than Imola 1994.

Ebel recalls interviewing a “super worried” Ayrton Senna on Saturday, after Rubens Barrichello’s crash on Friday and Roland Ratzenberger’s fatal accident on Saturday.

On the Sunday, broadcasting live, “I just simply tried to function.” He tried to do as many interviews as possible. In his final task of the day, he had to appear on RTL’s evening news bulletin, and after the broadcast it sunk in what had happened. “I broke down and just cried. I was unbelievably battered,” Ebel said.

Over the course of 1994, as Schumacher chalked up victory after victory, viewing figures continued to rise, culminating in the “thriller” that was Adelaide 1994. Ebel believes over the course of the season Schumacher was a better driver than Damon Hill, but that he “committed a foul” to win the title that year.

Whilst Ebel remains good friends with Heinz-Harald Frentzen, his relationship with Schumacher was more functionable, calling it “respectful and reliable.” Ebel admired above all Schumacher’s hard work.

He recalls the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, when Schumacher wrapped up his first title for Ferrari, and the newly crowned champion coming to the interview with a Bacardi and Coke. Wondering why Schumacher had yet to finish his drink, he explained “I have to go to my debrief.”

Dealing with criticism
Under YouTube videos featuring Ebel you will read a comment saying “Kai Ebel, you can’t be more stupid” with the reply underneath “there’s no one better.” Ebel is in many respects a polarising figure and openly admits that he is not your usual pit lane reporter. Over the course of his career he has faced a lot of criticism for the questions he asks and his unique style.

Boxing is Ebel’s favourite sport and he draws on the sport to explain how “factual criticism above the belt is absolutely OK but anything below, that’s not on.” But he accepts he has made mistakes.

In 1997 in Jerez, for example, he recognises in retrospect that he treated Schumacher too lightly after he had tried to ram Villeneuve off the track. Over time and with more experience he has learned to see criticism at more of a distance.

Despite opinions that he is not serious enough, Ebel makes no apologies for the fact that he regards F1 as a show. He remembers Bernie Ecclestone approaching him at the Nürburgring asking him to conduct podium interviews for the first time and demanding “entertainment. I do not want boring questions.”

Ebel loves meeting the celebrities who come to the grid, whether securing an exclusive interview with Usain Bolt thanks to a tip off from the head of Puma or boldly walking up to Al Pacino deep in conversation with Bernie.

Fashion and music
Ebel has also come under the spotlight for his fashion choices. Clothes have always been important to him so it was not his choice to have to wear race overalls in the pitlane following Jos Verstappen’s fire in Hockenheim 1994.

“I was just interviewing Mika Häkkinen and in the middle of the interview his eyes just dilate in this horrified way and he walks away,” Ebel recalls. “You think: the question can’t have been that bad! What was up? Behind me Jos Verstappen’s Benetton had just burst into flames.”

The gallery on Ebel’s website gives just a small insight into some of the very colourful shirts, shoes and ties that Ebel has worn over the years. Eddie Jordan pales into insignificance.

Music has been another important part of Ebel’s life and another way in which his profile has been beyond the pitlane. In 2004, Ebel made a guest appearance in the music video of the song Runaway by the band Groove Coverage. Four years later he made his debut as a singer, releasing Sie schrei’n Ebel, a song which originated as a bit of fun but which his bosses wanted to promote.

Whilst his musical career never had the same longevity as his time in the pitlane, the sense of fun which Ebel brings to his role is palpable. Whatever one’s views, there is no denying that he brings colour, energy, and humour to a sport which from the outside could be seen as sanitised.

Behind that is his dedication to the job and desire to convey some of the excitement of the F1 paddock back home to viewers. He has been at the forefront of a pivotal period in the sport’s history. “I find the whole job a privilege,” he says.

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Channel 4 grabs ‘And We Go Green’ rights

Channel 4 will show a new feature-length documentary surrounding the electric Formula E series, championship organisers have confirmed today.

Directed by Fisher Stevens and Malcolm Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘And We Go Green’ gives viewers a behind the scenes look at 2017-18 season.

The documentary first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and will get its inaugural UK showing on Channel 4 on Tuesday 2nd June from 00:05 to 01:50. Following transmission, the film will be available on demand via All 4 for the next twelve months.

The film primarily follows five of Formula E’s leading racers: Sam Bird, Lucas di Grassi, Andre Lotterer, Nelson Piquet Jr, and eventual champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

Formula E’s founder and chairman Alejandro Agag, who also appears in the film, said: “The documentary encapsulates the true mission and purpose of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, to show how competition drives technological development and how the excitement of sport can have a meaningful social impact and alter perceptions of electric vehicles.

“This notion is how the title And We Go Green came about. Not only does it signal the start of our races, but it also indicates an urgent need to put the brakes on devastating and irreparable damage already caused by fossil fuels.”

“I’m proud to have worked with such great talent and a production team who share the same common values around sustainability and making a positive impact in the fight against climate change.”


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F1’s ‘Silverstone II’ race in 2020 set to air exclusively live on Sky

One of the two races that Formula 1 is set to hold at Silverstone this season looks likely to air exclusively live on pay television, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the curtailment of the first half of the 2020 season, with the season now expected to begin with a double header in Austria on July 5th and July 12th.

Current plans indicate that Silverstone will play host to rounds three and four on July 26th and August 2nd, circuit bosses confirming today that F1 had reached a deal with the circuit “to host two races behind closed doors this summer.”

However, it appears unlikely that both races will air live on free-to-air television. Since 2012, the free-to-air broadcaster in question (BBC until 2015 and Channel 4 thereafter), have been able to air the British Grand Prix live on free-to-air television.

Up until this point, it has not been clear whether the free-to-air broadcaster could also air other races that took place within the UK. The last time two F1 races took place in the UK in the same year was 1993, when Donington Park played host to the European Grand Prix.

Speaking to this site, a Channel 4 spokesperson has confirmed that the broadcaster will cover the race F1 officially calls the British Grand Prix live. In other words, if F1 decides to badge the second weekend as the European Grand Prix, then it will air exclusively live on Sky.

The key here is the official name of the Grand Prix weekend, not the location F1 are holding the race in.

Of course, the second round from Red Bull Ring also could be called the European Grand Prix, but geographical boundaries suggest that the Slovenian Grand Prix would perhaps a better fit, and there is past precedence in situations like this (see: Imola and San Marino or the Nürburgring and Luxembourg 1997).

The alternative is that F1 badges the second British Grand Prix as ‘British Grand Prix race 2’, in a similar vein to Formula E’s double header weekends. If that happens, well, your guess is as good as mine. Or, alternatively, maybe F1 can finally have their London Grand Prix. Just a 90-minute drive away…


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