Over the past 50 years, many voices have graced the small screen to broadcast Formula 1 to the masses in a wide range of territories: from the UK to the US, from free-to-air to pay TV and beyond.
But how many would make Motorsport Broadcasting’s on-air team, and why? To answer that question is incredibly difficult, when trying to account for the different eras, the different broadcasters, the age of the talent in question, and so on.
The fan that ITV was trying to attract in the late 1990s may be different to the fan Sky is currently trying to attract to their offering.
As part of the selection process, I am assuming that age is not a factor, that time has no bounds, alive or deceased.
The cast assembled in my opinion brings together the best of the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky Sports into a super team, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Think of it as my version of the Avengers, for use of a better term!
Of course, this is all judgemental (I admit to being openly biased for the next 2,000 words) and that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. The line-up comprises of:
- 2 x presenters
- 3 x analysts
- 2 x pit lane reporters
- 2 x technical reporters
- 2 x commentators
So, who is in, and who is out? Revealed, Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team…
Every good on-air presentation team needs a presenter to fit the bill. For me, watching Formula 1, there are two presenters that brought warmth with them whenever presenting the sport.
First up, the BBC’s Formula 1 presenter from 2009 to 2012, Jake Humphrey. Humphrey worked his way through the BBC ranks, from children’s television into BBC Sport, and eventually onto BBC F1 for the start of F1’s return to the Beeb in 2009.
Humphrey’s style was a departure from his predecessors Jim Rosenthal and Steve Rider on ITV. Both Rosenthal and Rider are excellent, top-tier presenters, but Humphrey brought with him an additional element. During that period, it felt like Humphrey was one of us: a fan who happened to be living the dream as F1 presenter.
In my view, Humphrey helped bring us closer to the sport that we love, thanks to his presenting style, bouncing off his co-presenters where necessary.
Alongside Humphrey anchoring the show is Georgie Ainslee (nee. Thompson). Ainslee has been round the motoring circles for years, having been part of Sky’s A1 Grand Prix coverage in the mid-2000s.
Ainslee was part of Sky’s F1 coverage in 2012, presenting elements of their programming including The F1 Show, but quietly left prior to the 2013 season, with reports at the time suggesting that she wanted a bigger role within the team.
One presenter anchoring the entire weekend is too much, so having two presenters in equal capacity feels the best way to handle the situation.
Back in 2012, I really enjoyed Ainslee’s Sky Pad contributions with Anthony Davidson, and it is unfortunate that she left in the manner that she did, considering she was one of the better parts of Sky’s offering in their inaugural season.
This is where the choices get tough, given that there is a plethora of personalities to choose from spanning across the BBC, Sky, Channel 4, and ITV. Narrowing the choices down to three or four stars, past and present, is an extremely difficult challenge. But hey, we did say that this is a dream team.
All three of my choices are natural broadcasters, and all three were part of Sky’s Formula 1 line-up last season. We start with Martin Brundle, 2020 marking his 24th season on the microphone in the commentary box.
Brundle could double up as a third co-commentator, although this piece for brevity keeps Brundle primarily in an analytical role. Alongside Brundle are Sky colleagues Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button, both of whom have shown why they are worthy of being in a dream team in recent years.
Davidson’s broadcasting life started in 2008 alongside David Croft in the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary box, moving over to Sky for the start of their coverage in 2012.
Button joined Sky for five races last year. The thing that lets Sky down is that both Davidson and Button appear on-screen too infrequently across the season, but that is a wider issue surrounding the number of races as opposed to a Sky-specific problem.
On the Sky Pad, Davidson is a wizard, whilst Button has the same characteristics as Humphrey from a broadcasting perspective: a warm style, and a down to earth personality.
If you are looking for entertaining features, maybe this is not the trio for you, it really depends what you are after from a programming perspective.
For me, I want analysts who live and breathe F1, who know it like the back of their hand, and can articulate their knowledge back to the viewer at home in a digestible manner. Brundle, Button and Davidson tick those boxes for me.
Missing out by small margins are Mark Webber, Karun Chandhok and Allan McNish. On a different year in history, the choice may be different.
Also, it is worth bearing in mind that I am looking at this from a UK broadcasting perspective, so opinions may vary depending on where you are based.
Roving the pit lane are two faces, one of whom has never appeared in an official F1 capacity for a UK broadcaster, either through choice or because they overlooked him at every opportunity.
Enter Will Buxton. Currently Formula 1’s digital presenter, Buxton first made a name on the F1 broadcasting scene as GP2 and GP3 lead commentator. More recently, fans stateside heard Buxton’s voice during both Speed’s and NBC’s coverage of the sport from 2010 to 2017.
Despite being around the sport for nearly twenty years, Buxton has never worked in an F1 capacity for Sky, Channel 4, the BBC or ITV at their respective times. UK’s loss was America’s gain over the past decade.
During NBC’s coverage, Buxton and producer Jason Swales hosted several behind the scenes documentaries on the sport, including the ‘Road to…’ series, which was well received by fans.
Joining Buxton is Channel 4’s Lee McKenzie, who has been part of the UK’s free-to-air F1 output since 2009, grilling the drivers on a variety of topics.
Outside of the small screen, both McKenzie and Buxton are brilliant journalists in their own right, both with a unique ability to get the best out of their interviewee on any given occasion: whether in a pre-race vignette, or during the post-race media pen interviews.
You might think two reporters in pit lane and beyond is excessive. But remember, F1 consists of ten teams, 20 drivers, and hundreds of people that help bring the show to life. It is Buxton and McKenzie that get beneath the skin of the sport, helping to tell the stories that may otherwise go unnoticed.
On the technical side, Ted Kravitz leads the output, having been part of the broadcasting scene since the 1990s. Kravitz moved to ITV’s F1 on-air team in a full-time capacity following Murray Walker’s retirement, staying in that role until 2008.
Kravitz moved with F1 to the BBC in 2009, and then again to Sky in 2012, where he has remained ever since, narrowly avoiding the chop from their team prior to the 2019 season. Well-liked by fans, Kravitz’s Notebook has been a fixture of Sky’s F1 coverage since its inception, along with the Development Corner segment.
What Kravitz has never had though, is a good wing man in the technical space, someone to bounce off from time to time. And that is where the second technical expert comes in the form of Craig Scarborough.
With the resources that he has, Scarborough does a great job dissecting the technical innovations across social media, sometimes with Peter Windsor in toe. Both were dropped by Motorsport Network in the latter half of 2018 as part of their cost-cutting exercise at the time.
I suspect no UK broadcaster has ever picked Scarborough up because he has never worked with in an F1 team as technical expert, unlike the likes of Gary Anderson, who was part of the BBC’s F1 offering in 2013 and 2014 before they dropped him.
Nevertheless, if you want an all rounded team that covers both the human element and technical element in equal detail, then you need two technical experts, and Kravitz and Scarborough are the two for me.
The beauty of having a broadcasting dream team is that there is no right, or wrong, answer. I started watching Formula 1 in 1999, so caught the later years of Murray Walker‘s commentary.
I met Walker twice: once at a book signing back in 2002, and more recently at Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch in 2016. And, thanks to the internet, many classic races feature his commentary.
- “And it’s Go! Go! Go!”
- “Three point three six seconds! Damon Hill wins the Japanese Grand Prix!”
- “And he exits the final corner for the fifty-third and last time, to win the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, and the World Championship, for the third time!”
Commentary lines such as these will live on in Formula 1’s history. And it is for that reason that Murray, and his Murray-isms, feature in my dream team. Yes, Walker made mistakes.
But, if I had a choice between a commentator that could make paint dry sound exciting, with a few mistakes here and there, or someone who struggled to capture the excitement that F1 brings, it is the former all day long.
To put it simply, Walker’s voice is infectious, and we are lucky that he stayed in the commentary box for as long as he did. Walker will always be F1 to me, and for a whole generation of fans in their late 20s and onwards.
On the other side, one of Walker’s colleagues left this arena far earlier than they should have. James Hunt passed away at the age of 45 in 1993, days after commentating on the Canadian Grand Prix. Had Hunt opted to retire at the same age as Walker, Hunt would still be commentating on F1 today at the age of 72.
I was too young to watch Hunt’s commentary live – I had not even turned one when Hunt passed away. But what I do know is that Hunt in the commentary box was passionate about the racing that was unfolding in front of him, telling it how it was.
It is a testament to the relationship between Hunt and Walker that the pairing lasted 13 years, from 1979 until Hunt’s untimely death.
In a parallel universe, Hunt would have been commentating alongside Walker for many years to come, but alas, it was not too be. In a dream broadcasting line-up, both Hunt and Brundle would be part of that team (clearly, I am bending the rules in the name of fun).
If time had no bounds, this is Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team:
- Presenter: Georgie Ainslee
- Presenter: Jake Humphrey
- Commentator: James Hunt
- Commentator: Murray Walker
- Analyst: Anthony Davidson
- Analyst: Jenson Button
- Analyst: Martin Brundle
- Pitlane: Lee McKenzie
- Pitlane: Will Buxton
- Technical: Craig Scarborough
- Technical: Ted Kravitz
Like with any team, whether the eleven would blend together on-screen is a different question, in the same way that two world class drivers in the best team may go pear shaped.
You want a line-up that is flexible. You do not want a commentator that just commentates, or a technical expert that cannot interview drivers. In the scenario above, Walker would still interview drivers, and Brundle could still commentate, for sake of argument.
Notable by their omission are David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan, amongst other high calibre candidates, which shows how difficult it is to select a dream team cutting across different eras. Had I been focusing on current generation only, then Coulthard and Jordan may well have made the cut.
To bring gravitas to the production is Channel 4’s F1 producer Whisper, but with backing from Sky Sports. Sky bring with them the Sky Pad, the paddock stage set up, as well as the extensive air-time, whilst Whisper bring with them some excellent VTs and a graphics package that is second to none. The best of both worlds, in my view.
And that is my dream Formula 1 broadcasting line-up. What is yours? Have your say and debate the question in the comments below.
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7 thoughts on “Revealed: Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team”
No a million times no to kids TV guy, I avoided the pre-coverage on the BBC because of him and now BT sport football the provider I have has him front and centre.
Mark Webber & Eddie Jordan
Martin Brindle & David Coulthard
Pit Lane & Interview:
Lee McKenzie & Ted Kravitz
Of course that’s Brundle but had a bit of trouble logging in and missed the spelling correction.
I don’t think you need a massive team. Having it nice and tight develops that nice chemistry.
Steve Rider was the best presenter when on the BBC (like James Hunt that was slightly before you started watching F1).
Presenter: Will Buxton (FP1/3, Qualifying & Race
Presenter: Nicki Shields (Race)
Commentator: Jack Nicholls
Commentator: Alex Jacques (FP1/3: Paul di Resta, FP2: Will Buxton)
Analyst: Paul di Resta
Analyst: Mark Webber
Analyst: Davide Valsecchi
Pitlane: Nicki Shields
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz
Technical: Karun Chandhok
Technical: Marc Priestley
I’ll only have one presenter. So much world class talent I would love to have included such as Ben Edwards that I have had to leave out. So, here’s mine;
• Presenter: Steve Jones (Brings an air of light hearted humour to the role which along with his personable nature I find makes everyone else feel comfortable making him a great anchor to a presenting team).
• Commentator: Murray Walker (Listening to his unabashed enthusiasm commenting on Formula 1 is one of my earliest childhood memories. He deserves a knighthood).
• Commentator: David Coulthard (A brilliant individual who loves his sport and is a great counterpart to Ben Edwards who I would also love to have but I have to pick Murray Walker).
• Analyst: Eddie Jordan (The eccentric Irishman who makes people laugh by just being Eddie. He brings a unique perspective as former team owner who has a habit of finding out paddock gossip before anyone else seems to know).
• Analyst: Mark Webber (Hugely impressed with what he has done in his relatively short presenting career. As a former driver in one of the top teams in recent times he knows his stuff).
• Analyst: Jenson Button (He has a certain charm to him who I loved as my favourite racing driver when he was competing and a world champion to boot).
• Pitlane: Lee McKenzie (Her interviewing technique and the respect she has from the drivers in her role is second to none. Period).
• Pitlane: Will Buxton (Another brilliant reporter who has a natural confidence and ability who is able to give thoughtful and honest opinions that add to the conversation).
• Technical: Marc Priestly (His YouTube channel is a demonstration that he knows his stuff, has experience of working for a world championship team and has a likeable charisma that he would undoubtedly bring to a TV screen).
• Technical: Ted Kravitz (Like Lee McKenzie, he is second to none in his role in what he does and has a natural enthusiasm for the sport of F1 which comes across).
My opinion on this:
Host – Raymond Baxter (On Site) and Murray Walker (Studio)
Pundits – Martin Brundle (On Site), David Coulthard (On Site), Mark Webber (Studio/On Site), Eddie Jordan (Studio), Paul Di Resta (Studio), Anthony Davidson (Studio), Karun Chandhok (Studio), Jenson Button (Studio)
Commentators – James Hunt and Martin Brundle
Reporters: Ted Kravitz (On Site), Rachel Brooks (On Site), Craig Slater (Studio)
Presenter: Steve Jones, thoroughly enjoy watching him, very entertaining
Analyst: Mark Webber, very creatively informative, honest and precise. Also entertaining
Analyst: Peter Windsor, always says the things you want to hear about, again very honest and his knowledge is great
Analyst: Anthony Davidson, great insight, entertaining, similar to Mark
Commentator: James Allen, thought he was great for itv and for 5 live, always very entertaining and also great knowledge
Commentator: Martin Brundle, great insight, not much goes amiss with him, insight is top notch and entertaining
Pit lane: Lee McKenzie, the best for driver interviews and good at getting an insight into the humans behind the racers
Pit lane: Will Buxton, great knowledge and insight, entertaining and opinionated, which is great for TV
Technical: Ted Kravitz, always entertaining and explains things very well, his depth of knowledge is great
Technical: Karun Chandhok, the dedication and research this guy does, extremely insightful and a joy to watch
Sometimes I’d mix up the roles slightly to get analysis from people like KC, WB, MB and vary up the co commentary, pit lane etc for fun and to keep things fresh, but I’d have all these people in my team. Just missing out would be DC and Eddie, a great entertaining pair with great knowledge and insight. Craig Scarborough would be an awesome stand in as a tech guy. Also a mention for Jolyon Palmer who I was very impressed with on 5 live and his post race analysis on YouTube throughout 2019. Finally a line for Paul di Resta who I think has improved significantly in the last couple of years and has become very insightful.