Flashback: 2000 European Grand Prix

On the eve of the Nürburgring’s return to the Formula One calendar, Motorsport Broadcasting has decided to be a little nostalgic, with a throwback to the 2000 European Grand Prix!

Funnily enough, many fans remember the events of the 1999 running of the Grand Prix far more than 2000, as Johnny Herbert climbed to victory in mixed weather from 14th on the grid. But, reviewing that race from a broadcasting perspective feels too obvious.

And, whilst the 2000 race may not have been thrilling in quite the same way, it for me is still a classic wet weather race in the Eifel mountains with twists and turns along the way.

Would McLaren be able to outsmart Ferrari, or would Michael Schumacher’s wet weather prowess show once again? Here we go…

  • Date: Sunday 21st May 2000
  • Time: 12:15 to 15:15
  • Presenter: Jim Rosenthal
  • Reporter: James Allen
  • Reporter: Louise Goodman
  • Commentator: Murray Walker
  • Commentator: Martin Brundle
  • Analyst: Tony Jardine

By this point in their coverage, ITV dedicated around 45 minutes of build-up to the European races, with another 30 minutes for analysis post-race. The build-up gradually expanded in length year-on-year, and before we know it, the commercial broadcaster was dedicating an hour of programming to build-up.

Pre-Race
Following Simon Taylor’s departure from ITV’s Formula 1 line-up, the team opted to bring an additional guest into their studio for some of the build-up, an array which included the likes of Sir Stirling Moss, Bernie Ecclestone, and even Ant and Dec!

For Nürburgring, it was the turn of Mercedes’ Sporting Director Norbert Haug in the studio, Haug joining Jim Rosenthal and Tony Jardine.

The build-up for this race feels split in two: the first 20 minutes focusing heavily on the McLaren and Ferrari scrap, with the latter 20 minutes looking at some of the other stories making the F1 agenda.

In my view, the format works, and more importantly covers a lot of ground across the segments, meaning that the viewer feels well versed in the world of F1 by the time the lights go green.

Haug’s insights were not the most engaging however, but nevertheless helped bring additional context to the McLaren and Ferrari battle.

2000 European GP - refuelling.png
ITV’s pit lane reporter James Allen goes behind the scenes with the BAR team during refuelling practice.

Following the usual qualifying round-up and summary, conversation moves onto the big incident from the previous round in Spain: a botched refuelling pit stop from Ferrari resulting in a broken ankle for Nigel Stepney.

The conversation provides the opener to an excellent segment from James Allen, who joined BAR during their pit stop practice to demonstrate the many roles and responsibilities during the pit stop sequence.

McLaren versus Ferrari remains the theme in the pit stop piece, with comment from McLaren’s Ron Dennis and Ferrari’s Ross Brawn. Next-up, on-board for a lap of the Nurburgring with Rubens Barrichello!

A thrills and spills VT showing Johnny Herbert’s spectacular victory from 1999 follows, with a segment on the other side of the ad-break taking us further into the world of F1 through Martin Brundle’s ‘Inside Track’ series.

Brundle’s piece for round six of 2000 looks at F1’s strict weight limits, well timed given that Prost’s Nick Heidfeld was thrown out of the weekend after qualifying for fielding an underweight car.

Attention turns further down the pecking order to two F1 struggles: Jaguar, and Jacques Villeneuve. Jaguar had yet to capitalise on Stewart’s strong 1999 season, the team the subject of Louise Goodman’s segment.

The thing I really like here is that the segment was not a ‘talk to camera’ segment, but rather an all-rounded segment that offered different perspective, with the opinions of technical director Gary Anderson and drivers Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert on show. The editors made clear the purpose of the segment from the outset, which made it even more engaging.

An interview segment between Brundle and Villeneuve followed. You really got the impression from these two segments that every second of the broadcast counts, there is no waffle, no glitziness to the output, but why should there be?

The piece touches on Villeneuve’s disappointment with his move to BAR, his relationship with Craig Pollak and whether he, in Brundle’s words, can “really walk away from a works Honda deal?”

2000 European GP - final turn angle.png
An excellent camera angle as the cars head out of the final bend onto the start-finish straight.

Rosenthal and Jardine filled the gaps in between the VTs, but this was a segment heavy build-up, with Brundle’s famed grid walk not in sight, for this round at least. In ITV’s early days, the team did not overuse the grid walk, gradually bringing it in until it became a permanent fixture at most races from the mid-2000s onwards.

With the scene set at “a cool 10 degrees,” it is race time!

Race
I have mentioned this before, but the 2000 grid is gorgeous, with the red Ferrari’s, green Jaguar’s, and yellow Jordan’s amongst the colours on offer.

Back in the early 2000s, F1’s television operation for most viewers was decentralised. ITV directed the British Grand Prix, Fuji Television would direct the Japanese Grand Prix, and here at the Nürburgring, it was German broadcaster RTL who controlled of the European round from Germany.

Off the line, Hakkinen stormed into the lead from third, swapping places with Coulthard, as Schumacher remained in second. The first of Murray Walker’s prophetic pe-race predictions came true, as Villeneuve in the BAR jumped up to fifth from ninth on the grid.

Only four drivers are on the harder compound Bridgestone tyre. They’ve got the super soft tyre here for the first time this year, and the soft tyre, which is actually the harder one here today, is being used by both the Ferrari drivers [Rubens] Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, by Jacques Villeneuve and by Jos Verstappen. And I certainly know in the case of the Ferrari’s that, as Martin has said, it’s because they just get a better balance on the car. They tend to go off after about ten laps, so Michael Schumacher will be looking to get ahead as soon as the race begins, and in order to do that, he’s got to pass David Coulthard. – Murray Walker talking tyres.

The local RTL director had a limited choice of exterior angles to play with for replays of the start, with no on-board angles during this sequence.

Remember that the local director was ‘competing’ against F1’s own digital operation during this era, meaning that on-board angles were rare for most viewers worldwide.

Shots from Heinz Harald Frentzen’s Jordan, Jean Alesi’s Prost and Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari were on offer throughout the mixed weather race, none of whom ever had a chance at victory (and Frentzen’s race lasted just a single lap).

Unsurprisingly, the director focussed firmly on Schumacher’s attempts to take the lead off Hakkinen, the German harassing the two-time champion lap after lap, meaning Walker ended up reciting the order every so often.

With rain threatening, a lot of chatter was about refuelling, with Brundle adequately explaining the rationale behind a heavier fuel load at race start.

The director did miss Benetton’s Giancarlo Fisichella overtaking Villeneuve live in the early phases, but under the circumstances, an understandable omission. Schumacher eventually dived down the inside of Hakkinen into the chicane he designed, as the forecast rain intensified.

2000 European GP - lap graphic.png
The rainmeister at work, two seconds a lap faster than his team mate.

At which point, the race kicked off in many different directions: Jos Verstappen, Marc Gene, and Pedro Diniz all lost it in the tricky conditions. Considering how patchy some of the television direction was back in the day, the German director on this day in history did fantastically well to catch the key bits.

Both Walker and Brundle through this race relied on the World Feed pictures and just one timing monitor, as the front runners carved their way back through those who had yet to switch to wet tyres.

The commentary felt very instinctive, but it also felt like they were living through the moment with us, which made it all the better. Walker described it as a “commentator’s nightmare,” Brundle called it a “commentator’s dream!”

Also inspired was ITV’s lop-sided ad-break structure for the Grand Prix, with the first 26 minutes running without adverts. It did mean more frequent adverts later (five ad-breaks in total), but was unavoidable at time. ITV did capture Schumacher’s overtake on Hakkinen live, so you cannot complain, really.

A late pit stop meant that Barrichello dropped back through the field, which probably pleased the director given the on-board camera on Barrichello’s car!

As the order and conditions settled down, so did the coverage, with the director focusing more on the battles in the latter half of the points paying positions, with heavy focus on Arrows, BAR and Benetton. On the commentary side, Allen provided additional analysis on the movers and shakers from pit lane throughout the Grand Prix.

One battle caught in its entirety was a three-way scrap between Irvine in the Jaguar, Ralf Schumacher’s Williams, and Verstappen’s Arrows. Unfortunately, it ended with both Irvine and Schumacher eliminated at the first corner, followed by Verstappen shunting into the wall towards turn ten.

This is where you can see how radically Formula 1 has changed in even twenty years: Verstappen’s off would have necessitated a Safety Car nowadays, but back then controlled under yellow flags.

One man making a good impression was Verstappen’s team mate Pedro de la Rosa who had crept up to third, which Walker hyped on commentary as “something F1 really needs!” In the end, de la Rosa did need to pit again, dropping him further back.

If anything, the direction for this race was not too dissimilar to a Grand Prix in recent times, given what the director had to work with. Safety Cars aside, the major differences were the lack of team radio and on-board angles, both of which would have added an extra dimension.

RTL’s director caught Ferrari’s error in under fuelling Barrichello at his second stop instantly, which the ITV team picked up many laps later.

2000 European GP - Verstappen.png
A huge off for Jos Verstappen prompts yellow flags, but not a Safety Car.

In the end at the front of the field, Schumacher picked up his fourth win of the 2000 season, with Hakkinen finishing 13 seconds behind! Coulthard and Barrichello finished in third and fourth, but one lap behind…

Post-Race
With the race overrunning slightly, analysis from ITV was thin on the ground, but nevertheless covered the key events.

Brundle called the race “a very significant day in this year’s World Championship.” As it turned out, Ferrari would only win two of the next seven races, with McLaren largely dominating the Summer months before the tide turned in Italy.

Paul Stoddart is an interesting sighting during the podium celebrations with the Ferrari crew. Although not yet a Formula 1 team boss, Stoddart was present in the paddock, his European Aviation outfit sponsoring the Arrows team.

Following the podium procedure and an ad-break, a young sounding Tom Clarkson is the man asking the questions in the post-race press conference.

Coulthard was amiss to explain the issues with his McLaren, although the ITV team were keen to praise him afterwards, Jardine calling his performance a “very, very brave effort”, the bravery cited due to the plane crash he was involved in a few weeks earlier.

Back in the paddock, Allen interviews Barrichello to wrap up analysis of the big two teams. A brief comment on Jaguar follows, tying up the loose ends from the pre-race build-up, before a few promos and standings concludes ITV’s broadcast of the European Grand Prix!

If the action is anything as thrilling this Sunday, we are in for a treat…


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2 thoughts on “Flashback: 2000 European Grand Prix

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about the 2000 race recently too (though not the TV element). Hakkinen’s start was amazing, and him and Schumacher were truly in a class of their own in the tricky weather, even though you don’t think of this race when you think of their rivalry. I liked reading some of the commentary extracts!

  2. The European races were scheduled to air an hour before the race start but if I remember correctly ITV F1’s build-up normally used to start at exactly 12:04 and end at approximately 12:52 for a commercial break before the race broadcast, which used to start at precisely 12:55 and usually had 2 commercial breaks in it usually at about 12:30 and 12:45. The 3rd part was mainly for Martin Brundle’s Grid Walk.

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