5 key stories from the opening 2021 F1 and MotoGP weekend

The 2021 Formula One and MotoGP seasons started in fine fashion in Bahrain and Qatar respectively, with Lewis Hamilton, Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo coming out winners.

Off-track, there were plenty of broadcasting stories making the rounds, as all sides had a gem or two hidden up their sleeve.

Here are some of the key headlines from the opening leg of the 2021 season…

Filming begins on MotoGP’s new documentary series

Filming has begun on MotoGP’s new Amazon documentary series, under the working title Life at Speed.

MotoGP organisers Dorna will be hoping that the series can emulate the success of F1’s Drive to Survive series on Netflix.

As reported by The Race, Spanish production company Mediapro are behind the series, whilst Alessandro Di Renzo, who previously worked for Dorna, is directing the series for Mediapro.

Speaking to The Race, MotoGP’s head of media and content Manel Arroyo confirmed plans for the Amazon series.

“We want to create something similar to what Formula 1 have with Netflix and we are already shooting with the thought that we can have something ready in the next months,” Arroyo said.

“We can prepare something for next season. It is a new way, because audiences today are consuming sport in a new way.”

“People want to see highlights, they want to see behind the scenes, and we are trying to cover many angles. With documentaries, it takes us to new audiences.”

Over on four-wheels, filming for season 4 of Drive to Survive is well underway, the crew filming the action throughout testing and the Bahrain weekend with the likes of Mercedes.

New faces, new places

Alex Jacques was not the only new face in Channel 4’s Formula 1 line-up over the Bahrain weekend, with Lawrence Barretto also joining the team for the first time.

Barretto has increasingly appeared in front of the camera in recent years through F1’s in-house digital output, having previously worked for the BBC and Autosport’s online platforms as website writer.

Now, Barretto will share his existing F1 duties with his new Channel 4 role as on-site reporter.

Writing on Twitter, Barretto said “So excited to work with such a talented team at Channel 4 this year alongside my role F1. Appreciate the efforts from so many people to make this happen.”

As well as retaining Barretto, F1 have bolstered their digital line-up, with an array of new faces joining the team.

David Alorka joins both Barretto and Will Buxton in the paddock for 2021.

Alorka has previously produced content for Heineken as part of their relationship with F1, and has also worked with the likes of NFL, the UEFA Champions League and UFC to create engaging content.

Also joining F1 for the new season are renowned technical experts Albert Fabrega and Craig Scarborough, both of whom will be working alongside Sam Collins on F1 TV’s Tech Talk programming.

Sky F1 shakes up commentary team for practice

Fans watching Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the first practice session from Bahrain were treated to an unusual commentary line-up.

Natalie Pinkham led the commentary team, with Jenson Button and Karun Chandhok joining her.

Pinkham made history from a broadcasting perspective, as it was the first time ever that a female had led an F1 commentary line-up for a UK TV broadcaster.

The main take away for me from the commentary itself was that it felt more like a radio commentary, but for practice, that is no bad thing.

Credit as well should go to Sky for trying something different – this was an experiment that I personally would like to see repeated throughout the season.

The feedback on social media was broadly positive to the change. Writing on Twitter immediately following the session, Pinkham said “THANK YOU for all the support and lovely feedback on my debut in the comms box. Still buzzing!”

“Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button were (as ever) the perfect teammates. Normal service resumes with Crofty back in the hot seat for the rest of the weekend.”

Over on F1 TV, Rosanna Tennant led their line-up for the F1 sessions, comprising of Alex Brundle and Matt Gallagher, Tennant succeeding Jacques in the role following Jacques’ move over to Channel 4.

F1 makes significant progress towards sustainability targets

Formula 1 has made significant progress towards their sustainability targets, in part an indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series had a long-term objective to move to a remote operation, as part of their wider Strategic Plan, to ‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race’.

Speaking on Formula 1’s YouTube channel, Formula 1’s Director of Broadcast and Media Dean Locke noted that F1 executed the “multi-year project in just over 7 weeks under lockdown conditions, something we’re very proud of.”

“Going remote has allowed F1 to reduce its travelling freight by 34%. The number of travelling staff has also reduced by 37%, and we now transfer over 160 terabytes of data to Biggin Hill during each race weekend.”

F1’s Biggin Hill base now plays host to the Remote Technical Centre, which was previously transported worldwide for each race weekend.

“Acquisition of the data and media is still done at the track, but curation of those products is now done here at the Remote Technical Centre,” he says. “We have 53 operational positions, over 400 screens, thousands of computers to drive this system.”

“Formula 1 prides itself on innovation, and we feel F1’s move into remote operation is a really good example of that,” Locke added.

Channel 4 production team member tests positive for COVID-19

In the lead up to the Bahrain weekend, a member of the Channel 4 production team tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test, first reported publicly on the Press Association’s news wires, forced the production team to go into quarantine, with new staff flown out to the Sakhir circuit as a result.

As thus, Alex Jacques made his Channel 4 commentary debut from Ealing alongside Billy Monger, with David Coulthard on location in Bahrain.

Jacques also commentated on Formula Two remotely from Ealing, with Alex Brundle alongside him, but a 75-minute drive away at F1’s Biggin Hill headquarters.

Spot anything else during the weekend worth noticing? Have your say in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “5 key stories from the opening 2021 F1 and MotoGP weekend

  1. You wouldn’t have known from F2 that Jacques and Brundle were in separate locations the way that F2 commentary worked out. Very impressive. Agree with comments about practice commentary, a good idea for practice but needs a little more work if Sky envisage Pinkham potentially filling in for Croft or Brundle in a qualifying or race situation at some stage

  2. In case of interest, in Germany this was the first GP in 30 years not shown on free to air TV. Sky now has exclusive rights. Last year’s opening race saw 600k viewers via Sky Germany and 4.48 million via RTL. This year Sky had 1.22 million viewers for the Bahrain race, doubling their audience, but in the absence of RTL the grand total is almost 4 million down on 2020, 75 percent of the viewership appears to have been lost. In an unexpected twist Sky has announced it is permitting RTL to show 4 of this year’s 23 races on Free to air: Imola, Spain, Italy, Brazil. Helmut Marko has been reported to remark that the move behind the paywall is a negative for sponsors wanting global reach.

      1. It was indeed announced last summer that four GPs would be shown free to air in 2021, but no channel was named. RTL had said it wasn’t going to show any, so the off-season was rife with speculation, including the suggestion that Sky would air them on its unencrypted Sky Sports News channel as a taster for potential subscribers. RTL had set a precedent in recent years by occasionally shunting F1 to its own news channel N24 when F1 sessions conflicted with high rating entertainment or football.

        RTL only announced in early March that it would screen the four races after some weeks of ‘informed gossip’ in the German motorsport press. The announcement caused a ripple through the wider German media, mainly as it meant the unexpected (albeit limited) return of a commentator, a pundit and an anchor who were familiar to viewers for many years. The deal is however unsurprising in that RTL has considerably more reach in Germany than any Sky channel.

  3. Here’s a translation of a German article describing Helmut Marko’s opinion.

    Many fans believe that it is a misstep for the top flight. They are afraid that interest in Formula1 in Germany will suffer.

    “That is to be expected in the short term” Helmut Marko says in conversation with Der Spiegel. “But Sky is allegedly paying four times more than RTL was willing to pay. That also benefits the teams via Liberty Media’s payments. On the other hand profits from broadcasting rights are not the reason that Red Bull competes, it’s for world wide audience interest.” according to Marko.
    “Experience shows that viewing figures sink drastically in the initial phase after a change of this kind, However we know that they recover over time,” Marko explains and adds “And Sky will offer special packages, and a couple of races will still be on free to air; livestreams and TV on demand will be extended considerably too.”

    Source:
    https://www.formel1.de/news/business/2020-08-26/wechsel-ins-pay-tv-sinkendes-f1-interesse-voruebergehend-zu-erwarten

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