From T4 to Formula E: why Vernon Kay feels as comfortable with the latter as the former

Formula E’s World Feed presenter Vernon Kay says he feels as comfortable with the team as he did during his early presenting days when part of the T4 broadcast team.

Kay joined the on-site team at the start of the 2017-18 season, presenting Channel 5’s offering before becoming part of the English-speaking feed alongside Nicki Shields, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti.

The role was Kay’s first gig within motor sport, following in the footsteps of fellow T4 presenter Steve Jones, who began presenting Channel 4’s F1 offering in 2016.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting ahead of this weekend’s season opener in Diriyah, Kay said that the sport can feel “intimidating,” but that the team have helped him get to grips with Formula E.

“It is an intimidating space when you’ve got all these motor sport nerds,” Kay jokes. “And let’s be honest, motor racing drivers know absolutely everything.”

“You ask me a Family Fortunes question and I’ll give you the top answer any day. But if you ask me what gearbox was in Ayrton Senna’s car in 1983, I am lost! They’ll tell you the answer straightaway.”

“Having people like Jack and Dario with a wealth of motorsport experience, holding your hand and taking the mickey, it really helps.”

“I think we’re a really good team. I feel comfortable, if anything I feel as comfortable in this Formula E team as I did in the T4 team. And that’s where we’re at.”

The transition from entertainment to sport

Prior to Formula E, Kay presented a variety of entertainment shows across the BBC and ITV, including a celebrity version of Family Fortunes for nine years.

In the run up to his first Formula E race in 2017, Kay sought advice from Jones on what to expect, while Kay also gives credit to Jake Humphrey, who followed a similar route into sports presenting.

The three of them made their transition into motor sport from the entertainment world, which Humphrey began in 2009 when he became BBC’s Formula 1 presenter.

“I think there’s a little bit of credit to be given to the hard work that Jake Humphrey put in,” he believes.

“He was the Newsround presenter and then he’s hosting Formula One, and you’re like hang on a minute, ‘how can the kid from Newsround host Formula One?’ But then, Jake smashed it.”

BERLIN TEMPELHOF AIRPORT, GERMANY – AUGUST 04: TV Presenter Vernon Kay interviews Sam Bird (GBR), Envision Virgin Racing during the Berlin ePrix I at Berlin Tempelhof Airport on Tuesday August 04, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

“And in my opinion with his iPad, he redefined sports broadcasting as we know it in the UK, and he did a sterling job and he teed up for people like Steve and then myself.”

“Sport is much more difficult [to present than entertainment] because it’s more reactive. You’re the producer and the director, as well as the host, in my opinion on sport.”

“Steve told me a couple of helpful things before I got into Formula E, which have carried me along. I said Steve, ‘What’s it like?’ ‘It’s going to blow your mind!’ And it did.”

“My first race was in Hong Kong, and I’ll be honest with you, I shat myself. And from that race on, I just thought, wow, this is mad!”

Formula E has a ‘good foundation’ to build on with new Channel 4 deal

Kay believes that the championship now has a ‘good foundation’ to build on because of the new deal with Channel 4, hoping that being on the same station as Formula 1 will only help the series moving forward.

“For me personally, it’s nice to be back on Channel 4, as that’s where I kind of started my career. To have a terrestrial broadcaster that is going to give Formula E to the nation I think it’s really important, with six British drivers in the field.”

“I think to get this deal over the line, both parties have worked really hard.,” he tells me during a media event in London.

“It’s not yet [a teenager], and that’s what people forget. I think sports fans want their sport instantaneously and it’s like, just let it grow and develop. We’re growing and developing as the technology is getting better and more efficient.”

“It’s really exciting times, and especially during the Channel 4 deal, where you’ll get to see the Gen2 car, but also the crossover to the Gen3 car, so it will be a huge compare and contrast. We’ll get to see what we’ve done, and then we’ll get to see the future.”

“I think now that we’ve got a strong base with a good foundation, we can really push and promote Formula E. It’s also nice to be with the same broadcaster that airs Formula One.”

“It means that Channel 4 have a motor sport fanbase, and hopefully, there’ll be some crossover because in my opinion, if you like sport, you like any sport.”

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