Formula E part company with Jack Nicholls with immediate effect

Formula E is in search of a commentator to lead their coverage on a full-time basis after parting ways with Jack Nicholls, Motorsport Broadcasting has learnt.

Nicholls, who has been part of Formula E since its inaugural race in 2014, will not commentate on the remaining seven rounds of the 2022-23 season.

Veteran motor sport commentator Ben Edwards will cover the vacant commentary position for the remainder of the season, starting with the Jakarta race weekend, which takes place on Saturday 3th and Sunday 4th June.

The electric series has confirmed this news through a statement issued on their website, following a request for comment made by Motorsport Broadcasting.

Note: Below section added on May 31st.
Motorsport Broadcasting understands that multiple complaints were raised to Formula E about Nicholls.

As a result, Nicholls has been off-site since the Cape Town E-Prix in February, with commentary for the last three Formula E race weekends produced from London.

In parallel, the series launched an investigation into the complaint, the outcome of which was conclusive, leading to his departure for “inappropriate behaviour.”

Multiple sources close to the situation have contacted this writer in recent days, confirming the above. The news was first reported publicly by The Times, with further details included, including quotes from Formula E and Nicholls.

The Times report that the series received three complaints, claiming that they had been touched inappropriately by Nicholls.

Formula E has not yet responded to a further request for comment from Motorsport Broadcasting.

In a statement to The Times, they said “Formula E can confirm that an investigation was carried out in response to complaints of inappropriate behaviour received about Jack Nicholls.”

“Following this investigation, Jack Nicholls’s contract to provide race commentary was terminated.”

Speaking to The Times, Nicholls said “Although disappointed with the decision, I respect it and accept why it was taken.”

“I want to take full responsibility for what I did and apologise unreservedly for a couple of isolated incidents that has made those concerned feel uncomfortable. I never meant any harm and I am committed to making amends and to be more mindful of my behaviour in future.”

A surprise change

Changes in broadcasting personnel during a motor racing season are rare, especially for high-profile roles, which is what makes the Formula E’s decision surprising for fans of the series.

Formula E began in September 2014 with the Beijing E-Prix, won by Lucas di Grassi, although the dramatic last-lap accident between Nico Prost and Nick Heidfeld made headlines.

Nicholls has been there from the beginning, and his iconic “And we go green!” calls at the start of each E-Prix quickly became synonymous with Formula E’s broadcasts.

Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti joined Nicholls, and the two quickly formed a successful commentary partnership, with Nicki Shields providing additional analysis from the pit lane.

This role was Nicholls’ breakthrough into the limelight, leading to his involvement with the BBC’s 5 Live Formula 1 line-up.

While Martin Haven substituted for Nicholls on a handful of occasions, Nicholls remained the lead commentator for Formula E, providing commentary on the series’ highs and lows.

Franchitti’s decision to reduce his commitments to Formula E in the off-season affected the commentary line-up, resulting in a rotating roster that included Karun Chandhok and Oliver Askew partnering with Nicholls.

Nicholls has been off-site since the Cape Town E-Prix in February, with commentary for the last three race weekends produced from London. Formula E has not disclosed the reason for Nicholls’ departure, however it is unrelated to the recent senior leadership reshuffle within the organisation.

Edwards joins the Formula E presentation team for the remainder of the season after his stint with Formula 1, where he commentated on F1’s over-the-top platform last season.

Prior to that, Edwards has worked with Channel 4 on their F1 coverage as well as ITV, Sky Sports, and Eurosport, spanning a career of four decades.

“I am very excited to get back behind the mic with Formula E as the on-track action this season is a commentator’s dream,” said Edwards.

“The championship is more competitive than ever and I get to bring that to life for viewers around the world. I’m delighted to be joining the team and calling the action in Jakarta.”

Other changes to Formula E’s on-air team

Nicholls’ departure from Formula E is one of three changes for Jakarta, as Nicki Shields and Vernon Kay are also absent.

In Kay’s case, he is no longer part of Formula E’s full-time on-air team, as he focuses on his new role at BBC Radio 2.

These changes mean that, for the first time ever in Jakarta, none of the original ‘Formula E trio’ (Nicholls, Franchitti, or Shields) will be present during the series’ television coverage.

Pit lane reporter Radzi Chinyanganya presents coverage from Jakarta, with Saunders Carmichael-Brown stepping into Chinyanganya’s role in the pit lane. Nelson Piquet Jr., Oliver Askew, and Kelvin van der Linde will also provide analysis of the action.

Karun Chandhok partners with Edwards in the commentary booth, as the Jakarta weekend marks rounds 10 and 11 of the current season.

Jakarta was a hit with fans domestically last year, attracting over 13 million viewers, and series organisers will be hoping for a similar response this time around.

Update on May 27th – Nicholls will not fulfil his commitments with the BBC’s 5 Live F1 team for the remainder of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in a decision taken by Nicholls rather than the broadcaster, I understand.

Tom Gaymor will replace Nicholls for the final practice session, with Harry Benjamin stepping in qualifying and the race, commentating alongside Jolyon Palmer and Rosanna Tennant.

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F1 to produce Monaco Grand Prix broadcast for first time

Formula 1 will produce television coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time this year, ending the local hosts’ control over the race, Motorsport Broadcasting has learnt.

Previously, the local station Tele Monte Carlo produced coverage of the blue-ribbon event, but now F1 will control the broadcasting aspects of the event, including the World Feed.

This change means that F1 will produce the World Feed for every race during a given season, which is the first time this has happened.

2023 marks the first year of a three-year deal between Formula 1 and the Automobile Club of Monaco (ACM) for the championship to race around the principality.

End of an era for local hosts

In the 1990s, local broadcasters produced Grand Prix events. For example, free-to-air broadcasters ITV, RTL, and Rai produced the British, German, and Italian rounds respectively, with the local hosts placing emphasis on the home drivers.

The quality of the broadcasts varied from week to week. While broadcasters like ITV produced coverage that would fit well with today’s standards, other broadcasters offered inferior coverage.

Simultaneously, F1 developed its in-house capability at Biggin Hill, introducing the F1 Digital+ service in 1996.

The operation provided an enhanced multi-view service, with F1 producing the action during every race weekend, while their free-to-air counterparts offered a limited number of on-board cameras and subpar camera angles in comparison.

Although F1 ended its pay-TV operation after the 2002 season, they learned valuable lessons from the experiment. Recognising the benefits that the pay-TV product brought, the series began to centralise the World Feed production in-house and remove local control.

Viewers at home saw the benefits of the change: the quality of F1’s broadcasts improved across the calendar, ensuring fans received a consistent product regardless of the race weekend.

The transition from local hosts to in-house production took place throughout the 2000s, with the Japanese Grand Prix being the penultimate race to relinquish the local control in 2011, after the arrangement with Fuji Television ended.

However, Monaco has remained the exception over the past decade.

The benefits of F1 taking control of Monaco

In recent years, fans have criticised the broadcast feed produced by Tele Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix.

One notable incident occurred during the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, when a replay of Lance Stroll running wide at the Swimming Pool complex interrupted a side-by-side battle between Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly up Beau Rivage to Massenet.

While the overall broadcasting quality of Formula 1 has generally improved over the past decade, the quality of the Monaco broadcast has remained stagnant.

An in-depth piece on this site in 2018 highlighted the issues with TMC’s Monaco Grand Prix broadcasts, which continued to persist even in their post-COVID productions.

Fans can expect new and revised angles that will showcase the speed of the cars, in addition to the existing angles that have become a hallmark of the Monaco offering.

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