Billy Monger joins Channel 4’s F1 team as 2019 coverage details finalised

Channel 4 have officially confirmed their coverage plans for the 2019 Formula One season.

Despite a reduced presence in 2019 compared with previous seasons, the free-to-air broadcaster has retained the core of its presentation line-up. The broadcaster this year will air highlights of every round plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend.

As announced by the man himself last week on Twitter, Steve Jones continues in his role as presenter. David Coulthard, Mark Webber, and Eddie Jordan join Jones in the paddock, whilst Ben Edwards remains as lead commentator, with Coulthard remaining alongside him in the booth.

In a surprise move, Lee McKenzie continues in her role as reporter, having previously noted as recently as January that she was not covering Formula 1 in 2019.

The main on-screen addition is that of 19-year old Billy Monger, who will provide analysis throughout the season alongside his racing exploits. Monger continues to impress fans and pundits alike following his life-changing accident in April 2017.

As this site exclusively revealed before Christmas, Whisper Films, the production company led by Coulthard, Jake Humphrey and Sunil Patel, have retained the contract to produce Channel 4’s coverage.

Channel 4’s Head of Entertainment and Events, Ed Havard said: “Channel 4 will once again be the destination for F1 fans to enjoy the action free to air throughout the year, including live coverage of the British GP.”

“I’m delighted that the young racing superstar Billy Monger will be joining our team alongside F1 legends David Coulthard and Mark Webber. We’ve got a truly world class presenting line up for F1 on 4.”

Monger added “I’m delighted to join the Channel 4 F1 team this season working around my own racing calendar.”

“I’ve been watching the F1 coverage on TV since I was little and whilst my goal remains to be racing in one of the cars out on track one day, I am really excited to get broadcasting from the paddock this year.”

Strong team for C4 F1 in 2019
Despite a reduced offering in 2019, Channel 4 have survived the winter with just one of their on-air talent (Karun Chandhok) opting to move to Sky. Mark Webber, who was also rumoured to be making the switch, has remained with Channel 4.

The other on-screen change concerns Susie Wolff. Channel 4’s press release does not reference Wolff, Wolff now busy in her role as Venturi Formula E team principal. As in previous years, expect Jones, Coulthard and Edwards to be on-site at every race, with the other analysts rotating throughout the year.

The addition of Monger is unexpected, but could fit in with his own driving activities this year. Over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend last November, Monger spoke of his aspiration to be in Formula Three this season.

Of course, Formula Three is part of the overall F1 weekend offering, and if Monger was successful in getting an F3 drive, then logistically the Channel 4 deal makes sense as Monger would already be on-site in the F1 paddock.

The size of Channel 4’s team fits in with the notion that their package will remain comprehensive, as reported last September.

As previously noted, the overall length of the highlights programme will drop slightly this season, with the race edit itself taking the hit. This explains why the shape and size of Channel 4’s team remains like last year.

It may also explain why Channel 4 have not directly replaced Chandhok, who reported from pit lane during each race. I suspect Whisper will use both Webber and McKenzie during commentary as necessary to fill the gap that Chandhok leaves behind, as difficult as that is to do given the role he played in their coverage from 2016 to 2018.

Crucially, Channel 4’s line-up has not been decimated meaning that their overall product will remain distinctive, and more importantly UK fans still have three different teams of personnel on offer to choose from (Sky, Channel 4 and BBC 5 Live).

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Steve Jones to continue as Channel 4’s Formula 1 presenter

Steve Jones has confirmed that he will continue to present Channel 4’s Formula 1 programming this year.

Jones has hosted Channel 4’s coverage since its inception in 2016, presenting both their live and highlight races. With Channel 4’s coverage changing for 2019 because of Sky’s exclusive Formula 1 deal, Jones will present the races in highlights form, as well as live coverage of the British Grand Prix.

Writing on his Twitter feed, Jones said “I’m back in 2019! Here I am in the gym pumping some serious iron, like the drivers, I need to be in peak condition to hold some heavy @C4F1 mic this season. See you in Melbourne.”

In his presenting role, Jones has impressed during the past three seasons, gelling well inside the Formula 1 paddock and with the on-air pundits alongside him including David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan, and Mark Webber.

Jones is the first person to officially confirm that he will be returning in an on-air role, although Coulthard is expected to return as analyst given his close involvement with production company Whisper Films, the Scotsman referencing C4 F1 on his Twitter feed last week.

Lee McKenzie and Karun Chandhok are not returning to Channel 4’s coverage for 2019, McKenzie focusing on activities outside of Formula 1, whilst Chandhok has signed up with Sky Sports for this season.

As revealed before Christmas, John Curtis, who previously worked with Sky, is now leading up Whisper Films’ F1 production team, with Mark Wilkin stepping aside, whilst the length of the individual race edits are set to decrease slightly compared with previous years.

An official announcement on Channel 4’s finalised coverage plans for the 2019 season is expected imminently.

Coulthard: C4 F1 2019 deal “a good compromise” for UK fans

Channel 4’s Formula 1 television deal to air highlights of every round, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix in 2019, is “a good compromise” for fans, according to the man who has been part of the UK F1 broadcasting picture for the past decade.

For the past three seasons, the free-to-air broadcaster has aired half of the F1 season live, with the other half airing in highlights form. That arrangement ended following Abu Dhabi, with Sky grabbing the exclusive rights in March 2016, and opting the sub-let the free-to-air element out to Channel 4.

Speaking to this site at the Autosport Show from the W Series stand, racer turned analyst David Coulthard said “Irrespective of my personal involvement with Channel 4 in the past, I’m just a great believer that Formula 1 in the UK market should be available free-to-air. I understand the commercial aspects, how Sky operate, they have a great platform and great coverage.”

“However, all credit to the current management at Channel 4, and at Sky, to have rescued from what seemed like not having any free-to-air Formula 1 to having a collaboration where Sky are the majority broadcaster with all the live events, and Channel 4 are able to do highlights along with the British Grand Prix being live.”

“I think that’s a good compromise and enables the UK to still enjoy its Formula 1 whether you want it live or edited,” Coulthard added.

Although this site expects Whisper Films, whom Coulthard is part of, to continue to produce Channel 4’s coverage, Coulthard could not confirm if he will be involved in front of the camera, with several elements between Channel 4 and Sky to be finalised.

“I’m still not yet in a position to be able to confirm whether I’ll be involved in the broadcast or not, but irrespective, I think Channel 4 will do a great job,” Coulthard told me.

“The actual agreement came together quite late, it obviously dilutes in terms of what we [Channel 4] are able to do and therefore reduces the amount of on-screen talent. Channel 4 are still working on how that will look and who’ll be involved.”

As revealed before Christmas, John Curtis, who previously worked with Sky, is now leading up Whisper Films’ F1 production team, with Mark Wilkin stepping aside, whilst the length of the individual race edits are set to decrease slightly compared with previous years.

Judge new F1 broadcasting graphics “on its merits”
Coulthard, who has been part of the BBC’s and more recently Channel 4’s F1 coverage since 2009, was cautious on some of Formula 1’s new on-screen graphics that are set to appear for the first time this season.

“I take the view of ‘let’s try anything and everything’ and then judge it on its merits rather than poo-pooing something before it’s actually been introduced, especially when it comes to broadcast and graphics,” Coulthard said.

His comment was in relation to reports prior to the Christmas break that FOM are introducing a new ‘overtaking probability’ graphic, using Amazon Web Services’ machine learning technology this year, in a continued effort to bring in a different audience to the sport.

“We were once young guys, and we have a different view of life compared to the current younger generation,” he added. “I’ve got a ten-year-old son and he continues to surprise my wife and we have to accept that every generation has different opportunities, needs, requirements and aspirations, and we should embrace that.”

Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict Revealed

Following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this site offered readers the chance to give their verdict on the 2018 motor racing broadcasting picture, to have their say on proceedings. Thanks to everyone who commented on the original post and gave their thoughts.

The 2018 Formula One season was the last of the original 2012 to 2018 UK television contract, originally signed between the BBC and Sky Sports in July 2011. Channel 4 took over the BBC element from 2016 onwards, and whilst they will remain part of the F1 broadcasting picture in 2019, their role has diminished, with just one race live and all the rest airing in highlights form.

For the third consecutive season readers, including George O’Donnell, praised Channel 4’s output. A long-term viewer of Formula 1, Noggins summarised their view point:

I have been watching F1 for over 50 years and have seen the world, the sport and coverage change enormously. But never has the sport had such wonderful, professional, entertaining coverage as it has had (on live weekends, especially) with Channel 4 / Whisper Films. The quality of the production is outstanding and the real passion of the entire team has been tremendous.

In particular, there was praise for presenter Steve Jones and lead commentator Ben Edwards. “Down to earth”, “chirpy presence on-screen” and “waxing lyrical about the sport” were some of the phrases used by the likes of Peter and Lesmo in relation to Jones.

Peter offered further insight on Karun Chandhok, showing exactly why Sky have picked his services up for 2019. Not everyone was happy with Channel 4’s output though. gwilym.t outlined Channel 4’s positives, but noted “the lack of technical coverage” during their broadcasts. Rhys Benjamin went a step further, and hopes their coverage is radically different next year:

The content itself is also looking very tired, given that they had known this was their final year. It doesn’t match up to a lot of the features that Sky do or the BBC (between 2009 and 2012; the BBC’s product went downhill rapidly from 2013-15) did. I still hope (and pray) that next year’s highlights are a Sky production and simply plonked on C4 (as they were for the 2013-14 Ashes series, albeit plonked on Pick). I can’t see C4 simply having any motivation next year.

A recurring theme of the past, Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle continue to whet the appetite for Sky’s Formula 1 audience. Peter says that Kravitz “remains the eminent pro”, whilst gwilym.t praised several members of their 2018 team:

Ted Kravitz continues to be a gem, charismatic and entertaining as hell, whilst still being insightful, Martin Brundle continues to be the class of the commentary field, though I do feel that his passion is just starting to wane a little bit. Paul Di Resta has come a long way this year, proving he can fill Martin’s shoes, and he’ll only get better with experience, and Anthony Davidson has been great in practice throughout the year.

Rhys Benjamin offers a different take on David Croft’s commentary puns, stating that they are turning into ‘Murrayisms’! Whilst there have been some positives for Sky in 2018, the quality of their overall product came under fire. Noggins says that Sky appear to be “going through the motions”, but others had a more damming assessment:

The features they put out were absolutely dire. There’s literally no point watching their tired Top Gear esque build up, as you’d get more insight by spending an hour reading the likes of Joe Saward or Autosport before the session gets going. – Lesmo

To summarise Sky’s year I’d say this, they’ve had season like McLaren and Williams, a few minor highlights, but now living off their past glories, they need change in all areas of they are too attract the sort of audience F1 needs, it’s evident in the fall in Sky’s viewing figures compared to 2012-13. Though I will say that the signing of Jenson Button for next year is great. – gwilym.t

Outside of the Channel 4 and Sky sphere, several readers commented on Formula One Management’s offering this season, with Tom Clarkson’s Beyond the Grid podcast quite rightly receiving recognition from George O’Donnell and Lesmo.

The highlight of the year for me is the ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast with Tom Clarkson. I think Tom is one of the more underrated journalists in the paddock. His interview questions really get the most out of his guests, and the podcasts are captivating listening. The one hour long form gets much more out of the guests than TV features and I’ve learned a lot which I haven’t learned from all the hours of features which BBC/Channel 4/Sky have produced over the past 10 years.

Readers were critical of other aspects in FOM’s control, with Rhys Benjamin criticising the “clunky” 2018 graphics set, whilst Andy believes Liberty Media are “dumbing down” the end product.

As always, the above is a snapshot of the conversation happening on the site, some of the posts cover a lot of ground that this article does not, and is very much worth a read as we head towards the start of another season.

Looking ahead to 2019

For most Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, 2019 will have a completely different feel to it, as the new television broadcasting contract kicks into gear.

Sky Sports have exclusive rights to all the action from 2019 to 2024, in a deal signed in March 2016 with Formula One Management, then under the control of Bernie Ecclestone. How will Formula 1’s UK viewing figures look under the first year of the new deal?

I am not expecting a tumble in the total audience figure, as Sky have sub-let the free-to-air element of their deal to Channel 4, for 2019 at least. The move means that fans still have a major free-to-air platform to view highlights of every race, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix. But, Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is only one year long.

Will Sky Sports let Channel 4’s coverage continue beyond 2019, or will they pull the plug? There are a ton of questions surrounding Channel 4’s 2019 coverage, the personnel involved, the commentary that they will take, and so on, plus whether there will be further jumps from Channel 4 to Sky. All will be revealed…

In its second season, expect Formula 1’s over-the-top service to grow significantly, something that we will be monitoring throughout the year as the service begins to mature. There were previous rumblings that UK fans could have access to F1 TV Pro, but this is unconfirmed. If confirmed, it provides another avenue for fans to view the action on.

Beyond Formula 1, MotoGP fans have stability, as the championship remains on BT Sport for the next three seasons. Formula E’s UK offering will be a focal point, the electric series choosing to go all guns blazing onto just about every platform possible. With the help of Auntie Beeb and YouTube, is 2019 the year that Formula E finally breaks into the mainstream in the UK and starts making significant movement?

For some, 2018 marked the end of an era, as 2019 marks the start of a new era. 2019 promises to be another fascinating year in the broadcasting landscape as each championship fights to remain in the limelight.

Who knows what the next twelve months may hold…