The ratings picture: The 2012 Verdict

Aside from looking at both the BBC F1 and Sky Sports F1 teams and their respective programming, a key component of this blog in 2012 has been to look at the ratings picture for every individual race. The ratings picture in 2012 has been haphazard thanks to the deal between BBC and Sky, some races have been wildly up and some have disappointed, but overall it is possible to draw some conclusions and bring together averages which I intend to do in this blog.

Before we get into figures, the main figures I use are programme averages. Why? Because they are the most widely available – especially when you are looking at historical Formula 1 figures from say ten years ago. Not every article will attach a ‘race average’ to it. However, I have done some calculations of my own using viewing figures that I have – which I will explain further later. All figures for 2012 comprise of one of the following, where appropriate:

– Sky live and BBC highlights
– Sky live, BBC live and BBC re-run (Asian based races)
– Sky and BBC live (non-Asian based races)

In August, I noted that Formula 1 in 2012 was set to be the lowest rated since on UK television since 2008. That prediction turned out to be true. Furthermore, analysis shows that there are 500,000 viewers that are not tuning into BBC highlights weekends that would otherwise tune into BBC live weekends.

Below are the season averages, based on full programme broadcasts:

– 2006 – 2.75 million
– 2007 – 3.61 million
– 2008 – 4.01 million
– 2009 – 4.38 million
– 2010 – 4.41 million
– 2011 – 4.62 million
– 2012 – 3.89 million (or 4.10 million using the ‘35 percent theory‘)

You may note some minor differences in the viewing figures above versus the ones I published in August. The reason for this is because all the figures from 2006 to 2012 now that I use are consolidated figures (which take into account anyone who has watched within 7 days) whereas before it was a mixture of overnight ratings and consolidated ratings. You will also notice that the 3.89 million figure for 2012 is the lowest since 2007. This is where the ’35 percent theory’ that I explained in August comes back in. When comparing to previous years, the BBC F1 programme started at 12:10 and ran to about 15:15. Sky Sports F1 live programmes ran from 11:30 to 16:15 meaning that the total average for Sky Sports F1 would be artificially deflated as a result. Applying the ’35 percent theory’ on top of the Sky figures gives you the 4.10 million average above. When both BBC and Sky are live, the average for those ten races is 4.38 million viewers. When only Sky are live and when BBC are showing highlights, that figure drops to 3.88 million viewers. Only twice for those ten races has the programme average been above 4 million, Bahrain and Hungary. The remaining eight races with exclusive Sky coverage recorded a average of under 4 million viewers. I would be questioning why that is the case, a 500,000 viewer difference between the two feels significant to me and appears to prove that the majority of fans still prefer to see Formula 1 in 2012 live.

Whilst the change in Formula 1 broadcasting for 2012 is one reason for the overall drop, it is not the only reason. The Olympics is another reason, as is Euro 2012 and Wimbledon. All three sporting events have hit Formula 1’s ratings this year. Formula 1 was always going to be hit by the Summer of Sport. But would the 2012 season have faired better if every race live on the BBC? Absolutely, and I think the fact that the average when races were live on BBC is 500,000 higher than when they were exclusively live on Sky proves that. BBC have every possible way of promoting sporting events – radio, TV, interactive, online. Formula 1 would remain in the limelight and would not become a forgotten sport for the Summer. I think the average would have been down on previous years, but it would have remained well above 4 million viewers in my opinion, near to 2010 levels.

Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1.

The drop for 2012 is disappointing. But things need to be kept in perspective, Formula 1 is still immensely popular in the UK, and we are not going back to the mid 2000’s, where Formula 1 was struggling to achieve over 3 million viewers as Figure 1.1. above shows. The ratings should rebound in 2013 – no Olympics and no European Championship’s means that Formula 1 has weaker competition next Summer. If viewing figures do not rebound, then questions must be asked whether the BBC and Sky deal was a worthwhile deal for the money-makers to enter into. It also brings up the question of BBC Sport’s Formula 1 team extremely dedicated and hard work across these past few years in increasing the popularity of Formula 1 after the Schumacher years only for those higher up at the BBC to flush over half a million viewers down the toilet.

I noted during my August blog that I hoped the the season average would increase. At the Summer break, the 2012 season was averaging 4.14 million viewers. That figure has dropped very slightly by 40,000 viewers. Not a large drop, but a slight drop for whatever reason. A worrying statistic for me is that only four races seen their figures increase versus 2011. They were Brazil (up by 1 million), Italy, China and Europe. Two races were not on the calendar in 2011, meaning that fourteen rounds seen their figures drop versus 2011. Whilst some rounds clashed with other sporting events, I am fairly certain that does not apply for every one of those fourteen rounds. Canada unsurprisingly recorded the biggest drop versus 2011, whilst Japan and India also recorded sizeable drops. 2013 should see an automatic increase in significant numbers for Canada as the race will be live on BBC One.

The 4.38 million average for the BBC and Sky live races is an average I would have expected overall if BBC was showing every race live. There is an argument – and this applies for every race – that the 520,000 viewers drop is purely due to Sky’s longer airtime as there is a higher viewership for Sky when they are live, hence more weighting on their ratings. That is a completely false assumption to make due to the fact that I have already equalised the ratings as demonstrated above. Using consolidated figures and 5-minute breakdowns, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has taken averages from seven races across the past seven years and calculated the overall averages. Those races are Monaco, Spain, Britain, Belgian, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Europe. The average is from race start to chequered flag only. The results are as follows:

Race averages (Mon, Spa, UK, Sin, AbD, Eur)
– 2006 – 2.92 million (32.4%) (exc. Belgium, Singapore and Abu Dhabi)
– 2007 – 4.09 million (36.5%) (exc. Singapore and Abu Dhabi)
– 2008 – 4.57 million (37.9%) (exc. Abu Dhabi)
– 2009 – 4.95 million (43.9%)
– 2010 – 5.61 million (43.5%)
– 2011 – 5.58 million (43.7%)
– 2012 – 5.03 million (38.4%)

The conclusion that there has been a viewership drop is unquestionable. Those seven races were all BBC and Sky live races, and the race average is again in the lowest since 2009 – a similar story to the 4.38 million programme averages. Qualifying in 2012 has fared well, averaging 2.32 million viewers. Whilst it is down on 2009, 2010 and 2011 – it does stand in-line with 2010’s average of 2.41 million viewers which itself was affected by a Summer dominated by sport.

Focussing on Sky only to end the piece, live coverage of practice 1 has averaged 65,000 viewers; practice 2 has averaged 75,000 viewers; practice 3 has averaged 94,000 viewers. All three of those numbers have dropped off compared to the where they were at the Summer break, possibly suggesting that viewer fatigue had set in for the latter stages of the season. The F1 Show, when on location at race weekends, has averaged 45,000 viewers. I’ve covered my thoughts on those figures before and the main conclusion is that those figures are extremely low and below Sky’s own expectations. The GP2 Series and GP3 Series on Sky Sports F1 have also fared poorly, both averaging below 100,000 viewers. In my opinion that is due to the lack of advertising that Sky give to the feeder series’, neither series have had adverts promoting them on Sky so it is little wonder to see either series struggle for viewers on the channel. It is worrying that the stars of the feature are being seen by what feels like ‘one man and a dog’, GP2 and GP3 definitely need more of a prominent status here in the UK for 2013.

Several weeks on, and nearly 15,000 words later, that is my 2012 Verdict. Due to reasons already explained, I had hoped to have finished the verdict before Christmas but in any case, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the pieces and as always, comments are welcome. Roll on 2013!

Note: All the figures quoted here are the averages for the whole race programme, not the race average unless stated. Figures are mostly official figures from BARB and Broadcast magazine. While I have made comparisons and analysis of figures, I should note that I do not have every single ratings figure. The figures for that races that I am missing are:

1992 – Australia, San Marino, France, Portugal, Japan (live and both for AUS, JPN)
1993 – France (live), Japan (highlights)
1994 – Pacific (highlights), San Marino, France, Hungary, Japan (live)
1995 – Australia, Argentina, San Marino, Spain, Japan (all live)
1996 – Canada, Japan (all live)
1997 – Japan (live)
1998 – Australia,France, Japan (all live)
2000 – Malaysia (live and re-run), Japan (live)
2001 – Japan (live)
2003 – Malaysia; Japan (both live)
2004 – China (live)

If anyone is reading and has any of them ratings, leave a comment. While this piece focusses primarily on the 2012 ratings picture, my April piece focussed on the ratings picture for the past twenty years. For anyone wishing to read that, please click here.


Sky Sports F1’s mid-week output: The 2012 Verdict

Having looked at both BBC Sport’s and Sky Sports’ Formula 1 output at race weekends this season and at how both line-ups have performed, the latter two parts will focus on two separate issues. Part 6 (this part) will look at Sky Sports F1’s output outside of race weekends while part seven will look at the ratings picture from this past season and examine whether ratings have gone up or down as a result of the BBC and Sky deal that came into effect at the beginning of 2012.

Following the decision to create a channel for Formula 1 at the end of 2011, it meant that more programming had to be created so that Sky Sports F1 felt and looked like a channel. As thus, this season after every race weekend, Sky Sports F1 has broadcast:

Fast Track – a quick-fire look back at a race weekend accompanied by a backing track (30 minutes)
Weekend in Stills – photographs from a race weekend via Sutton images with a backing track (30 minutes)
Weekend in Words – a review of the interviews done across a race weekend (60 minutes)

Since the Summer break, when I did my August review, the only programme that has been added to the schedule was a six part series entitled “Britain’s Next F1 Star“, looking at the stars coming up through the ranks into Formula 1. Apart from that, though, nothing else has been added meaning that my mid-season thoughts are largely unchanged. Whilst I can see why some would find Weekend in Stills a good programme to watch, I don’t feel the same way for either Fast Track and Weekend in Words. Neither offer a new perspective for a race weekend, and instead are there to regurgitate material that has already been released. Weekend in Words in particular smacks of lazy programming in my opinion, at the best of times Formula 1 drivers sound and feel like ‘PR bots’ so I do not know why people would want to sit through this in any way, shape or form.

Instead, Sky should look at exploiting the footage that is hidden behind the Red Button and not released publicly and turn that into a programme. In my opinion there is so much programming that could be made from the footage, yet they are doing nothing with it. Whether that is for contractual reasons or not, I do not know. I made a little list back in August and will do the same below (although I won’t go back to that post to look at those thoughts, the list below will be similar to the one back then).

The Heart of Racing – an onboard view from one driver only, intersperced with their team-radio – whether its the race winner or someone further down (30 minutes)
Going Hybrid – a better version of the World Feed, except comprising of the World Feed, plus Onboard, Pitlane feeds and exclusive team-radio (60 minutes)
A Weekend with… – a weekend with a particular member of a team or an official looking at their activities during a race weekend from Thursday to Sunday from a video diary perspective (30 minutes)
The Little Extras – the little bits of footage that was shown on Sky Race Control during a race weekend, but never made the World Feed (30 minutes)
Extended Interview – an extended interview from the race weekend with no cuts (30 minutes – similar to the one they shown with Sebastian Vettel and Ted Kravitz following India. The beauty of that 15 minute cut was that it felt much ‘rawer’ than what it came across in the shorter 5 minute cut during the Indian Grand Prix race show as you seen a different side of Vettel and the laughs and jokes that do not come across in shorter cuts. The extended cuts would also show the drivers’ as more relaxed as well as the full answers to questions posed to them rather than a cut down version)

The thing is, at the moment there is nothing to entice me to watch Sky Sports F1 outside of race weekends, aside from The F1 Show, which is one hour out of a potential 15 hours (3 hours per day, Monday to Friday). The viewing figures outside of a race weekend are terribly low because there is zero incentive for anyone to tune in. All the channel consisted off for the majority of the year was repeat after repeat. Another show I would had, which I deliberately have not mentioned above is a studio show with journalists giving their opinion on all things Formula 1. It seems like this was trialled out in the Summer with David Croft presenting and I hope this returns in 2013 as it would significantly bolster their line-up. Unlike the above shows, it would not need to be every week, maybe six or seven editions a year spread throughout the year depending on what stories crop up in Formula 1, the benefit of having them spread out means you can get different journalists on screen and therefore different viewpoints.

As well as the above, a nod to the past must be given with documentaries being shown alongside the F1 Legends series. Unfortunately, though the signs are that Sky have been rejecting documentary series’, see these two tidbits here and here. The comment in the second link is staggering: “As an aside, when I approached the Head of F1 at Sky TV with the programme, (I showed him a 5 min clip) his ONE comment was ‘The interviews are crap but the old film is good.'” The fact that a dedicated Formula 1 channel is rejecting old documentaries shows that there is something seriously wrong with the decision making process. It is a channel that should be aimed at Formula 1 fans. You are not going to find Formula 1 documentaries that will cater to the casual Formula 1 fan, that won’t happen. They should be accepting the documentary offers as it would help increase the channel reputation and it would only help the channel further in the future. As with everything, you have to start somewhere, and it is not automatically the end of the world if one ‘bad’ documentary makes it to air. Whether it is old documentaries, or just ‘Top 10 Greatest Drivers’ and ‘Top 10 Greatest Races’ for example in the pre-season, things like this will help increase the reputation of the channel. Having a sparse channel outside of the weekend makes it look like the channel is run on a shoe-string budget which is not the impression they should be giving.

There are plenty of directions Sky could go with potential documentaries in 2013 but the outlook does not appear rosy. In 2012, you could argue that they were short of time as they only won the rights in July of 2011, but in March 2013, that argument falls down like a stack of cards. The channel should be stacked of programming come March, there really is zero excuse. After all, why bother having a dedicated Formula 1 channel, yet only make a half hearted effort of it? With the pre-season, as I noted above, they could air a ton of pre-season documentaries along the lines ‘Top 10s’ and get the contributions of their own on-air team alongside Formula 1 legends. Things like that would be relatively cheap compared to a detailed Formula 1 documentary on a team’s history, but it fills airtime, it does the job and brings a feel of ‘newness’ to the channel rather than yet more repeats. Sky seem to have the attitude that nothing before 2012 matters, hence why there is a heavy weighting on 2012 programming with the programming on ‘rinse and repeat’ in the off-season currently.

Which brings us nicely to classic races. The lack of classic Formula 1 races in 2012 on Sky Sports F1 was bewildering and staggering when you consider BBC’s fantastic classic F1 series online. Yes, they screened classic races from Monaco and Britain, but that was it. Nothing in the latter half of the season. In 2013, classic Formula 1 races is a must. Not season reviews, but classic F1 races. You may say, “they may not have the rights to screen them”. If so, it is beggars belief that they would create a channel without having the core archive rights beforehand as you leave yourself falling down a hole by doing that. In my opinion, classic F1 races are absolutely essential for the channel to succeed. After all, why bother building a channel without the core rights? It does not need to be tons of classic races, otherwise they will run out fast, but two or three a week would be sufficient before a race weekend. In fact, it does not even need to be a ‘classic’. Every race has a story. Why not exploit that story and re-tell the story in a new format (like ‘Senna’, but just one race), which goes back to the documentary mentions above.

With the above in mind, I would consider the following a strong schedule after a particular race weekend, in this case after the Australian Grand Prix and before the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Monday 18th March
19:00 – Replay from the Circuit
– replay of the Australian Grand Prix

Tuesday 19th March
19:00 – Fast Track
19:30 – The Heart of Racing
20:00 – Going Hybrid
21:00 – Classic F1: 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix

Wednesday 20th March
19:30 – A Weekend With…
20:00 – The Little Extras
20:30 – Extended Interview
21:00 – Classic F1: 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix

Thursday 21st March
19:30 – Weekend in Words
20:30 – Weekend in Stills
21:00 – Classic F1: 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix

Friday 22nd March
01:30 – Live from the Circuit
04:45 – Going Hybrid (R)
05:45 – Live from the Circuit
09:45 – The F1 Show
10:45 – Classic F1: 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)
12:45 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
16:00 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – The F1 Show (R)
21:00 – F1 Legends
21:30 – A Weekend With… (R)
22:00 – The Little Extras (R)
22:30 – Extended Interview (R)
23:30 – Fast Track (R)
23:30 – The Heart of Racing (R)

Saturday 23rd March
02:45 – Live from the Circuit
06:15 – Going Hybrid (R)
07:15 – Live from the Circuit
09:45 – Classic F1: 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)
11:45 – The F1 Show
12:30 – The Little Extras (R)
13:00 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
17:30 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – The F1 Show (R)
21:00 – Classic F1: 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)

Sunday 24th March
06:00 – Live from the Circuit
12:30 – documentary
13:30 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – Malaysian Grand Prix Highlights (R)

In the very least, there needs to be more content outside of race weekends. The media and sponsorship releases last week made no mention of any new content outside of race weekends, so time will tell whether the schedules look any different come late February and early March. I will praise the fact that they have some new content on over Christmas, specifically their 2012 season review and the twelve individual team reviews as they could have took the easier option and shut the channel over the Winter. Of course, with any new programming, it needs to be advertised – not once was Britain’s Next F1 Star trailed in adverts on Sky Sports F1, a problem that was common across the channel this season.

I don’t like to criticise, but it is not often a sport is given a dedicated channel and at the moment I do not feel Sky are exploiting the channel to its full potential outside of race weekends. This part of the ‘2012 Verdict’ may sound like the most critical, but for me, this was by far the weakest part of the product. Sky are approaching this as a ‘programme’ without thinking about the remainder of the channel. If they are thinking of it as a ‘programme’ then they should axe the channel in all honesty. There is nothing on Sky Sports F1 at the moment that they could not do on another Sky Sports channel. Which is why they need to bolster the content to justify the channel’s existence. Like I say though, this past season there may have been a perfectly valid reason that there was not enough time between July 2011 and March 2012 to commission, film and air content – although they did a very good job with what they did air, such as the Legends show which is returning in 2013. Hopefully the scope for that is expanded, also with sensible scheduling as once a week as I don’t think scheduling it after races worked.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Do you think Sky’s mid-week output needs to improve? Coming up in part seven, it is my look at the 2012 ratings.

Sky Sports F1’s weekend output: The 2012 Verdict

Following on my part looking at BBC F1’s weekend output last week, it is time for the ‘2012 Verdict’ series to move on to look at Sky Sports F1’s output from this past season as the broadcaster embarked on its first season covering Formula 1. Thankfully, last week’s announcements do not affect this particular blog post significantly, although I will reference it from time to time if necessary.

Press Conferences
Sky’s coverage of a race weekend begins with covering the Thursday and Friday press conferences – the Thursday press conference featuring answers from six drivers’ chosen by the FIA, whilst the Friday press conference features answers from six team members’, again chosen by the FIA. The footage is purely from the Formula One Management (FOM) World Feed.

A nice addition to the race weekend and can be a bit hit or miss depending on the weekend and depending on the drivers’ chosen, but it is worth watching as the drivers’ do lighten up some of the time and crack a joke. Anything is better than ‘Your Home of Formula One’ on a rolling loop, and given that the Thursday and Friday press conferences were not readily available before 2012, this is a small, but worthwhile addition to the race weekend.

The first Formula 1 action takes place on Friday with practice, all of which is covered by Sky, albeit the practice is interrupted by commercials. Thankfully there are not too many commercials though, and even so, I do not believe it is particularly valid to complain about practice because the viewer has the option to access Sky Race Control (onboard or pit lane feeds at the push of the Red Button) so the commercials are a good opportunity to press red for a few minutes. One thing that I will say on that subject though is that the constant ‘going off air 7 minutes’ early is particularly irritating, especially after practice three on Saturday mornings, a dedicated channel should not be going off air three minutes after a session has ended.

The commentary itself is mostly fine with David Croft and Anthony Davidson, but as I alluded to in the mid-season verdict and in my earlier posts, I do feel too much emphasis is put on the track action here when in fact the emphasis should be getting viewers’ opinions and thoughts in from Twitter like back when the two commentated with BBC Radio 5 Live. Personally for me it is more about the viewer debate as you do not learn the practice stories until later (why X struggled, why Y was fast) so it is worthwhile to ask for people’s questions during the session.

Before and after the session you tend to have Simon Lazenby alongside Johnny Herbert and Martin Brundle. Not much is discussed before the session apart from your usual talking points, although it is difficult to with only seven minutes air-time before commercials and the FOM sting. Back in 2002, F1 Digital+ had more of a relaxed studio based discussion on Friday’s before and after practice and this is something I think Sky should attempt on Friday’s at the circuit. Being down in the pit-lane on Friday does not really serve any purpose as there is no atmosphere, the crowds are sparce and the sun is only just rising. You can have a vibrant studio that comes across well on screen as Sky proved with their fantastic studio and Sky Pad set-up during the Ryder Cup which was on-location.

Also, as I said in my Sky individual team piece, I think Brundle’s role needs to be re-evaluated during practice as well as Sky constantly cutting away from the FOM World Feed, both need to cut down significantly for 2013. If you are going to use Brundle in 2013, then he needs to be used effectively (such as sending him to the fast chicane during FP2 at Melbourne with a pair of binoculars for example to see which cars look more stable and giving his instant live thoughts to a camera). Seeing him interview someone during practice does not do much for me, especially when that interview could be conducted before the session or after the session.

The F1 Show
For the purpose of this piece, I will only focus on The F1 Show during the race weekends. During the race weekends, The F1 Show is normally presented on location with both Georgie Thompson and Ted Kravitz, although ocassionally Thompson has been back in London in the F1 studio. The magazine show normally goes to air two and a half hours after practice, the programme rounding up the Friday action as well as presenting one of two features in the hour long show.

As I have re-iterated before, The F1 Show remains the best part of the Sky Sports F1 weekend. As a duo, Kravitz and Thompson are a fantastic presenting team alongside Johnny Herbert for the show. It is unfortunate therefore that The F1 Show has the unfortunate honour of being the lowest rated output across the race weekend this season that Sky Sports produce, it is an honour that it should not have, or deserve to have in my opinion. I personally would like to see an extra 30-minute F1 Show added on Saturday evenings with Kravitz and (or as an addition) Thompson presenting the show as they wrap up Saturday’s action and talk about any penalty decisions. I always found it a bizarre situation where Sky Sports News were talking about a penalty live (Spain and Abu Dhabi) but Sky Sports F1 was in repeat mode. The show would incorporate Kravitz’s Notebook as well as go in-depth with each team’s Qualifying performance. At the Monaco and British Grand Prix’s, Sky added a Thursday show. I don’t think this is always necessary as all that you can do in these shows is regurgitate pre-race interview material, whereas there is more potential for a Saturday show in my opinion.

Unlike above, where I suggest a studio for practice, I think The F1 Show should remain a paddock based show as there the paddock and pitlane is actually quite busy during the evenings while the show is on air with mechanics repairing cars from Friday practice as the sun goes down for the day. Unfortunately, the poor ratings make it seem unlikely that The F1 Show will be extended beyond a one-hour Friday show for next year, although it is good news to see that it has been recommissioned for 2013 with Thompson presenting, no mention of whether Kravitz will be presenting as well but I suspect he will be.

Support races
As well as Formula 1, Sky Sports F1 has also broadcast the GP2 and GP3 Series this season, focussing on the future Formula 1 hot prospects such as James Calado and Davide Valsecchi. The channel aired every GP2 session alongside the GP3 Qualifying and Race sessions. Sky chose to take the FOM World Feed footage in its entirety, with commentary from Will Buxton and Jerome d’Ambrosio. As of writing, it is not known if Buxton will return to his support race duties for 2013. I duly hope he does though as he is clearly enthusiastic about the feeder series’ which always helps during commentary. Buxton is also outspoken during commentary, something that is rare nowadays (as to not upset anyone higher up) which is great to see. A particularly funny moment this year was seeing Buxton and d’Ambrosio taking a Q&A session live on air during the red flag delay in Belgium.

I’m not particularly fussed as to whom is alongside Buxton, whilst d’Ambrosio is a competent commentator, he is not a major loss if he does not return for 2013, the main thing for me is that Buxton is back in the commentary box for 2013. One thing I am wondering is whether Sky will increase its commitment to the series. Yes, they broadcast every session of both series’ (bar GP3 Practice, but that is as dedicated as you will get, and I believe no commentary is provided for that), but outside of that there is little support series coverage. The only mention it got on Sky Sports News concerned the horrifying crash of Conor Daly’s from the GP3 race in Monaco, whilst it got little coverage outside of that on the Sky F1 channel. My hope for 2013 is that Sky Sports add some presentation and colour to it outside of the World Feed and promote it a lot more, after all this is the future of Formula 1 yet it is treated somewhat shabby at the moment. It does not need to be much, 10 minutes before a race and after a race to introduce us to the faces that exist behind the helmets and to persuade more viewers to watch, like The F1 Show above, the feeder series’ have not drawn many viewers on Sky. ITV4 had on-site presentation in 2008, hopefully Sky Sports F1 can have on-site presentation five years later.

Moving onto Saturday and Sunday, Sky this past season have provided one hour of build-up for each Qualifying session with 90-minutes build-up for each race. Post-Qualifying tends to have about 30 minutes, with the post-race having about 1 hour, 45 minutes of debrief. The Qualifying programmes I thought were mostly fine this season, but one of my main concerns for both of the pre-shows is the pacing. For me, and this is partially due to the commercials, it seems chop and change quickly going from one topic to another without any flow. It is one thing the BBC have done fantastically in the build-up to integrate everything together whereas in my opinion Sky have not done that yet.

Looking at their 2013 sponsorship document, it was stated that three commercials would remain in the race build-up. I think it is worth them having a break directly before the 5-minute sting as in terms of what is covered in those 3 minutes is ‘dead air-time’ and just wrapping things up before the race itself. The benefit also of taking a break here is that it means one less break during the actual build-up which would help the flow significantly in my opinion. Unfortunately though, the sponsorship document states “3 breaks in the build-up, with the last break running no later than 30/60 minutes before the race starts.” meaning you have more breaks constrained to less air-time. From an advertisers perspective, I would have thought having a break 10 minutes before the start would be more valuable as there are more viewers available, but Sky may argue there is a much higher chance of viewers turning over at the particular junction. Although I was not a fan of ITV’s breaks, the break before the start was definitely the most useful!

In terms of the VT features, I have enjoyed the majority of them on Sky, in particular the Nigel Roebuck segments have definitely been the highlight for me. Seeing Jacques Villeneuve driving his Dad’s Ferrari at Maranello was also a highlight as was the Racing Lines segments. One thing I will say about VT’s is that, whilst some VT’s have been fantastic, for a 90 minute show, some that have been produced are too short and not delivered. For a 90 minute build-up, time should not be a pressing factor. I would happily have a longer feature if it meant less of the scenario shots and slow motion montage shots of drivers’ walking through the paddock, the latter has been a particular bugbear of mine as the season has progressed. Okay, slow motion can be good (especially during races) but it is as if someone at Sky has took slow motion as being flavour of the day to the extreme.

On a final note, and this applies for the Post-Race section, I think that Lazenby’s role should be reduced for 2013 and the duties shared more with Thompson as Lazenby is presenting too much which is a detriment to the coverage. Of course, Lazenby should improve for 2013, but the presenting burden should be spread more thinly with Thompson.

The post-race length is similar of that to BBC, but despite being a dedicated channel seems more ‘stricter’ with the length and as thus does not feel as relaxed as BBC. There are definitely stronger areas in the post-race compared to the BBC, for example Ted’s Notebook again is a highlight as Kravitz wanders up and down the pit-lane focussing on each and every team which is always nice to see. Another strength of the post-race is the Sky Pad which allows Davidson and Thompson to focus on the key incidents. This was particularly evident at the Belgian and Japanese Grand Prix’s where their virtual camera allowed them to pinpoint the exact moment where contact was made. I know some are critical of the Sky Pad, but in these incidents the Sky Pad really comes into its element and ‘its own’.

I think by the end of the season Sky had definitely got much better at the post-race section of their coverage, unlike everything else, the post-race is impossible to rehearse as you have no idea what is going to happen. At the start of the season it seemed in a bit of no mans land, but has definitely come on leaps and bounds since.

Looking ahead to 2013, if I was working at Sky, this would be my preferred weekend schedule for European races:

08:30 – Live from the Circuit
– 08:30 to 08:33 – Adverts
– 08:33 to 08:52 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 08:52 to 08:55 – Adverts
– 08:55 to 10:35 – F1 Practice 1
– 10:35 to 10:38 – Adverts
– 10:38 to 10:52 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 10:52 to 10:55 – Adverts
– 10:55 to 11:35 – GP2 Practice
– 11:35 to 11:38 – Adverts
– 11:38 to 11:42 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 11:42 – Off-Air
11:45 – Classic F1
– gives viewers a reason to stick with Sky Sports F1 during the break instead of sticking on another Fast Track repeat
12:45 – Live from the Circuit
– 12:45 to 12:48 – Adverts
– 12:48 to 12:55 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 12:55 to 14:35 – F1 Practice 2
– 14:35 to 14:38 – Adverts
– 14:38 to 14:52 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 14:52 to 14:55 – Adverts
– 14:55 to 15:35 – GP2 Qualifying
– 15:35 to 15:38 – Adverts
– 15:38 to 15:45 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 15:45 to 16:30 – Team Principles Press Conference
– 16:30 to 16:42 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 16:42 – Off-Air
16:45 to 17:45 – The F1 Show
– live from the paddock with Ted Kravitz, Georgie Thompson and Johnny Herbert

The purpose of ‘Studio Chat and Discussion’ segments is so Formula 1 personalities can drop into the studio whether it is past, present or future to discuss all matters F1 and so viewers can tweet or e-mail questions into the studio. The studio would be an ‘extension’ of the Sky Pad studio akin to the Ryder Cup as noted above.

08:30 – Live from the Circuit
– 08:30 to 08:33 – Adverts
– 08:33 to 08:40 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 08:40 to 09:20 – GP3 Qualifying
– 09:20 to 09:23 – Adverts
– 09:23 to 09:35 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 09:35 to 09:38 – Adverts
– 09:38 to 09:52 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 09:52 to 09:55 – Adverts
– 09:55 to 11:05 – F1 Practice 3
– 11:05 to 11:12 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 11:12 – Off-Air
11:15 – Classic F1
– gives viewers a reason to stick with Sky Sports F1 during the break instead of sticking on another Fast Track repeat
12:15 – Live from the Circuit
– 12:15 to 12:18 – Adverts
– 12:18 to 12:30 – Paddock Chat with Simon Lazenby
– 12:30 to 12:38 – Studio Chat and Sky Pad
– 12:38 to 12:41 – Adverts
– 12:41 to 12:52 – Paddock Chat with Simon Lazenby
– 12:52 to 12:55 – Adverts
– 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying
– 14:05 to 14:10 – Press Conference
– 14:10 to 14:13 – Adverts
– 14:13 to 14:20 – Studio Chat and Sky Pad
– 14:20 to 14:27 – Paddock Chat with Simon Lazenby
– 14:27 to 14:32 – Gridwalk
– 14:32 to 14:35 – Adverts
– 14:35 to 15:50 – GP2 Series
– 15:50 to 15:03 – Adverts
– 15:53 to 16:00 – Paddock Chat with GP2 interviews
– 16:00 to 16:03 – Adverts
– 16:03 to 16:12 – Paddock Chat and Gridwalk
– 16:12 to 16:15 – Adverts
– 16:15 to 17:10 – GP3 Series
– 17:10 – off-air
17:15 – The F1 Show
– featuring Ted’s Qualifying Notebook and interviews not featured earlier. Length variable depending on what was and what was not covered.

08:15 – Live from the Circuit
– 08:15 to 08:18 – Adverts
– 08:18 to 08:25 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 08:25 to 09:05 – GP3 Series
– 09:05 to 09:08 – Adverts
– 09:08 to 09:17 – Paddock Chat (GP3 and any F1 news)
– 09:17 to 09:22 – Gridwalk
– 09:22 to 09:25 – Adverts
– 09:25 to 10:35 – GP2 Series
– 10:35 to 10:42 – Studio Chat and Discussion
– 10:42 – off-air
10:45 – Classic F1
– gives viewers a reason to stick with Sky Sports F1 during the break instead of sticking on another Fast Track repeat
11:45 – Live from the Circuit
– normal build-up and post-race as now

Although I have done the above, the reason why the above will never happen is because Sky are too focussed on what the BBC are doing and not much on themselves. It is a channel, therefore it should look and feel like a channel. The above, in my opinion, does that instead of being like a string separated into separate pieces. Sky feel that their Qualifying and Race programme should be longer than BBC. Not really, it should be about bringing content to the F1 fan irrespective of what time of day it may be during the race weekend. There is too much emphasis on being like the BBC and having the content in one or two places when in reality it should be spread across the race weekend. Think of it like a piece of bread, instead of putting all the butter on one corner of the piece (Qualifying and Race build-up), it should be spread more thinly across the bread.

Coming up next will be the Sky mid-week verdict followed up by the ratings verdict. As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!

BBC F1’s output: The 2012 Verdict

The first three parts of my ‘2012 Verdict’ series looking at all things UK F1 Broadcasting focussed on the BBC and Sky teams and how they could be improved for 2013. Parts four, five and six will move onto focussing on the individual programming that each broadcaster puts out, starting with the BBC in this part.

BBC’s Formula 1 coverage starts on a Friday morning, with coverage of practice. For the live race weekends, practice is live behind the BBC Red Button service with commentary from the BBC Radio 5 Live team. For the highlight races, the coverage is on 5 Live only – minus the pictures. Coverage begins five minutes before the session, and finishes five minutes after the session, with footage fully from the Formula One Management (FOM) World Feed.

Despite this, the coverage that is provided is fantastic with James Allen, Jaime Alguersuari, Jennie Gow and Gary Anderson taking us through the action and inviting viewer discussion throughout via Twitter and e-mail. The format, which has been the same since 2009 when BBC won the rights from ITV, has largely worked.

With the reduction of BBC Red Button streams from five to one, however, one wonders how, if at all, this will affect BBC’s practice coverage. At this stage, it is impossible to know as BBC have not yet announced which races they will be covering live. But if there is a sport clash, then practice may draw the short straw and be restricted to online only. On the other hand, is there a possibility of some practice sessions being live on BBC Two? The Delivering Quality First changes (DQF) means that BBC Two’s daytime schedule will be radically overhauled, and CBBC being axed from BBC One and BBC Two. I don’t think practice being on BBC Two is very likely, but is definitely worth noting, in my opinion.

Inside F1
Introduced in 2009, Inside F1 for its first few years was largely presented in the BBC News’ studio, but since 2011 has been presented track side, in 2011 by Amanda Davies and 2012 by Lee McKenzie. Broadcast on the BBC News Channel, the programme rounds up the Friday action and features an interview or two.

There is not much to say here, except it feels completely out of place on BBC News. I’m not sure where else it could go there, maybe BBC Two at 19:00 as a result of the DQF changes, or BBC Three at 19:00 to appeal to a younger audience, but either way it being on BBC News feels out of place, but that’s just me. I think as a programme the format works, for those that just want a quick round-up of practice, and should be kept.

The pre-qualifying and pre-race programmes are normally an hour in length with Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan discussing and analysing key points, interspersed with VT’s. For me though, looking ahead to 2013, this could end up being the biggest drop down in terms of quality.

This year, and in previous years, we have seen some fantastic features with the three of them such as the Silverstone Wing Walking or camping in the middle of the Spa Francorchamps. The features worked and were widely praised. Yes, they were crazy and a bit bonkers, but that is why people loved them! My point us that all three people, Humphrey, Coulthard and Jordan were willing to do that. The dynamic between the three elsewhere in the build-up became top notch fast with little room for improvement. It is the area where it could all go wrong in 2013, depending on who the front man or woman could be. People choose BBC over Sky because of the build-up, and if the new presenter does not gel well, then that could turn the tide into Sky’s favour.

The quality of the VT’s should remain top notch as it has done so consistently since 2009, but as always it is the presenter who holds the show together, who keeps the viewers engaged and not many people can do that as well as Humphrey. It will be interesting to see how much the live build-ups change for 2013 with a new dynamic. Elsewhere, the new live grid walk with Coulthard has been a success, who has filled Martin Brundle’s role nicely in grabbing the right people at the right time. The highlights programmes should not change too much compared to this year as it is a quick intro, grid walk and into the race.

Post-qualifying and post-race coverage on the BBC largely remained the same for 2012. The main feature of the post-race coverage is the F1 Forum, which follows the main BBC One broadcast. For me, this was a huge advancement on ITV’s F1 coverage which had the tendency to rush off air wherever possible. The amount of time BBC dedicated to Formula 1 after the race had finished was more than any broadcaster previously. The format of the F1 Forum has changed slightly since 2009, instead of being based in a team motor home as they were in 2009 and 2010, in 2011, the team instead choosing to wander around the paddock to see who they could find. I think both formats have their positives and negatives, the motor home style allows for a more analytical style with more debate, whilst the wander around style allows them to pick up anyone they find along the way and see the team photos at the end of each race.

Whilst the F1 Forum has been there for live races, its absence from highlights races has been extremely disappointing. Yes, whilst there may be twenty minutes on BBC One after the highlights races, the F1 Forum allows for a more relaxed style and to discuss things that they may not have had time to discuss on the BBC One show. It says a lot when one of the best half an hour segments of the weekend was the recorded Bahrain Grand Prix forum. The joy of the forum is that it helps nicely wind down the weekend, and that video was for me one of the best pieces all season with the BBC wrapping up the action. I do hope the F1 Forum appears on the website for all the highlights races next year, even if it just a 20 minute cut.

Other programming
Outside of the race weekend, all of BBC’s output happens online and on the Red Button with blogs from Andrew Benson and Gary Anderson. Also, the Classic F1 series has continued for several races on the Red Button, with extended highlights from several rounds including Belgium and Italy, reaffirming BBC’s commitment to covering the past in Formula 1 as well as the present.

On the whole, BBC’s output is top notch. But like any production, as always there are areas where improvements could be made. Part four will look at Sky Sports F1’s weekend output, and as always, your thoughts are welcome.

The Sky Sports F1 Team: The 2012 Verdict

Note: I have completed this piece while feeling ill, so I apologise in advance if it is not up to my usual standard. Some portions towards the end I have cut/pasted in from the August Sky verdict, with small amendments.

Following on from my piece looking at the BBC F1 team, it is time to turn our attention to how the Sky Sports F1 team have performed this season. This, part three of the ‘2012 Verdict’ series will be followed by a look at the respective programming that BBC Sport and Sky Sports put out with the final part looking at the television ratings from this past season.

As with the BBC F1 team review, I will look at each person individually and give my prediction ahead of 2013. Sky Sports had a lot of pundits this season, and it is impossible to review every single one of them, so for the purposes of this review I shall only look at the main pundits that have appeared at several rounds although I will have a section at the end to look at other pundits.

Allan McNish
Having raced in Formula 1 in 2002 as part of the Toyota team, and having competed in endurance racing, McNish is well placed to give his thoughts on motor sport. McNish first appeared with the Sky Sports team at the Monaco Grand Prix. It was not his first appearance though as previously UK viewers would have seen him briefly as part of the ITV F1 team back in 2003 when he was Renault test driver.

McNish is one of those people who puts his thoughts across eloquently and in detail, and is good to listen to in practice commentary when substituting for Anthony Davidson. As well as practice commentary, he is more often than not alongside Johnny Herbert for The F1 Show and during pre
and post-race coverage, again worth listening too. Whilst he will not appear at every race due to his endurance racing commitments, my 2013 prediction = McNish to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Anthony Davidson
Like McNish, who did not have a successful Formula 1 career, Davidson found more success in endurance racing. After rides at Minardi and BAR/Honda replacing Alex Yoong and Takuma Sato, Davidson was a part of the Super Aguri team from 2007 until its demise in 2008.

From 2009, Davidson was alongside David Croft in the 5 Live commentary box, in a commentary line-up that was very well received. Davidson remained in that role until the end of 2011, when he joined Sky Sports F1. His commitments were briefly disrupted thanks to his horrifying crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which could have resulted in significantly worser injuries. As part of the Sky team, he continued the practice commentary role, Davidson joined Georgie Thompson on the Sky Pad for Saturday and Sunday of the weekend coverage, in a segment that usually works well when they analyse the key incidents in great detail.

Some wonder why Davidson is not there on his own and Thompson elsewhere. In my opinion, the answer is that Davidson is not a natural broadcaster, so whilst he may be able to describe a particular incident very well, he may not be able to lead an entire segment, hence why Thompson is there to help guide the segment and bring a steady ship on-board. I personally don’t have an issue with their being two people there, arguably it works better with two people than one. 2013 prediction = Davidson to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Damon Hill
The only Formula 1 World Champion on either the BBC or Sky teams, Hill was crowned Drivers’ Champion in 1996, fending off competition from Williams’ team-mate Jacques Villeneuve. Along with stints at Arrows and Jordan, Hill retired at the end of the 1999 season. Since then, Hill has done sporadic commentary roles with ITV F1 – specifically various Hungarian Grand Prix’s.

It was not until this year though that Hill returned permanently to a Formula 1 role, becoming pundit for Sky Sports F1. Whilst Gary Anderson won the most improved member award for the BBC team, I think it is fair to say that Hill deserves this award for the Sky Sports team. At the start of the year, after the Australian Grand Prix, the duo of Hill and Simon Lazenby grated. A lot But thanks to the introduction of Johnny Herbert in China, Hill has come on leaps and bounds and seems significantly more comfortable in his role.

I think the issue here was that Hill had not been in a broadcasting role similar to that previously. Formula 1 is one of the few sports where you can’t rehearse a build-up months before because it is ‘out in the wild’, none of it is studio based, unlike say a football match where the build-up is in a studio. In any case, Hill definitely is much better in his role compared to the start of the season, and it will be good to see him hit the ground running in 2013. 2013 prediction = Hill to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

David Croft
Starting in 2006, Croft became a familiar voice to Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, becoming a part of the BBC Radio 5 Live team, initially alongside Holly Samos and Maurice Hamilton. Croft became more recognisable, though, from 2009 when BBC won the television rights. As part of the deal, practice was to be broadcast on BBC’s Red Button service, with TV taking the 5 Live commentary of Croft alongside Anthony Davidson.

For many people, Croft’s and Davidson’s chatty nature suited practice as the two discussed all things Formula 1, inviting viewers’ opinions on Twitter along the way. One year ago, it was announced that Croft would become part of the Sky Sports team, commentating alongside Davidson for practice and alongside Martin Brundle for qualifying and the race. Whilst the commentary on the whole is very, very good, I feel like Croft and Brundle are not quite as good as Ben Edwards and David Coulthard and the practice commentary appears to have taken a significant step backwards compared with the 5 Live F1 days when interactivity was the main drawing point (admittedly though, this is not Croft’s fault, but worth mentioning here).

Similar applies for the race commentary, the mentions of ‘Sky Sports F1 HD’ and ‘Sky Race Control’ are unnecessary and are a detriment to the overall product. The commentary is made worse for it. I don’t think Croft is necessarily a bad commentator, in fact it is quite the opposite, it is just that those higher up in the Sky Sports chain are dragging his commentary down by getting him to ‘PR’ many times within commentary. 2013 prediction = Croft to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Georgie Thompson
Having been with the Sky Sports News team for over ten years, Thompson left the team at the end of last year, joining Sky Sports F1 as presenter for The F1 Show. There was criticism at the time for Sky’s decision, however, she does have motor racing experience before, notably presenting some of their A1 Grand Prix coverage. Plus, with over ten years of presenting experience, Thompson is a safe pair of hands on board.

For me, Thompson, alongside Ted Kravitz on The F1 Show have done a great job as presenters, with instant rapport between the pair. If anything, she needs to be used more during the race weekend coverage as the only part she plays on Saturday and Sunday is on the Sky Pad with Davidson and presenting FP3 – although the latter is significantly rushed thanks to time constraints. It would be nice to see her, and possibly Davidson or Herbert presenting support race coverage in 2013. 2013 prediction = Thompson to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Johnny Herbert
With a long racing career spanning stints at Lotus, Benetton, Stewart and Jaguar, Herbert is very well placed to comment on all things Formula 1 thanks to his extensive career. Herbert did not initially appear with the Sky Sports team at the start of their coverage, instead making his first appearance at the Chinese Grand Prix. From the beginning, Herbert was very comfortable in front of the camera, which in turn made the rest of the product seem better, as noted earlier with Hill.

I think, in hindsight, Herbert should have been with Sky since the start with Hill being brought in later, but on the other hand, Sky probably wanted a world champion to boost their line-up instantly from the get-go, which Hill offers. The introduction of Herbert also helped loosen up what was a slightly wooden presentation for the first two rounds, which helped things considerably – as a wooden presentation can bore the viewer and switch them off. 2013 prediction = Herbert to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Natalie Pinkham
More of an entertainment reporter than motor racing reporter with her duties for various Channel 5 programming including The Wright Stuff, Pinkham moved onto the Formula 1 scene in 2011. Pinkham replaced Holly Samos as BBC Radio 5 Live reporter, Samos moving to pastures new. Pinkham has the role of interviewing drivers’, and occasionally smiling on camera whenever necessary. There’s honestly not much to say here, apart from improve the line of questioning. Or is there?

Pinkham was not with Sky Sports F1 back in Germany as she was getting married. In steps Rachel Brookes. If you haven’t seen how Sky Sports News are covering Formula 1, then you’re probably thinking “who”? Brookes during 2012 on Sky Sports News has been vastly underlooked by many, so I was extremely glad to see she got a chance to shine in Germany. Brookes appears, to me, to have a better understanding of the sport than Pinkham, despite only being apart of it since the start of the year, and asks the right questions where necessary, unlike Pinkham who appears to ‘rinse and
repeat’ the questions. If I had a choice between Brookes and Pinkham for the pit-lane reporters role, I’m afraid I would go with Brookes nine times out of the ten. I really don’t see them making any changes here for 2013, but it is just an observation worth making. 2013 prediction = Pinkham to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Martin Brundle
From Formula 1 driver to Formula 1 commentary, Brundle is now a firm fixture with Formula 1 viewers around the world thanks to his commentary spanning fifteen years. Brundle drove for Benetton, Ligier and Jordan, before hanging up his Formula 1 boots at the end of 1996. Thankfully, ITV called and Brundle found himself alongside Murray Walker in the commentary box from 1997 to 2001. Brundle remained with ITV until the end of 2008, joining BBC for 2009 and then again moving to Sky Sports for the beginning of 2012, thanks to the draw of the new channel.

But when is too much, too much? Now, I love Brundle’s contribution. On BBC, he was commentator for qualifying and race whilst participating in most post-race F1 Forum’s. Sky have upped that. Brundle can be seen before and the majority of practice, qualifying and race sessions as well as commentating on the qualifying and race sessions themselves. In my opinion, it is overkill. Were they hoping Brundle’s presence all around would draw viewers? Quite possibly, after all Brundle was a very popular figure in the BBC and ITV days, with his famed grid-walk.

I can see Sky’s approach in having Brundle as their lead figure. But I think for 2013 it needs to be re-evaluated otherwise you risk burn out with his opinion being stirred and stirred constantly saying the same things. At the moment, it feels like ‘The Brundle Show’, especially when you cut-away from practice sessions multiple times to see him talking in the pit-lane. I want Brundle to say for a long while yet, but for 2012, I felt it was too much Brundle. 2013 prediction = Brundle to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Simon Lazenby
When the Sky F1 team was announced last November, it was no great surprise that Sky chose Simon Lazenby as their presenter. After joining Sky in 1998, Lazenby was Sky’s Rugby presenter for the best part of a decade, before moving over to their Formula 1 team. At this point, you could argue ‘why did Sky choose someone with no motor racing experience’. The answer is quite simple, and that is because they preferably want someone in-house. This is a tendency that all broadcasters have, ITV moved Jim Rosenthal to their Formula 1 coverage when they began broadcasting the sport in 1997, while BBC did similar with Jake Humphrey when they regained the rights for the 2009 season.

You could say, well, why didn’t they choose Jon Desborough or Keith Huewen? Both of them have motor racing presenting experience and work for Sky. Whilst true, neither are high up in the hierarchy on Sky. On the other hand, Lazenby worked on a relatively high profile sport for Sky, and had the advantage that the Sky Rugby executive producer, Martin Turner was heading over to Sky Sports F1 as well. So in that sense, the move was not surprising.

Was it the right move? I’m not sure. As they say the jury is still out on him, although he has received some unfair criticism this season. Will he stay for 2013? As I said last week, yes, as Sky are not in the business of making knee-jerk decisions, and there is no guarantee than Lazenby’s replacement would be better than him. If he still is not gelling in fully by the end of 2013, then it may be time to re-evaluate. So, with that in mind: 2013 prediction = Lazenby to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Ted Kravitz
One of the best aspects of the Formula 1 coverage is hearing what the pit lane guys have to say. It always has been, getting into the nitty gritty of it, but also putting it across to the viewer in a language that they understand – without dumbing down. Which is always the fear. Kravitz’s F1 career began in 1997 with ITV behind the scenes. He moved onto pit lane reporter in 2002 when James Allen moved into the commentary box. I was extremely glad when Kravitz moved to BBC in 2009, as I always considered his pit lane tidbits one of the better aspects of ITV’s coverage. With free practice sessions live on the BBC Red Button from 2009 to 2011, Kravitz excelled as we got his tidbits on all three days of the weekend. Furthermore, his video blogs helped us dive into the post-race strategies and gave us a great summary of the majority of the teams’ on the grid.

Kravitz’s role expanded further for 2012 on Sky as he became host of The F1 Show alongside Thompson. As I noted earlier, the two have gelled together brilliantly. Kravitz’s relaxed style makes the show all the better, as well as seeing him poke around old machinery and seeing him explain new inventions on the Sky Pad. One of the explanations so far is with the Mercedes diffuser, which wasn’t dumbed down, but still made the hardcore fan like it. I’m glad Kravitz made the jump, because I would have hated seeing BBC cut his contribution down to shreds in the highlights shows, if anything, Kravitz deserves all the exposure he gets on Sky. Kravitz has also been doing his notebook’s for both Qualifying and the Race, with the Race version being broadcast live on the Sky Sports F1 channel and it very quickly for me became the best bit of the post-race show. I hope that Kravitz is around for many years to come with the Sky team. 2013 prediction = Kravitz to stay with the Sky Sports F1 team

Aside from the regular pundits, a lot of other faces popped up to give their thoughts on the Sky Sports channel throughout the season, notably Jacques Villeneuve in Canada. Having other pundits in addition to regular ones is a positive thing in my opinion as it allows for other viewpoints to be heard throughout the coverage, which is a positive for the channel as a whole. Sometimes the viewpoint even of said guest can get repetitive, especially when they are asked a million times (such as Villeneuve being quizzed about DRS), but at the end of the day it is only one weekend and it is a risk worth taking.

Onto the News team, and for me, Rachel Brookes is the better reporter than Craig Slater, Slater having the tendancy to stutter over his words, but in any case both have done a solid job for year one of Sky F1’s News coverage. On parts three and four, I shall look at BBC’s and Sky’s programming this year and analyse that.

For now though, your comments and thoughts are welcome.