Ben Edwards is to return to the commentary box for the upcoming 2022 Formula One season, the series has confirmed.
Edwards stepped down from his Channel 4 duties following the 2020 season, citing a need at the time to “step back from the front line of such an intense world and take a wider perspective on motorsport and life.”
By that point, Edwards had commentated on nine consecutive F1 seasons, firstly with the BBC from 2012 to 2015, and then with Channel 4 from 2016 to 2020.
Edwards made sporadic appearances last season for both BBC Radio 5 Live and Channel 4 last season, substituting for Jack Nicholls and Alex Jacques.
Now, the 56-year-old will formally return to the booth this year, forming part of F1’s digital team on their over-the-top platform F1 TV.
For Edwards, his return to F1’s in-house team is a throwback to 2002, when he commentated on the full season from F1’s Biggin Hill headquarters as part of the interactive F1 Digital+ platform on Sky Sports.
Edwards will commentate on 10 races this season, beginning in Bahrain this weekend alongside Jolyon Palmer. The pair, along with Will Buxton, Sam Collins, and Tom Gaymor, will be part of the F1 Live channel via F1 TV, the primary feed choice for F1 TV subscribers.
The F1 Live channel will offer “analysis ahead of each race with the teams’ technical directors showing off the car upgrades for the cameras and seamless programming throughout the weekend.”
Sky’s UK commentary, which used to be the main feed option on F1 TV, takes a back seat, but will still be available as a secondary option for subscribers.
Edwards started his F1 commentary career with Eurosport in the 1990s alongside John Watson, until Eurosport’s coverage ended following the 1996 season.
The partnership, which became popular with fans, continued beyond 1996, the two reuniting for F1 Digital+ in 2002, and again for A1 Grand Prix from 2005 onwards.
Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting, Edwards spoke of his desire to return to the F1 commentary box, but on a reduced schedule.
“I’ve been doing commentary for a long time, and although there were a lot of years I wasn’t doing Formula 1, I was always doing a lot of stuff,” Edwards says.
“The end of 2020 was the right time for me to just back off and rejig myself a little bit, and I think that’s what I needed to do last year, and then this came up.”
“I found that I did enjoy doing a few races [last year]. When it became a possibility that I could do some races, and that there was a source happy for me to just some, that did become interesting to me.”
“I didn’t want to do the whole season now that it’s up to 23 races, but if I can do part of it and work with a team, then that appeals to me.”
“I went to Biggin Hill last week to look around. It’s a slightly different setup to how it was 20 years ago, but it’s the same building, and it felt familiar heading down there,” Edwards recalls.
“The only difference is I won’t have Bernie Ecclestone behind me as I did for my very first bit of commentary with John Watson in 2002!”
While the news of Edwards’ return to the booth is fantastic for subscribers of F1 TV Pro, fans in the UK will not be able to listen legally to Edwards’ commentary this season.
The premium-tier of F1’s over-the-top platform remains geo-blocked to UK fans thanks to F1’s existing deal with Sky Sports which runs until the end of 2024.
A survey released on the subject in 2020 explored potential options for UK fans, none of which have yet come to fruition.
HDR coming to F1 in 2022, with new graphics also set to debut
Sky says that the move will bring “brighter, sharper and bolder imagery to the sport than ever before will result in a true-to-life picture for every moment of suspense, every emotion and every podium this season,” as Sky aim to make HDR the new standard for fans.
Jonathan Licht, Sky Sports’ Managing Director, said “We are pleased to bring the 2022 Formula 1 season to life in a way fans won’t have experienced before.”
“The stunning picture quality offered through HDR will make viewing the new Formula 1 season even more exciting and impactful than ever.”
“As the exclusive home of live Formula 1 in the UK and Ireland we will bring Sky customers the drama from every circuit around the world straight into the comfort of their own homes.”
Ian Holmes, Formula 1’s Director of Media Rights and Content Creation, said “As we enter an exciting new era of Formula 1, it is fantastic that fans will now get to experience the 2022 season, and enjoy Sky Sports’ extensive Formula 1 coverage, in HDR.”
“This is the latest in a long line of innovations in F1’s production that allow us to bring racing to fans in new and engaging ways and we can’t wait to see it in action.”
In addition, and in a sign that F1 sees the 2022 season as the start a new era across the piece, new television graphics are set to debut this weekend in Bahrain.
Since the turn of the decade, F1’s graphics have changed around every 4 years, so a change at this point is perhaps unsurprising.
Early images from Bahrain suggest that the F1 digital on-screen graphic (DOG) will be repositioned to the top left corner of the screen, embedded into a new look timing tower.
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