Revealed: Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team

Over the past 50 years, many voices have graced the small screen to broadcast Formula 1 to the masses in a wide range of territories: from the UK to the US, from free-to-air to pay TV and beyond.

But how many would make Motorsport Broadcasting’s on-air team, and why? To answer that question is incredibly difficult, when trying to account for the different eras, the different broadcasters, the age of the talent in question, and so on.

The fan that ITV was trying to attract in the late 1990s may be different to the fan Sky is currently trying to attract to their offering.

As part of the selection process, I am assuming that age is not a factor, that time has no bounds, alive or deceased.

The cast assembled in my opinion brings together the best of the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky Sports into a super team, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Think of it as my version of the Avengers, for use of a better term!

Of course, this is all judgemental (I admit to being openly biased for the next 2,000 words) and that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. The line-up comprises of:

  • 2 x presenters
  • 3 x analysts
  • 2 x pit lane reporters
  • 2 x technical reporters
  • 2 x commentators

So, who is in, and who is out? Revealed, Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team…

Presenters
Every good on-air presentation team needs a presenter to fit the bill. For me, watching Formula 1, there are two presenters that brought warmth with them whenever presenting the sport.

First up, the BBC’s Formula 1 presenter from 2009 to 2012, Jake Humphrey. Humphrey worked his way through the BBC ranks, from children’s television into BBC Sport, and eventually onto BBC F1 for the start of F1’s return to the Beeb in 2009.

Humphrey’s style was a departure from his predecessors Jim Rosenthal and Steve Rider on ITV. Both Rosenthal and Rider are excellent, top-tier presenters, but Humphrey brought with him an additional element. During that period, it felt like Humphrey was one of us: a fan who happened to be living the dream as F1 presenter.

In my view, Humphrey helped bring us closer to the sport that we love, thanks to his presenting style, bouncing off his co-presenters where necessary.

Alongside Humphrey anchoring the show is Georgie Ainslee (nee. Thompson). Ainslee has been round the motoring circles for years, having been part of Sky’s A1 Grand Prix coverage in the mid-2000s.

2012 Australian GP - Sky Pad.png
Georgie Thompson and Anthony Davidson analyse the action on the Sky Pad, during Sky’s inaugural race weekend in 2012.

Ainslee was part of Sky’s F1 coverage in 2012, presenting elements of their programming including The F1 Show, but quietly left prior to the 2013 season, with reports at the time suggesting that she wanted a bigger role within the team.

One presenter anchoring the entire weekend is too much, so having two presenters in equal capacity feels the best way to handle the situation.

Back in 2012, I really enjoyed Ainslee’s Sky Pad contributions with Anthony Davidson, and it is unfortunate that she left in the manner that she did, considering she was one of the better parts of Sky’s offering in their inaugural season.

Analysts
This is where the choices get tough, given that there is a plethora of personalities to choose from spanning across the BBC, Sky, Channel 4, and ITV. Narrowing the choices down to three or four stars, past and present, is an extremely difficult challenge. But hey, we did say that this is a dream team.

All three of my choices are natural broadcasters, and all three were part of Sky’s Formula 1 line-up last season. We start with Martin Brundle, 2020 marking his 24th season on the microphone in the commentary box.

Brundle could double up as a third co-commentator, although this piece for brevity keeps Brundle primarily in an analytical role. Alongside Brundle are Sky colleagues Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button, both of whom have shown why they are worthy of being in a dream team in recent years.

Davidson’s broadcasting life started in 2008 alongside David Croft in the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary box, moving over to Sky for the start of their coverage in 2012.

Button joined Sky for five races last year. The thing that lets Sky down is that both Davidson and Button appear on-screen too infrequently across the season, but that is a wider issue surrounding the number of races as opposed to a Sky-specific problem.

On the Sky Pad, Davidson is a wizard, whilst Button has the same characteristics as Humphrey from a broadcasting perspective: a warm style, and a down to earth personality.

If you are looking for entertaining features, maybe this is not the trio for you, it really depends what you are after from a programming perspective.

2019 W Series - Ted Kravitz.jpg
Ted Kravitz dissects the W Series action during his Notebook segment.

For me, I want analysts who live and breathe F1, who know it like the back of their hand, and can articulate their knowledge back to the viewer at home in a digestible manner. Brundle, Button and Davidson tick those boxes for me.

Missing out by small margins are Mark Webber, Karun Chandhok and Allan McNish. On a different year in history, the choice may be different.

Also, it is worth bearing in mind that I am looking at this from a UK broadcasting perspective, so opinions may vary depending on where you are based.

Pitlane
Roving the pit lane are two faces, one of whom has never appeared in an official F1 capacity for a UK broadcaster, either through choice or because they overlooked him at every opportunity.

Enter Will Buxton. Currently Formula 1’s digital presenter, Buxton first made a name on the F1 broadcasting scene as GP2 and GP3 lead commentator. More recently, fans stateside heard Buxton’s voice during both Speed’s and NBC’s coverage of the sport from 2010 to 2017.

Despite being around the sport for nearly twenty years, Buxton has never worked in an F1 capacity for Sky, Channel 4, the BBC or ITV at their respective times. UK’s loss was America’s gain over the past decade.

During NBC’s coverage, Buxton and producer Jason Swales hosted several behind the scenes documentaries on the sport, including the ‘Road to…’ series, which was well received by fans.

Joining Buxton is Channel 4’s Lee McKenzie, who has been part of the UK’s free-to-air F1 output since 2009, grilling the drivers on a variety of topics.

Outside of the small screen, both McKenzie and Buxton are brilliant journalists in their own right, both with a unique ability to get the best out of their interviewee on any given occasion: whether in a pre-race vignette, or during the post-race media pen interviews.

You might think two reporters in pit lane and beyond is excessive. But remember, F1 consists of ten teams, 20 drivers, and hundreds of people that help bring the show to life. It is Buxton and McKenzie that get beneath the skin of the sport, helping to tell the stories that may otherwise go unnoticed.

NBC's Road to Mercedes.png
Will Buxton and Jason Swales at Reims for the Road to Mercedes documentary.

Technical
On the technical side, Ted Kravitz leads the output, having been part of the broadcasting scene since the 1990s. Kravitz moved to ITV’s F1 on-air team in a full-time capacity following Murray Walker’s retirement, staying in that role until 2008.

Kravitz moved with F1 to the BBC in 2009, and then again to Sky in 2012, where he has remained ever since, narrowly avoiding the chop from their team prior to the 2019 season. Well-liked by fans, Kravitz’s Notebook has been a fixture of Sky’s F1 coverage since its inception, along with the Development Corner segment.

What Kravitz has never had though, is a good wing man in the technical space, someone to bounce off from time to time. And that is where the second technical expert comes in the form of Craig Scarborough.

With the resources that he has, Scarborough does a great job dissecting the technical innovations across social media, sometimes with Peter Windsor in toe. Both were dropped by Motorsport Network in the latter half of 2018 as part of their cost-cutting exercise at the time.

I suspect no UK broadcaster has ever picked Scarborough up because he has never worked with in an F1 team as technical expert, unlike the likes of Gary Anderson, who was part of the BBC’s F1 offering in 2013 and 2014 before they dropped him.

Nevertheless, if you want an all rounded team that covers both the human element and technical element in equal detail, then you need two technical experts, and Kravitz and Scarborough are the two for me.

Commentators
The beauty of having a broadcasting dream team is that there is no right, or wrong, answer. I started watching Formula 1 in 1999, so caught the later years of Murray Walker‘s commentary.

I met Walker twice: once at a book signing back in 2002, and more recently at Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch in 2016. And, thanks to the internet, many classic races feature his commentary.

  • “And it’s Go! Go! Go!”
  • “Three point three six seconds! Damon Hill wins the Japanese Grand Prix!”
  • “And he exits the final corner for the fifty-third and last time, to win the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, and the World Championship, for the third time!”

Commentary lines such as these will live on in Formula 1’s history. And it is for that reason that Murray, and his Murray-isms, feature in my dream team. Yes, Walker made mistakes.

1997 Australian GP - Qualifying.png
Martin Brundle and Murray Walker on the balcony during ITV’s coverage of the 1997 Australian Grand Prix qualifying session.

But, if I had a choice between a commentator that could make paint dry sound exciting, with a few mistakes here and there, or someone who struggled to capture the excitement that F1 brings, it is the former all day long.

To put it simply, Walker’s voice is infectious, and we are lucky that he stayed in the commentary box for as long as he did. Walker will always be F1 to me, and for a whole generation of fans in their late 20s and onwards.

On the other side, one of Walker’s colleagues left this arena far earlier than they should have. James Hunt passed away at the age of 45 in 1993, days after commentating on the Canadian Grand Prix. Had Hunt opted to retire at the same age as Walker, Hunt would still be commentating on F1 today at the age of 72.

I was too young to watch Hunt’s commentary live – I had not even turned one when Hunt passed away. But what I do know is that Hunt in the commentary box was passionate about the racing that was unfolding in front of him, telling it how it was.

It is a testament to the relationship between Hunt and Walker that the pairing lasted 13 years, from 1979 until Hunt’s untimely death.

In a parallel universe, Hunt would have been commentating alongside Walker for many years to come, but alas, it was not too be. In a dream broadcasting line-up, both Hunt and Brundle would be part of that team (clearly, I am bending the rules in the name of fun).

If time had no bounds, this is Motorsport Broadcasting’s dream F1 presentation team:

  • Presenter: Georgie Ainslee
  • Presenter: Jake Humphrey
  • Commentator: James Hunt
  • Commentator: Murray Walker
  • Analyst: Anthony Davidson
  • Analyst: Jenson Button
  • Analyst: Martin Brundle
  • Pitlane: Lee McKenzie
  • Pitlane: Will Buxton
  • Technical: Craig Scarborough
  • Technical: Ted Kravitz

Like with any team, whether the eleven would blend together on-screen is a different question, in the same way that two world class drivers in the best team may go pear shaped.

You want a line-up that is flexible. You do not want a commentator that just commentates, or a technical expert that cannot interview drivers. In the scenario above, Walker would still interview drivers, and Brundle could still commentate, for sake of argument.

Notable by their omission are David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan, amongst other high calibre candidates, which shows how difficult it is to select a dream team cutting across different eras. Had I been focusing on current generation only, then Coulthard and Jordan may well have made the cut.

To bring gravitas to the production is Channel 4’s F1 producer Whisper, but with backing from Sky Sports. Sky bring with them the Sky Pad, the paddock stage set up, as well as the extensive air-time, whilst Whisper bring with them some excellent VTs and a graphics package that is second to none. The best of both worlds, in my view.

And that is my dream Formula 1 broadcasting line-up. What is yours? Have your say and debate the question in the comments below.

Fancy contributing to Motorsport Broadcasting? Head over here for further details…


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

Happy 8th Birthday!

In a parallel universe, Formula 1 is gearing up for its first European race of the 2020 season, returning to the iconic Zandvoort circuit after a frantic four fly away races, whilst MotoGP also prepares to head back to Europe.

Unfortunately, we live in unusual times, whereby motor sport is on indefinite hold, as COVID-19 takes hold on everything we know normal.

Today marks Motorsport Broadcasting’s eighth birthday, although it does not feel like a joyous occasion currently.

There is ‘glue’ that holds every sporting site together: the knowledge that, as one sporting occasion passes, another is fast approaching. For every review, there is also a preview.

The ‘glue’ that holds those sites, and this site, has all but disappeared in recent weeks, with Esports and archive material dominating the pages. In turn, the number of visitors has also sharply fallen.

And, as much as I enjoy watching the F1 and IndyCar Esports events, writing about it does not enthuse me as much, especially on a regular basis.

For every day that passes, lets hold onto the fact that we are one day closer to the lights going green once again. We do not know when, and we do not know where. But that day will come, for F1, for IndyCar, for MotoGP, or closer to home for BTCC.

On the broadcasting front, the COVID-19 pandemic raises questions at every level, for every rights holder and every sporting federation as to the long-term validity of those contracts, and whether entities may need to renegotiate them, or declare them void.

No one knows the answers, but be sure that Motorsport Broadcasting will report on any changes as and when they occur.

Highlights from the past year
Over the past year since the site turned seven, Motorsport Broadcasting did take the opportunity to sniff around a few paddocks, so in the downtime, here are a few highlights worth revisiting.

  • BlackBook Motorsport Forum – This writer attended the annual event last August, with leading figures from across the industry in attendance.
    • I caught up with F1’s Director of Marketing and Communications Ellie Norman for a chat, as well as getting the low-down from the panel on the challenge that faces motor sport in the over-the-top arena.
  • Preparing for the future – Two championships gave Motorsport Broadcasting an insight into the future.
  • W Series adventures – A few weeks earlier, I headed down to Brands Hatch, to find out how the series had embedded itself into the DTM setup, also taking time to chat to presenter Lee McKenzie on the art of broadcasting.

To everyone reading this: stay safe, both physically and mentally, and hopefully it will not be long before we can talk about motor sport broadcasting at full steam once again.

Thanks,
Dave
Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

Fancy contributing to Motorsport Broadcasting? Head over here for further details…


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

In conversation with Stuart Higgs

During the down time, Motorsport Broadcasting is taking the opportunity to review content that never made it past the drawing board due to time constraints.

Back in 2017, this writer went behind the scenes at a British Superbikes event at Silverstone. As well as looking around the outside broadcast (OB) truck, I spoke to the brains behind British Superbikes, Series and Race Director Stuart Higgs (@StuartHiggs).

Although I published snippets at the time, I never published the full 40-minute extract. Some snippets are no longer relevant, but many of the topics discussed at length are still applicable to the present day, discussing broadcasting and beyond.

To begin with, me and Stuart chat about the hurdles British Superbikes has faced over the past 25 years…

We relaunched British Superbikes in 1996, and it’s gone through several evolutions of promoter and organiser since, most recently 2008, when MSV acquired the commercial rights. I’ve been involved in the championship for most of the twenty-year period beforehand.

2008 saw a convergence of promoter, circuit, and organisational entities all into one group, which really changed the commercial and media landscape because it allowed us to be unfettered in terms of our deal making capability and the ability to promote the championship.

Back in 1996, the circuits all got together to form an organisation called the Motorcycle Circuit Racing Control Board (MCRCB), and that gifted itself by negotiation, the promotional and organisational rights for British championship level motorbike racing in the UK on permanent circuits.

Previously it was left to individual promoters, all run under the regulation body the ACU, but 1996 was the moment when it all changed. We had a single promoter and organiser, led by Robert Fearnall at Two Four Sports, who operated Donington.

This was around the same time I think that Superbikes was making a splash on free-to-air television, which must have helped the championship.

BBC Grandstand really propelled two wheels back into the living rooms, and it followed what happened a couple of years previously with British Touring Cars. It was a nice, snappy 30-minute programmes, with three or four million people watching on a Saturday afternoon. It was the rebirth, and as everyone saw, attendances went up, sponsors like Cadbury, Old Spice and Red Bull came in for the first time, it was the sea change moment.

That brings us up to 1999, when the group of circuits all thought that, given the success so far, they would take touring car and superbike and become this huge motor sport promoting entity.

That all dovetailed at the same time with a company called Octagon, who were owners of the circuits that are now MSV. Octagon acquired the Formula 1 British Grand Prix rights that were going to Brands Hatch, which never happened, and it was a bit of a mess.

Octagon eventually flogged all the circuits to Jonathan Palmer (MSV) in early 2004, and we as a championship were looking for a home. Robert Fearnall negotiated with Dorna, agreeing that they would handle BSB’s commercial rights. And then we created an organising body which would run the sporting side of the championship, led by myself.

Was the partnership successful between yourselves and Dorna?

It was, but the next challenge was a battle between Dorna and ourselves, as the sporting and promoter of the championship, and some of the circuits, now with Jonathan Palmer at the helm, where we’d do a deal with a sponsor, for example Monster, but a track may have a deal with Red Bull for example.

As a championship, we would say “we must have a clean circuit, no billboards,” and they’d say “well we’ve sold this bridge to Vauxhall,” it was constant loggerheads.

It became clear that Dorna was not in it for the long-term, for them it was a good way to get into superbikes, by pumping some investment into a superbike product that was not World Superbikes at the time.

Domestically in the end, I was working on one side and Palmer was very interested in BSB, so we got together, and everything went across to MSV. Suddenly, the handcuffs were off, which leads us to where we are today.

Jonathan [Palmer] as the promoter realised, what I always believed, that you needed the championship rights to prevail, which made the venues wake up and blossom as well.

It allowed us to make long-term deals commercially, long-term television deals, and if you have long-term television deals then you can go to sponsors with confidence. If you can say to a sponsor “this is our current broadcast footprint and circuit attendance,” you can say to a potential partner this is what it is going to in the next five years and immediately people start to think.

That’s where the stability has come from, and obviously we will work on behalf of the teams to help procure their commercial partners and just to support them where we can. It’s a nice position to be in.

Dorna are now starting to invest in support series around the world, the British Talent Cup [started in 2018] which is only a good thing for motorcycle racing in this country.

They acknowledge the UK has been a critical market, one of the most knowledgeable fan bases in the world, and they want to develop further opportunities for the young riders. The series will ride across Dorna’s championship events in the UK, which is World Superbikes and MotoGP, and some races with us, we’re happy with that.

Having the world’s foremost two-wheel motor sport promoter, and having the UK’s biggest venue operator and again promoter all working on the same page is a very interesting development.

Let us move on to a hypothetical scenario for a moment. I am a motor sport fan, who lives in the UK, but never been to a British Superbikes event. What is the draw?

You’re spoilt for choice for what you spend your money on, so value for money is the key here. There’s no other comparable premier sport in the UK that has the value for money for what you see on a day, the access you have to it and the people. We are a national or international level event, priced at a national or even regional sport level.

It’s a spectacle, it’s escapism from the regulated world. I think people appreciate motorcycle racing more when you understand the human side of it as well. The most important thing is the access between the spectator and the rider, and vice versa, that’s one reason I got involved in racing, I idolised Barry Sheene.

I always want to present our championship in a way where, whether people come for the first time or repeated times, they still get that feeling of seeing their heroes. The show can attract you, but like any sport, you enjoy it more when your heart is racing and you have someone to support.

Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the monitor wall
Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the key roles and responsibilities

Looking at the schedule here at Silverstone, there’s loads of action on from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.

Track time is key.

I think the diversity of what is on show, from kids on Moto3 bikes through to one brand series we have like Ducati, many races we also have the sidecar series, which is one of the biggest in the world.

It’s keeping the racing industry going, it’s a churn of riders at all levels, teams of different standards. It’s very important to be able to showcase that to fans watching trackside.

Finances are always a concern irrespective of what level of motor sport you participate in. Are things more stable for British Superbikes under MSV?

Motor sport is still an expensive past time no matter how many cost controls you try and put in. There’s the crash damage cost, the human cost which can’t be reduced that much, and then you get external variables which affects people’s budgets.

Our aim has always been to have an international-level championship performing on a geographical base that’s national, with a bit overseas like Assen. We operate in a small geographical space, but our broadcast footprint is global which means we can offer a unique proposition for teams and investors.

Teams and investors in the championship can pay a fee equivalent to the level of operation but it gets this incredible visibility and reach. If it costs £500,000 to run a decent, mid-range superbike team and you can get the budget to cover that, the money you’re asking of people will still deliver a return that’s probably better than someone investing five times as much on the world stage.

For those who don’t know, British Superbikes has something called the ‘Showdown.’ Talk to us a little bit about the idea behind it.

All sports over the last 30 years have had slight format changes, even in football, you used to get two points for a win, now you get three points for a win. Cricket has gone from sort of test matches to one-day games over the years.

We took a hard look at the end of ’09, after Leon Camier dominated and wrapped the series up by the end of August at Cadwell, and the last three races were like non-events. He won the series on merit, but the reality is people don’t generally win sport on the first day.

There must be a way to make the championship decided on the final day of the competition. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if there is a bit of artificiality injected into it because ultimately it is about entertainment.

April to October is a very long time to maintain the story, particularly when you’re competing against loads of other sports. The Ryder Cup for example can capitulate an entire audience because, you’re not worried about what happened last week, you don’t care about next week, it is one weekend.

Motor sport has championships which go on for a very long time. 24 riders, 12 teams in a championship, you know in a traditional format who your top two or three are going to be before the season.

At the start of our season, 75% of the teams believe they can get to the top six at this stage of the season, which is the reason for doing it. It is not just about the guy at the top of the championship any more, there is all the subplots going into Showdown.

The more talking points you create, the more interest you get. The more interest you get, the more sponsors, awareness, controversy, and even for the people that hate it, I say “good! I’m glad you hate it, because you’re talking about it, and that’s great!”

This weekend [last weekend at Silverstone before Showdown in 2017], we’ve got nine people mathematically chasing six places, and that’s played out over three races, so yes, it elevates this round, then we reset ready for the Showdown.

Some people used to say “well rounds three and four, they don’t count,” well actually they do, because all those podiums are very meaningful to what the outcome will be.

It’s got an artificial element to it, but it makes us stand out from the crowd. WSB are tying themselves up in knots trying to wrestle with their current situation having two dominant teams, they have the reverse grid format, which is all right, it’s just not that radical, and yet they got the uproar for it anyway.

On the UK TV front, how are things looking? Currently you’re with Eurosport and ITV4 in a long-term deal [until the end of 2020].

The longer the television deal, the more stability you get, it works for all parties. Eurosport have been very good to us, we’ve been very good for them.

We joined Eurosport at a time when they were not taken very seriously, and then Discovery took them over. Their presentation standards have massively improved, they will acknowledge that at the start, the EPG and the pictures that you were watching would not always match up! Now, they have some serious rights, the US Open tennis, the Olympics, and we are a big part of their platform.

We took a load of crap at the end of 2007 when it was obvious that ITV didn’t want non-flagship sport on ITV1, they just really wanted football and the odd boxing match. After 2007, I thought Eurosport would do a better job than ITV4, and we’ll back it up with a free-to-air partner, which in the first year was Channel 4. By the end of that year, ITV realised that we were important and we formed part of their ITV4 portfolio, just at the digital cut-over time with Freeview.

Although we’re a long way away from 2020, are you already talking to Eurosport about what the future holds?

We’re talking now to our current partner, understanding what things are in the pipeline for them, and equally they will be asking questions of us in terms of the direction of the championship. It’s keeping it fresh, and bear in mind that people like Eurosport are not just broadcasters, but they have their own event rights as well.

At the same time, it’s trying to work out where the media landscape is going. The maturing sports fans of 2020/2021 are 14-15 years old now in terms of new audience. I’ve got a twelve-year-old daughter, and she doesn’t watch television, not interested. She’s busy watching things on YouTube or talking on social media. The critical thing for all sports is how to engage and make your product more engaging, more understanding.

Television is the most important visibility platform that we have and it will be for the foreseeable future. It’s building the content around that; it’s integrating between social media and other delivery platforms. Some sports are massively advanced in that, you’re seeing it appear in weird places like Twitter or Facebook.

It’s how everyone fits into that, there’s expectation now from people that you click on something and you see it, which conflicts with the pay-TV model where you pay to view it. The whole monetisation of sport, content, and broadcasting, I don’t believe anyone has the right answer. There’s a number of theories, you’ve just got to get through it and see what works for your audience.

My thanks go to Stuart Higgs for spending the time with me on the above piece. Interview was conducted in 2017 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

“Beyond my wildest dreams” – Laura Winter on her F1 call-up and broadcasting career so far…

Laura Winter (@LauraCWinter) is a sports broadcaster, event host and journalist. “The new girl in the paddock”, she is a relatively fresh face in the world of motorsport.

In 2019, Laura presented four rounds of the World Rallycross Championship, before making her debut in the world of F1 at the fateful Belgian GP. Once the season gets underway, she will be presenting F1 once again, as well as Speedway Grand Prix and Speedway of Nations.

In a guest article for Motorsport Broadcasting, Laura recalls her broadcasting journey so far…

My earliest memories of F1 are far from ordinary. My younger brother Will first spiked my interest, with toy car F1 races that dominated playtime in our home. The races snaked from the lounge, down the hallway, into the dining room, before doubling back. The start and finish line were the sofa closest to our patio doors.

Forget Silverstone, forget the ITV television coverage. The championship really reached fever pitch in a suburban detached house in Cheltenham, as drivers from the late 90s and early 2000s would come together for Will’s all-star weekend Grand Prix.

Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher would usually win. Occasionally Rubens Barichello would sneak a race. David Coulthard, racing in a toy McLaren car that failed to get good traction on the thick carpets, only won a few, my brother wanting to ensure his toy championship was “realistic.” Giancarlo Fisichello, Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine, and Mika Hakkinen also lined up on the grid, although the qualification system is still unclear.

Each driver would have the same car for each race – obviously – and the odds were strangely somewhat stacked against Hill. His car would veer wildly to the left so Will, who usually wanted the British driver to win, would have to point him to the right when launching him forwards so he stayed “on track.”

The races were at times unpredictable and highly dramatic – like any good toy car race should be. One Grand Prix famously saw just five cars finish. The commentary team (my brother) went WILD for that one. I’d have to take extra care walking around the house, stepping over the twisting line of cars so as not to disturb the race.

Despite this early exposure to top class motorsport, as a child I was obsessed with swimming, and Olympic sport. I swam competitively, mornings and evenings before and after school, and raced at the weekends, from the age of seven to 19, before taking up rowing at university.

My career in sports media began in rowing, and I soon began riding a road bike too, as my interest swung to cycling. As both a sports journalist and sports broadcaster, my early experiences were mostly in rugby, rowing, cycling, netball, tennis, and swimming. Motorsport didn’t really feature. But that changed in 2019.

I was asked to present four rounds of the World Rallycross Championship. I jumped at the opportunity, never one to shy away from a challenge, or a new sport, before frantically googling, “what is rallycross.” I approached my first event – Barcelona RX – with trepidation. Keep it simple and be yourself, I told myself.

I needn’t have worried. The IMG broadcast team were some of the best I have ever worked with, and lead commentator Andrew Coley firmly took me under his wing and showed me the sport he loved. I quickly fell in love too. I truly hope that came across on camera during what was one of the most exciting seasons of Rallycross for years.

I then got a call-up from F1. This was beyond my wildest dreams. I never for a moment thought I would or could be an F1 presenter. Yet, suddenly I was standing in the paddock on day one of the Belgian GP at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

What started as a glorious weekend quickly became one of the darkest in motorsport’s history, with the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert in the F2 race on Saturday. I will always remember standing in the pit lane on that awful afternoon, the silence deafening. It became all too apparent that the drivers are truly pushing the limits every time they take to the track. The experience was one I’ll never forget.

There is something about motorsport that is difficult to convey unless you’ve been at the heart of it. It is intoxicating, it is addictive. From the noise of the racing, the smell of the engine and the speed and energy of the pit lane, to the glitz and the glamour of an F1 paddock, it sucks you in and will not let go.

The 2020 F1 season will start, when it is safe to do so. And I cannot wait to get stuck in. See you in the paddock.

Fancy contributing to Motorsport Broadcasting? Head over here for further details…


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

Channel 4 “fully committed” to current F1 deal

Channel 4 say they are still “fully committed” to airing Formula 1 in the UK, as the broadcaster seeks to reduce costs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yesterday, the broadcaster outlined “a number of measures” to help them navigate through the forthcoming months, as COVID-19 hits the broadcasting sector, with advertising revenue plummeting.

Included in the measures is Channel 4’s aim to reduce the 2020 programming budget by £150 million, which according to The Guardian represents almost a quarter of their programme budget.

Last September, Channel 4 agreed a deal with Sky Sports to cover Formula 1 highlights, along with live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend, through to the end of 2022.

Inevitably, COVID-19 brings into question a lot of Channel 4’s existing arrangements, as the broadcaster seeks to cut costs.

However, the broadcaster says that they intend to continue to cover Formula 1 when the action resumes.

Speaking to this site, a Channel 4 spokesperson said, “We remain fully committed to broadcasting Formula 1 as and when the racing begins.”

When the racing does resume, Channel 4 will again be covering F1 in extended highlights form, with Whisper remaining on-board as production partners.


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal