News round-up: The latest from Austria; Sky extends F1 deal in Italy

In the first return to racing round-up, Netflix’s plans with documentary series Drive to Survive become clearer, as does Channel 4’s coverage plans for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Where possible, Motorsport Broadcasting endeavours to link directly to the original source instead of linking to a third-party site that may have misinterpreted the original headline.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

All of the round-ups to date can be found here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.

Formula 1 – Austrian Grand Prix

  • Journalists are banned from the paddock for the duration of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, and are instead confined to the media centre.
    • This is not an exhaustive list, but journalists such as Jonathan Noble (Motorsport Network), Adam Cooper (Motorsport Network), Joe Saward, Ben Hunt (The Sun) and Chris Medland (RACER) are amongst those reporting from the on-site media centre.
    • A live stream of today’s press conference was available to journalists inside and outside the track via the FIA portal to access.
    • There is an excellent piece from Noble over on com about his first impressions upon arriving into the circuit – I will not regurgitate it here, other than to say it is well worth reading.
  • Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage is to air from Silverstone’s new attraction, The Silverstone Experience.
    • After this site revealed that the team will remain in the UK, lead commentator Ben Edwards has confirmed the location the team plan to broadcast from in a blog on the BMMC website.
    • Motorsport Broadcasting understands that most of the Whisper production crew will be working remotely, with a small crew based at Timeline Television’s production house in Ealing.
  • In addition, not all of Sky’s on-air personnel are out in Austria this weekend: Anthony Davidson and Karun Chandhok are back at Sky Studios in London, analysing the action on the Sky Pad.
  • Producers of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series are continuing to film footage ready for season three of the documentary series.
    • As in previous years, the Box to Box Films production team conducted some initial filming during testing, whilst more recently drivers, such as George Russell, have been filming themselves on their simulators during
    • Now, RaceFans.net confirms that Netflix will be on-site in Austria this weekend, filming with the McLaren and Red Bull outfits, albeit in a reduced capacity to previous years.
  • Fans watching Formula 1 on television will see some new on-screen graphics this season.
    • Powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) as part of their wider partnership, the Car Performance Scores graphic will analyse the performance of each car through low, medium and high-speed corners, as well as the straight, giving it a score out of ten for each data point, and a rank compared with the rest of the field.
    • Other graphics currently in development include the Ultimate Driver Speed Comparison, High-Speed/Low-Speed Corner Performance, Driver Skills Rating, Car/Team Development & Overall Season Performance, and Qualifying and Race Pace Predictions.
  • Also making their first appearance from the Austrian Grand Prix is the #F1FanCam, with trackside screens of fans beamed to fans worldwide throughout the course of the weekend.
  • Sky in the UK are running some special offers to mark the start of the new season. Similar to their original pre-season offer, fans can add Sky Sports F1 to their basic Sky package for £10.00 a month for 18 monthsbetween now and the end of September.
    • Whilst there is not an F1 Season Ticket offer for Now TV (presumably because no one knows how long the season will last), Now TV are offering access to all sports channels for £25.00 a month for the first three months.

Elsewhere…

  • Hot off the heels of their new rights deal in Germany, Sky have extended their agreement in Italy to broadcast Formula 1, the new deal running until the end of 2022.
    • As part of the announcement, Sky revealed that Carlo Vanzini and Marc Gené will be in a studio setting to begin 2020, with Mara Sangiorgio on site. In addition, the team plan to make extensive use of the Dallara simulator this year, with Matteo Bobbi giving the explanations.
  • Eurosport will remain home of the British Superbikes championship until the end of 2027. As part of the agreement, which begins next season, highlights of every round will air on Quest, with the free-to-air channel also airing several rounds live.
  • Adobe have written a blog on how they have collaborated with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna during the pandemic, transforming MotoGP’s workflow in just 13 days, helping them to deliver video content to fans worldwide remotely and quicker than ever before.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that I have yet to mention on this site, drop a line in the comments section below.


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Sky to air Formula 1 exclusively in Germany in four-year deal

Sky are to air Formula 1 exclusively in Germany for the next four years after agreeing a new deal to cover the sport.

As part of a wider initiative from the broadcaster to “shakeup TV in Germany and take Sky into a new era,” Sky will air every race exclusively live from 2021 to 2024, creating a new channel dedicated to Formula 1 in the process.

In addition, four races will be simulcast free-to-air, with 30-minute highlight shows of every race airing on free-to-air channel Sky Sport News.

F1 says in their press release that this new agreement will introduce “millions of people across Germany to the excitement and thrill of Formula 1.”

Like in the UK, Sky will air every session live, including Formula Two, Formula Three and the Porsche Supercup, equating to around 800 hours of action per season.

It is a big day for the Sky’s Germany arm: the pay TV broadcaster has also announced an extension to their Bundesliga rights deal, taking that partnership to the end of 2025.

Sky replaces free-to-air broadcaster RTL as the main F1 broadcaster in Germany. As reported yesterday, RTL’s press release indicated that another party had bid double the amount RTL were prepared to bid for.

In addition, RaceFans are reporting that Sky’s new contract is in the region of $60 million per year, meaning that the total value of Sky’s contract is around $240 million.

This suggests that RTL are currently paying around $30 million to broadcast F1 per season, which is slightly less than the amount the BBC and ITV were paying from a UK perspective in the mid to late 2000s.

As part of the new deal, access to the premium-tier of F1’s over-the-top platform, F1 TV Pro, will be restricted to Sky Sport subscribers in Germany.

F1 TV Pro will no longer be available to new subscribers who do not subscribe to Sky Sport, however, existing subscribers are unaffected by this change.

What the stakeholders say
F1’s Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes, said “Formula 1 and Sky have enjoyed a long-standing relationship, working well together to enhance the broadcast offering by providing comprehensive coverage of the sport for our passionate fan base.”

“I am delighted that our work together will continue to build and strengthen the impressive quality of Sky’s programming, as well as their digital reach.”

Devesh Raj, CEO of Sky Germany, added “This will be the best motorsports experience ever.”

“We know motorsport fans love the way we produce F1 and our commentators have fans all of their own, but now with the first channel dedicated to F1 content on German TV ever we’ll give fans more F1 content than has ever been seen on German TV before.”

“With our unique digital content offering and four races free for everyone every year, we will help introduce millions more people to the joy of F1 and help grow the sports across the motorsport country Germany.”

“This exciting new deal shows that Sky is the number one for sports fans in Germany.”

  UK Germany Italy (source)
Contract Length 2019 to 2024 2019 and 2020 2021 to 2024 2018 to 2020
Pay TV All races All races All races All races
Free to Air – Live 1 race All races 4 races 4 races
Free to Air – Highlights Extended highlights n/a 30-minutes Delayed
F1 TV Pro? No Yes Yes [Sky Sports subscribers only] No

The path to exclusivity
Unlike their UK counterparts, the path to exclusivity has not been straightforward for Sky Deutschland.

The pay TV broadcaster walked away from the sport in early 2018, after RTL secured a three-year deal to cover Formula 1, taking their rights agreement through until the end of 2020.

Surprisingly, Sky returned to the fold just four weeks before the 2019 season, getting their foot back in the door.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and now Sky will be airing the sport in Germany, exclusively, for the next four seasons, with RTL eliminated from the picture.

As suggested yesterday on this site, fans should come to expect more pay TV deals initially in the post-COVID-19 era. However, this move does mean that the era of large television audiences in Germany for F1 will come to an end following the 2020 season.

Interestingly, the latest development brings the UK and Germany contracts in-line with one another from a length perspective.

The detail differs underneath the surface as the table above shows: fans in Germany may be able to watch more races live on free-to-air television, but the style of the free-to-air highlights programming between the two markets differs radically.

The next upcoming battleground to keep our eyes on is Italy, where Sky will be looking to extend their current agreement with F1.

Additional context provided by Edmund Wareham.


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German free-to-air broadcaster RTL to exit F1 contract at end of 2020

RTL will cease broadcasting Formula 1 live at the end of the season, the German broadcaster has announced.

The broadcaster first showed live races between 1984 and 1988 and has done so continuously from 1991. In 2017 it renewed its deal with F1 to continue broadcasting until 2020.

Financial reasons lie behind the decision. In a statement, RTL’s Head of Sport, Manfred Loppe, announced on Sunday “When you have competitors in the game who are prepared to offer double as much as you can then you are forced into a position of having to withdraw.”

Loppe stressed that RTL “still obviously wants to try in the future to present attractive sporting events to our viewers. But it is clear that economic limits will play a role, as well as the changing competitive environment.”

“We have broadcast Formula 1 for over three decades with great love and passion, as well as with a plucky readiness for innovation and investment,” Loppe continued. “RTL will forever be associated with the most widely viewed, most emotional, unforgotten moments in the top motor racing series.”

In Germany viewers have had two choices for watching F1: either to pay a subscription to watch uninterrupted coverage on Sky or to watch free-to-air coverage on RTL with advert breaks.

Figures from Motorsport.com show that a peak of 5.26 million viewers tuned into RTL’s coverage of the Italian Grand Prix last year (a market share of 32.3%), whilst a further 450,000 viewers watched on Sky (2.8%). Over the course of the whole of last season RTL was able to secure average viewing figures of just over 4 million viewers.

The managing director of RTL, Jörg Graf, added “Competition for TV rights has changed and the market has in part overheated. As such it has extended beyond our ambitious, but at the same time economically justifiable, limits.”

In January 2020 the company announced it was expanding its football coverage by signing an agreement with UEFA to broadcast the Europa League and the newly created UEFA Europa Conference League from 2021.

Graf confirms that this is where focus for the broadcaster will now lie. “We will now with our power, passion and joy concentrate on football as our number one sport,” he said.

It remains unclear whether Germans will have access to free-to-air coverage going into the 2021 season or whether F1 will consider a model like the UK currently has, with all races airing live on pay TV, and the home race live on a free-to-air channel.

As Motorsport Broadcasting speculated in March, following an interview with RTL’s anchor Florian König, it remained unclear, especially in the current climate, whether RTL would extend its deal.

Today’s decision therefore does not come as a total surprise and is indicative of the changing F1 broadcasting landscape. König, long-standing pit-lane reporter Kai Ebel and the lead commentator Heiko Wasser have yet to react to the news as they now enter their final season of broadcasting live races for the Cologne company.

Analysis – RTL’s decision gives us an insight into the road ahead
Any broadcaster opting not to renew a contract after 30 years is always a big story, and RTL’s decision to not renew their F1 contract falls into that category.

It is, however, not a major surprise.

Interest in Formula 1 in Germany has gradually declined since Michael Schumacher’s heyday in the mid-2000s, although viewing figures remained strong during Sebastian Vettel’s four championship victories.

Now, with Vettel heading out of Ferrari at the end of 2020, there is a distinct possibility that there will be no German drivers on the F1 grid in 2021.

Combine this with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents the perfect storm. RTL, like all free-to-air broadcasters worldwide, will be looking to save money as advertising revenues slump.

The situation is like the one UK broadcaster ITV found themselves in back in 2008. ITV needed to save money following the worldwide financial crisis at that time, and prioritised football over F1, executing a get out clause in the latter’s contract.

RTL’s contract to broadcast F1 is expiring anyway at the end of this year, but the overall business direction from both is identical.

The COVID-19 pandemic means that, in my view, we are likely to see more pay TV deals moving forward. The motor sport industry right now needs money pumping into it, more than ever before, and the crisis has exasperated problems the industry had prior to the pandemic.

Free-to-air and five million viewers will only get you so far. Ask MotoGP for another UK equivalent.

In 2013, the series was struggling with Moto2 and Moto3. Faced with a choice, they brought pay TV broadcaster BT Sport into the fold, who outbid the BBC significantly in acquiring the UK television rights.

MotoGP went with BT Sport. Yes, the fans at the time may not have liked the decision (including me), but that move ensured many Moto2 and Moto3 teams could continue racing to ensure the wider eco system did not collapse.

The optics may not be as severe here, but fans should be prepared for a further move away from free-to-air, not towards as motor sport fights against COVID-19.

There is not one specific reason RTL has opted not to extend its F1 deal. But one thing is for sure: 2020 will mark the end of an era for F1 broadcasting in Germany.

Reporting by Edmund Wareham; analysis by David Nelson.


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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.

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“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.

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