THERE WAS A great deal of anger when the new BBC/Sky broadcasting deal was announced but I, for one, will be watching Sky.
Part of the reason for this can be explained in just two words; Martin Brundle. The ex-F1 driver (below, middle) has been the best thing to happen to Formula One TV coverage since we switched from black and white to colour. His knowledge of the sport is matched by his passion for it and it comes across in every broadcast; from his gridwalks, to his technical features, racing analysis and flawless commentary. He can make the most mundane aspect of suspension geometry absolutely fascinating and can explain it in such a way that even the most un-technologically minded person understands exactly what it means. He is as witty as he is knowledgeable too, anyone who watched the four-hour Canadian GP last year will know that, nobody else could have made that two-hour rain delay as entertaining as Martin Brundle. Also moving from the beeb to Sky are Ted Kravitz (below, far right), for my money the best pitlane reporter in the business, and Anthony Davidson and David Croft (below, far left), a very funny and knowledgeable commentary team.
The second reason is Sky’s commitment to F1. They have promised more coverage than ever before and that is a mouth-watering prospect for any true fan. There will be live HD coverage of every race, every qualifying session and every practice session, as well as pre and post race coverage, an F1 magazine show on Fridays and a whole series of in-depth interviews with legends of the sport like Emmerson Fittipaldi and Sir Jackie Stewart (below).
The final reason is the BBC itself. I very much enjoyed the coverage they have provided over the last two seasons, it has moved things on massively and has turned F1 into a mainstream sport, bringing in many millions of viewers and winning numerous awards. But the way they have treated fans with this deal is deplorable. They had to cut costs, fair enough, but there could and should have been other things to go first, not the award winning coverage of a sport that brings millions of viewers to the channel and has a huge fanbase in this country. Then there was their constant insistance that this was in some way a ‘good’ thing, which showed they they simply didn’t understand the fans at all. Saying things like (I’m paraphrasing here) “You’ll be able to watch races at prime-time” and “you won’t have to get up at 4am to watch Grand Prix’s” shows their ignorance. We want to watch races live, whatever time they might be on, it’s all part of the occassion. What we do not want is edited highlights several hours after the race has finished.
Sky are commited to F1 and the BBC are not, it’s as simple as that I’m afraid. I’m sure the BBC will still get reasonable viewing figures as casual fans will still tune in to watch races in the evenings, and those who cannot afford Sky and are therefore left with no choice, but not me. The BBC’s lack of commitment to the sport and lack of respect for the fans has alienated me and many others like me. Those of you who are still going to choose to watch the BBC, fair enough, you are entitled to your opinions. I’ll try not to spoil the race results for you before you’ve seen it.