I’ve been watching F1 on British television for a few years now, mainly because after a short stint listening to our local channel, I realised that I wanted to know more about racing than a dude drinking beer in a sports bar every Sunday afternoon. And because it went to pay TV I sought shelter in the warm and slightly crowded nest of Sky F1 – but after a while I started to detect some niggling flaws.
I know the title makes it sounds like I’m about to be quite critical, but I’m not a proper journalist so I’m allowed to be biased. Think of it as the advice column in a ladies’ magazine; giving tips that no one asked for to people they don’t know.
So, as a fan, this is what I don’t want to see/hear any more in F1 coverage (without having to turn off the TV, before someone takes it literally). If I start to sound old and bitter, please remember that, well, I’m not old.
If you’ve paid careful attention to Sky F1 coverage last year, you might have noticed the minor drama that would have escaped most people’s attention this off-season. It might also have caused Martin Brundle a few sleepless nights over the winter, while he figured out what he’ll spend a significant part of his time talking about from now on.
I am, of course, referring to Jennifer.
Who? Nice try. You might remember her better as the cute blonde lady who carried Adrian Sutil’s helmet, some expensive bag and a paddock pass for all races. Which also meant that the camera was kept busy for several minutes of uneventful track action.
Jenn has left the paddock, but there’s still the occasional Jess, on-and-off Nicole, rarely-sighted Vivian and Ted Kravitz’s new favourite, Mintu. Sure, I shouldn’t underestimate their social, visual and marketable importance, but it’s not really my thing. Unless Tiger Woods classifies as a Wag, I don’t watch any other sport where partners feature quite as much. Or where they’re the reason for someone’s poor performance.
DRS is controversial (in the same boring way that sugar is) ever since its first public appearance in 2011. It’s been a while, we still don’t like it, but that’s not my point. It feels like every couple of races we get a DRS 101 – a short intro course into the magical moving flap and its evil workings. It’s like watching 10-year-olds on a kiddie ride at the mall; cute, but you can’t help thinking “you should have grown out of this by now”.
If you’re still watching F1, you’ve probably done it for long enough to know those things, as I doubt it’s the past few years that got you hooked. And this will soon apply to power unit components too, but for now I can still use Ted’s “jam & Coco Pops” reminders.
If you’re a British TV station broadcasting to a British audience (although you’re aware it’s more global than that) asking if a British driver should win the championship, that’s not really a journalistic investigation, is it? It’s like asking the Pope if he’ll go to heaven. If you happen to be a Brit and not a Lewis fan, don’t worry, I checked – it’s not blasphemy.
Fair enough, after a rough patch of German domination, commentators suddenly found themselves in a paradise land where angels don’t have blue and red wings. So they went a little overboard, it’s understandable. I’m not a “hater”, to quote Lewis’ musically inclined friends, but just to convince TV people that they’ve got nothing to prove, let’s assume from now on that the following statements are all correct:
- Lewis is right, he knows what he’s doing.
- Lewis wears his heart on his sleeve.
- Lewis is the character this sport needs.
- Lewis is blessed.
- Lewis is this generation’s Ayrton Senna.
If you happen to have another opinion on any of these points, please give it up if it means that commentators will stop justifying his every move.
It pains me to say this, but the grid walks I once knew and loved don’t quite feel the same now. It went from giving us a feel of the tension and excitement on the grid to a paparazzi segment split equally between Niki Lauda explaining how his drivers are friends, David Hasselhof still not doing anything interesting, some bloke in a band whose name I’m not confident enough to say out loud and the occasional lively lady whose insight could be resumed to an “I am famous & I ♥ F1” T-shirt. Don’t even get me started on Bernie’s “really glamorous ladies”.
That is all vaguely entertaining, but we’re not watching for the Daily Mail Special, so I’d much prefer something a bit more inspiring, like a 5 minute medley of 007 theme tunes, to get me in the mood.
You know, the bit where Natalie interviews drivers while they’re heading to the grid? That’s not a problem itself, I’m guessing it’s just a convenient and time-saving way to talk to as many people as you can get. But, ever since someone mentioned that she’s recruiting them by stalking the toilets, I can’t help thinking “you just came out of the bathroom, but at least she’s not interviewing you through a cubicle door”.
Childish? Sure, but that’s how the human brain works, these quirky details get stuck to it like glue. And I’d like to apologize in advance if this happens to you too from now on.
Also, stop making Natalie wear lederhosen, dirndls and saris, unless you’re also going to dress her as a morris dancer for Silverstone. Then again, this looks like it won’t be an issue this year.
As a general rule, any sentence that starts with “I’m not into conspiracy theories, but… “ means that you’re about to impart your subjective wisdom – something reputed TV stations don’t do. F1 channels are not the type to spread gossip or unconfirmed information, like, let’s say, Fernando Alonso’s regression to his teenage years. They can’t say that, but how about a round-up of international news and we can casually mention it?
Or, we can’t blame Rosberg for that cock-up in Monaco qualifying and we can’t say he’d be an unfair winner because of double points in Abu Dhabi – that would be unprofessional. But how about a debate where we just give our pros and cons on the topic? If you need to find ways to make things look objective, you’re one step away from tabloids.
It’s either a pleonasm to what it’s happening on track or a hypnotic mantra, like they’re trying to subtly convince us that we’re actually enjoying ourselves. A bit like the Vanarama advert – “look how fun it is to break down in the middle of the road!” – but at least that comes in the form of a jingle.
If you have to remind me just how entertaining something is, it’s probably not entertaining enough. The same goes for David Croft’s “lights out…and away we go!” which in my mind should really be “lights out…and sit back down on your couch cause we’re not going anywhere for the next two hours”. And while we’re at it, less mentions of ice cream (it happened it 2009 already!) would be appreciated too.
Yes, I know that in the end it’s people’s enthusiasm that decides their salaries. Raising my expectations will do nothing for my enjoyment of several laps lived in feverish anticipation of some potential pitstops. Or a 10-lap chase for a DRS pass. You know about DRS, right?
“This is exciting” should be like saying “I love you”- only do it when you realise you haven’t got anything else to talk about (but maybe don’t take that last one as rock solid advice).