At 5am on Saturday night/Sunday morning I was awake. Not haven’t made it to bed yet awake either, more like just woke up with a purpose awake. That could only mean one thing – F1 was back on my telly.
But apparently – and I must have missed this, or perhaps it simply didn’t get much media coverage – the whole thing has had a bit of a shake-up over the winter. Something about the BBC and Sky sharing? Who knew, eh?
A touch confused (it was 5am), I was happy to find Sky Sports F1 magically appeared on my TV and I duly took in what was a stellar opening race. Having enjoyed a few hours kip I then watched it all again, but in a more truncated form and with less swooshy graphics, on the BBC. Then I fell asleep again; it was quite a good day really.
With this in mind it seems sensible to produce an assessment of who is making the best job of the new era of F1 coverage. Will I watch every race twice this season so as to get the feel of both channel’s coverage? Yes – yes I will.
Let’s start with first impressions: theme song-wise things couldn’t be more one-sided, with the Chain always likely to blow Sky’s effort out of the water. Perhaps it was the acceptance of this fact that led Sky to select Alistair Griffin’s ‘Drive’, a song best described as music for people who don’t like music, as their intro. I actually longed for that jarring Moby track ITV used for the final few years of their coverage. That or sudden deafness, either one.
Post-Chain it was all very British on the Beeb, where the Three Musketeers (refereed to in error as Jake, David and Eddie) were carrying on as if nothing had happened. Stiff upper lip and all that. Boys don’t cry.
Despite their losses the Three Stooges battled bravely on to produce what was – though shortened – a rather tidy F1 show. No, it wasn’t 2009, back when Jenson was winning the title and no-one had even heard of the phrase quantitative easing, but things have changed: this is the age of austerity and we’ve all got to learn to make the best of it.
And it’s worth remembering that not everyone wants to get up at 5am and watch a full 90+ minutes of grand prix racing. Some are happy with edited highlights that cut the mundane and deliver regular action – the BBC could thrive on this kind of casual viewer.
Over on Sky there was no thought of editing. This was motor sport to excess, a last-days-of-Rome-orgy of F1 with build-up shows that seemed to last for days and loads of extra bits floating about to keep you happy. Do you want to see Steve Rider turning up at Emerson Fittipaldi’s house in Brazil? Let it be!
Brundle & Crofty
It’s all headed by Martin Brundle. The unelected leader of Sky F1, Martin can demand stuff on a whim and get it just like that. You sometimes get the impression that he’s convinced the Sky bosses that commentating on Formula One racing was his idea in the first place.
Not that I’m knocking him: when the lights went out Brundle was his typically brilliant self. Regardless of how people feel about his switch, there is no denying that Martin is an excellent pundit and commentator with bags of insight. Pertinent, observant and witty, you can see how much he loves being a part of the sport and his clear desire to soak up as much information as is humanly possible and pass it on to the viewer.
David Croft’s voice is not new to many fans’ ears following his stint commentating on F1 for BBC Radio 5 Live and the Red Button, so his new partnership with Martin wasn’t too difficult to adjust to.
That’s not to say it was immediately normal either. It was, in fact, a bit like when two people you’ve been friends with for years suddenly get together. You tell them you’re pleased, but deep down there’s something a bit weird and creepy about it. That will pass though. Or so I keep telling myself.
Ben Edwards & DC
On the other side of the fence, it’s a shame that Ben Edwards didn’t find himself at the BBC until Martin had wombled off to Sky. He should have got the job back in 2009 when the BBC nabbed the coverage from ITV, and he should have got it in 2011 before someone hurled Coulthard into the box with Brundle and told them (without blushing) to be men and get on with it.
Edwards is an excellent commentator. Of course there were early jitters this weekend, but like the odd feel to Brundle and Croft getting together it will pass. Edwards will get into a groove and it will be excellent – I am convinced.
But I’m not sure his partnership with DC will flourish as a long-term relationship; it’s hard to believe the former grand prix racer will stick around beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of this year. That said, stranger alliances have been formed at times of war.
Hill vs Coulthard
Sky’s clearest deficiency at the moment is Damon Hill who, while possessing incredible skin for a man in his fifties, hasn’t got an awful lot to say. His choice of shirt colour – red – was his most striking contribution of the weekend. Coulthard meanwhile has a bitter, resentful humour about him that I can’t help but enjoy and Eddie Jordan – while not everyone’s cup of tea – can’t be faulted for exuberance.
But this was Hill’s first crack at the whip. Give him a chance to get into a groove before making a definitive judgement.
At the moment (and as I fast approach my word limit) things feel finely balanced. Thankfully, there’s another grand prix – and another weekend of dual coverage – to look forward to this weekend. Perhaps we’ll be able to form some more concrete opinions then.
Or perhaps I’ll use it as an opportunity to make fun of the Sky Pad and poke fun at Jake Humphrey’s haircut. Your best bet is to read Badger and find out.