Some thoughts on the weekend’s TV coverage

At Top Gear, we are F1 fans, no closer to the action than you. You watch F1 from your sofa, Sunday Afternoon Club watches F1 from our sofa. We don’t shape what the BBC does any more than we shape what Sky does. We consume. As you do.

And it’s been fairly obvious since we re-opened the Sunday Afternoon Club for business last week, that the BBC’s decision to scale-back its coverage of F1 hasn’t met with widespread approval from a lot of fans. Lots of strong comments on our forums, on our Top Gear Facebook page and across Twitter. Like we said, we’re fans too, not media analysts. We’ll leave it to them to decide whether viewing figures 75 per cent down on the BBC’s is a good performance for a paid-to-view service.

But what we can comment on is the content of the two shows; Sky’s new-to-the- sport dedicated channel and the first of ten highlights-only shows on the BBC.

First thing that was clear from Sky’s early shows: Anthony Davidson and David Croft (both ex-BBC Radio 5 Live), and Martin Brundle (ex BBC TV) are brilliant communicators. Take away all their technology and give them two cans and a length of string, and you’d still know more about F1 at the end of a race or practice or qualifying session than you did at the beginning. Croft and Brundle nailed it from the lights. Brundle is on record as saying he prefers to be the expert voice once again than the lead talker, and that’s a role ‘Crofty’ was seemingly born for. Likewise Davidson. Always tremendous on R5Live, he’s essential viewing now he has pictures to talk to. It’s also a bonus to have Brundle wondering around the pits during practice.

All good innovations from Sky; great hardcore racer stuff.

So it’s maybe no surprise that culturally, as a gang, they initially seem to jar with the rest of Sky’s approach. Not sure why we need Sky Sports News refugee Georgie Thompson around to hold Anthony Davidson’s hand, and anchor man Simon Lazenby has yet to find the easy bonhomie Jake Humphrey made with Brundle, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan. Damon Hill likewise has yet to find his role. We know he can be smart and balanced, gracious and funny. Maybe it’s a just a reminder that it’s easier to write stuff like this than stand in front of a camera and talk.

And Sky did seem to struggle with pre-recorded material. A pre-race intro to Melbourne was just a tourist film with banal wikifacts (did you know Australia has more beaches than any other country?); ‘The Numbers Game’, a regular graphic, told us nothing we didn’t already know; and we’re now thinking we dreamt ‘sounds of the weekend’, a made-for-radio special from Sky TV.

But it was the artful, scripted packages that did make us miss the BBC a bit. Remember Vettel in tears after being shown the BBC’s back-to-pack champs film? Or Kasabian playing the season out? Sky had nothing to compare quite yet, almost as if they were afraid to wear their hearts on sleeves when it came to our beautiful, sexy, romantic, dangerous sport.

No surprise, then, that the BBC went heavy on pre-recorded packages in their highlights shows. Even before John McVie banged out the first view bars of ‘The Chain’ we had an artful black and white mash up of Swan Lake and AC/DC’s Back in Black to signal the passing of the winter. Then, pretty rapidly after that, Lana Del Rey singing ‘Off To the Races’ over a very — well — Lana del Ray-ish retro, over-saturated. grainy film. It got us in the mood and reminded us once again that even with all the HD in the world, F1 cars look better once they’ve been given the ‘Hipstamatic/Instagram/your-photo-app-of-choice-here’ treatment.

After that it was pretty much business as usual. Just like Sky, the Brundle/Coulthard divorce means a traditional commentator/summariser pairing for the race itself and though we like Ben Edwards, it did make us miss last year’s peerless Martin and DC show. Oddly enough Brundle was missed less once the race was over, Jake’s reduced gang-of-three functioning just fine without its straight man. Eddie somehow seems less silly and DC continues to flourish in front of the camera. It’s early days, but the BBC does not seem too diminished by losing Brundle and Ted Kravitz, although for some reason new boy Gary Anderson wasn’t allowed in front of camera.

Still, if Sky can work on its disconnect between its hardcore racers and the old-school Sky presenters, directors, editors and researchers, it shows promise…  Yer pays yer money, and it’s only fair to repeat that Sky is showing all the practice sessions with Martin Brundle and will add GP2 and GP3 to that. We’ve never had that before.

So, some work still required on both sides then – certainly didn’t diminish the enjoyment of a cracking opener. Your thoughts, TopGear.commers?

Comments are now closed

Top Gear being fair and impartial.
good to see.
Sky F1team needed time, to get in it stride.
also the newBBC member as well.

BBC and Sky have worked well together, as
they being covering Football together for 20 Years.
the patnership will work, but it take time to gel.
Top Gear took three years, after it relaunch to
gel with the audiences.

Sky will get it right, to much knowledge not too.
BBC should not get cocky, as they have to prove
in their ten live races. that they still got the team
to cover F1 like it did for the last three years.

give each team till the SIXTH race.
and judge them after that race.
that will be three months, enough time
to get thing right.

Nice touch of Top Gear, to allow Sky to film
on your test track.
show you are all mellowing.

Report this comment

why not invited Sky F1team for an interview.
say that we give, the BBC boys a chance
now we want to hear your side.

Could get Simon Lazenby, David croft and Martin Brundle.
and give them the right of reply.
BBC is alway fair and unbaised.

it will give usF1fans.
a chance to hear their opinion
as Top Gear has no beef with sky.

I do not know if sky has problems
withTop Gear.
be fun to see

Report this comment

I watched both programmes of the Aus GP and they both had good and bad merit.

We all Love martin and his grid walks and the pairing of Martin and Crofty was brilliant. I just love hearing Crofty while watching a motor race.

But! the rest of the on TV line up was just awkward! Lazenby and Hill just made me cringe!

The BBC’s slightly changed TV line up was great, again I love to hear Edwards as much as Crofty (well, maybe not as much but definitely not far off!)

The content of the BBC(as usual) was great and so far is alot better then Sky’s (as you said) and i would like to see if they can do more.

So far for me the only thing that would get me to watch Sky over BBC is purely for the added GP2 and GP3 and Practice seasons when the BBC are not live(i am guessing on a live race weekend they will show FP1, 2 and 3 on the red button)

They Quality of BBC with Jake and the Gang > the Quantity of Sky… Mostly! (GP2/3)

Report this comment

I must say, I have eaten my words in the last few weeks. I was dreading the move to Sky for the live coverage, but I have been nothing short of impressed by what I have seen so far. Having a dedicated channel is immense and Sky have been showing all of the late 80’s early 90’s season reviews reminding me what I loved about the sport. It’s fantastic watching Nigel Mansell dragging a Ferrari round by the scruff, or Senna & Prost’s legendary battles. I’ve no love for Sky or the Murdoch empire what-so-ever, but, if they can give me unparalleled access to one of the things I love most, I’m afraid to say I’m fickle enough to change my colours (as long as they don’t put adverts on in the middle of the race).

Report this comment

I have had sky, I don’t have sky now, and i don’t want sky. I have watched F1 for the past 20 years and love the sport, but can’t help think that time is running out for me, and i will eventually return to a pay-for service that gives me nothing more that i want to watch than i had been receiving from the BBC. In the meantime the BBC have great coverage and not all of it highlights, I will have to bide my time.

. use to receive. Watching F1 highlights only for the first time was alien, and although i do not want sky, i feel i will have to choose between seeing all of the F1 sport and being ripped off, or hope and pray that the future of F1 viewing returns to the BBC, i’ll bide my time.

Report this comment

hhhm… SKY is sucks. Please please take away that lady who don’t know anything about F1 and pretend its all about her….
This is F1, we don’t care about how she looks or anything about her. We care only about the sport. if you want after F1 show, you can show your things. Then we might watch you then :D

Report this comment

hhhm… SKY is sucks. Please please take away that lady who don’t know anything about F1 and pretend its all about her….
This is F1, we don’t care about how she looks or anything about her. We care only about the sport. if you want after F1 show, you can show your things. Then we might watch you then :D

PS: Forgot to login before…

Report this comment

you are talking about Georgie Thompson.
Ibet she will improve, but it will take her a
while as will Simon Llazenby.

It David Coulthard a while, to settle in and he
be patience, we all like Jezza, but sometimes
you have to bite your lip.
the BBC should have got, rid of Wimbledon instead
truly boring tennis.

if they did that, no more Sue Barker.
so F1fans suffer instead.

Report this comment

I’m in Canada…screaming at my t.v., “Where’s Martin Brundle”????? He and Coulthard did an amazing job, highly informative and highly entertaining. Not sure anyone else could describe F1 driving with the words, “It’s like trying to hang wallpaper on a windy day with the window open”. Miss you Martin :(

Report this comment

BAFTA winning coverage vs 75% reduction in audience. Sponsors and teams take note.

Report this comment

why try and fix something that is not broken, stick to what people know and like, leave it on the BBC.

Report this comment

Now I’m not overly opinionated on “Murdoch and his evil empire – taking over every sport under the sun,” he’s a buisnessman, it’s what he does…but I do rather think he has blundered into the sport that ripped his ratings to pieces on a Sunday (hence why he “bought” it,) It’s early days yet, but I personally do not like Sky’s coverage of the actual races, yes they show reviews of previous seasons or interviews with previous world champions, but they didn’t make those shows, they bought them to show on their channel. I’m not sure that Sky will be able to bring their coverage up to the same standards as the Beeb’s (who I’d like to add, have lost none of their exclusivity, and seem more aware of things outside the race in the paddock as well as offering good coverage despite only showing the highlights.) On Sky’s side Brundle, Hill, Crofty and Davidson YES, Lazenby and Thompson NO vs. Coulthard, Edwards, Humphrey, Jordan, Mckenzie (might’ve spelt it wrong apologies,)YES and tragically Anderson NO (he’s knowledgable but a little unpractised at doing television, and his analysis seems painfully slow during the races.) but in the intervening period between sessions or after the race he functions excellently. I feel the pendulum swinging in the Beeb’s favour simply because it feels alot less like they’re trying to fill in the cracks in their coverage. You can feel necessity and purpose in everything the Beeb does…I think your assessment is correct BBC quality vs. Sky quantity – I’ll be watching the ‘other’ programs on Sky as well as GP2 and 3, but the F1 on the BBC.

Report this comment

I believe that last season saw the best ever coverage of formula 1 to date, it’s a shame that the racing it self didn’t stack up. So far this year the coverage has been a bit half assed, but the racing has been good. I still prefer the BBC coverage, but the fact that it’s a cut down, highlights version bothers me.

Report this comment

I like the helpful info you provide to your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and test again right here regularly. I’m relatively sure I will be told many new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the next!

Report this comment

My brother suggested I would possibly like this website. He was once entirely right. This put up truly made my day. You cann’t believe just how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

Report this comment

@steve 12: you must be insane to say that wimbledon is dull. a recap to federers wimbledon win in 2008, 2009 or 2010. exciting,eh?

Report this comment

Is Top Gear season 19 shooting on hold? :( I read it on http://www.topgearseries1

Report this comment

Excellent issues altogether, you just received a brand new reader. What could you recommend about your put up that you made some days in the past? Any positive?

Report this comment