The new face of Formula 1

From Rider to Rosenthal, back to Rider and onto Humphrey to front Formula 1 on terrestrial television. In came Lazenby for Sky. And now from Humphrey to Perry. In comes Suzi Perry, the new face of Formula 1. Perry will, on Saturday, become the new face of BBC’s Formula 1 programming. But will she be as successful as those before her?

Steve Rider fronted Formula 1 for both BBC and ITV. Rider was the host of BBC’s coverage from the early 1980s to 1996. Back then, there was no laborious travelling around the world to present the sport as the majority of Rider’s presenting was part of BBC’s Grandstand strand, coming from their London studio at Television Centre. Staying in the UK was part of the reason why Rider held the role for so long. Towards the end of BBC’s contract, the team did travel to European races more, Rider still hosting alongside Tony Jardine in the pit-lane and on the grid.

When ITV picked up the rights to Formula 1, the production rights went out to tender. Chrysalis initially had Steve Rider as part of their bid to produce ITV’s coverage, but in the late stages, the two went in different directions. After considering Philip Schofield and John Leslie for the presenter’s role, Rider suggested to Jim Rosenthal that he should put himself forward to present. Chrysalis won the bid, and produced Formula 1 for ITV from 1997 to 2008, later becoming North One Television. Rosenthal held the presenting role from 1997 to 2005 before stepping aside at the end of that season. His tenure at ITV F1 began with him, Jardine and Simon Taylor presenting the show from an on-site studio, before moving into the paddock at the start of the 2004 season in an effort to bring viewers closer to the action. Rosenthal for ITV was a safe pair of hands, and was the right choice for them as he steered them through difficult years whilst Michael Schumacher dominated proceedings.

Rosenthal was succeeded by a familiar face though as Rider returned to the fray for three seasons. Unlike his first stint, Rider presented the action alongside Mark Blundell from the pit-lane. Whilst Rider was, again, a safe pair of hands, the pairing of him and Blundell was not the most riveting pair ever and soon the build-up discussion between the two became a bit ‘dull’. That would be no fault of Rider’s, but probably of the production team who did not seem to push the boundaries at this point, with Rider and Blundell seemingly situated in the same place in pit-lane for the entire pre race build-up.

Rider’s second spell ended in 2008 as BBC won the rights back from ITV. Instead of going with experience like ITV, BBC went for youth in 2009 as they made Jake Humphrey their new face of Formula 1. On the face of it, it was a potentially risky move going for youth instead of a veteran who held years of experience. But you can also see the logic in it, a younger presenter can help bring a new generation of viewers with him, in turn increasing viewing figures. The product, partly thanks to Humphrey’s presenting style, was a hit with viewers with the BBC programme well received. Humphrey was also helped by two fantastic pundits in David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan. Had you replaced Humphrey in Steve Rider, the results may have been similar in nature, although having a new, fresh look helped them.

Thanks to the broadcasting changes in 2011, Simon Lazenby was next to join the vast array of Formula 1 presenting talent for Sky last year. This year, he is joined by Suzi Perry, as the two will be presenting Formula 1 for Sky and BBC respectively. To her advantage, Perry has a significant amount of motor sport presenting experience having presented MotoGP for BBC for over ten years. Personally, I think Perry will do well as BBC presenter. It helps for her as well that the first two races are not live so that she can gel with the remainder of the team. At the end of the 2012, there was a question of whether the BBC team would be weaker without Humphrey. If anything, with the introductions of Perry and Tom Clarkson, their television production should be stronger than ever before.

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3 thoughts on “The new face of Formula 1

  1. Mike Smith (the former Radio 1 DJ and also a motor racing afficionado) was also considered for the ITV role in 1997, and got so far as doing a screen test. He later wrote a rather acerbic article in Autosport about the whole process, and suggested Rosenthal got the job without any sort of audition.

  2. Lazenby is atrocious, and on occasion highly unprofessional. I often cringe when he’s onscreen, as he aims his limited knowledge squarely at the under 12s. He’s currently Sky’s weakest link by a long way, and drags their broadcasts down to a level so dumb it makes you wonder who at Sky is protecting his job.

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