With the Canadian Grand Prix being broadcast live on both BBC and Sky, viewers had a choice of which channel they wished to watch. Throughout the weekend I mostly channel hopped between each channel for the build-up and round-up after each session, but stuck with BBC for the majority of the sessions. As I have outlined before, personally I find Ben Edwards and David Coulthard a better commentary duo than David Croft and Martin Brundle, but at the same point that is my own personal taste than the overriding consensus from F1 fans.
For Practice 1, BBC had Ben Edwards and Susi Wolff in the commentary box. Unfortunately, I’m not keen on Wolff, because most of her exploits seem to be PR driven rather than talent driven, so I’m afraid here I switched to Sky Sports F1. If you are to have a woman in the commentary box, it should be someone who has proven themselves within a fairly high level of motor sport, take Alice Powell. Powell was in GP3 performed solidly throughout the season, but was unable to find the budget. In comparison, Wolff spent seven seasons in DTM and only scored four points. The only reason she is in the Formula 1 paddock, in my opinion, is because she is married to Toto. I’m unsure why I am meant to take her opinion seriously in the commentary box when she has not got anywhere near to the top. If a woman does make it to F1, I hope it is on talent alone, and not a PR driven exercise as it appears to be with Wolff, as a recent BBC documentary portrayed her as. Danica Patrick says hello…
Also, it was disappointing to see that only the last 45 minutes of Practice 1 were on BBC Two, but I suspect that was out of BBC F1’s hands. On the other hand, however, they were granted 30 minutes of air-time after Practice 2 on BBC Three. The time was well used, with Suzi Perry and Gary Anderson walking up and down the paddock discussing the day along with the latest technical developments and interviewing Christian Horner and Jacques Villeneuve. You may argue that Sky Sports also had half an hour of air-time after Practice Two, but with their broadcast you had ad breaks along with the usual ‘off the air six minutes early’, so for me, BBC won hands down here. As an extra plus, the benefit of being on BBC Three is that the channel brings a younger demographic to the show, which may have benefited the F1 and brought a slightly different audience to practice.
Unfortunately, the delay to the start of Practice 3 meant that the first half an hour of their BBC Two broadcast was a bit of a mess. I know that the practice sessions are now on BBC Two for the live races rather than behind the Red Button – therefore there is need for presentation before and after the session, but I didn’t understand the need to go back down to the paddock to have Perry and Wolff filling for twenty minutes without any obvious direction. It would have been simpler to have stuck with Edwards and Anderson in the commentary box, running through some tweets and answering viewers questions. Moving onto Qualifying, and I felt that the build-up with Perry, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan flowed well and was one of their better broadcasts that I had seen this season. Yes, there was inevitably focus on ‘testgate’, but this shouldn’t really be much of a surprise as this was BBC’s first proper show since Monaco – whereas Sky have had two editions of The F1 Show in between. The highlight for me though was Tom Clarkson’s interview was Robert Kubica. Clarkson’s interview was the first time a British broadcaster had gone out and properly interviewed Kubica since his rallying crash at the beginning of 2011. Very pleasing to see Kubica doing what he does best, and I do hope one day he makes it back up to single seater racing.
Whilst the build-up was great, BBC’s commitment lacked significantly afterwards. I understand that other shows may take priority, but on a day when BBC One’s prime time line-up was inevitably going to be beaten by Britain’s Got Talent quite convincingly, would there have been any harm in scheduling a ten minute extension? I personally, don’t think so. Even a little mini forum online after Qualifying would have sufficed here, to take us until 19:30. BBC’s Race programme began with a not so serious VT, as they took a look back at the previous ‘Wall of Champion’ victims, accompanied by a member of the BBC F1 team leaning up against the wall and a song with the words “its my wall”. Not serious in its nature, but it got the point across perfectly, that the wall can end your race in the blink of an eye. I enjoyed this.
Admittedly with BBC’s pre-race broadcast half the length of Sky’s, I channel hopped until the race start as some of the content did overlap, but I enjoyed the piece with Lewis Hamilton and Stirling Moss, filmed at Silverstone. I stuck with Sky after the race, but for the purposes of this blog I caught up with BBC’s Forum on Tuesday after the race had long concluded. Despite the sporadic nature of it, I again thought it worked well, although there was some confusion at times with regards what and where they were supposed to be going next! Yes, it was rough around the edges and by no means a perfect broadcast, but that is the nature of live television. The only real criticism I feel is of Perry reading a tweet out and then dismissing it half way through, but this only happened in one case. Overall, I did enjoy the forum. Was it as analytical as Sky’s post-race? Probably not, but I did enjoy seeing Anderson join Perry, Jordan and Coulthard at the end to round off the weekend. I also don’t think you should expect it to be as analytical as Sky’s, after all BBC’s broadcast is trying to cater for more casual viewers.
I thought on the whole their programmes were an enjoyable watch over the weekend, and a step up from the programmes they produced earlier this season. The fact that they are showing practice on terrestrial television definitely has its advantages, and it is good to see that they are exploiting it, whilst Perry, Jordan and Coulthard are gelling more and more as each race go by.