Today marks a fairly important anniversary in F1 Broadcasting folklore. At 19:15 on Sunday 2nd November 2008, Britain was celebrating a new Formula 1 champion. But, that day and time also marks the last time that ITV went off the air after a Formula 1 race, the corporation choosing to favour the UEFA Champions League and The FA Cup over broadcasting Formula 1.
I’ve blogged a lot about ITV F1 in the past eighteen months, some of which I have linked below:
– A look back at ITV’s first live Formula 1 broadcast in 1997
– International Motor Sport: why it desperately needs to return to terrestrial television
– The new face of Formula 1
– The  deal that changed it all
It is easy to look back on ITV’s Formula 1 coverage like it was some kind of inferior product just because it had adverts. But in reality, ITV moved the goal posts from what BBC were offering before 1997. Based on site from day one, ITV had a full team led by Jim Rosenthal, Tony Jardine and Simon Taylor in the studio. James Allen and Louise Goodman were in pit lane with Martin Brundle and Murray Walker commentating. The air-time that ITV dedicated was significantly more than BBC before them, the build-up eventually becoming an hour in length as their air-time expanded further as years progressed.
The only major draw back for ITV aside from adverts was having to negotiate broadcasting hours for the early morning Asian races with GMTV, this notably resulted in many Asian Qualifying sessions not being broadcast live (this being an era where ITV were not allowed to broadcast ITV live on ITV2) and a trimmed down version of the race broadcast live from the London Studios. Undeniably their coverage did start to become stale throughout the Schumacher years, although given the quality of the racing, you could probably forgive them for that. Despite this, it is difficult to look back on their final three years of pre-race coverage, with Steve Rider and Mark Blundell with too many fond memories, sadly.
Replacing Murray Walker was an impossible job for Allen. It is a strange one for me, having grown up listening to Allen’s commentary, it didn’t feel or sound right at times, some of his moments especially in the early days sounded forced. Later on, his commentary did improve, although ITV’s coverage disappointingly turned into The Lewis Hamilton Show. Rider talked about this in his book, saying that after years of covering Schumacher’s dominance, there was a new stride in the team, with them finally able to cover a winning British driver at long last, and that it was only right that it would be covered adequately as possible. Allen’s replacement in the pit lane, Ted Kravitz worked on ITV’s F1 coverage from the beginning, starting off as an assistant producer in 1997, moving into an on-air role from 2002 onwards. It is somewhat disappointing looking back at Kravitz’s ITV days, only now with BBC’s and Sky’s expansive coverage do you realise how underused Kravitz was back then versus his BBC and Sky contributions since 2009.
Whilst Apollo 440’s ‘Blackbeat’ song was definitely no ‘The Chain’, the early intro titles for ITV were fairly good, although things went down hill in the latter years with Moby’s ‘Lift Me Up’ and the complete change of opening titles. In terms of their coverage highlights, USA 2005 has to be an instant highlight. ITV covered the events surrounding that race impeccably and fantastic. It was not all bad for Allen and Brundle, if USA 2005 was ITV’s best ever race, then Brazil 2008 will probably go down as one of the finest commentary calls in motor racing history, and by far their finest hour…
Brundle – Is that [Timo] Glock going slowly? That’s Glock!
Allen – Oh my goodness me! [Lewis] Hamilton’s back in position again! A hundred thousand Brazilian hearts sink as he crosses the line…
Brundle – YES!
Allen – …to become the 2008 Formula One World Champion!
It was one of those commentary moments, one that I will personally never forget watching. On that day, at that time, Allen and Brundle’s made that moment and critically, unlike many other Formula 1 commentators around the world, they called it right. A peak audience of over 13 million viewers watched that ending, the most watched Formula 1 moment in UK broadcasting history. I can’t finish off any nostalgia piece about ITV F1, without linking to this tribute, which they aired during their final weekend. Enjoy, if you can!