16:50 – Following on from the success of my live blog for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying session, I thought I would take a lucky dip and do it all over again in 2013! So before the season started, I decided to put all nineteen races into a little bowl to decide which Qualifying session I was going to cover live on this blog. The result? USA. Unfortunately it is a Sky exclusive race, so no comparisons can be made between it and BBC F1. But hey ho. I should note that this live blog will not be a live “blow-by-blow” account of the Qualifying session, if you want that, I suggest you go to AUTOSPORT.com‘s or BBC F1‘s live text services. Basically, from 17:00 to 19:45, I will be looking at Sky’s broadcast from a broadcasting perspective, and of course the FOM World Feed too.
16:53 – Due to a dancing and singing contest on this Saturday evening, I will be watching the F1 via Sky Go. I’m happy to report though that there are no problems on that front! Sky Sports F1 on and ready to go, the channel currently showing the highlights package from the Porsche Supercup round in Abu Dhabi (alas, the only time you will hear Ben Edwards on its channel!).
16:55 – As always, the comments section is open and ready if you have any thoughts and opinions during the build-up and the session itself. Practice three looked fairly close, so hopefully we can expect the same for Qualifying.
17:00 – And exactly an hour before Qualifying, Sky Sports F1 heads to air for the penultimate Qualifying session of 2013!
17:04 – The usual foursome of Simon Lazenby, Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert open the show, as one of the support sessions comes to a conclusion in the background. Definitely in agreement that the Circuit of the Americas is becoming one of the fans favourites.
17:06 – Unsurprisingly, the first main subject of Qualifying is the driver shuffle, as a VT voiced by Natalie Pinkham goes to air covering the events of the last 13 days.
17:10 – Quite amazing how quickly everything does, and can, change in Formula 1! Nice little summary for those that have not caught up with the news in the past week or so. This leads into Ted Kravitz interviewing Martin Whitmarsh. Not impressed with McLaren’s attitude where Sergio Perez is concerned, to be honest. It feels like he was always a stop gap between Hamilton and Magnussen now, but who knows if that was always the case.
17:14 – I have to say watching this actually that Sky have been very lucky that the drivers’ market has gone into overdrive, as critically for them it fills air-time at a time of the season where the championship has been long resolved and inevitably content dries up. A good start to the show, as things move to the Sky Pad!
17:16 – A bit pointless that was going to the Sky Pad for a quick minute to show a five second clip of Davidson blowing up, but a good start to the show as Sky head off to their first commercial break. Very much looking forward to Kravitz’s interview with Robert Kubica.
17:18 – Still slightly frustrating that Sky only go to commercial breaks when the BBC are not live on air, but alas, I guess we’ve got used to it now.
17:21 – And they’re back, with a Mercedes feature.
17:26 – Sometimes I do feel that those ‘face to camera’ features don’t work well, but I enjoyed that one. As always with features like that, where it is clear a lot of time and effort has gone into it across an entire race weekend sometimes, I wish an extended 30 or 60 minute cut goes out on the channel. Arguably, the longer, more rough cut is better, in my view. Part 2 airs tomorrow, and hopefully is just as good.
17:27 – Brundle claims that Sky have “never had access like this before”. Frankly nonsense sentence to say considering Jake Humphrey used to roam around multiple garages before and after sessions!
17:30 – Conversation turns to James Allison, as an interview with Kravitz is shown. Lazenby and Hill discuss Allison and Ferrari’s overall season.
17:36 – A piece by 1980’s TV star Michael Brandon airs on Americans’ in Formula 1. A rich and vast amount of archive footage is shown in the piece, some seen in the GP Uncovered series from various film makers. Some names in here who I have never heard of, so I am glad to see them paying tribute to the majority of them. Formula 1 needs an American name of the grid. Hopefully Alexander Rossi is that person, and hopefully 2014 or 2015 is that year.
17:37 – And one of those legends, Mario Andretti joins Lazenby! Sky need to get Andretti in the commentary box at some point for a practice session or maybe something more. From what I heard on Twitter a few months back, he was fantastic for NBC earlier this year.
17:43 – A lot of archive footage used in today’s broadcast so far, in three or four different segments. You can’t not love archive footage, can you? And a great little interview there. It feels like that Lazenby is totally different to last year, seemed completely at ease interviewing Andretti. Is he as good as Humphrey was for BBC F1 between 2009 and 2011? Probably not, but the Sky shows at the moment flow better this year than last, which is nice to see.
17:46 – Third commercial break done and dusted, and into a VT with Robert Kubica. A really strong show from Sky so far today.
17:47 – I will be honest. I miss Kubica driving a Formula 1 car knowing that one day he could have won a Formula 1 world championship. There is no point as well Kubica risking a day testing an F1 car if something ended up going well. Fantastic to see Kubica doing well in rallying though, and long may it continue.
17:52 – Off to another break, which means Qualifying is on its way soon! A bite to eat for me too, I think…
17:55 – Not as many updates in the next hour as the action gets under way, but there will be the occasional updates at 5 to 10 minute intervals in the respective sessions.
18:06 – And I’m back! Six minutes into Q1 so far. No 180 degree camera yet. Hopefully we get to see it soon. Already detected some virtual advertising in the form of a Pirelli logo. They had some here last year though so it is not an entirely new thing.
18:08 – A bit naughty from whoever that Sauber was, nearly had a Maldonaldo ploughing straight into the back of him.
18:10 – Ron Dennis in the garage at McLaren. Really surprised Sky have not interviewed him about Perez so far this weekend.
18:15 – David Croft notes again Mark Webber abusing track limits. Difficult to disagree, although thankfully it is only one corner here unlike India three weeks ago!
18:16 – An interesting thermal camera on Sebastian Vettel’s car. Still t-cam shot, but at a slight offset and angle it appears.
18:23 – Horrific for the Ferrari’s, but they manage to squeeze through to Q2. Solid direction, but disappointed that the 180 degree angle has gone AWOL for the moment.
18:31 – Q2 has began in earnest, four minutes in so far.
18:34 – Always amusing when Brundle makes a reference to ‘new viewers’. Sky bring in new viewers? Although to be fair to Brundle of course Sky’s commentary is beamed around the world to various other countries, some of which may well be new viewers. Looking competitive in Q2 so far.
18:41 – And the 180 degree camera makes an appearance! On Valtteri Bottas’ Williams as he locks up.
18:44 – Fairly major knock-out in Q2 for Nico Rosberg! The Sky commentators missed that completely, it seems. They mentioned it, but underplayed it, they did not notice it as much as they should have. Fascinating as always to see how much the track conditions play a part, the smallest of changes makes a huge difference. Q3 is up next!
18:48 – Regarding the above, Davidson brilliantly demonstrates this with Rosberg’s sector one yesterday compared with his sector one in Q2.
18:50 – Q3 has began. A Red Bull will be on pole, just a matter of which one. I hope Bottas gets up the grid, he deserves it.
18:54 – Enjoyable commentary from Croft and Brundle so far today. Five minutes to go…
18:58 – Considering the 180 degree camera on Bottas’ car, it must be an aerodynamic advantage on the Williams! Hoping he sets a competitive lap time.
19:03 – How did Vettel do that? Webber’s lap was brilliant, then Vettel beats it. Unsurprisingly, the gap between Red Bull and the rest is huge, nearly a second.
19:06 – A great Qualifying session. I am sticking around though for the next 30 minutes as Sky wrap proceedings up.
19:12 – Sky head off to a quick break, and back with the press conference.
19:17 – Onto the Sky Pad with Davidson. One thing I think would be brilliant to see tomorrow in the pre-race show is a comparison between Vettel and Grosjean in all three sectors, as the Red Bull is equal to others in sector one, but streets ahead in sectors two and three.
19:20 – Clear as daylight to see the difference between Vettel and Webber in the final sector. One mistake for Webber and the lap unravelled badly for him there. Badly, obviously in comparison to Vettel but no one else.
19:26 – Good interview with Lazenby and Claire Williams, Lazenby trying to press on the Maldonaldo issues, to his credit.
19:29 – Mostly pen interviews filling the time now as you would expect, Craig Slater interviewing Nico Hulkenberg. One good thing about 2013 is that more Sky Sports News interviews have been used on the Sky broadcast, the two sides are more integrated, with Rachel Brookes also being used on the Sky Sports F1 shows when she is around.
19:38 – A few more pen interviews are shown, including an ever unhappy Adrian Sutil.
19:41 – And that is a wrap! Highlights of Qualifying are on BBC Two at 22:30, whilst Classic F1 is on Sky Sports F1 next with highlights of the 1991 United States Grand Prix (not that they mentioned it in their various archive pieces!). Enjoy the race, and as always, thanks for reading.