Gary Anderson is to leave BBC’s Formula 1 coverage, The F1 Broadcasting Blog can confirm. Anderson was a part of the team for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as pit lane reporter and technical analyst alongside Lee McKenzie. In 2013, he was joined by Tom Clarkson in the pit lane, however it must be emphasised that whilst Clarkson is a great pit lane reporter, he is not a technical analyst. It appears that Anderson’s role will not be replaced and means that for the first time in nearly two decades, there will not be a technical view point in Formula 1’s terrestrial television coverage.
The role of technical reporter has been a part of Formula 1’s coverage since 1997 when ITV replaced BBC as rights holders. Before then, you would have had Tony Jardine or Jonathan Palmer doing the odd technical feature, but nothing on a full time basis. ITV’s coverage expansions changed that. James Allen was designated the role of pit lane reporter, which also covered the technical side of events. When Allen moved to the lead commentator role in 2002, Ted Kravitz moved over from the production area into the role, which he held throughout ITV’s coverage until 2008, and then until 2011 on the BBC. Of course it goes without saying that this was all playing out to a terrestrial television audience, so whilst there was technical information, it was not massively in-depth or mundane as it needed to cater to a casual audience. Which is fair enough, but the fact is, it was there.
Changes came into swing with the BBC and Sky rights deal beginning in 2012, but the role of technical role remained, and in fact turned into a better role. As good as Ted Kravitz was, having an actual former technical director on BBC’s team I felt boosted it immensely. In my 2013 Verdict piece last month focussing on the BBC team, I went as far as saying:
It is a strange one actually, as you would probably logically feel that Anderson and Kravitz should be the other way around. Anderson doing more technical stuff on Sky Sports F1, with Kravitz on BBC F1. Both do fantastic things in their respective roles though and I would not want that to change.
However, whilst that is true, I have not come across a comment on this blog with anyone who has an issue with that. I felt it was brilliant that Anderson could do his technical analysis to a bigger audience. 2014 is a year of massive, far reaching and drastic changes where the technical aspects of Formula 1 are concerned. Today’s news leaves a gaping hole in BBC’s coverage. They need a technical analyst, and they need one fast. For me, it is a fundamental part of the F1 coverage. As good as David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan are, they are not designers. Only a select few can hold that role. They can’t leave Anderson’s role vacant, and they also can’t expect Clarkson to fill Anderson’s role. You need the technical mindset to fill the role. Kravitz over on Sky, despite not being a technical director in the past, has justified his position in the past ten years with some fantastic work. Maybe BBC are thinking, or already have done, of giving Ross Brawn a phone call. I hope so, but the outlook appears bleak.
To anyone suggesting Sky should pick up Anderson: him and Kravitz on the same team would not work, in my opinion. Why have two people in very similar roles? By hiring Anderson, you’d be basically telling Kravitz to leave. The latest move by BBC feels, sadly, like an attempt by someone, whether within the F1 team itself, or higher up in the chain, to dumb down their coverage. This blog understands that Anderson was pushed from the role, rather than Anderson leaving of his own accord. I hear one or two people saying that “this is the beginning of the end for BBC F1”. This is the same people that predicted the end at the end of 2011, and then 2012, and then 2013. In my opinion, short term and long term, BBC F1 is not going anywhere. As always, there could be changes where radio is concerned, as Ben Constanduros hinted to earlier although it has to be said that TV and radio exist out of different budgets, the TV coverage is in-house, the radio coverage is USP Content.
Regarding Anderson, to quote a phrase, and more apt considering his role: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Update on February 5th – As noted above, and confirmed this evening, the BBC did indeed let Gary Anderson go and that it was not his decision. At a Cass Business School event, Anderson commented on the departure. I quote from tweeter @CausticCorner who was present at the event: “Ooh, Gary Anderson says it was #BBCF1 who decided viewers “don’t appreciate technical #F1 analysis…” and let him go.” So, there you have it.