‘Senna Week‘ was a great example, perhaps one of the best examples, of what a dedicated Formula 1 channel should do. Not all of the programming was of top quality, but as a week taken in isolation, it was fantastic to see some effort go into the Sky Sports F1 schedule on each night. I think it was the first time this has happened since the channel launched.
Arguably, the best programme that was broadcast during ‘Senna Week’ was the one that aired first. The Last Team Mate seen Damon Hill and David Brabham travel back to Imola to relieve that fateful weekend twenty years ago. After watching the programme, and in the context of the later programmes, I was surprised that this started the week. Overall, I found the documentary a brilliant, yet very poignant watch. More importantly, I was happy that it reflected both on Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. I will admit to being surprised though at the fact that it covered the entire 1994 season, I was expecting it to stop at the immediate aftermath. I’m not sure whether that added or detracted from the programme, it perhaps slightly took away from the main focus of attention, although this is purely a personal view point. If Sky wanted to cover the wider 1994 season (which was touched upon but never fully explored), perhaps a series of episodes covering the year should have been commissioned separately to the ‘Senna Week’ strand.
Nevertheless, The Last Team Mate was still by far the best produced show of the week and it showed. The next show up with the Journalists Special with Simon Lazenby, Maurice Hamilton, David Tremayne and Murray Walker. The issue upfront here was that, at an hour in length (45 minutes excluding commercials), that it would be difficult to cover Senna’s career in detail. Saying that, the editing guys did the best job they could in the circumstances, albeit a longer extended version turned up on Sky On Demand later (I’m unsure why this didn’t air on the channel). I was refreshed to hear the three journalists focus on Senna’s flaws as both a driver and character instead of looking through rose tinted glasses as can happen in these types of shows. One of them summed it up best by saying that they wished we just got to know him a lot more outside of the race track, as the only time any of them got to see Senna was when he was constantly under pressure, scrambling for the last tenth here and there.
Echoes of the Past and Ted’s Senna Notebook formed the middle part of the week, at 15 minutes and 30 minutes respectively. Both were good in their own right, Nigel Roebuck with his own unique reflections, whilst Kravitz walked around the McLaren Technology Centre, looking at each of Senna’s McLaren cars individually. Alongside The Last Team Mate, the other programme which I thought was top notch was the Roland Ratzenberger tribute programme. With contributions from Adam Cooper, David Brabham and Humphrey Corbett. I felt it was important more than anything to have a programme dedicated to Ratzenberger, and I’m very glad they did.
Aside from The F1 Show, the remaining three new programmes were Prost on Senna, A Winning Partnership and F1 Legends focussing on Senna. I probably should have expected two of those three to be re-edits of what had already aired during the respective F1 Legends episodes, which was disappointing. Prost on Senna was taken entirely from the interview Prost had with Steve Rider and there was not much new content during the F1 Legends episodes. A Winning Partnership was a Ron Dennis interview conducted by Tom Clarkson for the media at McLaren Technology Centre. If it was me doing the scheduling, the programmes with the most effort in should have gone as close to the anniversaries as possible. Clearly The Last Team Mate had the most work put into it, so why it ended up starting the week and premièring on a Saturday, I don’t know. I’m not saying it was bad that those three programmes were rehashes, just that it was underwhelming. On reflection, The Last Team Mate and the Journalists Special should have aired as close to the anniversaries as possible given that both programmes featured mostly new material, with the F1 Legends and Prost programmes starting the week. It was somewhat confusing that another two programmes turned up during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend with little fanfare.
Over on BBC, and it has to be said that whilst TV chose not to do anything in terms of programming, they did air a fantastic tribute with Eddie Jordan voicing it over at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying session with contributions from personalities such as Gerhard Berger and Pat Symonds. The fifteen minute tribute was BBC’s VT guys at their absolute best, and they deserve to be given a pat on the back. I really wish that they were given the tools to produce a one hour tribute to Senna and Ratzenberger. I really do, sadly for reasons probably beyond the BBC F1 TV’s direct control, that didn’t happen, which is a real shame. 5 Live however did pay tribute to Senna and Ratzenberger, with a 90 minute live broadcast, fronted by Jennie Gow alongside Simon Taylor, Maurice Hamilton and James Allen. During the show, we heard Simon Taylor’s original 5 Live commentary from Imola 1994. Having heard Walker’s shout as Senna crashed, it was fascinating to hear directly from Taylor and Hamilton on how 5 Live handled the entire situation. I enjoyed listening to the show, which is still available as a podcast until the beginning of June.
I think Sky could learn a lot with Senna Week. Going forward, I think it would be great if we had more themed weeks in the future. Whilst Sky have been showing Classic F1 races, there have been no themes so far this season. I’ve said before how Sky should utilise what they can show regarding classic races, however, a ‘Williams Week’ or ‘McLaren Week’ would be much better than what we currently have where the classic races flip flop between decades for no apparent reason. Okay, they can’t show an unlimited amount of races, but there’s nothing stopping them creating a McLaren edition of F1 Legends, to give an example looking back on their time in F1. I’m not sure it would work, but it is worth a try. Like I said at the start of the piece though, as a dedicated channel, I was very glad to see them dedicate the entire week to Senna and Ratzenberger. Alongside the BBC piece that I have linked above, I’d strongly recommend The Last Team Mate and Remembering Ratzenberger if you haven’t already watched them.