Poll: What is your favourite ITV F1 intro?

Ahead of the return of live motor sport to ITV’s main channel this weekend in the form of the Formula E championship decider, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has decided to take a trip down memory lane, looking back at ITV’s past Formula 1 intros. Whilst ITV’s Formula E coverage this weekend will have the generic World Feed intro, ITV came up with four distinctive titles for their Formula 1 coverage from 1997 to 2008, with each iteration lasting three years.

ITV’s coverage began in 1997 with an instrumental from British jazz band Jamiroquai, who were asked to produce the intro and outro track. The band, who were approached by ITV F1 producer Neil Duncanson, were paid £100,000 to compose the theme.

The basis of the title sequence is a car unveiling, followed by a pit-stop, before the car is unleashed towards the camera, a sequence which was executed superbly and comes across well, even looking back at it nearly twenty years later. The nature of the soundtrack is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, although Jamiroquai’s version doesn’t quite build up to a climax with the same amount of energy as The Chain. Was it as good as The Chain? Of course not, but it was probably as good as what it was going to be.

Most sporting theme tunes on commercial television tend to have a life span of between three and five years, before they become old, and this was the case with ITV’s Formula 1 coverage. At the turn of the millennium, Apollo 440 provided the theme for ITV’s coverage through Blackbeat, with the car unveiling of Jamiroquai being replaced by a more upbeat, fast-paced intro that showed off Formula 1 to the maximum.

The intro showcased moments from the late 1990s alongside the latest British contenders on the grid, a narrative that would remain in ITV’s coverage until the end. This theme was the F1 theme when I first properly began getting into the sport, meaning that it is undoubtedly my favourite of the ITV era. It portrays everything that there is about Formula 1, and helps get you in the frame of mind to watch a motor race. They key words there are ‘motor race’, it has to fit that agenda. Blackbeat fulfilled that role perfectly. Of course, there’s another reason I remember the Blackbeat era fondly, and that is the Texaco break bumpers! Break bumpers like that are so much more memorable, unlike the break bumpers of 2015 (yes FairFX, I’m looking at you).

Michael Schumacher’s dominance, alongside the fall of F1 Digital+, meant that ITV’s coverage was overhauled in 2003 in an attempt to win back lapsed viewers. A remix of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, originally performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was on the table from 2003 through to the end of 2005. The original plan, according to The Music & Media Partnership, was to have a remix of The Who’s Baba O’Riley, but plans were dropped following the arrest of Peter Townshend.

The style of the intro is similar to Blackbeat before it, except it looks and feels more technical than before. However, I don’t think the You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet instrumental is as hard hitting as Blackbeat, which is it’s downfall. 2003’s intro lacked any car sounds, although this was fixed for later iterations in 2004 and 2005. Don’t get me wrong, it is okay, but it never really hit the sweet spot in my opinion. Trying to incorporate technical aspects into the theme titles was not going to work, whilst the map at the end of the titles was unnecessary. The idea was good, but the execution here I don’t think was great.

You’ll probably find it easy to like or dislike either one of the three themes above, but what happened next was unexpected. Opinions on ITV’s last F1 theme, Lift Me Up from American songwriter Moby, veer from brilliant to downright awful. The intro marked a distinct change in coverage for the start of the 2006 season. Steve Rider replaced Jim Rosenthal as lead presenter, the graphics set was completely overhauled and a young Brit was entering the fray. By the time ITV’s Formula 1 coverage ended in 2008, he would be world champion.

The change of approach to their introduction was solidified in their coverage overall, with more emphasis on British drivers than ever before, this fuelled on further as Lewis Hamilton made his debut at the beginning of the 2007 season. In isolation, there is nothing wrong with Lift Me Up, but this is a case of ‘wrong song, wrong sport’. I’d love to know what the aim of this piece actually was, because some aspects of the intro clearly have nothing to do with Formula 1 and clearly were only there to try and glamour up the sport. An early version of the Lift Me Up intro exists over at Reelthing Animation, for anyone wishing to take a look. I probably look back on Lift Me Up more fondly than what I should given that it concluded ITV’s F1 coverage, but it certainly won’t top any “best sporting intro” charts any time soon.

Or… will it?

If ITV and Formula E remain partners for a second season, it will be interesting to see if ITV choose to create their own titles for the coverage, or whether they take the World Feed titles, as they have throughout Formula E’s inaugural season.

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8 thoughts on “Poll: What is your favourite ITV F1 intro?

  1. Maybe they were a little quick to pull baba O’riley, never mind about that! Maybe they owed it to Pete Townshend to actually give it a shot! Or more to the point? Why not give it a go now with the new firmulaE? #NotThere’sAPoint!

  2. I think the best theme music that ITV used was not on it’s F1 coverage but on the “International Motor Racing” F3000 programme that used to be on the alternate weekends to F1, that featured Simon Taylor on the commentary.
    The programme originally started (I believe) as “International Touring Cars” in 1996 and featured the ITC with brief roundups of that years F3000. It then switched to FIA GTs for 97 and 98 before settling on F3000.
    I don’t know when it stopped (maybe 2004 or 2005)as it was often haphazardly scheduled in odd slots and by that time I was watching Eurosport for my F3000/GP2 fix.
    But throughout it started off with the same upbeat rocky guitar-driven tune that was library music and not a commercial song. Personally, I’d put that ahead of all the F1 intos that ITV used over the years.

  3. Ok, so, some relatively basic opinions:

    Intro 1: Very simple, yet I loved it. 2nd favourite

    Intro 2: Forgot just how good it was but yeah definitely the best of the lot in my view. So good that, as bad as this sounds, when watching races again (I recorded them all), I’d sometimes watch the intro, then rewind and watch it again, then keep doing the same thing………sad eh?

    Intro 3: Ok but not spectacular, not quite as good as the first but infinitely better than the 4th

    Intro 4: Music terrible and intro itself even worse. Most of what was on screen had less relevance to F1 than a goose wearing a hat made from toast

    As for the Texaco ad break bumpers, the fact they were there during the 2nd intro’s lifespan just makes it the ‘ultimate’ as such. Weird yet strangely brilliant at the same time (if that makes sense).

  4. 2006 simply because it’s a great piece of graphics even if the music does suck.

    Although it’s easy to look back through rose tinted glasses at ITV’s coverage, especially against the backdrop of Sky’s biweekly abortion, ITV’s coverage was still cack.

  5. My favourite title sequence – Jamiroquai. Favourite break bumpers – Texaco.
    Least favourite titles – Moby. Least favourite break bumpers – the chickens in a call centre (not able to remember the company name)

  6. The Blackbeat intro get’s it right best, plus it was also my first intro when I started watching F1 back in 2002 as a 6 year old, so it has some nostalgic value for me. The essence of Motorsport is colour, speed and sound, and it can pass by in a confusing (but exciting) blur. That’s what the intro gets across quite well, and Apollo 440 are exactly the right kind of band: Plenty of energy but feels very raw and electronic; Lift me up is still a good song, and I enjoy listening to Moby now and again, but that song in particular is a little too generic. Blackbeat on the other hand never fails to grab me, even if it is a little over the top.

    Personally I always had a soft spot for F1 on ITV, in spite of it’s failings, it still raised the bar and set the standard for the coverage that we have today from the BBC/Sky, not to mention producing much of the on screen and off screen talent that works on them. Ad breaks during the races were never going to be ideal though, and particularly in it’s last two years the constant hype about Hamilton (I don’t know if it’s worse now or then) became a little suffocating at times; with Jenson Button I felt that they got the balance about right, seeing as unlike Lewis, JB was never in a particularly competitive car for most of ITV’s seasons.

    I’d like to see ITV do their own intro, but seeing as the viewing figures are so low I wouldn’t be surprised if they just stuck to the FE feed, and more than likely the song will be custom made by the ‘Formula EJ’, which will be so-so if this year’s background trance is anything to go by.

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