Predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team (part 1)

The dust has settled (sort of) on the news that Channel 4 will be broadcasting Formula 1 from the 2016 season. With just three months until the Australian Grand Prix, it leaves very little time for the broadcaster and the chosen production team to negotiate with talent and put in place a strong team that can challenge Sky Sports F1’s team on screen.

When I did this with BT Sport’s MotoGP team in 2013, the post was chunks of paragraphs, which I don’t think is going to work this time, when the talent pool is big. You have BBC’s Formula 1 team (both TV and radio), anyone from ITV’s old Formula 1 team that realistically could jump. The chances of anyone jumping from Sky Sports to Channel 4 is unlikely, but still a possibility. And then there are those that are not currently tied to a broadcaster that could become part of Channel 4’s team. You have to assume that Channel 4 will want a mixture of existing BBC talent, along with some fresh faces. Channel 4 have their own 4Talent scheme, and it is plausible that they may want to groom someone from within that scheme to become part of their Formula 1 coverage, I don’t know.

I need to state from the outset that the points below are my opinion. Given that the deal has only been in the public domain for a day, I have no inside information on who Channel 4 are planning to sign up to cover Formula 1. Of course, some predictions will be wildly out, but it is definitely worth doing to compare with later.

Presenters
Suzi Perry – The BBC Formula 1 presenter from 2013 to 2015 and before that MotoGP presenter in the mid 2000s. Perry must be one of Channel 4’s number one targets for the presenter role, given the way that she had settled nicely into the role, improving compared to the start of 2013. Whether Channel 4 would want a new face up front, I don’t know, but they will certainly want a steady ship at the top of the programme to lead it with control, and I feel Perry is that person – potentially.

Jennie Gow – The current BBC Radio 5 Live pit lane reporter and Formula E presenter for ITV is bound to be in the frame for some sort of role at Channel 4 given that she is a hot commodity for the majority of broadcasters’ at the moment. She did have some experience presenting a season of MotoGP with the BBC in 2010, but was replaced by Matt Roberts. If she moved, she would obviously no longer be BBC’s pit lane reporter. This is a tough one. My gut instinct says no, certainly for the main presenter role.

Jake Humphrey – The former BBC Formula 1 presenter from 2009 to 2012, and currently BT Sport’s Premier League presenter. As Humphrey is part of Whisper Films, this is viable, but unlikely. The rationale behind Humphrey leaving BBC’s Formula 1 team was to spend more time at home, understandably. Unless Channel 4 take a studio based approach to proceedings or create a magazine show, I don’t see Humphrey being involved.

It is difficult to think of any other presenters currently involved at the top level. Matt Roberts (current Eurosport’s British Superbikes presenter) and Charlie Webster (ex ITV GP2 presenter) are other possibilities, but outside shots, if that for the role. Webster did present the Race of Champions for Whisper Films/Channel 4 in November. The name Clare Balding is bound to crop up somewhere given her links to Channel 4. And lastly, Chris Evans who first mooted the Channel 4 deal last month. Realistically though, I think it is difficult to look past Suzi Perry getting the presenter gig. Quite frankly, Channel 4 cannot afford to “do a BT” and mess up getting the glue correct. No one really noticed the whole Melanie Sykes saga with BT Sport in the non-motor sport media, but if you attempt that with Formula 1, it may not end well. Channel 4 need someone with experience to steer the show.

The F1 Broadcasting Blog predicts: Suzi Perry to become Channel 4’s Formula 1 presenter. Jake Humphrey to present a Formula 1 magazine show to air during the season.

Lead Commentator
Ben Edwards – The BBC’s Formula 1 lead commentator from 2012 to 2015. It was the first time Edwards has covered Formula 1 on terrestrial television in this country, having previously covered the likes of A1 Grand Prix. He should be Channel 4’s number one choice. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is actually their number two choice…

Jack Nicholls – Currently the lead commentator on the Formula E Championship, Nicholls has also sporadically been lead commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live in the past two years. Remember the point I made about Channel 4 being a station that reaches younger viewers? In my opinion, that means Channel 4 need someone on their team to help them achieve that. Is Nicholls the person to do that, probably. Nicholls is a fantastic commentator at the age of 25, and could be Channel 4’s number one choice. The problem is getting him out of his Formula E and BBC Radio commitments, which I don’t see happening fast.

James Allen – If Formula 1 was going back to ITV, as was rumoured, this might be more certain. Unfortunately for Allen, that did not happen. Allen is currently BBC’s Formula 1 commentator for Radio 5 Live, however as noted above, Allen does not commentate (and therefore attend) on every race. The only way Allen would be lead commentator for Channel 4 is if he was willing to attend every race, assuming Channel 4 are going to have a presence on-site, the assumption would be that they are. I don’t think this is likely, unless Edwards rejects Channel 4 and Nicholls falls through completely. But never say never.

Other outside candidates are Toby Moody (ex Eurosport MotoGP lead commentator) and David Addison (current ITV BTCC lead commentator). Will Buxton is locked down with NBC covering F1, as is David Croft, so I don’t think those four options are realistic. If you are hoping for fresh faces, I do not see it happening where either the presenter or lead commentator roles are concerned.

The F1 Broadcasting Blog predicts: Ben Edwards to become Channel 4’s Formula 1 lead commentator.

Pit Lane Reporter
Lee McKenzie – With a background in motor sport, McKenzie was BBC’s pit lane reporter for the duration of their coverage. McKenzie is going to be part of BBC’s team at the Olympic Games, and presumably Wimbledon again. I don’t see McKenzie moving to Channel 4, I imagine there are more opportunities for her at the BBC as it currently stands, both on TV and radio. Alongside this tweet, I think McKenzie will stay with the BBC and will not be part of Channel 4’s coverage.

Nicki Shields – The current Formula E pit lane reporter for their World Feed, and before that presented Escape to the Country for the BBC If you don’t watch Formula E, you probably will not recognise the name. From what I have seen, Shields has fitted in well to the Formula E role, describing herself as a petrol-head and environmentalist. I’ve liked Shields contribution to Formula E’s TV team and the interviews that she has conducted with the drivers. Given one of Channel 4’s points in their ten point plan from 2011 was to create “high impact factual programming”, I think Shields could be the perfect fit for the channel: a pit lane reporter alongside other commitments surrounding their programming outside of a race weekend.

Rachel Brookes – A Sky Sports News presenter, Brookes has become integrated into the Sky Sports F1 set-up, presenting The F1 Show alongside duties in the pit lane during practice and interviewing drivers before and after each race. I think Rachel is one of the better interviewers on Sky Sports F1, and should be a target for Channel 4. If the opportunity arose, I would like to see Brookes part of the Channel 4 team. I don’t think it would happen though: her current role at Sky Sports role allows her to cover events outside of Formula 1, and future opportunities there are present, which is not the case at Channel 4 beyond horse racing and the Paralympics.

There are probably three or four other candidates, notably Natalie Pinkham (current Sky Sports F1 pit lane reporter), Jennie Gow (current BBC Radio 5 Live pit lane reporter) and Louise Goodman (former ITV F1 pit lane reporter and current ITV BTCC pit lane reporter).

The F1 Broadcasting Blog predicts: Nicki Shields to become Channel 4’s Formula 1 pit lane reporter.

Other Suggestions
Did I miss anyone out? Mention it in the comments or on social media and I’ll add them below…
– Abi Griffiths (current BT Sport MotoGP presenter/reporter) – Jonathan in the comments
Andy Jaye (current Eurosport speedway host and has hosted shows for Channel 4) – @PurpleSectorGP via Twitter
– Azi Farni (former BBC MotoGP pit lane reporter) – myself after writing this post
Craig Doyle (current BT Sport MotoGP and rugby host) – Joe in the comments
– Georgie Ainslie, née Thompson (former presenter of The F1 Show for Sky Sports) – @sjbosher via Twitter
– Rick Edwards (presented the majority of Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage) – Jonathan in the comments
– Steve Rider (former BBC and ITV F1 presenter) – Gaz in the comments

Given the closeness to the festive period that this has been announced (and as the word count is close to 1,500 words already), I’m splitting this article across multiple parts as there is a lot to cover. Part 2 coming up at some point before the New Year…

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49 thoughts on “Predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team (part 1)

  1. Chris Evans is interesting – but given his Top Gear links and Radio 2 show I doubt it would happen… although TFI Friday is made with that in mind. He would be great at it simply because he loves the sport.

  2. Please, please, anybody rather than Suzi Perry, she’s the reason I hardly ever watch any BBC F1 anymore. You’ve mentioned some other excellent women, far superior presenters, in my opinion. Perry is too concerned with her appearance, which way to stand, how to cope with her tablet, instead of concentrating on the subject in hand. I don’t think she’s got the in depth knowledge, relies too much on Coulthard and even EJ to prop her up.
    Personally, I’d prefer a male presenter, you’ve mentioned some good ones, but I do like Natalie Pinkham, Jennie Gow, Lee McKenzie, Rachel Brookes, I still miss Jake Humphries and Gary Anderson, they would make a brilliant team, but that won’t happen I’m afraid. Just not S Perry, or I’ll have to keep paying the extortionate Sky boost F1 on my TalkTalk package. Love your blog, keep up the good work!!!

    • Agree with you totally about Suzi Perry – on hearing the countdown in her earpiece, she becomes flustered and makes mistakes. This would happen more often with commercial breaks, I reckon.

      David says above… “Quite frankly, Channel 4 cannot afford to “do a BT” and mess up getting the glue correct.” Or indeed, have a repetition of their World Athletics Championships 2011 presenter woes.

      I await further news on Channel 4’s plans with great interest 🙂

  3. I think that Channel 4 will play safe this season and keep most of the BBC team. My predictions are below:

    Presenter: Tom Clarkson
    Pundits: David Coulthard & Alan McNish
    Analyst: Gary Anderson
    Reporters: Nicki Shields & Lee McKenzie
    Lead Commentator: Ben Edwards
    Co-commentator: David Coulthard
    Magazine: Jake Humphrey & Nicki Shields

    Note: The Magazine F1 show would be presented from a UK based studio.

    I think this team would be near-on perfect. The only arguement is Eddie Jordan, who is a marmite character. I don’t think EJ will be wanted by Channel 4 because of his personality and the viewing public probably aren’t fond of him.

    • “I don’t think EJ will be wanted by Channel 4 because of his personality and the viewing public probably aren’t fond of him.”

      Lol, Channel 4 is probably the most provocative broadcaster of them all. That’ll make EJ their IDEAL choice.

    • Yes I agree With Garry Anderson. it was madness for the Beeb to axe someone with the knowledge of the workings of this new bread of cars. Surely everyone who follows our sport is eager to know how the cars work?

    • Eddie Jordan is the man! He has the real inside track, everyone knows Eddie, he is a must. Him, DC and Allan McNish are far superior to anything Sky have. Martin Brundle is SkyF1’s saving grace. Damon Hill etc are soooooo boring. EJ & DC are hilarious, and talented

  4. To be honest, and I’ve said this a few times in various places, I don’t really watch the BBC coverage. I dip into it every now and then, but since I pay for the privilege of Sky F1, I watch it on there. I’m not sure what would make me watch Channel 4’s coverage. Chris Evans would be a huge draw for me. The weakest part of Sky’s team, in my opinion, is Simon Lazenby. I just don’t like his manner, his general oliagenous ways and I can’t shake that feeling that he’s just lucked into the role…

    As a result of all this, I don’t really know much about Tom Clarkson or how well David or Eddie have improved. Eddie always used to annoy me. Jake Humphrey was very good and would be an asset to any production. Ben Edwards for my money has always been the best motor racing commentator out there – but I understand he hasn’t been to everyone’s taste.

    (Is this better, jacquibol???)

    • I actually think Lazenby is one of the strongest part of Sky’s team, with Johnny Herbert by far the weakest. He’s come a long way since 2012. Asks all the right questions in the interviews, is very clear and gels together nicely with the rest of the team. Herbert on the other hand adds very little, can’t string a sentence together without saying “sort of”, and as a result just acts a clown most of the time. If I was to improve Sky I would ship Herbert out straight away.

  5. I have just read that Lee McKenzie is contracted to present Rugby and the Olympics next year so csn’t see her moving to Channel 4. Charlie Webster is a good shout as presenter or reporter.

    Personnel:
    Presenter: Charlie Webster
    Pundits: Eddie Jordan & David Coulthard
    Reporters: Nicki Shields & Tom Clarkson
    Analyst: Alan McNish
    Technical Analyst: Gary Anderson
    Commentators: Jack Nicholls & Ben Edwards
    Magazine: Nicki Shields & Charlie Webster

  6. Hasn’t Andy Jaye also filled in for Formula E presenting when Jennie Gow has been unavailable? (Due to F1 clashes)

  7. I forgot to mention that Channel 4 have opened an F1 Twitter account @F1onFour. They have tweeted “We shall be announcing the 10 races @Channel4 are covering for 2016, and the commentary team, in February next year.”

  8. Charlie Webster has a better chance than Suzi Perry. Perry might get the Top Gear job now alongside her friend Evans. BBC in house transfer for Perry

  9. Steve Rider for presenter? He would be a very safe pair of hands, not likely to happen though.
    I can see Lee Mckenzie on 4, but only as lead presenter.
    It is worth noting that these days outside of sky talent seems to be shared amongst hannels.
    Therefore, maybe we could forsee Jake Humphrey released to present live race and perhaps Jenni Gow present the highlight shows.

  10. No one has mentioned Rick Edwards who is part of Channel 4’s stable of young presenters.
    I actually thought the Beeb might go for him when Jake stepped down as he has that same calm, inquisitive yet professional style. He’s also the guy who stepped in to rescue their 2011 WAC coverage when the other guy messed up the first few days so badly.
    I als think as Jake’s production company are linked to ITV they may be more likely to go for this type of person. It is also why Tom (perhaps if they did some joint work with Oz coverage) may be the person.
    I also think you have missed out on the reporter/driver interviewer side Abi Griffiths who should they go for the split studio/location presenting setup an ability to adapt to various locations/setups.

  11. I’m just gonna throw a few names out there. Apparently C4 are eyeing up Mark Webber to become the co-commentator.
    But yeah, Andy Jaye is a good shout. I could see it happen.
    One person that just dropped into my mind is Susie Wolff. Could she join as a pundit? just retired from racing, ex-F1 test driver, in my eyes it sounds good.
    So this is my prediction for the line up:
    Presenter: Andy Jaye
    Pundits/ Analysts: Coulthard, Wolff, Webber
    Commentators: Ben Edwards and Mark Webber
    Pit Reporters: Jennie Gow
    Magazine Show Presenter (TF1 Friday? LOL): Jake Humphrey

  12. Regarding main presenter, I would be happy for Suzie to carry on, she has certainly improved this year. But I wouldn’t miss her if she was replaced. I am expecting C4 to try something new, one of their own.

    Why haven’t you mentioned Tom Clarkson for Pit Lane Reporter? He has been excellent for BBC and should be considered highly by C4. I equally enjoy Lee, but I think she will have to many sporting commitments with BBC to move.

    Main commentator, I feel the same about Ben Edwards as I do Suzie Perry. Don’t mind either way. Again, I think C4 may mix things up here and bring back James Allen to the main role. Edwards could then pick up the 5 Live role.

    Pundits, DC must move across! I enjoy Alan McNish, so he would be a welcome addition, as would Webber. C4 always like to try new and fresh ideas with its shows, so I reckon they may bring back Gary Anderson.

    Rumours about Webber taking on the co-commentator role is interesting. I am surprised C4 want to replace DC with Webber for this role, DC has been excellent as commentator. Unless C4 are thinking about doing Webber/DC commentators like BBC in 2011 with Brundle/DC

    An interview with Eddie was published in The Mirror today, he hints that he has the TV bug now, so perhaps he may move across as well. Unless Sky needs to liven up their coverage 🙂

    With all that said, my predictions are:

    Presenter: “C4 talent”
    Pundits: Coulthard and Webber
    Analysts: Gary Anderson and Alan McNish
    Commentators: James Allen and Coulthard
    Pit Reporters: Tom Clarkson

  13. I have seen that David Coulthard is a Top Gear presenter, can’t see how he can work on C4 F1, unless they have studio based coverage. Also, Lee McKenzie is under contract for 3 big sporting events with the BBC, however she could continue as Rugby is before F1 starts and Olympics is during the summer break. Her only trouble would be Wimbledon but she doesn’t present on the final 2 days and usually doesn’t start until a Tuesday which again is unaffected in terms of F1. Finally, according to rumours I have seen, James Allen is locked in at 5Live, suggesting that Ben Edwards will be lead commentator.

  14. My prediction is that Coulthard will stay with F1. I think his pal EJ will also move to, but we need to expect a few newbies.

    Presenter: Charlie Webster
    Pundits: EJ, DC & Susie Wolff
    Analysts: Gary Anderson & Alan McNish
    Reporters: Nicki Shields & Tom Clarkson
    Interviewer: Nicki Shields
    Magazine: Tom Clarkson & Mark Webber
    Commentary: Ben Edwards & DC

    Would love to see Murray Walker in the comm box though, unfortunate that he’s too old. People like hisself deserve to live forever.

  15. I may consider watching C4’s presentation but please NO, Chris Evans, Eddie Jordan or Suzzie Perry. Mark Webber and Paul Di Resta have the ability I believe to pull off what is needed to rival Sky’s F1.
    My line-up would be:
    Presenting Team; Tom Clarkson (lead), Suzzie Wolff and Paul Di Resta
    Analyst; Garry Anderson
    Pit Reporter; Jennie Gow
    Commentators; Ben Edwards (Lead) David Coulthard
    Magazine Jake Humphrey & Richard Hammond – would prefer JH as lead presenter but hey ho!
    Pundit; Nigel Mansell(bit bland but knows his stuff and knowledgeable)
    Interviewer: Nicki Shields

    As an aside who thinks that Nico Rosberg will join Vettel at Ferrari next season with Max Verstappen joining Mercedes?

  16. I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Craig Doyle as a possible presenter. He has huge presenting experience and is a massive petrol head.

    I don’t know what his contract situation is with BT Sport but it might be that he can negotiate with BT Sport and continue presenting MotoGP / rugby or whatever he does there now on weekends when there isn’t any F1.

    Don’t forget that when Ben Edwards replaced Brundle on BBC he thanked ITV on Twitter for not standing in his way of realising F1 dream. So it sounded like he was under contract and perhaps they allowed to release him.

    Craig Doyle for me is a contender and I’d love to see him get the role.

    • I would say I’m neither here or there with Craig Doyle’s presenting style. I can’t see Doyle fitting rugby and MotoGP around any F1, which is why I didn’t include him (although I’ll add him to the section at the end).

  17. Channel 4 need to have a programme that is about F1
    The BBC reduced itself to being about the presenters and at the end was tosh
    Good ridance SP, DC, and EJ

    • Have to say that I agree BBC made it about the presenters rather than F1 and would have had better watching figures if it had.

  18. Looking through people’s ideas, this is a fan related choice. Not expecting this to happen:

    Presenter: Lee McKenzie
    Pundits: DC & Paul Di Resta
    Analyst: Gary Anderson
    Reporters: Tom Clarkson & Nicki Shields
    Interviewer: Nicki Shields
    Commentators: Ben Edwards & DC
    Magazine Show: Jake Humphrey

    If you want to imagine EJ in there, do so, but personally I wouldn’t choose him, all because of him having favourites. Yes all presenters have favourites but he mentions Vettel constantly and is deluded into believing he is the best – when he isn’t.

  19. Anyone EXCEPT Suzi Perry and Eddie Jordan.
    Perry makes way too many mistakes and knows little about F1, for example she failed to answer a TV quiz show question – ‘at which circuit is Stowe Corner’!
    Jordan has passed his sell buy date. likewise far too many mistakes and now talks nonsense a lot of the time.

  20. Missed all this stuff at the time but now read that DC and Jake’s co have secured the production rights. No idea who I would like as lead presenter (other than Jake) but otherwise take the whole beeb team, lose Suzi to TG and bring back Gary A. And of course keep EJ 🙂

  21. A name that I think could be very good but unexpected is Dermot O’Leary.

    I know, he has no experience with sport coverage but neither did Jake Humphrey and look how that turned out.

    He is a model professional, is widely liked, has plenty of enthusiasm and like Humphrey, is quite youthful. I know he’s in his 40s now.

    I hope I at least get one reply to this at some point. I had done a google to see if “Dermot O’Leary F1” came up with anything linking two and there was not a thing.

    I’m sure a lot wouldn’t like this choice and I can understand that, we associate him with X Factor and general light tv viewing. But I genuinely think he could be a great choice as Channel 4’s F1 presenter.

  22. Anybody but Suzi Perry. She should work for the Daily Mail. Get Lee, Jenny or even Amada Stretton but whatever C4 does, do not get Suzi.

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