The merry-go-round: what we know

With just 19 days until the Australian Grand Prix and the Qatar MotoGP, we are none the wiser to the identity of Channel 4’s Formula 1 team or BT Sport’s MotoGP team. But, there are some things that we do know. And, as always, it looks like we could have some shocks on the cards…

BBC part company with James Allen
The F1 Broadcasting Blog can confirm that BBC Radio 5 Live have parted company with James Allen. Allen has been part of BBC’s 5 Live F1 team since the beginning of 2012, working as lead commentator for the majority of races. In the races that Allen did not cover, either Jonathan Legard or Jack Nicholls substituted for Allen. It is understood that the decision to drop Allen for 2016 was made prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Allen has since updated his LinkedIn to confirm his BBC exit.

Jack Nicholls will again be commentating on some of the races with 5 Live. We do not yet know which races, but Nicholls is unlikely to be commentating on any race which clashes with the Formula E Championship. Alongside Nicholls will be Jennie Gow, who is staying with 5 Live. As that link shows though, what exactly the ‘team’ consists of appears to be shrouded in some mystery. The problem we have is that: the BBC took a decision to exit its Formula 1 TV contract. Anyone under a BBC F1 TV contract for 2015 is therefore still under contract with BBC, unless they are able to escape from said contract. Even though Gow is radio, inevitably no TV coverage means that the radio operation is being downsized.

Allan McNish looks like he is staying with BBC F1. Recent tweets certainly give the indication that McNish is remaining with the BBC, and will be by default be 5 Live’s co-commentator one would imagine. At this stage, we don’t know about the status of Tom Clarkson in all of this. Who will be Allan McNish’s partner when Nicholls is not around? Your guess is as good as mine. However…

Is a shock on the cards at Channel 4?
This blog understands that the Channel 4 team does contain at least one major surprise. And given that Allen is not tied to the BBC any more, the chances of him turning up as part of Channel 4’s team increases significantly. Inevitably, thoughts turn to Allen potentially grabbing the lead commentator role instead of Ben Edwards, a move which would shock a lot of people reading this post.

A more likely thought I feel is that Allen could be one of Channel 4’s pit lane reporters alongside Lee McKenzie, with Edwards remaining in the commentary box. Bear in mind that Alex Kalinauckas, writing on James Allen’s website on February 9th, stated that McKenzie and Edwards would be part of Channel 4’s team. You would not write something that is knowingly inaccurate. Allen becoming pit lane reporter would not be surprising if Tom Clarkson is tied into a BBC contract. Bear in mind that the Channel 4 photo shoot occurred in the week beginning February 8th, so the team would have been finalised at the time of Kalinauckas’ post.

If Allen is Channel 4’s pit lane reporter, then it would be a role that I would be happy to see him in given that I enjoy reading his thoughts and also enjoyed his original stint as pit lane reporter with ITV. Allen is good in front of the camera too, and given that Channel 4 are having two presentation teams in one, Allen could be the face they want to help in that respect, not necessarily as presenter but in a journalist style role. Like I said though, if Allen though was announced as lead commentator, that would be major shock. And, I imagine for those reading this, not exactly a positive shock either. Assuming for a second that Allen is in as lead commentator and Edwards is not, then the latter is presumably still locked into a BBC contract.

Alternatively, Allen may not be part of Channel 4’s team at all…

Suzi Perry set to join BT’s MotoGP team
According to Charles Sale writing in the Daily Mail, Suzi Perry has been signed up by BT Sport to work on their MotoGP coverage. Sale does not elaborate much further, saying that Perry has been signed up to “work on a variety of roles” for their coverage. If true, it is a fantastic signing for BT Sport and bolsters their MotoGP coverage following a successful second season. It is difficult to read much into a small paragraph, but the implication is that there is some change to the BT Sport team.

Craig Doyle was understood to be one of the four on Channel 4’s shortlist to host their Formula 1 coverage. Whether we can expect Doyle to jump, I don’t know. My instinct is that BT want Doyle to focus on their rugby coverage as opposed to juggling between rugby and MotoGP. A tweet from Ben Constanduros on Monday 29th February went as follows: “Last week was a good one, spoke to People from BBC, C4, Sky and FOM – enlightening! broadcasting shocks coming – not involving me though!” The follow-up was that it doesn’t involve Channel 4, so we will have to wait and see on that front.

Finalised television listings go to press on Wednesday 9th March. No matter what, we will all know the answers soon. Unless we hear anything more in the next few days, this will probably be the final piece of this nature. So, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday. Or next week, whenever it may be. Let the announcements begin!

Update on March 1st at 19:55 – As I said, before Wednesday 9th March. David Coulthard has gone on public record on yesterday’s Hawksbee and Jacobs Show on talkSPORT (14:30 to 15:00 segment, 20 minutes in) that the Channel 4 press launch will be taking place on Tuesday 8th March.

Update on March 2nd at 21:25 – This blog learnt late last night that the announcement of Perry to join BT’s MotoGP team, which was scheduled for today, had been pushed back at the last minute. Perry was due to appear at the MotoGP test in Qatar, but has not showed up.

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11 thoughts on “The merry-go-round: what we know

  1. Glad Suzy got a gig with MotoGP where she fits well as she was a main reason why I just could not bring myself to watch the BBC F1 coverage. One more smirk, one more wink would have tipped me over. Bring on the F1 but for me bring on Indycar! ☺

  2. Very happy that Suzi is returning to MotoGP will BT. Because Allen has left BBC, I can see Nicholls doing the 5 live commentary duties almost full time. however when there is a Formula E race, i would think that the BBC would send out Johnathan Legard in his place, as like what happened during 2012/13 when Allen was not present. But everyone being everywhere is really confusing me, apparently John Watson is set to be on the C4F1 team as DC said in London, that “an older figure that most wouldn’t remember” would be on the team. I’d be surprised if anymore of the BT team is changed and apart from Allen departing, i think that 5live will stay the same. I’m intrigued to see the entire C4 team though, even if i have a rough idea of whats gonna happen.

  3. I find it hard to believe that James Allen would be a Pit Reporter instead of commentating. Having said that, when the BBC first took the coverage back from ITV, there were overwhelming comments asking that the BBC did not not hire Allen, which maybe explains why he ended up on the radio.
    Allen is the type that likes to have his finger in several pies, so if he has left the Beeb then it’s almost certain that he will end up on C4.

    • In an article posted on his website on 27th Feb, James Allen mentions having to be careful when commentating as the Red Bulls and Torro Rossos look so similar. I would miss Edwards but wonder if there is scope for commentating to be shared, different sessions etc?

      • Yes, he did. That’s a very good spot!

        I have to say, I do like James’s F1 website. He brings a great deal of knowledge and insight, so I do hope Channel 4 can make use of him in some capacity.

  4. I hated James Allen as a commentator, think he would suit a Journalist role quite well. However, not as technically strong as Gary Anderson or Craig Scarborough, he could be used as an Analyst of that sort or an insider Journalist, similar to Tom Clarkson last year, news from teams garages and the pitlane, along with his online columns and blog.

  5. Suzi Perry was on The One Show last night, she’s part of a Sport Relief challenge involving sailing around Britain starting next week. Her and the rest of the celebrities will be training for that for the next few days. They showed a photo of them together which must have done as part of a photo shoot in recent days. Hardly a last minute decision.

    Don’t know how that fits in with a report of BT expecting Suzi to be in Qatar.

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