Mark Webber, Susie Wolff and Karun Chandhok are all set to feature in Channel 4’s Formula 1 line-up for the 2016 season.
The word on the ground
Channel 4 and Whisper Films have only officially announced one person so far, that being David Coulthard. The remaining announcements, along with coverage plans, are set to come at this coming Tuesday.
As reported multiple times over the past month on this site, Steve Jones will be presenting Channel 4’s coverage. Jones is currently in Barcelona for the second week of testing preparing for the start of the season and has already conducted interviews with the likes of Nico Rosberg. Coulthard will be alongside Jones and also up in the commentary box with Ben Edwards, the two moving straight across from their BBC F1 partnership. In the pit lane will be Karun Chandhok. Chandhok is also out in Barcelona, with AUTOSPORT. This blog learnt yesterday that Chandhok will be Channel 4’s pit lane reporter, something that has been supported in F1 Racing’s season preview magazine.
Chandhok will not be the only person in the pit lane for Channel 4 as Lee McKenzie will also be reporting from track side. McKenzie was first reported by James Allen’s website a few weeks ago. It is great that McKenzie will be continuing to cover Formula 1, although it is assumed McKenzie will not be at every race due to her BBC duties this year covering Wimbledon and the Olympic Games (the latter does not clash with the F1, but will require some preparation).
On the punditry side of things, according to The Guardian, Mark Webber and Susie Wolff will be part of Channel 4’s team. Speaking to The Guardian, David Coulthard said “We’ll have a professional presenter. Then we’ll have a mix of diverse people, some of whom will be recognisable to the masses, some will not. We will have a range of different views. The full team will be announced next week, but as a fan of motorsport, which is what I am, I am excited by some of the people we have coming in.” If true, Webber is a fantastic signing. Watching the BBC’s final Grand Prix broadcast last season, you got the impression that Webber was auditioning for a role somewhere which I commented on at the time.
The signing of Wolff will surprise people. I’m not too surprised. From an anecdotal perspective, I predicted this in my series of posts over Christmas, plus she rated highly in the site survey that followed. Coulthard’s comment to The Guardian implies to me that the analysts will be rotated across the season in an effort to keep the output fresh. This is where the likes of Alain Prost are likely to come in. Whether Eddie Jordan fits into this category too, I don’t know.
The 5 Live conundrum
As referenced on Tuesday, Jack Nicholls will be BBC Radio 5 Live’s lead commentator. This blog understands that Nicholls is set to be announced as covering the role full-time. Note the phrase “full-time”. The problem is that there are clashes between the Formula 1 and Formula E calendar. Specifically, the Long Beach ePrix clashes with the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend and more notably the season finale in London clashes with the Austrian Grand Prix.
As of writing, Nicholls is not scheduled to be commentating on the Long Beach ePrix on Saturday 2nd April. Instead, Nicholls will be with the 5 Live team in Bahrain. The question you have to ask is whether it is feasible to have the lead Formula E commentator also commentating on Formula 1 full-time going forward. I don’t know the answer to that, but there are people high-up within the paddock bound to be unhappy that the same voice is commentating on both Formula 1 and Formula E…
Alongside Nicholls are understood to be Tom Clarkson, Jennie Gow (already confirmed) and Allan McNish. As with all these things, we don’t know whether anyone was offered a Channel 4 role and rejected said role, or have been offered other avenues to pursue within the BBC.
Update on March 3rd at 19:20 – Nicholls has confirmed his 5 Live role on his Twitter account. Obviously this also means that, as reported previously, James Allen will not be part of 5 Live’s output this year.
Update on March 3rd at 20:20 – Mark Gallagher has confirmed that himself and Clarkson will be part of the 5 Live preview show tonight. I’ve updated the various pages on this site to reflect the confirmation. Not sure about the status of McNish at the moment.
Update on March 3rd at 21:40 – Jennie Gow has confirmed on the 5 Live preview show that Allan McNish will be alongside Nicholls in the BBC 5 Live commentary box for the 2016 season. So, the confirmed 5 Live team is Nicholls, McNish, Clarkson, Gow and Gallagher.
Update on March 4th at 13:35 – Chandhok is confirmed! He interviewed Lewis Hamilton during the lunch break in Barcelona, conveniently holding a Channel 4 microphone.