Flashback: 2000 French Grand Prix

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of The F1 Broadcasting Blog, we are looking back at five races from the archive and chewing over them. Being a broadcasting site, these races are not being analysed from a racing standpoint, but instead from a media perspective.

The five races include Grand Prix from the BBC and ITV eras, crossing over from the Americas, into Europe and Australia. Some races picked are your usual affair, whilst others have major significance in Formula 1 history. I did think about looking at five ‘major’ races, but each race has equal merit from a broadcasting standpoint, irrespective of how great the race was.

Race two of this series takes us back to the millennium and a time in Formula 1’s history when McLaren and Ferrari were in charge of the championship. The sporting world was dominated by the football European Championships and the Olympic Games. By the time Formula 1 moved into July, the title battle was starting to shape up between Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari and the McLaren drivers.

On that note, we head to the 2000 French Grand Prix! The key broadcast details can be found below:

  • Date: Sunday 2nd July 2000
  • Channel: ITV
  • Presenter: Jim Rosenthal
  • Reporter: Louise Goodman
  • Reporter: Kevin Piper
  • Commentator: James Allen
  • Commentator: Martin Brundle
  • Analyst: Tony Jardine
  • Analyst: Olivier Panis (pre-race)

ITV’s team of seven had an unusual look for this round of the 2000 season. Murray Walker dislocated his hip prior to the French Grand Prix following his appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, meaning that James Allen moved out of pit lane and into the commentary box for his debut alongside Martin Brundle. In Allen’s place was Kevin Piper, a recognisable voice to viewers in the Anglia region at the time.

Pre-Race
Before the ITV F1 intro, quick snippets of David Coulthard’s and Michael Schumacher’s post qualifying interviews are shown, which is a cool way of introducing the show. Apollo 440’s ‘Blackbeat’ is the tune for ITV F1’s coverage, their best opener in my opinion and a tune that gets you ready for a Grand Prix.

Following the usual scenic opener, Jim Rosenthal greets us from ITV’s trackside studio alongside Tony Jardine and Olivier Panis. Panis is a guest on the show, working as McLaren test driver, adding a bit of variety to ITV’s pre-show. It is a good opportunity for Panis to explain how his McLaren role benefits the team. Panis also mentions his desire to return as full-time driver for 2001, having raced for Prost in 1999.

Jardine and Rosenthal briefly analyse the qualifying session, with various clips shown from Schumacher, Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. Panis’ expertise is evident from early on in the programme, giving his opinion on Hakkinen’s form dip in qualifying. ITV’s grid graphics suit the era as Jardine talks through the complete grid with all teams mentioned.

2000-french-grand-prix-studio
From left to right: Olivier Panis, Tony Jardine and Jim Rosenthal in ITV’s on-site studio.

ITV’s programme continues the French theme with its next feature, as James Allen interviews Alain Prost about the struggles that his Prost team are having. It was a serious sit down interview as Allen asked the tough questions about Prost’s future in the sport (the team went bankrupt prior to the 2002 season).

After some studio analysis on the Prost situation, Martin Brundle talked us through one of Eddie Irvine’s qualifying laps in his Jaguar! I love this on-board lap as it shows how much of a handful the Jaguar car was to control with Irvine nearly losing control at one stage. Again, kudos to ITV for picking someone different for the on-board lap instead of the usual suspects.

On the other side of a Euro 2000 advertisement is a fascinating VT voiced by Louise Goodman looking at how the communication system between the teams and race direction has improved during the 2000 season. Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali showed the viewer what benefits the system has and how the teams interact with it. This made me ‘wow’ having never seen this feature. Goodman remarks how all the timing used to be distributed using 11,000 sheets of paper, which no longer was the case.

There is a clear trend during the build-up: all the features are relatively small in length, but they are meaty and engaging enough to keep the casual viewer interested. They are not BAFTA award winning by any stretch, but they do their job perfectly. Rosenthal hands over to Kevin Piper for a news update concerning the future of the British Grand Prix (yawn), the 2001 calendar and Juan Montoya’s status. The usual pre-race grid interviews follow next, whilst James Allen talks us through the race strategy. After that, its race time!

Race
The few minutes before the race consists of discussion between Allen and Brundle, focussing on the strategy and the qualifying performances of the leading drivers. One of the things I like, and miss in modern-day Formula 1, is the vibrant field: the red (Ferrari), green (Jaguar), yellow (Jordan), blue (Benetton) amongst others. So colourful, and Formula 1 looks so good as a result.

This is a tense time; you’re in the zone, the critical zone here where you must not make a mistake. You know that if you stall the engine, you’re going to be at the back of the grid. You’re looking in the mirror; you’re thinking that they’re taking an enormous amount of time to file in line behind me. Your temperatures are rising; you’ve got to stay very, very calm.

Your seatbelts seem a little bit too tight, your right boot seems a bit too loose, you’re moving the visor around and the lights are on… stay calm, put it in first gear, put it in 12,000 revs and just stare at those lights! (Lights off) Control the wheel spin, you’re away, see who’s doing well around you, are you on the attack or are you on the defence! – ITV co-commentator Martin Brundle calling the start of the race

Brundle called the start, which was different to your usual start sequence from the lead commentator. Frustratingly, the director held the opening shot too long meaning that we missed Rubens Barrichello’s overtake on Coulthard. The director chose not to air replays of the start either. To their credit, they did show us replays of the things we needed to see as opposed to frivolous activity: Nick Heidfeld poking his teammate Jean Alesi into a spin made the air.

Once the opening four were running in order, the director was not afraid to show viewers action further down the top ten if things were quiet up front, in this instance the battle between the younger Schumacher and the two Jordan’s. We hear from both Piper and Goodman early in the race before the first phase of pit stops, Piper reporting from Prost with Goodman reporting on Ferrari. Quickly when things are not easily noticeable on-screen, the ITV team are able to deliver the information through their pit crew on the ground, showing the instant benefit of having reporters in pit lane.

2000-french-grand-prix-prost-pit-wall
A shot from the Prost pit wall as driver Nick Heidfeld bodges a pit stop by stalling the car.

The curse of ITV’s advert breaks kicked in early during the race, the channel missing Coulthard’s overtake on Barrichello for second position. After the break, the first pit stop sequence started resulting in a flurry of activity. Without adequate graphics to explain who had made a pit stop, this sequence was not the best to follow, but Allen and Brundle do an excellent job to keep viewers on top of the strategy. The direction is okay, but the graphical side lets the product down.

One noticeable omission is on-board cameras. The F1 Digital product had exclusive access to certain angles, meaning that the World Feed was neglected. A very brief on-board is shown from Jean Alesi’s Prost as Alex Wurz attempted a “pathetic” overtake which resulted in Wurz going straight on at the final bend. The on-board shots from Alesi’s Prost and Irvine’s Jaguar are pedestrian, painting the sport in a negative light. Nevertheless, the director does manage to sneak in two in-car shots from Barrichello in the last two laps.

The director changed focus towards Coulthard and Schumacher, as the Scot hunted the German driver down for the lead. There are a few great helicopter shots showing Coulthard’s attempted moves on Schumacher at the Adelaide hairpin. The director catches the famous gesture from Coulthard to Schumacher; viewers sadly do not see on-board footage from either car though.

Allen: The biggest question marks of course after this Martin will be whether this is the point Ron Dennis and McLaren tells the team that it’s going to be David Coulthard that has to chase after Schumacher in the championship. [..] It’ll be the question that the press are asking in the morning.

Brundle: Well as the man who negotiates David Coulthard’s contract, I would like to claim the Fifth Amendment on that one, but it’s certainly a question that’s got to be asked.

Coulthard’s overtake on Schumacher is brilliantly captured from a camera on the inside of the Adelaide hairpin. The camera angles are amazing, and the sound helps show off the speed of the Formula 1 cars. Although the track is slow and cumbersome in places, the shots chosen help demonstrate the fast direction change that Formula 1 cars have.

ITV covered the battle at the front live, saving their commercial break until after the final pit stop sequence, when it was clear that the top four were unlikely to be battling again in the race. Outside of the top four, the order had not changed. Villeneuve, the two Jordan cars and the two Williams drivers completed the top nine. Both Allen and Brundle praised the performance of Jenson Button. With Schumacher out the equation, Coulthard claims victory in France!

Post-Race
Allen manages to shoehorn in a mention for the Euro 2000 final between France and Italy on the lap back to the pits, the game referenced sporadically throughout the broadcast. The World Feed director shows us the parc ferme celebrations, Brundle reminding viewers of the plane crash that Coulthard was involved in a few months previously. We get our first piece of analysis at this stage with Goodman interviewing Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, Brawn calling the result a “disappointment”. Allen runs down the championship order as we see slow-motion clips of Coulthard winning the race.

The initial post-race replays show us snippets we had not previously seen, including a fantastic overtake from Button on Irvine at the hairpin. There is still a lack of on-board camera angles, but the new footage makes up for it as we head to the podium. After the champagne celebration, Rosenthal takes us into the first post-race ad-break.

2000-french-grand-prix-lead-overtake
The key moment: David Coulthard overtaking Michael Schumacher to take the lead!

On the other side of the break, Jardine talks briefly about Schumacher’s tactics inside and outside the paddock, Schumacher refusing to talk about the title yet as Ferrari know things can change in the latter half of the season. The press conference is next with the top three drivers: Coulthard, Hakkinen and Barrichello.

Coulthard apologised for his “hand gestures” stating that his emotions were high at the time, his description of the incident making Hakkinen and journalists laugh during the unilateral, “there’s children watching so I won’t be showing it again.”

Straight from the press conference into a live link up with McLaren technical director Adrian Newey, Rosenthal asking Newey questions from the studio. The main difference between this and a present day paddock interview is that the questions and answers are far more structured and concise, rather than a discussion based format where the analyst would chip into proceedings. From Newey to Walker we head as we get an update from Walker live from his home. Walker compliments Coulthard’s victory and Allen’s commentary saying that Allen did an “absolutely superlative job.”

Back from the second post-race ad-break, Rosenthal and Jardine analyse the key overtakes and moments from the race including Coulthard’s middle finger moment and eventual overtake on Schumacher. We cut to a recorded paddock interview with Piper in the middle of a media scrum interviewing Schumacher, a lot less organised than the media pen of today. Contrast the Schumacher interview to the next interview as Louise Goodman holds a lone microphone interviewing Jacques Villeneuve without any surrounding media!

The usual promotion follows, and that is a wrap live coverage of the 2000 French Grand Prix.

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6 thoughts on “Flashback: 2000 French Grand Prix

  1. Nice review. I was 10 years old when I watched this race live and have limited (almost no) memories of it. I remember the lack of onboard cameras at the time, something that you referenced in your piece. Maybe you could clarify something about the access that the TV director had to the onboard cameras? I thought that the local TV director had access to a defined number of onboard cameras (maybe 3 or 4) which were the same throughout the weekend. Whenever ITV did the world feed for the British Grand Prix, they knew that the British audience liked onboard cameras so used them quite extensively (maybe too much). It could have been that the French director didn’t have a preference for onboard shots and therefore decided to use them minimally.

  2. notice how in the broadcast Olivier panis uses the word seriously. full broadcast of the race can be viewed on YouTube.
    ITV’s coverage

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