In conversation with Louise Goodman (part two)

Our journey down memory lane continues with former ITV F1 pit lane reporter Louise Goodman (@LouGoodmanMedia). In part one (located here), we looked at Louise’s early career in motor sport.

In the second and final part, we chat about her ITV F1 highlights, ITV’s exit from the sport and her BTCC duties with Steve Rider.

F1B: So you were with the ITV F1 team from the start right until the very end. Unfortunately, you had some of the more; let us say ‘boring’ years with Schumacher winning.

LG: Well it was ironic actually that in our final race we finally got a British champion. Inevitably, a sport becomes more popular when you’re doing well in it, whatever the sport is. We’d gone through those years of Schumacher dominating, that’s not to take anything away from Michael; the sport became very popular in Germany those days. It was somewhat frustrating, but I don’t think that stopped us from making good programmes. We still had British drivers there to get involved with, such as Coulthard and Button.

F1B: When you found out that the BBC were taking over, just before Malaysia 2008, was it a surprise, was it a shock?

LG: It was a big surprise. We didn’t lose the rights, ITV relinquished the rights. We had just arrived for race two of that season, it came as a big shock to everybody. I remember Gerard Lane, who was our Series Editor, was a bit late arriving outside the hotel to leave for the circuit that morning. When he came down, he had a shell-shocked look on his face. He explained the situation and we was like “you’re kidding”? ITV had been renegotiating certain elements of that year’s contract whilst we were in Australia; there had been a few little bits to sort out.

F1B: So you knew things were going on behind the scenes?

LG: No, this was totally different. There were a few things that hadn’t been crossed and dotted in the new contract that needed to be ironed out. We were in the process of starting a new relationship, and then suddenly the brakes were on. None of us had any warning whatsoever. I won’t go into why, the reasons why it happened are well documented elsewhere, but it came to as a massive shock to all of us. I’m sure it wasn’t a decision that ITV took lightly and had circumstances been different I’m sure they would have kept Formula 1, the football, and various other sports as well. Suddenly, we were all out of a job.

F1B: I guess if you were to take 2008, your last interview in the pouring pit lane of Brazil, Hamilton winning the title, there’s not a better way of going out.

LG: I couldn’t dictate the outcome of the result, but we knew that we had a very good chance of ending our run with a British champion going into the weekend. If it did happen, I was determined that I was going to get the first proper interview with him. It was a memorable weekend for all sorts of reasons. It was the end of not only my ITV career but also my full-time Formula 1 career; I still go to some of the Grand Prix in other capacity. Whilst I was happy to move on and do different things, a huge chunk of my life was sort of ending. It was a big change.

2008-brazilian-gp-hamilton
In amongst a huge media melee, Louise Goodman grabs the first words with Lewis Hamilton following the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.

LG: The weekend was ITV at its best. I was surrounded by other broadcasters; I remember standing in the little tunnel going through into the pit lane. I’d left the area I’d been watching the race in, and all the guys were going “such a shame Lewis hasn’t won” and I’m going “it’s not over yet!” Broadcasters all around the world were proclaiming Felipe Massa as world champion, and I could hear James [Allen] and Martin [Brundle] in my ears, absolutely spot on, correctly reading the race and the circumstances. It was a great piece of broadcasting and analysis on their part. Then the bun fight ensued to try to get hold of Lewis in the pouring rain.

F1B: The pictures told the story.

LG: Sometimes, you want an interview to be framed beautifully, but actually sometimes, the pictures do tell the story. I managed to fight my way through, door stepping McLaren with a couple of other broadcasters. A few were waiting where they assumed Lewis was going, but I couldn’t run the risk of someone else diving in. The interviews are much more a prescribed set of circumstances now, so you know that the drivers’ are going to be brought to you, you know the team are going to dictate where he goes. It was a lot more of a free-for-all back in those days. I needed to make sure that I’d got that interview. We couldn’t go off air before we had it, our audience had to have that interview. He’s our world champion, and we’re damn well having him first!

F1B: On the other end of the spectrum, you have USA 2005, which for the viewer watching at home was a shambles.

LG: Shambles, your words not mine! (laughs) A tricky event, but from a broadcasting perspective it was a blinding event to work on. It was the epitome of live television. As we went on-air, we ripped up the running order because we didn’t know what was going to happen. All of the features that we’d been carefully filming and putting together over the previous two days went out the window. The story had changed massively and we had to reflect that story, but we still didn’t know which direction the story was going to go in. We didn’t know whether there was going to be a race, how cars were going to be racing, what’s going to happen. The buzz of being involved in that was just phenomenal. If you look at the statistics for that event. Normally you get the hard-core audience turn on for the pre-show. The figures will reach a peak for the start of the race, then they’ll dip a little bit and then up again for the end of the race. But here, they just kept climbing and climbing and climbing throughout that entire broadcast. It was some story, it wasn’t exactly a good story but it was one heck of a story.

F1B: It was a story told beautifully well, and you guys did well to fill the time!

LG: Well I’d like to think that we were reflecting and telling the story from all different angles. We were out in the grandstands talking to the fans. There was nothing going on the track so Ted and I were desperately trying to come up with input to help the commentators. Had there been a dog at turn three, I think it would have got on air that day! I look back on that race as “oh my god, that dreadful race”, the sport was not showing itself in the best light, but from a live broadcast perspective and from an ITV production perspective, it was a blinding bit of telly. The feeling of being involved in that was amazing, the adrenaline rush was incredible.

F1B: Moving back to the 2009 switch to the BBC, were you tempted to switch over at all?

LG: I had conversations with the guys at the Beeb, but to be quite blunt they didn’t offer me the job. It’s inevitable; you see it every time there’s a change of broadcasters. You can’t just take the last channel’s team and flip them all over onto your new team, although if you look at the Channel 4 team there’s a lot of crossover there. BBC wanted to go down a different route. I’m not sure whether Ted was trying to be kind but he said “they’re taking me because I’m less visible than you,” that’s Ted being very sweet! From my perspective, I knew Lee. I was more concerned about the potential for having, being passionate for the cause for female sports broadcasters, someone there for the right reasons. I was very glad that the BBC employed Lee [McKenzie]. Lee had worked with us at ITV, she’d done the GP2, she knew her stuff, she was a proper broadcaster, and she wasn’t being employed because she looked right. She was a proper broadcaster being employed because a) she’s going to do a good job and b) she knew what she was talking about. I knew that I was leaving it in safe hands, that sounds a bit condescending but I was very happy to pass the microphone over to somebody who was going to pick it up and run with it.

2005-usa-gp-mark-webber
Louise Goodman and Mark Webber try to make sense of the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

F1B: So, you moved onto touring cars with Steve Rider, you’ve been doing that for nearly a decade now. How’s that going?

LG: This might sound daft and people have said to me “you must miss the F1”, but I was doing it a long time. I was quite happy to have a fresh challenge in life. From a broadcasting perspective, the role I had in Formula 1 was somewhat limited. I do a lot more for the touring car programme, so externally you might think, “it’s not Formula 1” but from a personal perspective, I’d been doing that for years and been to all of those places. It’s an easier environment to work in from a broadcasting perspective; we’re a bigger fish in a much smaller pond. It’s much easier to get the drivers attention and to engage with the drivers. They have much more time to interact with us and they want to be on television. Steve is the lead presenter, but there have been occasions where I’ve presented the show when he’s been away. That’s a whole new challenge. It’s not just the duration as I’m working the same duration usually anyway, but it’s the pressure of being that lead presenter, there’s a hell of a lot going on. The likes of Steve Rider make it look so easy! There’s a lot of paddling going on, Steve glides along like a swan on top. I know what he has to contend with, live broadcasting is potentially volatile. It’s quite nerve wracking doing that job, you’re having to listen to five different people saying different things, and you have to make sure you’re spot on with timings. It’s been great to have the opportunity to do that, I now have the opportunity to do grid walks. I’m free forming for seven or eight minutes of television, that’s a long time to be talking.

F1B: Compared to the 30 seconds in Melbourne!

LG: Yeah, absolutely! Yes, that would be a quick chat to one driver. Martin was the initiator of the grid walk when Neil Duncanson said to him about doing something different for the [1997] British Grand Prix, and now there is no motor sport programme that doesn’t have a grid walk. I was a little bit concerned, Martin’s so good at this, I don’t want to be copying what Martin does, so I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, but doing it my own way. Again, it’s a volatile situation, the driver might not be there, you have to start elsewhere, you’ve suddenly got to find someone else to talk to, you might end up looking like a numpty without proper planning!

F1B: Just to finish off with then, do you have any overriding memories or thoughts of your broadcasting career.

LG: The memories that stick with me are the memorable interviews, on a personal level, speaking to Eddie Irvine when he won his first Grand Prix, speaking to Rubens Barrichello when he won his first race. I always said to EJ when I left to go to ITV that I wanted the first interview when Jordan won their first race! It was the drivers whom I had a relationship with, the drivers I knew and worked with when I was a press officer. It’s great when you manage to get information out of a driver that no one else has, such as the bad news for Damon and Arrows in Hungary, and then going out on a high with that final interview with Lewis. Funnily enough one of the interviews I do remember the most was an interview I did with Jean Alesi, again a driver I worked with in F3000, we went down to his house. It ended up being one of the longest features that ITV ever did; we ran it over two different shows at the French Grand Prix. We were in his house, he was cooking dinner, he was singing with us. I was very proud and pleased with that one; Steve Aldous brilliantly put it together.

My thanks go to Louise Goodman for spending the time with me on the above interview.

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4 thoughts on “In conversation with Louise Goodman (part two)

  1. Many thanks for the fascinating interview with Louise! It was great to get the behind-the-scenes perspective.

  2. Martin Brundle may well have been the initiator of the grid walk in 1997 for UK terrestrial, but I’m pretty sure Allard Kalff did live interviews for Eurosport, from the grid, for Eurosport’s programmes before 1997

  3. Steve Aldous went on from after ITV’s coverage to work for BBC F1 and is now with C4 F1. Do we have any numbers in the public domain about how many ex- ITV + BBC staff & how many ex- BBC only staff went to SKY and C4?

  4. Great insight from Louise into the broadcasting perspective particularly with her work on ITV F1. The ITV F1 team really revolutionised how the sport was covered in comparison to the more sporadic attention f1 received by the BBC in the years before 1997. As someone who fell in love with the sport aged 10 watching ITV’s coverage I can’t help but believe that their commitment and engaging style really helped introduce the sport to a new generation of fans like myself. The superb in depth treatment that the sport has received on a broadcasting front by BBC, Sky and Channel 4 since 2008 is very much built on the standards and legacy ITV F1 brought to our tv screens in the late 90s and 00s. For that reason they’ll never be bettered!

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