Brundle to step away from Sky F1 microphone for three races this season

Martin Brundle is to reduce his commitments with Sky Sports this year and will be absent from three Formula 1 race weekends.

Writing on his Twitter, Brundle said “I’m not in Azerbaijan this weekend (or Sochi and Suzuka later in the year) but my great and very talented friends at SkyF1 are of course. Because only Sky invest in bringing you every single minute and lap of F1 live, on various platforms.”

Brundle has been commentating on Formula 1 for UK viewers since 1997 with ITV, BBC and more recently Sky Sports. During his early ITV days, Brundle missed several races due to his sportscar commitments, as well as missing the Hungarian Grand Prix on occasion. Brundle called every race from 2009 until the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.

Immediately after the chequered flag waved in Monaco, the former Jordan and Benetton racer suffered a small heart attack, resulting in him missing the Canadian Grand Prix that season. One week later, Brundle also skipped the Baku race weekend, which clashed with his Le Mans commitments.

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Fast-forward to 2017, and Brundle was taken ill prior to the British Grand Prix race, having been caught up in a sickness bug that affected a portion of the Formula 1 paddock. The bug caused him to miss the Hungarian Grand Prix as well. On three of the four occasions, Paul di Resta replaced Brundle in the commentary box. Anthony Davidson was the super-sub in Hungary 2017 when di Resta was himself replacing then-Williams driver Felipe Massa in the cockpit.

It is unclear if Brundle’s absence from this weekend’s proceedings, or Russia and Japan later this season, is on health grounds, or whether there is a scheduling conflict that prevents him from attending, although it is slightly odd that Brundle’s absence was unreferenced during Sky’s Chinese Grand Prix coverage.

Nevertheless, his reduced schedule gives him around a three week break between China and Spain, and a further four weeks between Singapore and USA.

Analysis
First and foremost, from the outset the thing of utmost importance is Brundle’s health, and I absolutely hope that everything is okay with him. His tweet leaves open room for interpretation as the tweet does not say why he is missing the races, but this is not the forum for speculation about his health.

The Formula 1 calendar this season is 21 races, the joint longest it has been, and may only increase in size moving forward. This length takes its toll on those working in the sport, travelling the world, away from home.

Brundle has been part of the paddock for over thirty years. At some point, in the same way others have, he may want to reduce his Formula 1 broadcasting commitments partially, or fully. It is unknown if this is part of that wider picture.

BT Sport’s MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder retired from his MotoGP duties at the end of 2017, citing the ever increasing travel as one of his key reasons. For Sky, their key on-air personnel will be, or have been, going through a contract renewal process ahead of new contracts kicking in ready for 2019.

I hope we see Brundle around for the medium to long-term in the commentary box. If not, I would be unsurprised if Paul di Resta is indeed in line to succeed Brundle as Sky’s leading Formula 1 analyst.

Updated on April 29th to correctly reflect that Davidson replaced Brundle for Hungary 2017 and not di Resta.

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14 thoughts on “Brundle to step away from Sky F1 microphone for three races this season

  1. That Twitter post is such a joke – the “because only Sky invest in bringing you every single minute and lap of F1 live, on various platforms” comment sounds as though he was being held at gunpoint by Murdoch…

  2. I never really rated Brundle that much as a driver, but as a commentator/pundit he’s the best I’ve seen since I started watching F1 in the 70s.
    He is also right in what he said about Sky, the BBC didn’t want to invest, nor did ITV, and if you listen to 5Live now coverage gets interrupted with football updates and other crap. Either cover it properly or not at all.
    Pay TV does have it’s downsides, but the key thing is that they cover sport properly. The BBC is the host broadcaster for the World Snooker Championships on at the moment, yet most of it is on the red button. The ECB have come up with a barm pot 100 ball tournament, which apparently is to appease the BBC because they don’t want to cover more than 2.5 hours.

    You get what you pay for, FTA coverage is generally lacking now unless it involves the Boat Race, 6 Nations or Wimbledon. It was never great before looking back, although the BBC used to cover Cricket well in the 70s and 80s.

    It will be a sad day when Brundle decides to step away from F1, it’s difficult to see who would replace him. Jack Nicholls et al aren’t fit to lick his boots.

    • If full live F1 coverage rights were to be put on a public tender I’m sure there would be others who would be ready to invest a lot of money into doing a fine job of it. Channel 4 put themselves forward not only at the end of 2015 but also at the end of the 2012 season when the BBC wanted to reduce their budget. And from what I understand, ITV narrowly lost out to Channel 4 last time round.

  3. The tweet does seem to have gone through the Sky’s social media filter before being marked as “safe” and is open to interpretation. The fact that this announcement comes just days before a race weekend will only increase further speculation. Martin’s health, naturally comes first.

    For those of us who have been following the sport for over 30 years, Martin’s presence will be missed.
    Martin tows a fine line of being outspoken and true to his word while also operating within the confines of his paymasters Sky and ultimately liberty media.

    Younger contributors to this site would do well to remember that he has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the paddock building up a network of valuable relationships over his time as driver, manger and broadcaster. Consequently he is able to convey informed commentary and inner knowledge without betraying a confidence.

    Sky’s gold standard broadcasting will inevitably slip the day he decides to stay home back in Kings Lynn.

    I hope he is well.
    .

  4. I have been watching F1 on TV for over 15 years, and I think Brundle will retire from punditry within few years. I think David Coulthard is one of the best pundits (after Martin), we have and don’t be surprised to see him on Sky next year, once the Channel 4 contract ends.

  5. Anthony Davidson is a better co-commentator than Paul Di Resta but only does a handful of races due to his other racing commitments and has cited the amount of travelling as a barrier to doing more.

    That said Di Resta has really improved from when he first started…it’ll be interesting to see what happens next year

  6. Hi, just watched Ted’s Qualy Notebook and at the end he mentioned that Martin Brundle would be away due to a family function (his Daughter’s Birthday according to Ted) and for the races in Sochi and Suzuka later in the year. Cheers.

  7. It sadly looks like the beginning of the end for Martin. I don’t begrudge him more free time, but Diresta is boring as hell and I love Martin. Martin is the best F1 commentator ever, closely followed by Crofty. I hope Martin doesn’t step away.

  8. Martin Brundle is a treasure for F1 broadcasting: smart, inisghtful, with a wry humor and the knowledge from three eras of F1. It will be a sad day when he retires.

  9. Paul di Resta is awful. Antony Davison would be far better to replace him overall if that were possible.

  10. I don’t blame Martin Brundle forscheduling some breaks. .it is a pretty strenuous schedule and health scares would should make most review their future.
    He is insightful and interesting to listen to. ..but it’s Sky ..so it’s a bit sanitised. James Hunt was for me the best co-comnentator alongside Murray Walker but Brundle is awfully close second. I like either of the Sky Co commentators but Coultard is not really that much better…and the Sky lads can improve. Mark Webber is the dark horse ..I just like his honesty as I did with Hunt.

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