Flashback: 2005 United States 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 three takes us to North America and the 2005 United States Grand Prix! The 2005 season was a real turning point for Formula 1, with the Schumacher era of 2000 to 2004 now consigned to the history books. 2005 was the time for the likes of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen to come to the forefront and shine. The previous weekend in Canada, Raikkonen reduced his gap to Alonso and hoped to do so again at Indianapolis.

But, if you have come this far, you know that for Formula 1, the weekend of June 17th, 18th and 19th in 2005 was no ordinary weekend… The key broadcast details can be found below:

  • Date: Sunday 19th June 2005
  • Channel: ITV1
  • Presenter: Jim Rosenthal
  • Reporter: Louise Goodman
  • Reporter: Ted Kravitz
  • Commentator: James Allen
  • Commentator: Martin Brundle
  • Analyst: Mark Blundell

Back in 2005, smartphones were not really a thing. MySpace was the major social media player in its early stages. On the TV front, live coverage of North American qualifying sessions on ITV certainly was not a thing. The first I heard of any problems in USA was by tuning in to ITV’s race broadcast. Arguably, the US Grand Prix broadcast was ITV’s finest hour.

Pre-Race
“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman–Turner Overdrive is an apt song for the opening titles, given the events that are about to unfold. “This is definitely not Formula 1’s finest hour. As it stands, I cannot tell you whether there’s going to be a Grand Prix or not,” Jim Rosenthal says during his introduction. Rosenthal outlined the key issues from the outset, hinting at the possibility of a new chicane prior to the final bend, thus preventing Michelin’s tyres from failing.

We hear from ITV’s pit lane reporters Ted Kravitz and Louise Goodman heavily throughout the build-up, more so than Rosenthal and Mark Blundell. In the first half of the programme, Kravitz updates viewers from various locations, eavesdropping on Tony George’s office. In my opinion, this build-up is the start of the on-screen Kravitz that we see today. Most of his time on-screen until this point since 2002 had been the usual interview based material, but USA 2005 was a completely new challenge for all concerned.

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Renault’s Flavio Briatore and FOM’s Bernie Ecclestone in animated disagreement.

There are many hard-hitting interviews in the build-up, with the likes of Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart, Ferrari communications officer Luca Colajanni and Sir Jackie Stewart interviewed. Colajanni’s interview with Goodman does not reveal too much, but her pieces with Stoddart throughout the programme were damming. “If ever there was a time for Formula 1 to come together and leave the bloody politics behind, now is the time,” Stoddart said. Every anecdote revealed a new piece of information: Stewart in his interview mentioned potential lawsuits should the Michelin teams start the race.

Rosenthal and Blundell hold together the programme between the various interviews, discussing Formula 1’s future in America. Their discussion is a sideshow to the pictures, which show the gravity of the situation, paddock characters in heated conversation. Furthermore, not once have ITV shown viewers the qualifying order, or any features taped before the race weekend. The running order truly ripped up. The only feature that aired was a lap of Indianapolis on-board with McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen. Rosenthal and Blundell analyse a slower version of the lap, showing the proposed location of the chicane. If the events of 2005 occurred in 2016, I think broadcasters would have used a broader range of material to cover the tyre issues, including the use of virtual graphics to show where they was failing.

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Bernie Ecclestone tries to explain the situation to ITV’s Martin Brundle.

As we approach race start, you can feel the anxiety increase as people realise that the building work is not happening any time soon. Martin Brundle joined the programme towards race time, Brundle recollecting his experiences from 1994 following Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger’s deaths when the GPDA and the FIA made changes to multiple tracks. The FIA made the changes prior to the race weekend, which was not the case with USA 2005.

The grid walk with Brundle is different, who “doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” Brundle’s first grid interview is with Ecclestone. I wonder what Chase Carey would say in a similar situation…

MB – It looks like only four cars are going to start this race.

BE – Well there’s a lot more cars here. They’re all here [on the grid].

MB – I’m told that maybe even the Minardi’s will peel off at the end of the warm-up lap and just four cars will come down to the start line itself, they may be all here at the moment.

BE – Well, you know, so why you asking me.

MB – Well I want to know if I’m right or not.

BE – You wait and see.

MB – They can’t go round the track, they’ve been told they can’t go flat out and if they go slow, it’s more dangerous. You can’t have 14 cars effectively driving a different race track.

BE – The problem has been caused by the tyres, Michelin brought the wrong tyres. It’s as simple as that.

MB – But in the interests of Formula 1, you must have been screaming at the lot of them to say “sort yourselves out, I’m taking charge here.”

BE – Yeah, but the difference is you can’t tell people to do something when the tyre company says that you can’t race on those tyres.

MB – Did we need some more control on the paperwork that’s been flying about and the meetings, could we not bang some heads together and get this sorted out last night, why are we standing on the grid talking about this. You’re asking me and I’m asking you what’s going on!

BE – I wish I knew. The problem is simple, there’s not the tyres here where the tyre company is confident that those tyres are okay to use, especially on that banking.

MB – The future of Formula 1 in America, the future of Michelin in Formula 1?

BE – Not good.

MB – On both counts?

BE – Both counts.

MB – And what will happen this week, will they be slapped in some court?

BE – Well we’ll have to see. It’s early days, we don’t know. I feel sorry for the public, I feel sorry for the promoter here.

MB – I feel sorry for my eight million mates sitting at home, looking forward to a good Grand Prix. It’s too late now, we’ve ran out of time.

BE – We’ll see what happens now. People shouldn’t give up on Formula 1 because of this one incident. The incident is not the fault of the teams.

There is a lot more, Brundle even trying to doorstep the other Ecclestone. She has “nothing to say”; he says they need a “jolly good slapping!” On this day in history, I agree. Kravitz grabbed a final word with Michelin’s Nick Shorrock, who did the equivalent of no comment. Rosenthal and Blundell are pretty damning with their verdict, even before the formation lap gets underway.

Race
ITV did not take a break immediately before the five-minute World Feed sting, choosing to take the break later on knowing that the race would be quiet. James Allen noted that the majority of the crowd have “no idea” what is happening, which is clear as we head into the race itself. Allen recites the story so far, highlighting the key arguments from both Michelin’s and Bridgestone’s perspective. And into the formation lap we head, Brundle stating that he doesn’t want a “half-hearted start” as it would be “plain dangerous”.

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Farce.

If you watched the race live, you know what happens next. “Okay mate, you know what the plan is for the start, straight into the pits please mate,” is the message for Renault driver Fernando Alonso. 14 of the 20 cars peel off into pit lane. “It’s the strangest race ever, and it gets underway, now!” Allen described the crowd as sitting in “stunned silence.” Quite clearly, the director has an easy job with not many cars to focus on. Ferrari, Ferrari, Jordan, Minardi, Jordan and Minardi are the top six, the only six.

A six-car race is not an appetising affair. Many television stations agreed and pulled the race off air. ITV disagreed, and instead used a mixture of their own cameras in paddock and the World Feed for the duration. The first in-depth conversation came as early as lap two; Goodman interviewed Coulthard who described it as a “very sad day for the sport.” In total, ITV aired 13 interviews during the race. The silence turned to audible boos at sporadic phases throughout the race, a small minority at one stage hurled bottles onto the circuit.

ITV recognised that there was a human element outside of the microcosm of the paddock, and with that, the broadcaster headed into the fan zone, fans stating that they will not watch Formula 1 at Indianapolis again, shouting “refund!” It was a rare, sublime piece of broadcasting that no doubt kept viewers watching for the majority of the programme, even though there was very little to watch on track.

I remember standing on the grid in Adelaide [1991] when it was pouring with rain. [Ayrton] Senna wanted to race, [Alain] Prost didn’t, most of the rest of us were unsure. Bernie Ecclestone walked down the grid and said “get in your car,” the race is about to start. That was pretty much how it worked in those days, but that strategy wouldn’t have worked today because of this critical problem with the tyres and liability. – ITV co-commentator Martin Brundle

Brundle and Allen discussed previous scenarios, such as the 1991 Australian Grand Prix when heavy rain stopped the race and the FISA-FOCA war in the early 1980s where Formula 1 saw a depleted running order. They also noted that the attention was not as enormous as 2005. “It’s a different world now,” says Allen. Allen’s journalistic ability shines during the race, with his ability to explain a technical matter to a casual audience, whilst adding new snippets of information to the story (for example Bridgestone’s advantage after Firestone tyres were used on the “abrasive” Indianapolis 500 surface three weeks earlier).

The commentators also bring into play the political games that are happening in the paddock, such as a proposed breakaway series. Kravitz outlined a “single tyre formula” that was mentioned in 2008 documentation circulated prior to the race weekend, a move that ended up being implemented in 2007. This kind of discussion never occurs during the race, showing how unique the race was.

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Minardi’s Paul Stoddart addresses the world’s media

For Minardi and Jordan, the 2005 United States Grand Prix was their lucky day, with the World Feed director not having much else to focus on. Every second on-screen for them meant extra money and points. Nevertheless, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart gave a very passionate interview to ITV about the direction of Formula 1, about how the FIA are “meddling” with the regulations. Out in front, Barrichello leapfrogged Schumacher in the first round of pit stops. Despite Ferrari’s best efforts, the battle between the two drivers is not really a race, even if the two did nearly collide at one stage as Schumacher regained the lead after the second round of stops.

After 73 laps, in the strangest of circumstances, Schumacher wins the US Grand Prix!

Post-Race
Brundle remarked, “If Michael does a victory leap on the podium, I’m going to go and personally punch him.”

The usual post-race chatter begins on the warm down lap with Allen and Brundle looking forward to racing matters, starting with the French Grand Prix. Whistles and boos clearly heard in the background from the crowd as the podium ceremony starts (which ITV manage to miss, a very minor blot on their copy book).

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. – In conversation with Louise Goodman (Part One and Part Two)

Portuguese’s Tiago Monteiro enjoyed his moment in the sun having finished third; Schumacher and Barrichello headed straight off the podium. Blundell and Rosenthal react to what they have seen before them with some brief analysis of the Ferrari kerfuffle. The viewers hear more reaction from fans leaving the circuit with more “refund!” chants, followed by the start of the FIA press conference.

Rosenthal wrapped up the programme, stating, “We’ve seen an F1 fiasco in peak time, like David Coulthard, I feel sick and embarrassed to my stomach, circumstances beyond our control. We can only say sorry. Goodnight.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

In conversation with Louise Goodman (part one)

Louise Goodman (@LouGoodmanMedia) has been a familiar figure to motor racing fans for the past twenty years through her ITV F1 commitments and more recently through her British Touring Car Championship role.

I sat down with her at the AUTOSPORT show to chat about her career in motor sport, starting with her various PR roles.

LG: I actually started out with Tony Jardine. I was Tony’s first employee when he set up his PR company Jardine PR. It’s been through about four different guises but it’s still under Jardine.

F1B: You and Tony have known each other for a long time then.

LG: Well I met Tony through powerboat racing, as I was the editor of Powerboat Racing magazine at the time. It’s thanks to Tony that I’m involved in motor sport; Tony had a history in motor sport. My first client when I was started working for him funnily enough was Derek Warwick and I say funnily enough because we come from the same town, a place called Alresford in Hampshire. As a kid, I walked past Warwick Trailers, the family business on my way to school each morning.

F1B: Did the PR thing for you then move on from there, stepping up the ladder as time moved on?

LG: Tony had motor sport clients; we launched Camel as a new sponsor when they started sponsoring the Lotus team back in the day. I worked with BP, who were very involved in the Leyton House team so I was the Leyton House team press officer. I was, briefly through Camel, press officer for Eddie Jordan in Formula 3000 with [Jean] Alesi and [Martin] Donnelly as the drivers. I was approached by Eddie to go and work with him full-time, which is when I moved up to Oxfordshire.

F1B: With Leyton House and then Jordan, what did the day-to-day activity involve?

LG: It was a bit of everything. With Jordan Grand Prix, I was employee number 47, which was the entire team! Formula 1 was very hands on in those days; Ian Phillips was the commercial department for Jordan. There was no such thing as a marketing department. During an event, I would write the press releases, I would also take the drivers to any appearances, I would do garage tours, you name it. It was a bit of everything, even sewing badges onto drivers’ overalls! The teams were much smaller; people had a much broader knowledge. The cars are much more technical these days so the knowledge has become more specialist and the areas are more delineated. Nowadays you have a communications team, a marketing team, it was almost ‘make it up as you go along’ back when I first started.

F1B: I guess it was a lot more intimate, a lot more camaraderie back in those days for the smaller teams because of the relative size.

LG: Well all the teams were smaller. The bigger teams at the time McLaren, Williams and Ferrari would have had a couple of hundred people working there whereas now you’re into the thousands. That’s just the team and then you’ve got the engine manufacture and everything alongside it. There was a lot of camaraderie. I knew next to nothing about Formula 1, I enjoyed it as a kid and I loved James Hunt. Ann Bradshaw, who was Williams press officer at the time, helped me out greatly. I have pictures at home still of all the press officers getting together and having dinner at Imola during the Grand Prix weekend. The press officer at Minardi would invite us all to his house as we all fitted in his apartment. Back in the day, all of the girls would get together every year in a motor home for dinner in Monza. It was a whole different ball game back then.

F1B: That sounds quite amazing, so much has changed since then. You were with Jordan in the early 90s and then you get a call in 1996…

LG: Various different production companies were bidding to get the contract to make the programmes for ITV. I got the approach from Mach1, which was a consortium of Meridian, Anglia and Chrysalis Television. Mach1 turned into North One Television. They were looking for a girl to put down on their bid. All the production companies had to put a bid to present to ITV to say how they’re going to produce Formula 1. It was a very theoretical thing so I said “go on, put my name down.” There were two people involved in getting me on-board. The first was James Allen. James was press officer at Brabham and he then moved onto AUTOSPORT and ESPN. James said that [I] would be a good person and that she knows her way round the paddock. The other one was a guy called Kevin Piper, who was a reporter for Anglia Television and Jordan was in the confines of the Anglia region. Kevin was a TV journalist who I had done a lot of stuff with so we had a strong relationship. Kevin also said that she’d be a good girl to have on-board. In the latter stages of the process, one of the other consortiums approached me as well. It was perceived that this other group was going to be the ones who got the contract.

LG: So, when it was announced that North One had got the contract, that’s when it became a reality, that’s when I went “oh my god!” This abstract concept quickly became very real. There was a gap between Mach1 winning the bid to officially being unveiled, as ITV had to present their proposal to Bernie Ecclestone to sanction what they wanted to do, how they were going to do it, the logistics of it all. There was a gap between me being part of the presentation team and them officially offering me the contract. By the time they offered me the job, everyone assumed that I was doing it anyway! Which I think was a good thing, because I never actually had to make the decision, it had already been made for me. I had no television experience, they didn’t employ me for that, they employed me because they thought I had the potential to be able to do that. Most importantly, I had contacts, the experience and knowledge of Formula 1, the paddock and the way the sport worked itself, I knew what to ask and how to ask it. The broadcasting bit they could teach me as we went along.

F1B: With things like football or rugby, you could have dry runs, but you can’t really dry run a proper F1 race. How did that work, were you just in front of a microphone in Melbourne and that was that?

LG: They presented me with a microphone in Melbourne and said, “We need to do a sound check so if you just wander up and down the pit lane and give us something for level, just give us some chat”; I didn’t even understand the technical terms! I thought, “What do I do?” James would give me a few tips on how to ask questions and how to phrase it, don’t ask a question in a way someone can say yes or no. I distinctly remember Damon Hill going out on the formation lap; he was my first live interview. I did a piece with Eddie Irvine on the grid, who I knew well. I remember with my squeaky voice asking Damon “what happened?” which is the worst way to ask a question and Damon explained what had happened, followed by a squeaky “thank you”! Damon was thinking, “You’re supposed to ask me a follow-up question.” The drivers were all very good with me; they all knew me, so they were all quite kind.

F1B: If you came in from the outside, it might have been different.

LG: Yeah, it would have been a different kettle of fish. I remember at the point of the British Grand Prix that year when Johnny Herbert said to me “you’re getting a bit of a hand with this now”, and I said that it’s getting better, which was a huge mistake as Johnny said that I’m in trouble now! That was when the fun started. Standing on the grid for that race, I waited for them to throw down to me for a live interview; Johnny was poking me off camera. They were all very kind to me and the guys within Mach1 were great, they helped me as much as they could. Nobody can tell you what to ask, but they can tell you how to ask it. I can remember our executive producer at the time Neil Duncanson saying to me “low… and slow… low… and slow…” When you’re excited, your voice goes up and you speak faster or you sound nervous. So, that was my big foray into broadcasting, in at the deep end.

F1B: Did you have any regrets about the first season, or did you ever think that this isn’t working?

LG: The first season was terrifying, but the biggest thing I felt is that, when you work for a team, you have a home in the paddock, that’s your motor home. There’s an unwritten rule that you don’t go into other people’s motor homes, you stick within the boundaries and it was less delineated in those days than it is now. But now I was a journalist, I didn’t feel comfortable crossing the threshold and going into the Williams or McLaren motor home, because that wasn’t my home. That was my upbringing in the paddock, within the confines of the [Jordan] team. That felt odd, and by the same token, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the TV compound because I didn’t know the technicalities. In many ways, it was great starting off in that role alongside Martin Brundle as I used to be Martin’s press officer at Jordan the previous year and we were both suddenly in the same situation that we didn’t quite have a home any more. All the teams were very welcoming and said “of course you can come in”; it just felt odd to me to just wander into another team’s motorhome. That first year was a struggle; I won’t deny it and anyone who watched it probably noticed.

They presented me with a microphone in Melbourne and said, “We need to do a sound check so if you just wander up and down the pit lane and give us something for level, just give us some chat,” I didn’t even understand the technical terms! I thought, “What do I do?”  – former ITV F1 pit lane reporter Louise Goodman

LG: Bradley Lord, who is now Head of Communications at Mercedes, reminded me, I stop him halfway through the conversation every time because I don’t want to hear it, he says “I remember watching your first…” and I say I don’t want to hear it! (laughs) By the end of the first year, I remember thinking that I’m getting to grips with it all, I’m not very good at not being very good at things and I was aware of the fact that I wasn’t a particularly good broadcaster in those days. I did have great moments, like electing to go to the Arrows garage in Hungary and being the first to deliver the not very good news that Damon wasn’t going to win that race. That was a feather in my journalistic cap, as I had the access and the foresight to go into the garage, that was where the story was going to be. Some of my grid interviews, in fact sitting down with Eddie Irvine in Melbourne. I thought “I’m not going to ask him to stand up”, so I just sat down beside him. We had a relatively cosy chat, and the guys in the studio compound said that’s exactly what we want!

F1B: From the outside, it probably looked like that the ITV team had just been ‘plucked together’, but in reality, you knew Allen beforehand, you knew Jardine beforehand.

LG: Absolutely. Mach1 were very clever I think. They knew about television, they knew about making programmes. If you look at North One as it has now become, they make all sorts of great programmes. They knew they had that side of it covered, what they didn’t know was how Formula 1 worked, access to the people. It takes time to build a relationship; they bought in people who already had that relationship.

Coming up in part two, we talk about the highs and lows of ITV’s Formula 1 coverage, the demise of ITV’s coverage in 2008 and more recently ITV’s BTCC coverage.

The alternative reality

The 2016 Formula One season comes to an end this weekend in Abu Dhabi, marking the end of Channel 4’s first season of covering Formula 1. But, the outlook could have been so much different. Here, this site looks at the alternatives that might have materialised.

BBC TV stay covering Formula 1
An unlikely alternative. BBC’s television coverage of Formula 1 had always been well received and applauded, but the problem was that it cost the corporation too much money. The licence fee settlement resulted in another round of budget cuts at BBC Sport, and Formula 1 was in the firing line. On December 21st, 2015, the BBC announced their television exit from Formula 1.

Had the BBC continued to cover Formula 1, I suspect production costs would have been slashed and the quality of the show would have decreased. Yes, viewing figures would be higher on the BBC than what they are currently on Channel 4, but viewing figures matter less to the BBC. Their obligation to Formula One Management (FOM) was to cover half the races live and half in highlights form, but they were not obliged to have high-quality build-up coverage, so could have cut the extras if they so desired.

It wouldn’t have been a popular move with the viewers, but if it kept F1 on the BBC, there might have been supported. As it turned out, the BBC did the right thing. In March, it was announced that Sky would be taking the exclusive live rights from 2019 onwards.

ITV take over Formula 1 from BBC
The major surprise was that ITV did not grab Formula 1 from the BBC and instead took horse racing from Channel 4. Horse racing provides ITV and ITV4 with a lot more hours than Formula 1 and is cheaper to produce. ITV were unwilling to broadcast Formula 1 without adverts, which is what swung the deal in Channel 4’s favour.

A return to ITV would have meant a return to Formula 1 being interrupted by commercial breaks. Beyond that, it is likely ITV’s coverage would have again been produced by North One Television as it was in 2008. Remember that Whisper Films and North One were the leading two contenders for Channel 4’s production contract. As we know, Whisper won that battle but had the two been battling over at ITV, chances are that North One would have grabbed the deal.

On the personnel side, ITV would have still faced the same hurdles as Channel 4: they would still need to fill their line-up within a very short two-month period. The talent pool wouldn’t change meaning that the ITV line-up would have been quite close to what we saw at Channel 4 with ex BBC faces moving over, alongside some new faces.

Channel 5, Eurosport or BT Sport
The three broadcasters listed above are unrealistic in an alternative reality. Channel 5 could have stepped in, except taking on Formula 1 for around £20 million a year would have hurt their overall budget significantly. Demographically, it would be a fantastic fit for the channel but the price range makes this an unlikely venture.

Eurosport and BT Sport were unlikely as a shared deal between them and Sky would take Formula 1 off free-to-air television, although BT could have committed to showing Formula 1 on their BT Sport Showcase channel on Freeview. Had Liberty Media’s acquisition of Formula 1 happened a year earlier, it would have made the landscape even more interesting: would Eurosport (owned by Discovery, who are in turn owned by Liberty) have splashed the cash to take Formula 1 exclusively from 2019 onwards? We’ll never know.

Sky’s exclusivity blocked by teams
Of course, Sky wanted to step in for the BBC as early as this year. Once Sky got wind that the BBC were planning to exit their TV contract at the end of 2015, the broadcaster made moves to try to secure Formula 1 exclusively from 2016 onwards. The contract featured a clause stating that, should the BBC exit, then Sky pick up the rights exclusively. As referenced in March:

When it became apparent in the run up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November that the BBC were set to terminate their contract, Formula 1’s teams are understood to have requested that Formula 1 remains on free to air terrestrial television in the UK in some capacity until at least the end of 2018. The concern for teams was that they would have difficulty persuading sponsors to stay on board with F1 behind a pay wall in the UK. This led to the sequence of events that saw Channel 4 step in and take over BBC TV’s rights from 2016 to 2018 inclusive.

Sky’s new deal from 2019 onwards was signed early after an onslaught from BT Sport, who attempted to take the rights away from Sky.

The only way the destination would change is if Channel 4 or ITV committed to a longer time frame when the signed the contract with FOM last December. However, that would have required Sky’s involvement, and given the amount of money they were prepared to lay on the table, I think the same conclusion would have been reached.

No matter what, the destination post 2018 remains the same: a deal with Sky showing every race exclusively live.