Channel 4 confirms 2017 presentation team

Channel 4 has today confirmed a largely unchanged presentation team for their coverage of the 2017 Formula One season.

As widely expected, Steve Jones will continue to front the channel’s coverage, following a successful first season covering the sport. David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Eddie Jordan and Susie Wolff will lead the Channel 4’s punditry line-up, with Coulthard also commentating alongside Ben Edwards (unreferenced in the press release). I would expect Webber, Jordan and Wolff to be used in rotation again throughout the season.

Lee McKenzie and Karun Chandhok will roam the pit lane across each race weekend for Channel 4. McKenzie will also present the first edition of the 2017 “F1 Meets…” series, with Murray Walker the special guest.

The omissions from Channel 4’s press release who were part of the team last year are Nicolas Hamilton, Alain Prost, Bruno Senna and Alessandro Zanardi, none of which should be considered surpriseing as all were used sparingly (in one case not at all) during Channel 4’s inaugural season.

You may have also noticed the words “Jenson Button” and “Nico Rosberg” were unreferenced in the paragraphs above, meaning that they will not be working regularly with either Sky or Channel 4, although they might turn up in their programming later in the year.

Elsewhere, Channel 4’s coverage of Formula 1 will continue to be sponsored by the travel search engine KAYAK.co.uk for a second year.

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News round-up: Sky linked with MotoGP; F1 App updates for 2017

In the news round-up, more speculation on where MotoGP could be going next, whilst the official F1 app is given an early Spring clean ready for the 2017 season.

Sky set to take MotoGP off BT Sport?
A report from Bikesport News has linked Sky Sports with MotoGP’s UK rights, which BT Sport currently holds until the end of 2018. In response to their report, Sky’s Euan Fordyce said, “I’m afraid we don’t comment on rights we don’t currently have, so we are unable to help on this occasion.”

I do not know what prompted the report, however given the amount of money BT Sport have splashed out to retain the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, it is not surprising to see Bikesport News’ piece.

Their piece does corroborate with what was reported on this site last month. It looks like the relationship between BT and Dorna is not as rosy as it could be, but I do not want to emphasise that point simply because media outlets reported the same on the BT/UEFA front, and we know what happened there…

Sky Sports were previously involved in MotoGP in the early 1990s under its previous mantra, with Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder providing commentary. The rights soon moved over to British Eurosport as Sky focussed on the Superbike World Championship

As of writing, there is no official news about who will be broadcasting MotoGP highlights in the UK, but expect some news on that front imminently.

Superbike action resumes
The World Superbike Championship was the first major international series to get back underway at the end of February live on Eurosport, and with it, there was a personnel change. Gregory Haines, who was lead World Superbikes commentator for Dorna in 2016, has moved over to Eurosport, succeeding Jack Burnicle as their World Superbikes commentator.

In the overnight viewing figures, the first round of the season from Philip Island peaked with 55k (6.2%) at 04:30 on Sunday morning (including VOSDAL) as the second Superbikes race of the weekend concluded. As a comparison, last year’s MotoGP race from the same track on BT Sport 2 averaged 126k (10.7%), peaking with 176k according to numbers supplied by Overnights.tv.

Elsewhere in the superbike world, ITV have extended their contract to cover the British Superbike series in highlights form until the end of the 2020 season.

F1 App updates for 2017
The official Formula 1 app has received an update ready for the 2017 season. Aside from an update to the user interface, there is no major change for readers. There was some confusion around whether the content will be different depending on location, however this site can confirm that users will receive the same content regardless of location.

On a related note, I mentioned last October that users in the Netherlands were testing a new version of an app featuring in-car footage during live sessions. This site understands that live in-car footage is still on the cards to feature, but at what stage during the season is unclear due to hurdles that need to be cleared. The delivery method also needs to be agreed with each broadcaster.

ITV F1 – twenty years on
ITV’s F1 coverage launched twenty years ago this week, with the 1997 Australian Grand Prix. As readers may have noticed, there has been a running theme so far throughout the year so far looking at various aspects of ITV’s coverage, including flashback pieces looking at past races (thanks to all who said that they would like to see these continue).

There is a lot of reading over here for those of you that fancy a trip down memory lane and want to relieve some more ITV F1 goodness.

Scheduling: The 2017 Barcelona test 2 on Sky Sports F1

Formula 1 is very quickly heading towards Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, but before then there is the small matter of the final test in Barcelona.

Sky Sports F1 will again have a 15-minute round-up on each of the four days, this time with Rachel Brookes presenting for Sky Sports News. David Croft returns with #AskCrofty at 21:15 on each day. There is also a 30-minute F1 Report special looking back at testing.

Elsewhere, although I am not restarting the scheduling pieces properly until the end of the month, I should note that the IndyCar Series returns next Sunday (12th March). Live coverage of the first race from the streets of St. Petersburg airs on BT Sport//ESPN from 16:30 to 19:00.

Tuesday 7th March
21:00 to 21:45 – Day 1 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– #AskCrofty at 21:15

Wednesday 8th March
20:15 to 21:00 – Day 1 Highlights (R)
21:00 to 21:45 – Day 2 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– #AskCrofty at 21:15

Thursday 9th March
20:15 to 21:00 – Day 2 Highlights (R)
21:00 to 21:45 – Day 3 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– #AskCrofty at 21:15

Friday 10th March
20:15 to 21:00 – Day 3 Highlights (R)
21:00 to 21:45 – Day 4 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– #AskCrofty at 21:15

Saturday 11th March
20:00 to 20:30 – F1 Report

If anything changes, the above schedule will be updated.

Update on March 11th – I know that test two has already happened, but I’m not in a position to publish the Australia schedule yet. So a note that there will be an F1 Report Development Special on Wednesday 15th March at 20:00 with Natalie Pinkham alongside Mike Gascoyne and Craig Scarborough. Tonight’s special for those wondering will be David Croft alongside Chris Medland and Jon Noble.

Pat Symonds joins Sky’s F1 team

Pat Symonds has joined Sky’s Formula 1 team for the 2017 season, the broadcaster has confirmed.

Symonds, who previously worked as Chief Technical Officer at Williams and Renault, joins Sky’s line up which remains unchanged. Sky say he will provide commentary alongside Martin Brundle and David Croft on a number of races including the Australian Grand Prix.

Sky Sports Head of F1, Martin Turner said: “Pat will make a brilliant addition to our team, bringing a wealth of experience to Sky Sports F1. His knowledge, expertise and passion will add another dimension to our analysis and enhance the viewing experience for fans as they seek to understand the new cars and regulations. In this era of Formula 1 there is no-one better to explain it.”

Pat Symonds commented: “I have always been impressed with the quality and innovation of Sky’s F1 coverage. It feels like a really exciting time to join the team ahead of such an unpredictable season and with all races being shown in UHD, it will be even more visually dramatic at every turn.”

Symonds is an excellent technical addition to Sky’s team and further bolsters their line-up. It is a natural growth step and helps differentiate Sky from Channel 4, who does not have a dedicated technical expect. Further details were confirmed about Sky’s coverage this season in a Facebook Live session. Natalie Pinkham noted that she would be travelling to all the European rounds, with Rachel Brookes covering the flyaway races and Azerbaijan for the channel.

In addition, Anthony Davidson confirmed his own commitments. He said, “I’m only doing five races this year, the first of which will be Barcelona. The World Endurance Championship clashes with so many F1 races and the ones that don’t directly clash, it’s like an ‘in between’ weekend of two F1 races so you have to look at the calendar. You have to be realistic and think about how burnt out you are going to be. In the first year when WEC grew in 2013, I had committed to doing 15 races with Sky, it almost killed me, you’ve got to be careful with how you manage it.”

“Post Bernie” F1 evolution begins with extra flexibility for testing

Formula 1’s teams and drivers have been given extra flexibility for testing, with Formula One Management (FOM), now under the ownership of Liberty Media, giving them the freedom to upload short videos to social media. The news was first announced through Motorsport Network’s portfolio of websites.

The new guidelines allow teams and drivers to film footage from the confines of the paddock and pit lane, and then upload it to social media. A variety of content has been uploaded within the past few days. Red Bull have produced multiple Facebook Live sessions with Christian Horner, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo from the paddock, something that was impossible under the previous regime.

Other teams, such as Mercedes, have recorded footage from pit lane of cars going at full speed down the start finish straight. The possibilities this opens up for teams, from a marketing perspective are endless with drivers now able to directly interact and record video for their fans straight from the circuit. The only team that is stuck in “the Bernie era” is Ferrari, who have yet to upload any video content from the circuit to social media.

FOM themselves have been doing new things. A lot of quick bite-sized video clips have been uploaded to social media. The key moments that were uploaded included a high-speed spin from Valtteri Bottas, caught from an exterior camera, and a camera looking back from Jolyon Palmer’s Renault capturing a spin at turn three. However, it also looks like that some broadcasters, such as Canal in Latin America, are airing footage that has not been uploaded to social media, such as on-board footage from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

By uploading these to social media, it unlocks a new audience, and future revenue stream. An audience that may have never watched Formula 1 may see this footage for the first time on social media, where videos can go ‘viral’, and hook them onto the sport, converting them to a fan. The idea of sharing new on-board footage on social media, let alone from testing, was unheard of just six months ago! It is a new world for the sport which is quite rightly being exploited.

With that in mind, it is mildly frustrating to see that Sky in the UK, despite being a pay TV broadcaster, is not taking advantage of FOM’s relaxations. The channel did not air Bottas’ spin during their round-up in Tuesday night’s broadcast, for example. One of my pet annoyances is to see five seconds of car footage in a 90-second feature. FOM’s current approach, with a full-round up at the end of each day narrated by Holly Samos, is geared towards the right audience. Whether Sky’s approach to testing is correct, when you compare it to that of other pay TV broadcasters, could be debated.

Overall, whilst FOM’s coverage of testing is clearly not on the scale of MotoGP or IndyCar, it is a natural step in the right direction for Formula 1. You could argue that we have lost content with no round-ups throughout the day, but the majority of fans are watching testing videos for the large part to see the cars in action, not to see talking heads.