It struck me watching the Grand Prix coverage on various networks this weekend what a massive difference the actual commentary makes to you comprehension of what is going on and your enjoyment of the event. I’m not sure how much it relates to other sports as I don’t watch them but I suspect it’s the same.
The Sky sports partnership of ex driver Martin Brundle and ‘Crofty’ is a mixed bag. Brundle is an ex-driver with a long career in F1 with many teams, showing good consistency and pace, but with no F1 wins and pretty limited success, but is somehow able to really relate what we are seeing with whats happening behind the scenes, or consequences of some of the choices that are made with tyre strategy. This ‘Crofty’ fella is more your everyman commentator, and actually a bit inane and not much relatable enthusiasm.
The BBC has David Coulthard and Ben Edwards, Couthard is the ex-driver, with slightly more success in various teams, a number of wins, and Edwards does the commentator stuff. Edwards has a lot of enthusiasm, and isn’t bad, but seems to get the wrong end of whats going on sometimes. In an ideal world Coulthards job would be to correct him, which he does 50% of the time, but half the time he has the wrong end of something too, leads to a load of misplaced enthusiasm and some misinformation. A good example of this was Massa and Guitierez spinnin gthe cars out of the two high speed left/right corners in sector two. Coulthard kept going on about them loosing it on the kerb/yellow paint at the outer edge of the track on teh final corner, whereas clearly this wasn’t the case. Antony Davidson, and the next commentators I will discuss, correctly noticed it was the black high grip paint over the white lines earlier in the corner they were loosing traction on, and this was causing them to loose the back end earlier than Coulthard was mentioning, rather than them running wide.
The last lot I listened to were the BBC radio 5 live team: Gary Anderson and James Allen. Now this was a different kettle of fish. Allen does the enthusiastic commentator role, but he does is very, very, well. He spots key points, knows the behind the scenes gossip to add to flavour conversations, and more importantly is on the pulse of technology and social media, even runs his own blog, so is always more informed and up to date than many others… in a way he manages to keep his brain half out of the F1 bubble, which makes for better reporting and commentating. Anderson is not an ex driver, but an ex-technical director, and a likeable Irishman. He delivers very succinct points, and with regards to technical differences between drivers, cars, and tactical strategy and fuel/tyre/track challenges, he is always on the ball and very sharp.
The differences between these are really brought home on weekends like this weekend where there is some downtime, or delays, specifically this time between qualifying sessions as they delayed the starts. Here, there is no action to commentate on, so the commentary team is forced to ‘fill in’ the live air time. Frankly the BBC team struggled, Brundle did O.K, but his partner ‘crofty’ added nothing, and the BBC5 live team, were great.
It’s the same issue with the links, interview, and behind the scenes crew. Sky’s Antony Davidson, another young ex-driver who didn’t get much opportunity and had little success provides some great analysis of driving technique, accidents, and styles… with a great video highlight tool. Lee McKenzie the BBC’s interviewer is light years ahead of the others in terms of getting responses out of drivers and team members, and I enjoy Ted Kravitz of Sky’s behind the scenes work. Simon Lazenby and Damon Hill do alright for Sky and Natalie Pinkham is tolerable, but the rest are instantly forgettable … especially Johnny Herbert who is downright irritating.
Someone out there please employ the following people:
- Commentary: Martin Brundle
- Commentary: James Allen
- Commentary Technical interjection/post race analysis: Gary Anderson
- Race analysis/driver strategy: Antony DAvidson
- Interviews/Reporter: Lee McKenzie
- Interviews/Pit Reporter: Ted Kravitz
- Anchor: Simon Lazenby
- Post race analysis and co-anchor to Simon: Lets have Damon Hill
Man that looks great, not an idiot in sight, you would have my business.
The thing is, with the increase in social media and blogging, inane comments or mistake on air look more and more stupid, when a higher standard of commentary and journalism can be found on free or ‘amateur’ blogs and sites such as thejudge13, SomersF1, or ScarbsF1 sites, you begin to question why some of these people are being paid what they are by companies like the BBC and Sky? It surprised me how much my enjoyment of the race differed between the various commentators, I shall when I have the choice in future be turning the sound down and listening to radio 5 live for my commentary.