The departure of Jake Humphrey means that Formula 1 on the BBC in 2013 looks a little bit different. Not as different as 2012, when Sky pinched half the live races and raided the BBC’s talent roster, but noticeably different nonetheless.
Crash! Smash! Fire!
The first change was unexpected: the title sequence. The bizarre flying cubes of 2012 have been swiftly retired, replaced by a more traditional montage of historic and modern footage.
But what hit me on first viewing was how much it concentrates on crashes and fires. My barely-watching girlfriend said the same thing.
Watching it again more carefully, it’s not actually that marked – I count about four crashes and one fire in the minute-long sequence. But the impression that they’re highlighting the sensationalist aspects of the sport is unshakeable.
Trying harder to snare the casual viewer? Maybe. Whether it’s reflected in the priorities of the coverage is yet to be seen, but I’d be surprised.
Opinion on Twitter seems very mixed from what I’ve seen, but really it’s too early to assess what difference it will make having Suzi Perry at the helm.
Not only are we only one race in, but it was a highlights-only weekend. With much less time to play with and no Eddie Jordan, there was little space for her to stamp her personality on the coverage. The same was true last year under Jake Humphrey: the highlights shows were pretty vanilla affairs.
But for my money Suzi Perry has started well.
She seemed instantly at home broadcasting from the pit lane, but with years fronting MotoGP on the BBC, that’s no surprise. What interaction there was with David Coulthard didn’t make me cringe, so it’s all good so far.
We’ll have to wait for the first live race weekend in China next month before we know whether she’s banished the banter which became so bothersome last year.
Next on BBC Two…
We’ll also have to wait until China for the first live coverage of free practice on BBC Two.
Now, that might initially sound like a massive commitment to the sport from the BBC. But actually, one of the big changes under the BBC’s Delivering Quality First cost-saving initiative, was to ransack the heck out of BBC Two daytime.
So actually, it’s a great way to fill a few hours of the schedule, for virtually no additional cost. And what’s being sacrificed? Repeats of antiques and lifestyle shows, and maybe a bit of news – which is probably taken from the BBC News Channel anyway. Everyone’s a winner!
It’s great to see Tom Clarkson promoted to a full-time pit lane role, after standing in for Lee McKenzie last year, when she was standing in for Jake Humphrey, when he was off furthering his career at the Olympics.
After Sky nabbed Ted Kravitz, his apparent replacement on the BBC was Gary Anderson. His role ended up as more of an oracle though, to be consulted on all matters technical and strategic. I love his input, but there was something missing.
Tom Clarkson fills that gap, as pair of eyes and ears in the pit lane, chipping in as and when. With Gary Anderson staying on as technical analyst, it’s a stronger-than-ever commentary line-up – and welcome sign of commitment to the coverage from the BBC, to boot.
I think the online offering is looking stronger this year too. The regular Lewis Hamilton column is the headline, but amongst others there are post-race columns from David Coulthard and Gary Anderson, and a series of memories from Murray Walker.
I also wonder whether the editorial side has more resources. Last year it seemed like Andrew Benson was doing the lot on his tod, but I’ve noticed more from Lawrence Barretto recently.
Oh, and a note about MotoGP
And it’s not just Formula 1 that the BBC has been beefing up. Over on MotoGP, the BBC have taken on Azi Farni full-time, rather than just on race weekends; she previously also worked for Dorna.
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