Category: Formula 1
I’m being slowly driven to distraction this year by talk of Formula 1 teams being able to do “one less stop” than most. No, this isn’t a complaint about the tyres. This is about something much more important: grammar.
In such matters, I tend to defer to the ever-reliable Guardian Style Guide for a succinct explanation:
The number of pit stops a team makes in a race is a discrete number, not a continuous quantity. So the phrase should be either “one fewer stops” or “one stop fewer”. It’s really not complicated.
I’m not petty enough to have a problem with most people using ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ interchangeably. My problem is when professionals do it. They’re paid to write, so their grammar should be better than mine; if it looks wrong to me, it should bloody well look wrong to them.
I’m all for throwing stones from within my glass house, but there’s no need to name names. Though a couple of searches quickly does the job. And a few more searches reveals those on the right side of the grammatical fence, too – newspapers notably amongst them, unsurprisingly.
So let’s all just stick to ‘fewer’, OK?
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.
With Williams finally launching their 2013 challenger today, a good fortnight after the rest of the teams, we finally have a full set of Formula 1 liveries. So: time to pass judgement.
Red Bull Racing wins! It’s not a drastic departure from last year’s paint job, but the promotion of Infiniti to title sponsor sees a relatively subtle but rather delightful purple hue enrobe the car. The way it catches the light is quite lovely. Yes, it’s a bit busy from some angles, but I think that gives it a certain brash charm.
As Sky F1′s 2012 v 2013 gallery rather nicely demonstrates, Sauber comfortably take the award for most changed livery. It’s a smart enough shade of grey, with a nice little pop of red and white. Not exciting, but… smart.
Red Bull Racing are amongst a group of teams next down the ‘bothered to change their livery’ pecking order. Lotus is another I rather like, though it appears that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the liberal splashes of red that have been added. But then, I’d argue that the black and gold livery from which it takes inspiration is less ‘classic’ and more plain ‘old’.
Ferrari have added more of a black swoop to the lower part of the car, which is quite neat. Caterham have gone for what looks like a slightly lighter green, which isn’t great, and a bit less yellow – and less yellow is always a mistake in my book. Marussia, meanwhile, have rather inconsequentially shuffled around the red and black on their car.
Spot the difference
But special mention has to go to McLaren, for a staggeringly indistinguishable livery. You can see the spectators at the Jerez test there getting as close as they can, looking for any sign of change. They found nothing, and went home disappointed. Possibly.
It’s the time of year for season reviews, awards – all that jazz – so I’ve given some suitably haphazard thought to the best of the season just gone. These are that.
Best Race Win: Williams F1
It’s not often that motorsport – or anything else for that matter – gets me close to tears; I’m pretty much dead inside. But when Williams won their first race for more than seven years at the Spanish Grand Prix, a certain moistness around my eyes was notable. I was pleased for Pastor Maldonado, of course, but I was bloody delighted for the team.
My attachment to Williams dates back to the mid-’90s, when I was in my teens and Williams were winning championships all over the shop – the most significant for me being Damon Hill’s 1996 drivers title. That attachment has been maintained by the presence of Frank Williams, who continues to be one of the most remarkable people in Formula 1 – a point reinforced by his reaction to the pole position, the victory, and the unfortunate pit fire the team suffered almost immediately afterwards.
Best Bowing Out: Casey Stoner
You couldn’t have written a better story than Casey Stoner’s retirement from MotoGP. It came completely out of the blue, and he was openly critical of the sport both in and after his announcement. So as early as May, we knew that 2012 would be Stoner’s only chance to add a third world championship.
That chance disappeared entirely when he was forced to miss three races following his crash in Indianapolis. That didn’t put an end to the story though, as it became a battle to come back from injury and win at Phillip Island, which would make it six in a row at his home race.
Amazingly, he did just that. Only once in his time in the premier class did he not win the Australian Grand Prix, and that was in his first season, on a satellite Honda.
It was a suitably impressive end to a regrettably short, but brilliant MotoGP career.
Best Person: Alex Zanardi
Okay, so his achievements this year weren’t directly motorsport related, but it’s safe to say that Alex Zanardi has a place in every motorsport fan’s heart. How could he not? Formula 1 driver and twice CART champion in his first motorsport career, and after losing of both legs in a massive CART crash, multiple WTCC race winner in his second.
His two hand-cycling gold medals – and a silver – at the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer, then, were utterly remarkable, yet almost inevitable given his character. And it’s not just motorsport fans who celebrated his achievement: the IPC considered him among the twelve most outstanding athletes of the Games.
That’s not all. The tale of Zanardi helping a 17-year-old complete the Venice Marathon in October, making use of rope scavenged from a bin and good old-fashioned sticky tape along the way, cemented his reputation as World’s Most Determined Man.
You can throw a DTM test for BMW in there too. What a year.
Best Championship: Moto3
Moto2 seemed like brilliantly chaotic madness when it was introduced in 2010. Moto3, new for 2012, made that seem positively tame.
There was close racing all season, but Assen comes immediately to mind as a highlight – particularly the feisty battle between KTM team-mates Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent.
The leading pack had been relentlessly passing and repassing each other, and the race went right down to the final corner: Luis Salom was leading but slow out, leaving Maverick Vinales to take advantage and the win; Cortese finished 2nd, 0.011 seconds ahead of Kent in 3rd; Salom was only 0.001 second behind Kent in 4th. You can relive the final five laps here, in glorious German shaky-vision.
That was Kent’s first podium, but he went on to take a pair of wins, the Brit ending the season 4th in the standings. Good stuff.
There’s an unusually broad selection of Formula 1 books around this year. But those are just playing to the crowd. That crowd is ageing, and the sport needs to attract more pesky youngsters. With the season over, and Christmas approaching, that should mean merchandising-a-go-go.
McLaren’s Tooned animated series and Codemasters’ F1 Race Stars game are both around to cash in at this most lucrative time of year, but they should just be the tip of the stocking-friendly, officially-licensed iceberg.
Fortunately, I have an impressively sharp blogging ice pick, which I’ve used to chip off a few ideas:
Did Sebastian Vettel deserve to become Formula 1’s new youngest ever triple world champion yesterday? Or would Fernando Alonso have been more deserving?
Shut up, it’s a nonsense question.
The question of who deserved it, however, is less stupid in the case of 10th place in the constructors championship. With that 10th place comes valuable TV money, and before the weekend, Marussia were leading that particular battle thanks to Timo Glock’s 12th place finish in Singapore.
That all changed in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix, however, as Vitaly Petrov passed Charles Pic for 11th place, giving Caterham that prestigious title of third worst constructor. Plus the small matter of the aforementioned telly cash.
Naturally, Marussia were disappointed to lose the position. In fact, team principal John Booth said that ‘disappointed’ “doesn’t even come close”. But did they realistically deserve to finish ahead of Caterham?
Let’s have a look at who – of Caterham, Marussia and HRT only – came top in qualifying and the race at each Grand Prix this year.
Paints a picture, doesn’t it? A green and yellow picture.
That’s to take nothing away from the progress that Marussia made this year though – and without KERS, let’s not forget. Caterham had KERS this season, and Marussia will next, so the battle should only be closer in 2013 – it’ll certainly be fairer.
And with HRT unlikely to feature on the grid, unless there’s a pretty big upset elsewhere, Caterham and Marussia will be fighting to avoid the ignominy of being F1′s worst team. Now that’s something to fight about.
It’s easy to make jokes about the Formula 1 young driver test. It might even be fun. But do you know what’s more fun? Statistics.
So, now that all the tests are complete, let’s have a proper look: how young are this year’s young drivers?
Well that’s not so bad, is it? On average this year’s young driver testers are five years younger than the teams’ regular drivers. Would you consider 24 objectively ‘young’? That probably depends on how old you are.
Toro Rosso are the only team to have an older young driver line-up than their race pairing. But it’s by the smallest of margins, and given that all of their drivers are young scamps, that’s acceptable.
The two drivers in their 30s are certainly pushing the boundaries of young – those being Nicolas Prost for Lotus, and McLaren regular Gary Paffett. Only three others are over 25: Giedo van der Garde for Caterham, Davide Rigon for Ferrari, and Rodolfo Gonzalez for Force India.
Everyone else: well done.
(Rigorous analysis fans! Don’t worry, those cheeky young drivers who drove for more than one team were only counted once in the total.)
I’ve got five copies of Jake Humphrey’s new book about Formula 1, The Inside Track, to give away. If you want to be in with a chance of winning one, just answer this devilishly tricky question:
Who presents the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage?
To enter, just send the answer, together with your name and address (otherwise it’ll be tough to post the prize out if you win), to [competition closed].
The closing date is 5pm on Monday 12th November 2012.
Winners will be selected at random from all completed correct entries, and will be notified shortly after the closing date. Personal details will be used only to administer this competition, and deleted thereafter.
‘The Inside Track: Paddocks, Pit Stops and Tales of Life in the Fast Lane’ by Jake Humphrey is published by Simon & Schuster on 8th November 2012. I reviewed it earlier this week.
Jake Humphrey’s approach to anchoring the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage, whatever your opinion of his evolving style over the four years, has been characterised by an honest desire to bring the viewer closer to the world of F1.
That same desire was clearly the driving force behind this book. The result is a curious mix: general description and discussion of Formula 1; Humphrey’s opinions and philosophies, on F1 and more generally; the odd anecdote; and a spot of history. It’s certainly not an autobiography.
A lot of the book is given over to explaining how the sport and business of Formula 1 operates. It’s this that determines the target audience, as it’s largely pitched at quite a high level. This is perhaps inevitable, since Humphrey has been involved in the sport only as a broadcaster, and for a relatively short period at that.
That’s not to say that it’s without value though: as an ‘F1 for Dummies’ or ‘My First F1 Book’, for a casual or perhaps younger fan, it does contain a lot of interesting insight. But it’s insight that is, by and large, freely available online; this isn’t a book for someone who hangs on every word that James Allen writes, for instance.
There are nuggets in there for anyone though. Humphrey’s personal reflections on some of the most significant events in his time in the sport – Jenson Button clinching the world championship, for example – are interesting and evocatively described.
His anecdotes and opinions about the sport’s characters are revealing too – even if the really interesting tales tend to be anonymous, because sufficient time hasn’t passed to name names. Also: be prepared for the mental image of Fernando Alonso chatting away in just a jockstrap.
Needless to say, Humphrey is authoritative when he touches on broadcasting. That’s less often than I had expected – and would have liked, for that matter. More of what he really knows, and less generalism, would have made for a more worthwhile read.
Humphrey’s style is informal and conversational, matching the approachable nature of the material, and consistent with his TV and online persona – albeit with a few too many exclamation marks for my taste. His life philosophy comes through too, for better or worse, and will be familiar to anyone who follows him on Twitter.
The success of the book really comes down to the reader’s existing knowledge. For example, I got something out of the chapter on the history of the sport – but I am far from an expert when it comes to the early days of F1.
In short: when it’s not covering material you know, it’s a very accessible introduction to the inner workings of the sport.
‘The Inside Track: Paddocks, Pit Stops and Tales of Life in the Fast Lane’ by Jake Humphrey is published by Simon & Schuster on 8th November 2012.
For a while now, I’ve been meaning to write a post about banter, and the shadow it casts over the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage.
But now, with the news that Jake Humphrey is to leave the corporation at the end of the year to front BT Vision’s football coverage, I can be a little more positive. Because I for one think it’s a great opportunity to reinvigorate the BBC’s F1 output.
Jake Humphrey is a live TV presenter of rare talent, making it look effortless like few can – Dermot O’Leary is another that springs to mind. He grew into the role admirably in his first year on the job, and gelled well with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan.
But since then, and particularly this season, the three of them have become a bit too pally. There’s a fine line between being presenters of the show, and the presenters becoming the show.
Admittedly, I’m arguably in the minority in having a problem with that style of presenting. Actually, I don’t have a problem with it, when the viewer or listener is treated as an equal part of the ‘gang’ – achieved on the radio by the likes of Adam & Joe or Mark & Lard.
But often it comes across to me as self-important, patronising, smug – in short, too bloody pleased with itself. See also: Top Gear, Chris Moyles.
Anyway, let’s be more positive. I still broadly enjoy the BBC’s F1 coverage, and it’s only occasionally that it gets up my nose. But the departure of Jake Humphrey does give the BBC an opportunity to reassess, and maybe make it’s coverage a bit more inclusive.
Lee McKenzie is the obvious solution. She’s seamlessly taken the reins several times when Jake Humphrey has been off intelligently furthering his career, and I think a female presenter would be a welcome change to the on-screen dynamic.
That’s the least disruptive option. But if the BBC really want to shake it up, why not stick with the female presenter idea, but cast the net a little wider. Mel & Sue, anyone? A sort of ‘Great British Race Off’, if you like. I’d watch that.