Belgian Grand Prix 2005 Media Review

To an F1 fan, a wet race at Spa is about as good as it gets. But Fleet Street are still in love with the cricket, and ITV’s coverage was just plain awful.

All eyes are on The Guardian this week with its much-vaunted launch to a new not-quite-tabloid, not-quite-broadsheet Berliner format. F1 gets an awkwardly laid-out four columns on page 13 of the new daily sports pull-out. It’s a good write-up, as ever, with a good piece on the political problems of the day (Minardi, Red Bull, Mosley, Michelin) and a tasty shot of the championship duellists.

The Daily Telegraph are languishing in Victorian broadsheet times in more than one sense of the phrase. Having manhandled your way past endless shots of men in white trousers you find a decent, if insultingly perfunctory piece on the Spa action by Kevin Garside. He does teasingly point out that only one driver in F1 history has won six races but not the championship…and then not tell us who (it was Michael Schumacher in 1998).

The Times devotes a full (tabloid) page to the race, but Kevin Eason unfairly hints at responsibility on Juan Pablo Montoya’s part for the late-race collision between him and Antonio Pizzonia. That the stewards laid the blame firmly at Pizzonia’s feet is not mentioned.

For the tabloids (that is, the ‘old school’ red-top tabloids), bad things happening to Michael Schumacher are favourable to good things happening to Jenson Button. Plenty of pictures of the Schumacher-Sato shunt, but of Buttons outstanding pass on Jacques Villeneuve – nothing.

This is peculiar, as The Sun, the Daily Mirror et. al. usually stretch journalistic credibility to breaking point trying to find reasons to get a picture of Button in. His drive at Spa was highly praiseworthy – I guess the comical pictures of Schumacher chiding Sato like a naughty schoolboy were too good to leave out.

Not that The Independent could resist either, and David Tremayne draws an informed comparison between Sato’s assault on Schumacher and Pizzonia’s and Montoya. Schumacher’s reaction, if you missed it, was priceless: “We have often experiences hari-kiri reactions from him in the past…I don’t know what sort of therapy might help him.” I think he might mean ‘kamikaze’ rather than ‘hari-kiri’, but I certainly wouldn’t have had the testicular fortitude to point it out to him.

As for ITV… Well, let’s start with the positive. With the long-awaited departure of Jim Rosenthal confirmed (he’s off to cover a sport he actually likes – Champions League football) Angus Scott introduced this race. Palpably nervous, Scott did at least exude enthusiasm and could do a good job given a little more experience. Giving him a decent surrounding would help – as there’s no need for the pundits to actually be at the race a London studio would suffice.

ITV could not be blamed for the truly terrible feed – major incidents were missed entirely (cf. Pizzonia and Montoya) – but once again the advertising breaks were dropped carelessly on top of the action. Giancarlo Fisichella was pulling himself out of the Eau Rouge tyre wall while we were glumly watching insurance adverts. Not good enough. James Allen, uneven at the best of times, had a bit of a shocker too.

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