Ross Brawn slates ITV F1 coverage

Ross Brawn, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2006The poor quality of current F1 TV coverage has finally been given regard by an important figure in the F1 community. Ross Brawn, on sabbatical from Ferrari, has watched the first three races of the F1 season on TV from the UK and reckoned:

It’s a very frustrating business to watch F1 on British TV. It’s definitely a new experience for me to watch it with a different perspective and also the quality of commentators on English TV.

We’re used to having all the data and all the split times and we can see the race developing. What’s clear when you watch it on the TV is that you don’t get that information. Our commentators don’t seem very good at conveying what is going on.

It’s very frustrating to watch a race and not have that information which is available to everyone at the track. So condolences for that.

Live split time information is available from the official F1 site but the data relayed on screen to TV viewers typically only shows how many pit stops each driver has had.

What is particularly interesting is that Brawn almost certainly watched F1 on ITV (unless he re-tuned a satellite dish to pick up Setanta) and chose to criticise the commentators. ITV’s Martin Brundle is well-regarded by many fans.

But James Allen is widely unpopular and there are even petitions to have him replaced – a fact that many ‘in the business’ choose to ignore.

Brawn’s specific remark, “Our commentators don’t seem very good at conveying what is going on.,” really struck a chord with me. Time and again when watching motor sport the commentators seem to spend too little time talking about what’s going on on-track up and down the field, and too much time talking generally about the drivers. This does not just apply to F1 – GP2 on Eurosport is the worst.

But now that someone important has spoken out, will someone even more important – i.e. Bernie Ecclestone – take notice?

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74 comments on Ross Brawn slates ITV F1 coverage

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  1. you know what i find most disconcerting?

    the fact that this man has only just started watching GP coverage on TV. i know he used to be at every race, but you’d have though that maybe someone in the team would’ve have recorded it, just to see how it looks?

    do teams have no clue what viewers have to put with?

  2. I think that is a problem in Britain or wherever ITV is recieved.In most of Asia,broadcasting of F1 is on Star Sports and although the commentators are not former F1 drivers but I always like their commentary.Though there are the occasional goof-ups but overall I quite like the commentary and if nothing is happening on the track,they will start debating about this or that.Very informative as well.

    The problem isn’t one that Bernie can sort.Other than giving TV rights to some other channel,there is not much Bernie can do.It’s something to do with the channel and it can be solved only internally,provided they find someone less biased.

  3. Abhinav, bernie can do something. he can open up TV rights to more than one station, that would create competition.

    if viewers flocked away from ITV to an alternative channel, they’d have to do something about J.Allen.

    right now they have a monopoly because bernie chooses to let them.

  4. I always used to look forward to going to Ireland because the coverage was so much better, I hope Setanta is as good. Allen is useless, I wish Ben Edwards had got the job when Walker retired. I don’t find Brundle adds much to the experience but at least he doesn’t detract from it the way Allen does. Mostly I turn the sound off!

  5. James Allen has his good moments, unfortunately these are outweighed by his obsession on one or two drivers (generally Michael Schumacher or a Brit) and occasional tendency to spout total nonsense. Martin Brundle does a good job of analysis, but he can’t do the No.2 and No. 1 commentator’s job simultaneously (but then who could?)

    I’m not sure who to suggest as a replacement for James (or if indeed a better replacement is available) since I’ve only ever watched F1 on ITV. I have to admit that trying to watch it through Setanta on Freeview sounds tempting though…

  6. Number 38 said on 2nd May 2007, 21:25

    I guess I have to add to the general DIS-SATISFACTION in F1 TV coverage. Here in the USA I view F1 races on Speed Channel nararrated by deadbeats David Hobbs (who SHOULD have a good background) and Bob Varsha.
    I watch like Mary-Ann (above) …. with the sound off!
    I also tune in http://www.formula1.com ‘Live Timing’ on my computer and can watch the sector and lap times and a coloured coded lap chart in real time.

  7. Steve said on 2nd May 2007, 22:11

    The class of the field in motor sport commentary is Eurosport’s Moto GP team. Bike racing is always exciting (Murray Walker prefers this sort of racing) and every week you feel that they may end up in hospital, getting so over excited.
    Martin Brundle was the perfect foil for our Muzza, I think he talks about motor sport very well but if I met that Allen bloke, well he’d better watch out! ITV finally booted out that useless Rosenthal and now they need to sort out the lead commentater.
    Talking of commen taters, would a bag of jersey royals do a better job? Me thinks so.

  8. Nathan Jones said on 3rd May 2007, 9:16

    i live in oz (40mins from albert park in melbourne) and our treatment is absolutely pathetic!
    not until this year have we got qualifying on tv other than our own GP and even with the malaysia race being on at 3:00 in the afternoon we got to see it at 11:00 at night! same with qualifying!
    this happens year in/year out and no matter how much we complain, nothing ever changes. so for me looking at the live timing would just give the result away as with the euro races we see the start as the races end in real time! oh and did i mention that we don’t get GP2 at all!

  9. sue ratcliffe said on 3rd May 2007, 9:52

    Ross always talks absolute sense and his comments have lifted the lid on the problem we face in the UK with F1 TV coverage. If Ross doesn’t return to F1 perhaps he would consider Martin Brundle’s job. And how about Schumi as his sidekick?

  10. I doubt Ferrari would get much criticism with those two commentating!

  11. Journeyer said on 4th May 2007, 2:20

    Heh. Perhaps thats a bit too rosso corsa. The Star Sports team is OK (I’m from Asia), but Steve Slater can be a bit over-the-top sometimes. Chris Goodwin is a great analyst, but I’d still pick Brundle over him.

    A tidbit: we actually had 2 coverages of F1 in 2004, one with Star Sports, while another channel used the ITV audio with FOM video (meaning NO COMMERCIALS!) I simply loved that. Too bad the ITV-FOM feed never came back after that season.

  12. Journeyer,where are you from?I am in India and in 2003 and 2004 we had THREE channels broadcasting F1.One was Star Sports,another one(DD) was using ITV voice(I think) over FOM video,commercial free, and another one(Ten Sports,I think it’s not very popular outside the sub-continent) ,also commercial free but boring commentary.

    Ten Sports stopped broadcasting after 2003 while DD stopped after 2004.Reason?DD reported BIG BIG BIG losses.

  13. Journeyer said on 4th May 2007, 22:52

    I’m from the Philippines. Funny enough, the two channels showing F1 in 2004 were practically one after the other, so it was easy to switch channels if there was a problem with the feed.

    I’m not sure why our ITV-FOM feed stopped. It could be due to losses, or due to conflict with the FOM-Star Sports contract (if they demanded exclusive coverage for SE Asia). Either way, they decided to replace F1 on their motorsports schedule with… well, NASCAR (thanks to fellow Murdoch-owned FOX Sports).

  14. I have just written a post called “has the genius factor left F1″ one of those geniuses was commentator Murray Walker.James Allen had to try and fill his shoes and can’t do it.Oh! how we all miss Murray..bing him back!.
    Another thing that they can’t get right is the programs damned theme tune!….bring back the one the BBC used…”the chain” – by Fleetwood Mac.
    But on a positive note ITV’s program has a good build-up before the race with some very interesting features in-it.The BBC just didn’t seem so good in that department.
    I do like it though,when Martin Brundle and James Allen give the circuit’s TV producer a bit of a kicking….ie,calling the one who missed a classic overtaking maneuver at Suzuka last year – a “numpty”.

  15. Julie said on 15th May 2007, 15:05

    I really don’t think we have anything to complain about here in the UK. I have just returned from 3 Years in Australia and their coverage is pathetic. They never, ever show a race live (except for the one in Oz of course) and never in the 3 years did they ever air the qualifying. When they finally did air the race there was no build up programme and the commentators are about as enthusiastic as a wet weekend, the only good thing was that they cross to the ITV comentators for the duration of the race, just as the lights are about to go out!! Oh, and did I mention they have twice as many adverts as us!!

  16. The problem is that there are two roles in the commentry box. They should be divided up like a newspaper between News and Comment. And Murray used to do News and Martin did Comment. But James, desperately desperately wants to show off how much he knows about F1. It means that both of them end up doing Comment and we don’t have a clue what’s going on! It means that Martin sometimes, feeling embarresed no doubt ends up describing what’s going on. All of their descriptions are far too slow because James has been taking his lead from Martin.

    It should be like this:

    James: Somethings happening on the track, somethings happening on the track. Something very exciting is happening on the track. Why is it happening on the track?
    Martin: Because of x and then y and this is because of…
    James: Sorry to cut you off Martin something is happening on the track. Something is happening on the track. Something is happening on the track.

    When it is usually like this:

    James: This week I had dinner with somebody who told me something that was relevant before this race started.
    Martin: Really? That might mean the fuel in the race is going to be x.
    James: Well I thought the complete opposite because I’m completely stupid.
    Martin: That would be a stupid thing to think.
    James: Yeah I know. I’m stupid. I’m stupid. I’m stupid.
    Martin: Well while we’ve been speaking about that this is what’s been happening on the track.
    James: Let me re-cap everything that’s been happening since the start of the race again, I haven’t done that for 2 minutes and it’s not as if you’ve been watching the whole race or anything and as far as I can tell nothing could possibly be happening now and if it is then it can probably wait a minute or two and I’ll include it in my next recap of everything that’s happened in the race.
    Martin: You are stupid.
    James: Yes I’m stupid.

    Or something like that.

  17. Roger Atkins said on 18th May 2007, 19:55

    Coverage was far better when it was on Sky with Multi Screen options or abroard where the race is still shown in a reduced window through the adverts.
    This technology seems to be beyond ITVs capability, or do they feel they dont have to bother as they dont have competition. BBC and Murray Walker were much better

  18. C Jefferies said on 19th May 2007, 20:24

    Get rid of James Allen and PLEASE bring back Murray Walker you could at the very least have a good laugh with him.

  19. Roy Newton said on 21st May 2007, 20:46

    I’m a little amused by all the praise for Murray Walker. Sure he has an excellent knowledge of F1 history and it’s always worth listening to his racing reminiscences.
    However during live commentary,he drove me to distraction and I couldn’t wait for the day he retired.

    What bugged me most about his technique was his penchant for interrupting himself during an interesting point in the race, in order to go off at a tangent about some unrelated trivial detail, never to get back to his previous commentary.

    With his gaffes and his mad desire to predict the race outcome far in advance and thereby put the ‘commentator’s curse’ on the driver concerned, it was a relief for someone new to take over. I was pleased with James Allen at first but alas though he seems to have gone off the boil; perhaps like Ross Brawn, he too needs a sojourn.

  20. Kev said on 6th June 2007, 23:49

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that has noticed that midway through the race we only get to see how many pit stops each driver has taken. Although this information is useful around the pit stop windows, it would be a lot better to have split timings instead.

    I can’t remember how long ago ITV started doing this, but it is getting beyond a joke now.

    As for the commentators, I agree with the James Allen verdict. Get him out! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been screaming at the telly when he’s really excited about an overtaking move, when everything with two working eyes knows it’s a replay of a move made 5 mins ago, that HE commented on.

    The man has the memory of a Goldfish!

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