BBC F1 coverage: your verdict

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber talks to the BBC in Melbourne
Mark Webber talks to the BBC in Melbourne

A big talking point on the live blogs during the Australian Grand Prix weekend was how BBC did with their F1 coverage.

I thought they did a great job – but reading around some other sites I’ve noticed a few complaints. What did you think of the BBC’s return as an F1 broadcaster?


For the first time ever, all the F1 practice sessions as well as qualifying and the race were broadcast live in Britain. ITV made a big step forwards with this last year, offering all the sessions bar free practice three, but BBC are now bringing us the full complement – on television as well as online. This is a great step forwards.

I didn’t get much of a chance to play around with their onboard coverage, but the rolling highlights feed online was very useful.

We got a decent amount of post-session footage too. I was unimpressed with their decision to cut the post-qualifying press conference to go to an interview with Richard Branson, but on race day we got much more of the interviews. The post-race discussion which continued after the broadcast had finished on BBC1 was very good, and demonstrated BBC’s willingness to use modern television technologies to extend the coverage in a way ITV never bothered with.

Commentators and presenters

I’ve seen a few people on the forum here and on some other sites criticising Jonathan Legard’s performance as lead commentator. I’m at a loss to understand why. He had a few wobbles on Saturday but I thought he did a fine job on Sunday.

Inevitably, the rapport between him and Martin Brundle (who was in fine form) will need a little time to develop. I would, however, like them to be struck with a cricket bat every they use the phrase “KERS system”.

Jake Humphrey did all I expect from an anchorman – he kept things moving and didn’t get on my nerves. David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan brought plenty of useful first-hand knowledge of the sport and offered the kind of constructive disagreement that was lacking on ITV’s team last year.

Ted Kravitz did his usual solid job in the pit lane – but I don’t remember hearing much from Lee McKenzie.


One of the things I appreciated most about BBC’s coverage is how much less patronising it felt than ITV’s effort. Too often ITV seemed preoccupied with chasing celebrities and ignoring the enthusiast audience in favour of the patriotic element.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the home drivers, but it often felt like ITV did it to the exclusion of all else – particularly when Lewis Hamilton arrived on the scene. BBC struck a much better balance.


On the whole I thought the BBC did a very good job of their first F1 broadcast in 13 years. There was the odd hiccup – one broadcast abruptly disappeared for half a minute or so – and the presenters are obviously still getting used to each other, but that will surely develop with time.

Of course not having adverts instantly made the coverage incomparably better. FOM should take note and ensure that viewers abroad are offered the same luxury, even if on pay-per-0view.

The biggest things missing from the coverage at the moment are all things Formula One Management need to provide – a HD feed and better on-screen information.

Although I had my misgivings about ITV, it was clear from talking to fans from abroad that their coverage was among the best F1 got. But the BBC have raised the bar even higher.

What did you think of the BBC’s F1 coverage? Do you have a new local broadcaster in 2009? Do leave a comment – we know they’re paying attention to what F1 Fanatic readers have to say.

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155 comments on “BBC F1 coverage: your verdict”

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  1. I thought Legard was terrible at the start of the race, he was gabbling incomprehensibly at the first corner; but once he calmed down he was okay. The chemistry needs to develop between him and Brundle as there seemed to be some awkward silences at certain points during the race.
    Perversely, I kind of missed the ITV adverts as at least they gave a natural “comfort break” – but that’s entirely my problem as I forgot I could pause live telly on my Freeview+ box & consequently missed Kimi’s off.
    The Saturday afternoon full race replay had little preamble, which was surprising and possibly a major disappointment for those watchers without the red button who missed the live coverage.
    To be fair, we’re making a comparison between BBC’s first race and several season’s worth of coverage where ITV had enough time to get it right. I think they did OK.

    1. Perversely, I kind of missed the ITV adverts as at least they gave a natural “comfort break”

      I know you don’t mean it really…

  2. I felt Legard left a lot of dead air, waiting for Martin to fill it. Sure James Allen would occasionally fill it with excitable guff, but, frankly, that was his job.

    I saw the last 30 laps of the StarSports in the Novotel at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and just watched the BBC coverage up to lap 18 (after a 24 hour journey home that should have been 9) and Steve Slater made Legard look freakin’ awesome. So give the guy time, he needs at least three races to settle in.

    The rest has already been said by Keith, so it doesn’t need repeating.

  3. I go along with most of the comments above, it was great. I liked best (from what’s new), the red button stuff after the race. In the past very often there is no time left and they cut, and I’m thirsty for more!!
    I invested a lot during the winter for this, like buying an HD TV and a Freesat box to watch F1 in HD, but I commented on that to Keith already, I know it’s not down to the beeb.

  4. Your “Tone” comments are dead on – the coverage has become more intelligent all round. With one exception: the show had an even worse start than Barrichello with BBC’s portentous introduction: Jake saying “we’re going to take you on a journey…” (why is everything a journey these days?) and “this…”(long Top Gear pause)”…is Formula One.”

    With apologies to non-digital viewers, the rest is my thoughts on the “red button” coverage:

    I thought the paddock setting and content of the extended post-race discussion was excellent, as was their ability to pop up in a different location in the paddock after a short clip…hopefully they can bring in a driver or two in future, and ask some searching questions. They’re not used to that…

    I used the “onboard” channel on a couple of rare occasions when the race went quiet. The scrolling positions-and-gaps ticker (like US channels’ racing coverage) is useful but the onboard pictures were often the same as the main coverage, and a bit small to see properly, while there was empty space to either side. Damn those Luddites without widescreen tellies!

    1. Jake saying “we’re going to take you on a journey…” (why is everything a journey these days?) and “this…”(long Top Gear pause)”…is Formula One.”

      It was totally a Top Gear pause!

  5. I was disappointed with BCC. Brundle was goldclass as usual and I think Legard did well. But the race director was shocking. ITV made it so easy to follow the race, at all times you knew exactly what was happening. With the BBC all I knew was that Button was in the lead. I didnt even know Kimi crashed till a long time later and im not sure that is all down to the chaotic race, I guess its going to take them a season or two to develop that interaction ITV had. But it did feel like a real step back.

    1. The race direction is nothing to do with the BBC. The feed is from FOM – the same as ITV last year.

      I did think the direction was bad but it’s not really fair to pin that on the BBC

  6. I think I agree with the majority of the sentiments expressed here, the lack of Ads was good, legard was still in radio mode, but will adjust, and Jake Humpreys actually surprised me, a good step up from Rider I think.

    However, if anyone has access to the BBC can you please teel them that in the red button forum, tell the camera to STOP moving around. It started with them all looking relaxed post race for a chat, then all of a suddent the camera-man was in DC’s face, then backed off, then in EJ’s face etc etc and every time you saw the look on their faces which said “Whoa steady on there mate, you’ll take my head off with that thing”

    Apart from that, it was great, really great and maybe in Speang (a generally more dull race) I’ll get the chance to play with the different feeds, as opposed to being totally glued to the action on BBC1

  7. Scott Joslin
    30th March 2009, 13:52

    I thought on the whole the BBC did really well. The first thing I would like to commend them for is the sheer amount of coverage they provided from the week leading up to the Grand Prix and right the way through to last night when you could still catch highlights of the Grand Prix on the red button. This amount of airtime in unrivaled here in the UK without having to pay for it especially so well done.

    Content wise I am slightly less enthusiastic at this very early stage. Despite what you think the coverage is still very weighed in UK drivers favor – the montage clips basically centered around british drivers, Mansell, Button, Hill, Lewis – but I don’t have a problem about that but I know it gets on peoples nerves from other countries or fans that support other drivers.

    My gut feel is I am not going to warm to Legard, not that I don’t like him, just I don’t think he gives to much away about his personality, he just talks at a million miles per hour. He sounds authoritative and describes things pretty well, but it is the vulnerabilities that endear me to these guys, Murray had his gaffs, Hunt was clinically blunt, Allen was a bit over the top with Lewis and Brundle is great all round at describing it for the man in the street. But Legard lacks something endearing.

    The worse point for me what when Piquet spun off and Brundle was talking and Legard just opened up at full pelt and fired a volly of noise which was undecipherable. He reminds me of the circuit commentator at Silverstone – Ian Titcshmarsh – but I like him better.

    I switched over to Radio 5 commentary and it was much better (in my opinion) Anthony Davidson and Croft had a much more relaxed relationship and both were comfortable chipping in with their own opinions rather than just keeping it informative.

    Did anyone here Davidson’s response to David Crofts question about if he had ever lied to a team engineer? Apparently in 2005 he was so excited by getting to drive the Honda he forgot to tie up his helmet and went out on track and realised half way round as it was coming off his head, so he came back in and lied about the throttle mapping being all wrong, got out of the car and while his mechanics investigated the reported problem Davidson did up his helmet – Classic!

    I enjoyed the musical montages, I am a sucker for those, Sky’s post football match montages are awesome and I think BBC have found a similar level.

    Jake was brilliant in my view seemed to comprehend everything and kept things moving nicely perhaps wear a shirt next time, he looked like he had just popped out of Topman on a saturday afternoon. Eddie Irvine got on my nerves. Sorry but I cannot stand the man, but that is my personal opinion.
    Hats of to DC he made a perfect transition and surpassed my expectations of him.

    But generally for the amount of content they provided I was almost a bit bored of seeing the race…..That’s never happened before!

    On the whole well done BBC, it will take me a while to warm to Legard but in the mean time I can just switch to radio 5. I am sure they will have some decent features in the coming weeks and months.

  8. I didn’t like Eddie Jordan and I fear he’ll only get worse as the season gets on. Other than that I have to agree with Kieth.

  9. far better job than itv i have to say but i was expecting more on the red button. it would of been better if you watch the reply from the start instead of it been rolling only.

    i wouldn’t care if i had to pay for this, even if it wasn’t from the bbc but FOM themselves.

    She always had such a good rapport with a lot of the drivers, asked appropriate, intelligent questions and did a good job all-round. Now we’re stuck with some butch scottish woman who doesn’t seem to know her ar*e from her elbow!

    Additionally, I think that although Brundle couldn’t get a word in edge-ways in qually, it was better for the race. Obviously, they’re a new pairing so it will take time. Legard seems to forget he’s not on radio at times.
    Eddie Jordan seems to be relishing his pundit position and the coverage is worse off for it in my opinion. He talks rubbish is copious amounts. DC was good though. Jake Humphrey – meh. I wish they would get Jim Rosenthal back.
    But at the end of the day, (to use a sporting idiom :)) I felt the beeb did well – very comprehensive coverage – just a few irritating things that I would change but will probably get used to.

    P.S. How rubbish was the intro, regardless of The Chain’s inclusion. And all that tyre squealing? Looks like it was put together by a ten year old who is “like really, really into cars” and thought it would be so cool to make it all with computers.

    P.P.S. Bit of a long post; sorry about that.

    1. I’d like Louise back too, she was the first lady of the paddock.

      I think I heard she will be doing touring car coverage with Steve Ryder?

    2. I believe she’s basically doing the same job as last year, except now for the official F1 TV broadcast at all the tracks in the calender.

  11. I was really quite impressed with the BBCs coverage – especially given it was only their first race back in the reins – i thought Legard definitely improved from the Saturday to the Sunday – although you can still tell he is used to the radio – that will improve with time though, I dont think we could hold that against him too much – commentary between the two mediums is very different, its only expected that it would take time to adapt. Likewise with the relationship with Brundle – that will take time too, I’m sure it would have when Allen started – i cant quite remember though.

    I thought the red button stuff was brilliant, all the practices, the re-runs of races, the forum at the end of the race. plus qualifying and the race were re-run immediately following the live broadcast – there was the potential to watch the race at least four times on the Sunday across the BBC channels. The forum in particular was good – interesting debate with real opinions rather than a cautious answer – the extra interviews were a bonus, and although I find EJ a little irritating at times, he does at least bring a debate (usually contradicted the others, on pretty much every topic). I also liked the fact that all drivers/teams got covered in the post race analysis, not just Hamilton, or indeed Button. (and thats by no means a dig at either driver, more of ITV who were awful for doing that!)

    I also thought that Jake Humphrey did a really good job – he was the one I was a little unsure about when they announced the team originally, I thought it was a bit of a random choice – but I’m glad they picked him – he was well informed, sounded genuinely interested in everything and worked really well with DC and EJ – he kept everything flowing nicely, as well as asking questions that casual viewers might want to know about, without making it sound patronising to the more ardent fan.

    Overall – very impressed, and its likely to improve as well, it is after all only their first race!

  12. Great job by BBC. Red button for practice and after race forum superb. Only negatives: more time should be scheduled after qualifying, there’s always plenty to discuss. And Eddie Jordan?!

  13. Pls get rid of Eddie Jordan.

  14. Overall enjoyed BBC’s coverage!
    One pet hate though was their insistence to want to talk over the ‘team radio’ broadcasts. I love the fact teams have been forced to leave their transmissions unencrypted but for the commentators to continually speak over them was very frustrating!
    That and would like to see HD broadcast. But I suspect thats more up to the circuit management to provide that so we’ll see…

  15. ‘KERS system’ is a fine example of RAS Syndrome:

    EJ would be better suited to Jeremy Kyle, he seemed to be there to just argue against even the most straight forward of concepts. I’m sure he said ‘Confuser’ rather than ‘Diffuser’ at one point. Luckily he is kept away from the actual racing coverage so it wasn’t to painful.

    No use of ‘danger high voltage’ yet, but it’s only a matter of time ;)

    1. And calling it RAS syndrome is also a perfect example of RAS :) lmao

  16. Trouble is, I needed to pee in the middle of the race – with no ad breaks I didn’t want to miss anything!

    Is the F1 Forum from the red button available to watch on the web anywhere? It’s not on iPlayer I don’t think? I missed most of this!

    Generally I quite liked the coverage – I suppose it’s quite hard to get it perfect as it’s live!

  17. Excellent coverage. Just needs tweeking and balancing so that EJ stops interupting everybody! I value his opinions but he wasn’t letting anybody else speak!

  18. Hugo Bourgeois
    30th March 2009, 14:36

    Honestly, I must say that the BBC coverage is a big step forward for me. Being Belgians, we have the choice between French comments (from Wallony), which I would rate 8/10 easily and Dutch (Flanders) comments that I would rate anywhere between 2 and 4/10.

    At last, we get to see a coverage that the network (in this case BBC) has really made a positive choice for, rather than just not wanting another network to have it. In Belgium, first they choose, and then they choose to ignore it.

    So Belgium puts its hands together for the BBC and its coverage!

  19. Im loving the BBC footage. The red button is brilliant, I think ive watched the highlights about 10 times and the after race chit chat is great, not like ITV who would simply cut press conference as they need to get the adverts in. The only problem I had during the race was when to make a cup of tea as no 2 minute breaks anymore, lol. I thinkm the presenters simply need a few more races before they are fully compfortable with each other. And i found Coultard and Eddie’s diagreements quite ammuzing.All in all the Beeb have done much better job, the only complaint is DO NOT CUT PRESS CONFERENCE!

    1. Great coverage from BBC. I watched online and i think it was superior to iTV’s coverage. Still not too sure about, Eddie and David as pundits, i like both but maybe not together, but perhaps too early to judge :| Would have liked to see Mark Blundell carry on though. All in all i think it was a success..

  20. compared to ITV i think they did a great job, i liked Jonathan Leggard in place of James Allen (James Allen’s website is an excellent read by the way i have nothing against him at all just didnt like his commentary style) and the whole program for me was more focused on the race including the technical side which is what i like.

    The red button was excellent too especially the highlights, forum and the previous years ‘classic races’ leading up to race weekend, i hope they do that for every race as i enjoyed watching them at 4am when my little girl decides she doesnt want to sleep!!

    Well done and welcome back BBC.

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