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 it was loads better than ITV! Although BBC clearly had taken note from ITV – I thought the clips to music was great (although not quite as good as ITVs farewell lol)

    Jake Humphries was far better than I was expecting, Brundle was on top form as ever and I was interested to see his extra bits at the beginning.

    I was surprised not to see Lee McKenzie doing more of the pieces to camera, I think I expected her to do everything Louise Goodman did previously. Ted Kravitz was same as always, I’m not particularly keen on him but does a good job.

    DC was great but I think EJ is going to annoy me – I didn’t like the way he kept taking over the conversation and it looked like he was annoying DC and Brundle at the end of the race.

    Legard – I much prefer his whole tone of voice to James Allen (so glad the bbc didn’t keep him – great journalist not so good on the commentating) but I think it will take time for the rapport with Brundle. I was a bit confused as to who was supposed to be the main commentator and I think these two did too. He was also too much of a cross between a radio commentator and a horse racing/auctioneer for my liking!

    I really enjoyed the pairing on 5 live during free practise (mainly cos they read out my text!!) but Davidson was brilliant – I wish he could be with Brundle on the main broadcast.

    I love the BBC showing practice, qualy, race and highlights so often – one thing I was surprised at was the lack of build up on the qualy re-run (not sure about the race I think I was napping at the time)..I think it should be shown twice. At least the build up was different between Sat and Sun and was so much more balanced than ITV – thank you Beeb!!

  2. I really enjoyed the BBC commentary. It was a pleasant change not to hear Lewis Hamiltons name every 10sec. CH10 here had the race in High Def 5.1, was it the same in the UK?

  3. One thing i don’t think anybody has mentioned is the third commentary option. Once you press the redboutton and selected commentary options you heard the R5Live coverage but you could use the arrow buttons to select a a commentary labeled “CBBC”. One would think that it was only useful for children being labeled but it wasn’t too dumbed down and i think if it was someones first time watching it would be a great tool to understand some of the terms used etc.

    Overall i agreee with the general view here that Legard could come out of radio mode but i think after a few races that will happen.

  4. No adverts = brilliant
    No James Allen = brilliant

    Eddie Jordan = amusing but likely to become tiresome
    DC = just what you expect from Crazy Dave

    Legyard = Calm authority
    Lee Mackenzie = didn’t notice her

    Friday session = beyond superb, real anorak, clip board and stopwatch stuff, loved it beyond all measure, made me feel like I was at Paddock Hill again watching De Angelis power-sliding it.

    God help us all Bransons got his grinning face on the BBC

  5. For God’s sake don’t knock Legyard we will get the cock Allen back – ” and we are……..wait for it…..wait…….wait……..wait a bit more…………gaooooooooooo! “

  6. All we could talk about in the pub last night was how abysmal the coverage was, they’ve not moved it on an inch from ITV, just changed a couple of faces. I reckon we chatted for ten mins about the race and an hour about how disappointed we were in the BBC. I know they’re still hopelessly limited by the feed they get from Bernie, but when Tennis and Cricket coverage is significantly more hi-tec than F1, surely alarm bells should be ringing. Utterly devoid of ideas, 1/10

  7. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    30th March 2009, 23:29

    WOOOHOOO NO ADVERTS!!! However, there is one draw back to no commercials, for me anyway. The race now lasts alot longer for me as i kept having to pause the live tv (thank god for PVR’s) to sort out the kids, make a cup of tea for the good lady, lav breaks, breakfast etc etc… The blasted race lasted 3 hours! At least with ITV i could save a bit of time… lol. ;)

  8. Well I managed to get to see the bbc coverage of qualifying and the race this weekend, even though i thought i wouldn’t have a chance in hell.

    I must say i was very impressed with bbc’s coverage. They must have taken a guide from itv’s previous coverage because it was much better than any of bbc’s f1 coverage in the past. Maybe the post race analysis could have been a little longer, but i’m quite satisfied.

    I’m quite impressed with Jonathan Legard, though he did make a few James allen style mistakes, and he did monopolise the commentary a bit. That could be down to a lone commentary when he was on radio 5 live (but i never listened to that so don’t know if he had a partner or not). It could also be the way Martin Brundle prefers it.

    I will say i was notimpressed with the opening titles. The music was good, but “the chain” was under utilised in my opinion, and i saw what an amateur can do on youtube much better.

    So i’ll give bbc 9 out of 10.

    looking foward to Malaysia.

    The race was amazing and better than i was expecting and Jensen deserved the win totally. Also I think most people will have to say that Lewis Hamilton has shown his greatness by bringing his bad Mclaren to 3rd place from last. And i know he was helped by the first safety car.

    And speaking of the safety car, i felt it was a joke with it taking ages to come out after the accident. It makes me think of conspiracy cos it came out just after button pitted. It stayed out way too long, and the cars were travelling too fast.

    enough said for now

  9. One other question regarding BrawnGp.

    I wonder if they would have done so well if they had still been using Honda engines???

    Or maybe Honda had made leaps and bounds witheir engine too.

  10. Patresestoenail
    31st March 2009, 1:34

    Thought Jake was good – but I hadn’t expected much, based on his “What sport is this then?” Olympics coverage.

    Great to hear Maurice Hamilton and Ian Phillips again on the second practice session – sorry to lose Maurice as the 5 Live co-commentator, but Anthony Davidson is great too.

    One grumble – not enough of the coverage is on iPlayer. I don’t have digital but I do have the internet so I wanted to see the post-race forum but couldn’t! The practice session video coverage is still on the BBC Sport website but completely hidden (I only found it via the link to the Inside F1 programme) and not accessible via the iPlayer site.

    Am I right in thinking that Ted Kravitz has a background in production? He’s probably beavering away behind the scenes then. Shame not to hear more of him on screen though.

    Very happy with the rest – Legard will settle in and Jordan will continue to be entertaining!

  11. Having watched the BBC replay (I live in Hong Kong, and sadly have to tolerate Star Sports coverage), I think Martin Brundle is the heart and soul (as always) of BBC coverage. I like Jake Humphrey, DC & EJ, who are by far better than Steve Rider and Mark Blundell.

    But weirdly, I miss James Allen (can’t believe I just said that!) I know Legard is new to the job and will only improve as the season unfolds, but he sounds a bit dull. I miss James Allen’s passion and enthusiasm when something big happens.

    I was looking forward to Lee McKenzie for the simple fact that she’s more pleasing to the eyes than Louise Goodman. But I am totally disappointed. Not really on her looks, but I’m disappointed she sounds really bland and rude. She never addressed any driver by name, and just shoot her questions. And Louise built up such good rapport with drivers over the years, so her interview style is much more intimate.

    Anyhow, you lucky Brits should not complain too much and just enjoy. We have to bear with Steve Slater, the worst commentator in sports. But I must say Karun Chandhok is actually quite good. His views on incidents are a little “Brundlesque” where he mostly gets them right.

    1. You aren’t the only one ;)

      When I got home from the track I immediately watched it again on TV, and found myself shouting as the lights went out “And we are GOOOOOOOO! ” Who woulda thunk it?

      As for Louise Goodman, she was at the GP working for GPTV. Not sure if that will be at every race or not, but it was nice to see her, and hear that familiar “Hard luck Heikki” (or whoever, as obviously not everyone she spoke to was named Heikki).

      Interesting to see the comments re the Beeb’s coverage. We don’t get the panel of DC, EJ et al here, just Brundle and Legard with the odd comment from Ted or Lee thrown in. Sounds like we are missing out on some good TV. I thought Legard sounded like he should be commenting on the cricket rather than F1. I kept expecting him to say that we were two for twenty two or something. Step up the excitment a notch Legard – its high octane F1, not coma inducing cricket! But still, that may come with time.

      But don’t you people complain too much – Ch10 or Ch1 as they are now calling themselves still have ad breaks. And not quicky ones either, the whole box and dice :(

      I’d put up with a lot of **** for no ad breaks. I have TiVo that I can pause for my loo/tea/snack breaks at my convenience !

  12. Johnathan Legard’s commentary is informed, but dull. He reminds me of the kind of guy you find employed in your local public library. Not sure if it’s an improvement over Allen or not…. obviously, Allen had his share of “non-fans”.

    After all the BBC’s PR bravado about providing a “fresh start”, they haven’t exactly blown ITV away.

  13. The BBC Coverage was good, at last the coverage dosent have have adverts running through it ever 5 minutes. It’s great that it’s on BBC iplayer as well i watched the start of the race on there because i had missed the start. So for the BBC first F1 coverage they’ve done very well hopefully they can keep it up.

  14. I thought Legard sounded like he should be commenting on the cricket rather than F1.

    Errr, maybe I’m the only F1 fan who likes cricket too.
    2 completely different sports that I really like.

    Wouldn’t say he’s quite on the cricket commentary terms. Could you imaging Jonathan Agnew commentating on F1? :D But, then cricket commentary you have to read the play for the listener and this is exactly what Legard did. I think he’ll get better once he gets to know Brundle better, for some interaction between the two. It was a bit like they were in two separate booths rather than in the same space some times.

    But then I wasn’t that fussed about James Allen.

  15. I thought the coverage on the whole was pretty good, MB (always a LEGEND) Legard was awful had me wishing for James Allen to come back and thats not good…surely there is someone out there who can com and not sound like he should be doing the coms for Roayl Ascot…And we’ve waited 5 months for the start of the season and when the lights went out did he get excited??? Not that I noticed…so it should be jog on Legard you are not upto to the sound like a politician and a bad one at that…

  16. Pink – sounds like you’re from Canada? No preshow, UK commentary, and TiVO?

    I will surely miss F1 in Montreal, it’s there that really got me addicted to this.

    1. Australia. Melbourne to be exact.

      I was at the race, and like any true petrolhead went straight home and watched the telecast to see what I missed !

  17. Mystic Pizza
    31st March 2009, 15:39

    Having been so impressed with David Croft and Anthony Davidson’s commentary on the Red Button Practice Sessions, I listened to them rather than Brundle/Legard for the race too. Only disadvantage with this were the interuptions caused by the 7.30am and 8.30am headlines as effectively this was the Radio 5 Live feed. Don’t know if anyone else found it but there was another audio alternative lurking on the Red Button that I switched to accidently that was a CBBC version? I didn’t survive the patronising long enough to know whether this was purely intended for a younger audience? The main bit that I heard was alleged “hidden microphone” inside the Safety Car consisting of a man and woman’s voice arguing about which direction they should be going. Having realised my mistake, I was careful not to repeat it although I am left wondering what else they might have lampooned!

    All in all I thought it was a good first effort (apart from not covering the press conferences) and have subsequently enjoyed Jake’s Blogs on the BBC F1 site. I do think that it is possible that EJ may become a tad tiresome though. It’s all well and good (and vast improvement on ITV) to have commentators/pundits that are willing and able to have an informed opinion and not just about Lewis Hamilton but EJ banging the Barrichello drum so hard got tedious whether you like the guy or not.

    Jury’s still out over the long-term but no adverts and interactive coverage are excellent bonuses – roll on Malaysia!

  18. I thought that overall it was good coverage and good presentation… but… Eddie Jordan… don’t know… I don’t think he’s capable of being objective, and therefore (in my opinion) not so great for the job.

    Also, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about David Coulthard. He’s just too boring! Great insite and knowledge of course, but boring boring boring. Perhaps he’ll grow into the role over time.

    I thought Jake Humphrey did a great job though.

  19. I think they should use Ted Kravits more – he is really excellent in his analysis.

  20. There’s an excellent and very detailed look at the BBC’s coverage on Doctorvee’s site: F1 on the BBC: A new era of F1 coverage

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