What do US F1 fans think of Speed?

Posted on | Author Gerard Hetman

F1 Fanatic’s American guest writer Gerard Hetman gives his verdict on Speed’s coverage of Formula 1.

For an American F1 fan like me the amount of commentary regarding the BBC?s new coverage has been fascinating to follow. It seems to have been well received by many people, but how good a job are Speed doing of covering F1 in the US?

The quality of the broadcast provided by Speed, and it?s parent company Fox Network, inspired a range of responses in an earlier article on this site.

The recognisable team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett, plus with Peter Windsor reporting from the pit lane, seems to be well-regarded by some fans, while other viewers express disappointment at their work and seek a higher standard from Speed. While the discussion may not approach the fever pitch of the James Allen debates, the range of opinions on the Speed group is no less colourful.

Love it or hate it, Speed could be set to be a key point of discussion in what is shaping up as a critical juncture for F1 in America. Let?s take a look at the basics of the station?s operation, and what challenges it will need to resolve in the months ahead.

The nuts and bolts

Formula 1 has been broadcast in America for many years, with the coverage bouncing around between several different broadcast companies – including ESPN and CBS – before finally settling on Speed and FOX several years ago. The combination of networks broadcasts every F1 race of the season, with Speed carrying most races live, while a handful – including the U.S. and Canadian rounds in recent years – are broadcast nationally by FOX. The North American races were carried live, with a few European rounds broadcast on tape delay after being edited and packaged to fit into a two-hour timeslot.

Each member of Speed?s broadcast team brings many years of experience in motorsport and Formula 1 to the table, with each taking a different role in the coverage. Varsha serves as lead commentator, ex-F1 driver Hobbs offers insight on sporting decisions and strategy, while Matchett provides technical analysis and feedback. Windsor, in his role as pit lane reporter, is well known for his pre-race walks on the grid. The station carries live broadcasts of Friday afternoon practice, qualifying, and the race, with a pre-race show and full broadcasts of GP2 races also presented to the fans.

Several of the broadcasters also hold other commentary positions with the network, the best know of which may be Varsha?s twice-annual commentary during the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions. Windsor also has an extensive journalist career of his own, with an extensive amount of work for F1 Racing magazine, in addition to his start up work with the USGPE project.

Problems

While the Speed crew have plenty of F1 experience and their broadcasts are well-received by many, several issues are set to bring the station?s status as F1 broadcast rights holder in the United States into the spotlight. How the station and parent company Fox handle them could determine how Formula 1 is received in America for many years to come.

The first is the issue of renewing the network?s contract with Formula 1 Management for the rights to broadcast the sport in the United States. According to various unofficial reports, the network?s three-year deal for broadcast rights is set to expire following the 2009 season, and as of this writing, no mention of a renewal has been made public. While a contract between the network and FOM may already be in place, no public word of such a deal seems to have come up.

It may seem natural for Bernie Ecclestone to agree to a quick extension, but the issue of F1 broadcasting in America has been a key point of discussion for many years, and the wish by FOTA and FOM alike to expand the American F1 TV market may prevent an easy renewal for Speed. The network is not carried on all mainstream cable and satellite providers, with some outlets making it part of special sports network packages that subscribers must pay extra to access. F1 team bosses- both before and after the advent of FOTA – have been critical of this lack of access, and have often stressed a review of how the sport is broadcast in America.

Second, and perhaps less pressing, is the possible loss of Peter Windsor as pit lane reporter after his USF1/USGPE venture hits the grid in 2010. While he certainly has his detractors, Windsor?s years in the sport make him a familiar face to many on the grid, and he often gets pre-race interviews with a slew of F1 drivers and VIPs. While he has said that he would like to be involved in some capacity with Speed in the future, it remains to be seen if his new duties as sporting director for his team would allow for his normal role to continue unabated.

If Ecclestone and FOM wanted to look elsewhere, it remains to be seen what options are available for the American market. A simple idea is to buy network TV time and pump in a foreign feed, such as the BBC broadcasts. While die hard fans may love the concept, it would perhaps be a risky move to have a completely foreign operation as the bedrock of F1 publicity in the United States. Other networks, such as American sports broadcast king ESPN, could also be courted for the role. But assembling a quality broadcast team and operation would be a challenge, and the risk remains that a new network would badly mishandle the product in a damaging fashion, such as assembling a poor quality broadcast team.

No matter who broadcasts F1 in America, Ecclestone?s recent pattern of commercial preferences and decisions have not made life easier for any broadcast company in America or, indeed, the entire Western Hemisphere. The recent late start times in Asia have led to live races being shown in the 2-5am range in terms of start times in America, and even European races often roll off while America is just rolling out of bed on Sunday morning. With only one race in either North or South America, showing live feed at prime viewing times is difficult. While tape-delayed broadcasts are an option and can bring greater ratings and exposure, they run the risk of further alienating existing fans.

The future

For me, the Speed broadcasts are both informative and entertaining, and provide quality coverage that is often not matched by broadcasters in some of my other favourite sports. I believe each member of the broadcast team knows his subject, and the group seems to get along well as a whole. See here for an example of Steve Matchett in action.

I also enjoy Windsor?s pre-race grid walks, as he often snags some of the biggest names in the business – he twice pressed Bernie Ecclestone on the subject of a future United States Grand Prix last season, which was a welcome sight. I believe Ecclestone and FOM would be wise to stick with Speed, with perhaps some specifics for more exposure, such as allowing more races to be broadcast on FOX at certain points in the season.

But for as much as I enjoy Speed, I realise that some of my fellow fans don?t share my view. Many have experienced F1 broadcasts in other countries, and would like to see standards and habits used by other networks adopted by Speed.

No matter what you think of the current deal, the future of F1 in America is becoming a hot topic, and broadcast rights are just part of the package. While Fox and Speed- whose studios are very close to the USF1 home base- will be pushing for a renewal, we all know that things can take some crazy turns when Bernie is in charge.

Do you watch F1 in America on Speed? What do you think of their coverage? Leave a comment below.

If you watch F1 on ESPN Star Sports in Asia check out this post by F1 Wolf for his thoughts on their coverage.

127 comments on “What do US F1 fans think of Speed?”

  1. tEQUILLA sLAMMER
    15th April 2009, 23:09

    i live in the uk! I dont get Speed TV, but thank phuq they get interviews from drivers straight after races!!! #:) makews a whole lotta fun in between !!!

  2. I personally am just grateful to be able to see F1 in HD and with good commentary. I think Speed does a great job and it would be a shame to see them lose the rights a la Setanta Sports or Fox Soccer Channel not being able to broadcast World Cup or Euros.

  3. I have been watching F1 since I was kid growing up in the UK. Watched with Raymond Baxter and Murray Walker on the BBC.

    I moved to the US Pacific NW in 82 and have watched F1 on ABC, NBC, CBS , Fox , ESPN and finally Speed.

    Some of the network broadcasts were dreadful with the commentators leaving much to be desired.

    Speed is great. I have nothing but good to say about the quality of the broadcasts and the the crew Hobbs, Varsha, Matchett and even Windsor when he can tone down his adoration of a certain British driver.

    Sure the race times are inconvenient, but that’s what DVR’s are for.

    The only thing I would like is Speed F1 to broadcast in HD.

    Fox showed a few broadcasts in HD and they were pretty impressive.

    Great site Keith, I discovered you last year at end of the season. Been visiting regularly ever since.

    1. No F1 race has been shown in HD as the FOM feed for F1 isn’t recorded in HD, FOX just shows an upscaled widescreen feed.

    2. I agree! (Apart from the DVR thingie – we don’t have one.)

      I moved here in 89, and it took me forever to find F1 coverage on the telly; most of the coverage was truly awful.

      As a rule, I like the Speed coverage. (I hated it when they shared the season with CBS – they made those races painful to watch!) Depending on what I have to do the next day, I’ll either stay up and watch the race, or hope like heck there’s a repeat when I can watch it.

      The only thing I would change is to send the team to the race – I think that would lead to better coverage. The commentators at the NASCAR races look out over the track, but the F1 one commentators are looking at the same pictures as the viewers. It just adds something “extra” when they can actually soak up the atmosphere.

      Carolyn Ann

    3. I would agree with you. Although there are certainly areas we could all find that could be improved, overall this is by far the best coverage we have had in the U.S. in the 20+ years I have been watching F1 on the various U.S. media outlets. My biggest beef is not liking Windsor (looking at him with those huge headphones, etc during his pit walks reminds me of Les Nessman on WKRP). Thankfully, for me, this should be his last year, if USF1 launches as planned. I wish they would replay the qualifying sessions later in the day, as they do with the actual races, but at least they show them. No other network was willing to devote the time to do that. Also they don’t edit and shorten down the race rebroadcasts (aside from the edits this year in Malaysia when they cut out a lot of the time when everyone was just sitting around, with their cars parked, waiting on the rain, before the race was called).

  4. Speed does an excellent job. High production values, lots of resources devoted to making the product cutting edge and first-class. And to get Friday practice as well as qualifying is such a great bonus. They get an A+ in my book.

    As for the loss of Windsor, what are John Bisignano and his turned-up collar doing? He had the passion…

    (I would see the coverage going to Setanta or Versus both as steps backward).

  5. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    15th April 2009, 23:47

    How come you get it in HD???

    1. Robert McKay
      15th April 2009, 23:54

      I presume its not actual proper HD, just upscaled SD. That’s what the Australian channel (One?) gets, I think.

    2. Correct, it is not true HD, rather just upscaled SD.

  6. Very unexpected… being an American who usually prefers everything to be British, regarding television – but, I don’t mind Speed.

    I think they do a very good job with the limited resources they have, and I commend their efforts.

    With that said, I preferred the ITV coverage and like the BBC coverage more, but I still respect Speed for what they’ve done.

  7. Robert McKay
    15th April 2009, 23:54

    Very interesting article.

    Maybe people who watch other broadcasts around the world may like to write similar ones.

    1. Thats what I intend to do.

    2. Im from romania and my bradcater is wfull,but thanks to the internet i can watch it from bbc,speed,rai sport(they are really good).hat i dont like about speed transmision is that they put comercials every 15 minutesthats why im watching now on BBC and RAI!

  8. Been watching the Speed F1 coverage since it was Speed-Vision way back …. ( and before that ESPN in 80’s )

    It’s like home to me now after so many years, really no complaints
    to think of, don’t need to get nitpicky.

    It does come in 16 by 9 wide now but not pure HD which is ok.

    I try to watch both coverages Speed and BBC thanks to the beauty

    of the internets ( and rapidshare,torrents,and megaupload :)

  9. tifosidude28
    16th April 2009, 0:02

    I’ve been watching speed since 2002 in the US, and I have to say, because of the magic of bittorrent I prefer the BBC coverage.

    That’s not to say I don’t enjoy watching a race on Speed – Steve Matchett is a wonderful and unique voice to have. Bob Varsha gets on my nerves because he has that “weatherman” persona, but david hobbs is so unknowingly offensive at times I always crack a smile. peter windsor really annoys me for some reason, mostly because of his bogus pitwalks.

    My biggest complaint about SPEED is this – instead of rebroadcasting practice or qualy during the day at a reasonable hour, they fill the schedule with re-runs of NASCAR reality shows. Bogus! Their coverage of european auto racing in general is dismall at best.

    I much prefer to get up early, start a torrent download of the Beeb’s coverage and wake up later to watch it. martin brundle has an amazing ability to call a race and an intelligence we don’t get in the US. Jonathan leggard is decent and having post-race commentary from eddie jordan and david coultard is great – they really do speak their minds.

  10. jinyourhead
    16th April 2009, 0:03

    Speeds covers pretty middle of the road as far as commentary goes. But it shows all sessions live which is more then Canada or Australia can say (where i live).
    However, I think the speed network is the best option for F1 in America. It’s a specialized network so it can show races a decent times.

    If they turn the coverage over to ESPN it will get lost in the shuffle, just like it used to. Football, Baseball, Sportscenter, College sports, drag racing are all more important to American sporting culture then an F1 race in Belgium.
    ESPN was good. There is nothing I love more then a 2 hour race cut down to an hour and shown at 3am on Tuesday. Oh ya, cram sum pre-race into the hour too. Love it.

    Anywho….let Speed keep the coverage. There is nothing better that any other network can offer. Anyone else will move it to the bottom of the food chain just after trick shot pool.

  11. Hi here in Asia, we watched F1 on Star Sports which is a part of ESPN. Asian version hosted by Steve Dawson and Paula Malai Ali with race commentators Steve Slater, Alex Yoong (A1GP driver Malaysia & former F1 racer) are very good. Although ours have commercial breaks so their might be some scenes which might be clipped during the coverage. But overall they’re good & not biased.

  12. I’ll echo the sentiments of those above and will say that I’m just happy to be able to see the race live each week. The commentary isn’t quite up to par with what I’ve heard from watching some the of qualifying sessions on the BBC online but it’s passable.

    The only problem I have with Speed is that it markets itself primarily to the NASCAR fan. The network devotes at least 16 hours or so of coverage to the NASCAR series (Nationwide, Sprint Cup, Trucks) every weekend and promotes programs about drag racing muscle cars, modifying muscle cars, reality challenge shows centered around muscle cars, etc.

    I think the potential American F1 fans out there have no interest in most of what Speed is marketing, so when they see something like “Formula 1” on the guide they assume it’s more of the same. I think it would be a brilliant gamble by a major network to buy the rights to F1 and show four to five races a year live or on tape-delay and then show the rest live and tape-delayed on a popular cable channel like USA, TNT, etc.

    Once Americans catch on to what a big deal F1 is, they’ll easily get over the fact that there isn’t an American team dominating the field. Just like at the high ratings ESPN has received for showing the Euro and UEFA cups.

    1. I do agree!SPEED predominantly caters with NASCAR.They should air F1 live during qualifying and race day.Live coverage is definitely much better.

  13. Last year I had both tsn and speed and prefered tsn which used itv…speed usually had more commercials and the sound/picture was lackluster compared to itv. I also prefered itv commentary, however speed shows practice and the full interviews afterwards so it was nice to have and I could switch over when tsn went to commercial.

    I only have tsn/bbc feed now…the new commentary isn’t the best but still good.

  14. Over all F1 presentation is great… Team has huge knowledge of the insides in F1.
    Two facts that turn me of from American broadcast First is that i have to spend $60 a month in order to have SPEED package. Second there are comercial brakes every 6 to 7minutes (each 2min or more long). This is just getting rediculus. I watched few races in England when I was visiting my faimly and let me tell you there were only 5 to 8 comercial brakes total.

  15. I like Speed, but I wish they had a different parent company. Fox has done everything to hide European racing with the vain belief of NASCAR uber-alles. Instead of showing WRC races, they have 50 million repeats of Pinks, American Fattest TowTruck drivers, and other reality junk. I wish that ESPN would set up their own motorsports network (It is not like they have 15 ESPN channels anyways) and buy F1, MotorGP, WRC, IRL, and LeMans rights to go along with their NASCAR coverage. Fox management has squandered and destroyed Speed as a motorsports channel. Instead they have turned it into one lame reality show, with a big heaping of NASCAR, and only a slice other motorsports. I think there is an opportunity and market for another to exploit.

    However that said, for how pathetic motorsports journalism is in the United States, the US F1 broadcaster does ok. I really don’t have a problem with any of them except for Windsor. I discuss this in a post on my blog, but how is there not a conflict of interest with him setting up a team AND reporting on the grid. I am afraid that Speed is going to turn into the USGPE cheerleading network. It is going make James Allen’ affair with Lewis seem tame by comparison.

  16. Viktor Nedelchev
    16th April 2009, 0:32

    I think SPEED as one of the worst channels to watch F1 or anything else. The constant commercial “breaks” during practice, qualifying or the actual race are driving insane! Every 5-7min there is a commercial break. They even cut the coverage during moments of overtaking, crash, or some other exciting moments.

    During the last 9min of the 2009 Australian GP, Bob Varsha actually said, and he was surprised by it, that there will be “no commercial breaks for the rest of the race”(and that is before the finish line is crossed). I’m so angry at SPEED because of this that I just don’t watch them anymore, instead, I just find an online broadcast.

    The other thing is that the three commentators are no commentators. Compared to the BBC coverage with Brundle, SPEED’s team is just there to “entertain” us. I’m not saying that they are incompetent, but they are just past their time in commentating F1.

    I hope SPEED changes its policy on commercial “breaks” and let us watch F1 properly.

    I can’t stand them!

    Thank you BBC!:)

    1. If you notice, their commercials during the races are not even paid commericals. They are promotions for other shows on the channel. I think throughout the broadcast, there was only one or two legitimate commericals during the broadcast. Just pathetic on Speed’ part.

    2. It drives me insane when Eurosport do the same thing – interrupting live coverage (GP2, usually) for ‘house adverts’. If you can’t even sell proper advertising in your ad breaks, why compromise the quality of your coverage by leaving the breaks in? Madness.

    3. Gotta agree with Viktor — not that I hate the Speed-TV team, but they are past it. With the pre-Senna era war stories and the British jingoism, it comes across as a bit of an old boys club. Windsor’s pre-race walks are often embarrassing since people just ignore him, whereas Brundle — a still respected driver — muscles right in and gets the interview. Windsor is just too busy being polite and not offending anyone. Now that we in Canada get a choice between coverage with the BBC commentary or coverage on Speed-TV, we always watch the pre-race on Speed, then switch to Brundle and Co. as soon as their coverage starts up. Brundle is the best F1 commentator, in English at least, around at the moment.

  17. Being in Canada, we have access to SPEED as well as the BBC broadcast.
    What I find I end up doing is watching SPEED for qualifying and pre-race, but I find I tolerate the BBC commentary better during the actual race. I don’t know why but that’s my preference.

    1. Observing the past years when Martin B was ITV. As a team Speed rocks.
      As entity Martin is awsome but his mates mmmmmm…
      I enjoy Speed neutral comentary, and honest FIA crittical position.
      But then again, in Canada I can view both and download others.

  18. as an american i have never seen a sporting event without commercial breaks so untill now the breaks never got me mad but now that i now things can be done without the breaks i feel kind of cheated

    how does the bbc pay for there programing

    1. the bbc pays for its programming via a ‘tv license fee’.
      every house in the uk has to pay a yearly fee of about £150 to have a tv. The bbc takes that money and produces programming for 9 television channels (2 terrestrial, 7 digital) and 10 national radio stations and 49 local radio stations. All of which contain no advertising whatsoever.

    2. The BBC is a government run channel and gets its money from the TV tax. From my understanding, households pay a tax for every tv set they have.

    3. we all do, tax payers pay for it. :)

  19. Sadly, there is no better alternative than SPEED here in the US. I prefer the BBC broadcast by a mile. I travel overseas regularly and almost always find foreign broadcasts better, even if I can’t understand the language. I always feel as if it is GroundHog Day on SPEED, with Matchet and his extraordinarily predictable comments: “Get on it Boys!, If your going to do it, do it now” If I had a dime for every time I heard that, I’d have a few hundred bucks. I miss Murray Walker.

  20. IllinoisBob
    16th April 2009, 1:07

    Good article. I agree with most all of it. Speed does an excellent job with the F1 races. Sure, they are not perfect, but the question should be “as compared to what?” Speed does a much better job than either ABC or (now) Versus does with the Indy Racing League, both of which sound like extended informercials for the IRL. Also, Matchett’s and Hobbs’s expert commentary is much more insightful than what passes for such in other U.S. sports telecasts: “Gee, Jim, with the Lions down by 17 points, they need to score more points.”

    As has been pointed out in the other comments, Speed runs far too many commercials and sucks some of the enjoyment out of the race. But, I can’t hold the guys and gals who make the production responsible for the decisions of their evil corporate overlords. Overall, the production is great, and I hope it stays with Speed. Also, jinyourhead is absolutely right that F1 will get lost in the shuffle if it moves to any other U.S. network. We won’t get practice, qualifying, or any other F1 content other than a tape-delayed race.

    And, to echo what ExPatBrit said, this is a great site. I also found it at the end of last year and read it regularly. Congratulations on all of your success, Keith. It is well deserved.

  21. let’s not forget, the legendary sam posey is still able to write and narrate the intro to every speed/fox f1 race.

    i get speed sd here, and picture quality for the PAL-NTSC conversion is terrible. i do get fox hd, and the races looked very good on it – particularly monaco (not FOM produced).

    i like the present crew, even if it will become a trio. what comes up lame is the fact they’re states-side, watching tv along with me. it feels very disconnected – i want to be immersed in the event i’m watching.

    the pre-produced pieces are pretty good, but too brief. the supplemental material on the website is good, but the site itself kinda stinks.

    the play-by-play and color commentary is comparable to martin brundle – very knowledgable, enthusiastic and funny, but a bit less attitude. after all, it’s only 1/3 david hobbs :D

    maybe the biggest gripe i have against speed is it feels dumbed-down, just like itv/bbc. i appreciate the fact that f1 is complicated (to say the very least) and they are trying to present it in a way pleasing, or at least tolerable, to the casual viewer, but…
    nobody watching live at 4am is new to f1!
    i don’t need to be told what a !@#$% diffuser/carbon brakes/whatever is for the eleventy thousandth time!

    i’d like to see speed keep the f1 rights, mostly because of the crew. i’d also like to see rupert spend a few bucks to put them on location.

    1. “See here for an example of Steve Matchett in action.”

      you seem to be missing a link, so i’ll add my own
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2-fwAt1GMg

  22. I usually watch the SPEED broadcasts. My biggest gripe about SPEED as a network is that they do not show nearly enough road course racing and it does seem like there are an excessive amount of commercials during the F1 broadcasts. I like the commentary, but I think the pre-race show could be a lot better. Using the miracle of the internet and a torrent site, I have been able to watch the BBC broadcasts. The pre-race show on the BBC is pretty extensive and it just gets me a lot more excited for the race. Just as F1Yankee said, the SPEED guys are not live at the track. The pre-race show on SPEED really suffers as a result of this. Also, I watched the ITV coverage for half of last year and started watching only SPEED because I just not take the constant Lewis cheerleading. I’m American and of course I will be cheering for USF1, but I hope SPEED doesn’t treat the team like ITV treated Lewis in ’08.

  23. I think until F1 is pushed by ESPN and Fox Sports, but more the former, it will be difficult for F1 to grab a foot hold in America. I love watching the races every two weeks but a lot of my friends, who are very knowledgeable on sports, dismiss it out right because they consider all racing to be similar to Nascar, which we are simply not interested in.

    ESPN, when they own the rights to something, hype it like no other company. They use their power over TV, Radio, Website, and Magazine to make America care about things. I know they currently have a deal in place with Indy/Kart, but I believe Americans would enjoy F1. We enjoy “first class” leagues in Basketball and Baseball, and getting first class racing pushed by ESPN my succeed.

  24. Speed does a good job and its great to have the qualifiers and training sessions live. I have a bit of a problem with their very obvious bias for British drivers, particularly Lewis Hamilton. Their treatment of Alonso the year he was in Mcclaren was embarrassing. I think it would be more profesional to tone their preference down, get the facts right and stick to them without prejudice.

    1. Good point, but I have never really picked up on the British drivers preference. I was not watching in 2007, but last year I diden’t see any emphasis towards Hamilton or others. Indeed, after the epic finish in Brazil, David Hobbs was not talking about Hamilton, or Massa, but Vettel and his very bright future in F1.

  25. The trouble with F1 being pushed by ESPN or Fox Sports is that to be more mainstream it will be dumbed down.

    I use to watch it on ESPN or ABC ten to fifteen years ago and the inane commentary would get on your nerves.

    Things like “well bob, the motors for these cars are in back just like that Beetle you had in college!”

    Or pointing to the lack of tread on the tires. Very different from your chevy.

    I will stick with Speed and hope the internet evolves enough that I can watch in HD on a 60inch big screen in real time.

  26. First, my thanks to everyone who has read and/or commented on this. As I always say, it is absolutely amazing to see people from around the world comment on something I write :)

    I agree with many of you that the SPEED coverage is good- I did not realize that some of you, living in places where F1 is pretty big, don’t get practice, qualifying or the GP2 races.

    I suppose that the USGPE team will get a good bit of coverage on SPEED, as the factory and HQ will be in the same city as SPEED’s studios. But I don’t think it will be biased in any way- hopefully the team can fight enough to merit some mention on results alone.

    Happy viewing everyone!

  27. I’ll leave my (positive) views on Speed to another post. But first, thoughts about what network F1 should be on in the US.

    First, F1 in its current image (no American drivers or races) will never gain a bigger following in the U.S. if it stays on Speed. It simply gets very, very little publicity on other TV channels or in print. On a Sunday night, SportsCenter on ESPN might show a minute or two of highlights from a race, but they really don’t tell any of the story. Compare this to the daily half-hour of NASCAR news that ESPN shows. As for print, F1 gets a short blurb in most sports pages every weekend, excepting the occasional longer piece on Lewis Hamilton (in the last year, in both the NY and LA Times).

    The current TV contract serves the devoted fan pretty well, but does nothing to bring in new viewers. It’s nice that FOX shows its 4 races a year on national TV, but they do *zero* advertising for these races. I’ve never even seen an ad during the previous day’s baseball coverage. Because of this, you have to be flipping channels at 10AM in the middle of June/July to randomly happen across an F1 race. It doesn’t help that the FOX telecasts have a lot of ads–to me, it seems like more than Speed usually shows.

    So, some possibilities for the next time FOM negotiates the TV contract:
    * The idea of FOM buying network TV time and doing its own broadcast is interesting, but I can’t see it happening. Mostly because FOM doesn’t care enough, but also because there isn’t much Sunday time to spare on the big networks. No single network out of ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX could carve out a 2-hour chunk every Sunday from April to November. For a start, FOX, NBC, and ABC all take different parts of the NASCAR season. And CBS has NFL, tennis, and golf obligations.

    Now, the current NASCAR TV deal is up for renewal soon, and NASCAR is far less popular than it was the last time they made a TV deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the current networks dropped out, and NASCAR ends up relegated to ABC/ESPN. This could leave FOX with Sundays free from April to the NFL season in mid-September.

    * A different cable channel picking up F1. I could see this happening–Versus (a channel known for cycling, hockey, and fishing/myriad outdoors shows) just started their new TV deal for IndyCar. They seem committed to doing a good job on the broadcast, which is in stark contrast to ESPN/ABC, who did a largely crummy job. I’m not sure that Versus could take on both IRL and F1 though, and there are no other (non-FOX) sports networks that I could see doing it. ESPN would be able to promote the hell out of F1, but they didn’t do it for IndyCar.

    * Or, just keep the same contract going. Yeah, we have complaints, but they are relatively minor compared to other countries. The commentary team is good, we get to see Friday practice, qualifying, and the race live, there’s widescreen, and a few races get national broadcasts. Seeing as how Bernie clearly doesn’t care about the American market, we could be doing so much worse.

    1. I really hope Versus doesn’t pick up F1. Did you see the ratings for the first IndyCar race? Something like 233,000 viewers! That is absolutely horrible. Certainly a large part of the terrible ratings is the limited availability of Versus, but those are disasterous numbers any possible way you look at it.

  28. As much as I dislike the way SPEED and FOX are run the coverage of F1 is excellent. Very good production and the commentary team is very knowledgeable. I havent yet watched the new BBC coverage but I preferred SPEED over last years ITV.

    I think the best way to increase exposure without alienating fans would be to keep the team together with live broadcasts on SPEED and tape delayed broadcasts on FOX. Only the hardcore fans watch races live and they all have SPEED anyways. I would be worried about bringing in other commentators especially from their NASCAR broadcasts. NBC covered one ALMS race last year and it was probably about the worst commentary I have ever heard. They had their NASCAR team do it and they didnt know a thing about sports cars or racing strategy.

  29. as a very new f1 fan i think that the speed covrage is good. i played american football for a big school and after stoping i feel in love with f1. some times you dont think about how complicated f1 is. i have loved racing but never followed till now and speed did a great job of giving a new unknowing fan a way to understand why a race finish takes a week to sort out

  30. Well you can say a lot about Speed’s coverage — I was watching them during the Indy debacle, and I wanted to strangle Hobbes for suggesting that the drivers who had withdrawn be stripped of all their points, as if his entertainment was more important than (what was apparently) a safety issue — but the one thing I miss in their coverage is since there are no US drivers, we don’t have to listen to how bloody wonderful Lewis Hamilton (sorry, typo there, I meant Jenson Button) is.

    ITV, and BBC before and since, indulge in unabashed homerism that really detracts from the coverage.

    Just cover the event. Don’t play favorites.

  31. If it was not for SPEED I would not know of F1. I like the coverage and the pre race. I like the extra shows ie inside grandprix and F1 debrief. This gives me more to F1 and I dont think any other channel can do it better. I dont like the races on Fox due to they only talk to the winner of the race and then cut away and we dont get anymore from the 2nd and 3rd and there is no pre race talks which I like. As for commericals well… They have to pay the bills and commericals pay them so I deal with it. I hope it stays as over the last few years I have come to enjoy F1 a lot.

  32. a fence-straddling American viewer.

    Think of a American CART refugee looking for a fix on TV. Tries F1. The obfuscation sometimes provided by someone too sophisticated and knowledgeable an F1 expert could easily work against nurturing the USA initiate.

    Actually, I don’t speak for myself. I myself would prefer the F1 BBC feed (can’t get it); it (the coverage) provides so much of what I consider right atmosphere. Besides I’m a Brundle fan). But consider too, am so buts I want someone to carry Euro sidecar racing again (with British commentary please). But that’s another forum…

  33. nuts, not buts. lol

  34. My main problem with Speed’s F1 coverage is Bob Varsha. This guy does not pause for breath. He talks endlessly. Bob has his little fact-sheet out and he constantly goes on and on and on about worthless trivia that has nothing to do with the race. Bob often keeps talking even when there is an important event going on on the track.

    In summary: I wish Bob wouldn’t talk quite so much. Take a breath.

  35. As a Brit domiciled in Canada, we have the choice of TSN using the BBC feed or Speed. Both suffer from adverts although this year TSN continue to show the action without commentary in a small split screen window whilst the adverts are playing.

    The new BBC format is great and they are certainly improving although picking up Anthony Davidson from BBC radio would be a favourable additon.

    The Speed Team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett, with Peter Windsor doing his walks do a great job but for reasons unbeknown to me some of the advertised programs are subject to blackout…perhaps they don’t pay Bernie enough readies. I particular like the round table sessions which can be viewed on line.

    By the way I like your site alot…keep up the good work Keith.

  36. Any of you ever check out MotoGP’s internet subscription offer?

    I’ve watched many races in Europe with the subscription multicast (I think Nascar either does or tried something similar in the US). As a diehard fan, it’s great. Germany’s Premiere offering is fantastic.

    How many would be willing to pay for either a subscription TV or internet broadcast?

    1. interesting, but sounds expensive

  37. The downside of Speed is the mentioned limited access in many markets. I would love to see F1 available without having to pay and extra fee for the sports package. Keep the same commentating team just move it to a network available on the standard package. How about Verses or get Fox to run them all. ESPN, why haven’t you started an EPSNRacing network?

    As far as time of day is concerned, I can record them as well as they can. Run them live and for the die hards may be on Speed and tape-delay for the masses on a more accessible network.

  38. I was lucky enough to see Speed TV’s coverage of a Grand Prix last year and have to say you guys over in the US are very lucky..Matchett & Co are hilarious! Plus the quality of your coverage is far, far better than anything we get in Australia

  39. I really enjoy watching Speed’s coverage. The commentators come across as very knowledgeable and honest. They realize that most of their viewers are fans already and so they don’t need to “dumb down” the commentary or feign enthusiasm. David Hobbs is unafraid to criticize the state of affairs in F1. Compare this to the commentary you get for other series like IndyCar where you get commentators who scream into the microphone and get all melodramatic and cheerleading for the series.

  40. I don’t want to knock Hobbs but there is SO much more to be had when you have a current or recently retired driver making comments. A lot of times Hobbs is very close to that “well back in my day we….” line! :o)

  41. One of those topics any F1 viewer loves to talk about: their tv team. As a relatively recent fan of F1 (2007 was my first full season) I never really witnessed the earlier versions of F1 on TV here in the states. That first year I loved the “Three Amigos” of Speed. But throughout that year I kept wanting more; more coverage, more information, more insight on strategy and tech. Instead what Speed gave me was more of was Extendz and Viagra commercials and Hobbs making engine noises.

    So I discovered pipelines and inroads into the ITV and BBC feeds. This has completely spoiled the campy Speed experience. The guys, not being trackside, miss many many stories especially during the race. The commercials come in flurries (but this does seem slightly improved through two races this year) and the infernal time-slip for the editing of quali makes following F1’s live timing useless. It’s unfair to compare the outstanding state-sponsored BBC coverage with specialty network of Speed. I usually make the comparison of a man bringing a spoon to a gunfight.

    That said the absolute worst place for F1 to wind up is ESPN. You’d still have the guys commentating while watching the world feed in Connecticut rather than trackside and I suspect there would be even more commercial interruption. Similar to the coverage of the UEFA Champions league; you have exactly two hours blocked out for the game and the commentary is piped in from offsite with world feed pictures. I also have no doubt they’d farm the practices and qualification to their new online espn360 service rather than try to cram it into the family of networks. Versus would have been the ideal channel with its collection of niche sporting programming, but with Indy cars now locked into a long deal this is extremely unlikely.

    Lots of rambling but basically… Speed is perfect for growing the new F1 fan here in the states. It’s simple, the guys play up the soap opera aspect quite regularly, and have identifiable catch phrases you can come to echo (or drink to). But once you become a fan of the world of F1 rather than just a viewer you quickly come to want much, much more from the coverage. It’s up to Bernie if he just wants eyeballs or if he wants to build on the rabid stateside fan-base.

  42. “I also enjoy Windsor’s pre-race grid walks, as he often snags some of the biggest names in the business – he twice pressed Bernie Ecclestone on the subject of a future United States Grand Prix last season, which was a welcome sight.”

    i thought this was fascinating:
    eddie jordan: (somber tone) bernie, do you think brawn gp are good for f1?
    bernie: oh yeah, they’re doing very well blah blah blah
    ej: but
    bernie: blah blah blah
    ej: (oh, i get it now. i should move on if i know what’s good for me)

  43. Sports broadcasting in America seems to get worse by the day. With College sports they tend not to be harsh on the players because they are amateurs. I can live with that, however in Pro sports they never are critical if it is warranted because they all tend to be former players or coaches looking to stay buddy buddy with the current players in coaches. They never want to burn a bridge to a future job.

    The SPEED coverage of F1 is the exception. I recall Hobbs just drilling a Ferrari in one of the first races I watched in 2007 because he couldn’t pass a Spyker way in the back and I was sold. High comedy, high entertainment and totally justified. Things always are changing but I hope this doesn’t for a long while.

  44. I have written this before (in fact, I’m taking it from my comment in a recent entry on this site on “how we will be watching F1 in 2009”), so here is how I feel on Speed.

    I’m American, I have Speed. It’s a decent team that I used to like a lot more than I have recently.

    But it’s probably not as great as I once thought it was. Matchett is easily the class of the field. He’s relatively neutral and provides a unique perspective absent from most F1 broadcast teams. If you haven’t had a chance to read his books, by all means, try to do so. He has a fiery passion for the sport and its history and is easily the most accurate on the team. His fuel calculations are on target and he can frequently diagnose any problem or situation at a given time. And best of all, he keeps his trap shut when it doesn’t need to be open. Because of that last part, he is the only one who would ever potentially have a shot of being employed on a non-American F1 broadcast.

    Hobbs used to get me sometimes, but what’s impressive (or maybe not) here is that he’s actually better than Varsha. His personality makes him a babbler and sometimes a foolish one, but in reality, he gets it wrong less than Bob. Not a particularly great guy in a booth and he was totally outclassed by TV newbie/American racer Townsend Bell at the Italian GP in 2007 when Hobbs was attending to personal issues. That kid blew him out of the park. But as a whole, for someone who has been out of the sport for so long, he has a decent grasp on the sport.

    But Varsha though. For someone who really puts words together well and has a flair (and usually an honest, non-plastic flair) for TV and PR, he gets flustered much more than I once thought. He is incredibly biased, perhaps even rivaling Peter Windsor. He makes countless errors each broadcast and is the one most susceptible to hype and unfounded beliefs in the sport. And since he is obviously the #1/PBP in the booth, that’s just unacceptable. And he nearly has almost as much TV experience as Hobbs (and maybe even more if you consider outside the booth). And that’s a lot. Blowhard comes to mind.

    Windsor I give a free pass to because his purpose IS to be an opinion guy. It’s his job and always will be in his capacities…this is why he writes.

    1. i agree, matchett would be a very strong addition to any english-speaking broadcast.

  45. As many others have mentioned, considering the popularity of the sport in this country, the coverage we get here is pretty good.

    Hobbs just has to go in my opinion. He’s constantly reminiscing about the old days which is nice but I’d much rather have the relevant and insightful commentary by a recent driver with a good way with words like a Coulthard. Why can’t they get someone a little younger as the “driver” on their team. Plus, Hobbs kills me with his purposeful mispronunciation of almost everyone’s name… Louiiseeee Hamilton? Bob Kubica when Robert’s said repeatedly he hates being called Bob? Hikey instead of Heikki? Cmon man you’re a professional just do it right.

    And Windsor’s a biased sonuva… And it would be great if there was an additional 15 minutes of post-race coverage with interviews like the BBC does.

    On another note, watching the BBC commentary for Malaysia after watching the race on SPEED, I noticed that the SPEED guys made less mistakes in that broadcast, including with the rules around the rainy race being called, than the BBC guys did. In fact I was a bit shocked at the number of mistakes the BBC’s broadcasters made during that race. I can’t remember the exact ones now though…

  46. I love this article I was considering this very issue during Australia. I was trying to decide which station I would watch Speed, or BBC by means of pirate feeds care of a great f1 site ;). After watching Australia from BBC and on Speed. The verdict was obvious, BBC is the clear winner. Yes they both have impressive backgrounds, the more impressive on the part of the BBC, but the simple fact is BBC is more exciting. Varsha is boring someone above said he was sounds like a weatherman, that sounds about right. Martin Brundle knows how to comment on a F1 race. I love his enthusiasm, he sounds like he loves the sport. Varsha sounds like he’s commenting out of obligation. That slow and mellow commenting in good for NASCAR, which I watch, But F1 is a short fast paced race that demands an exciting commentator like Brundle. Furthermore, I though Windsors paddock watch wasn’t as aggressive as Kravitz. You need to be aggressive to get good interviews.

  47. i envy people that can watch quality TV with no commercials.

    SPEED is good and all, but commercials destroy all live sports broadcasts. Many times I have missed position changes and pits during the breaks. Its ridiculous.

  48. Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Bob Varsha are probably the best lineup of broadcasters heard on US sports television. I can’t think of any team that I am more happy with in any sport on ESPN or otherwise.

    The knowledge, humor and presentation are always great.

    The one thing about the broadcasts that is never great is Peter Windsor. His constant man love with Lewis is beyond reprehensible. Back before they had him live in the pit and on the grid before the race his in depth interviews and planned pieces were incredible. Since he has a current voice throughout the weekend it is nothing but a headache.

    F1 in HD on Speed with the 3 guys in the studio is by far superior to any other sports coverage. It would be silly to change anything, has been incredible for years.

  49. Being an ExPat Brit now living in the US i can tell the difference between SPEED and ITV/BBC coverage of formula one.

    All i can say it is like night and day. No comparison at all really. I can’t say anything about the 2009 coverage on Speed. but 2007/2008 was really bad compared to the british coverage.

  50. I’ve seen the BBC coverage and didn’t know how much lacking Speed’s coverage was until I saw the BBC one. If there was a way to see it and dvr/pvr the BBC coverage, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    That said, I’ll take what I can get here in the states. :)

  51. HOMER ALERT:
    Couple major points about Speed’s F1 coverage:
    1. Only Windsor’s at the track. The rest of the group are in Charlotte, I believe. The fact that these guys can make coherent arguments at 4am local time speaks volumes.
    2. Support from Speed itself. Unlike their European counterparts, I very much doubt that Speeds “fully” behind F1. Hell, look at all the NASCAR shows the channel has. Outside of the (dreadful) SpeedReport and (mediocre) Windtunnel,F1 barely gets a mention on the channel, much less anywhere else in the US. It’s a 4 man announcer crew, and 3 of them are thousands of miles away from the track. They’re not going to have the ability to get knowledge as fast as the BBC. The fact that they often come to similar conclusions to the BBC, with less resources (I can only assume )and less BS speculation is just fine by me.

    3. BBC talks too damn much. What crap tech news they have isn’t all that important. Shut the hell up so we can hear the damn car.

    4. RTL just plain sucks… then again, they’re German, and thus have no concept of personality… or even insightful commentary.

    As other people have commented, Hobbes has to go. Yes, he can be amusing at times (for example, YEEWWONG!), but he just rambles on and on about nothing. For every insightful thing he says, there’s about 3 dumb comments he must make. Townsend Bell or even Eddie Cheever, if Versus doesn’t have him under contract, would be a welcome edition. Other announcers, do you really want Derrek Daly and Rick de Bruel doing this?

  52. I believe the Speed coverage is done from a studio in North Carolina and they are watching/showing the same feed that everyone else sees. Windsor is the only one on site. While independent coverage may be contractually or cost prohibitive, not being on site limits any insight or additional information beyond what we tv watchers might add.

  53. In Canada, I have the luxury of BOTH Speed Coverage and TSN (picking up the BBC feed). Now that Speed is HD, it’s difficult to choose. I do like the Speed crew’s coverage, but I always end up going with Brundle – he just seems to do a better job of colour than Hobbs. I never miss Windsor’s pitwalk though – it is the highlight of all pre-race coverage.

  54. I don’t live in the US but I watch F1 on Speed here in Newfoundland. I think they do a fine job but the time delay is a pain if you’re following the race with live timing and scoring. The broadcast team is great much superior to the feed we get on TSN.

  55. Thanks for posting this article.
    First of all, I think SPEED should be commended for their coverage of Formula 1. It’s a network that is dominated (and I mean absolutely DOMINATED) by NASCAR. To have the level of coverage they do is exceptional. I live in Canada, and am able to enjoy TSN/BBC’s coverage as well as SPEED’s. I usually find myself getting up early and watching the BBC’s coverage live and then catching SPEED’s replay in te afternoon. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve watched a Grand Prix without Martin Brundle.
    The practice sessions on SPEED are fantastic. I love how the team never wastes time over-analyzing. They are always prepared with current news and developments, but often just banter back and forth in a very casual and entertaining fashion (especially Hobbs).
    It could obviously be better, but oh my, could it be worse. How about more “PINKS” or “Pass Time”? Maybe another “Bullrun” marathon?
    I know some people out there feel me…….

  56. I like the way Matchett, Hobbs, and Varsha handle the broadcast – it’s like having a group of really well-informed guys sitting in your living room with you. They can be very fun, too – when they’ve been up all night watching the live feed with the rest of us, they can get a bit slap-happy at times!

    I also like the fact that they don’t try to be the stars, unlike the commentators from other racing series. The NASCAR guys are the worst out there – I gave up on NASCAR last year, and the commentators were one of many reasons.

  57. I’ve been watching F1 since 96 on the original speedvision. Speed is the best we have in the states when compared to other US coverage. Of course I’ve never seen ITV or BBC’s . The current staff is the best as well, compared to prior commentators.
    Hobb’s is my favorite , his off hand remarks always bring a chuckle. Wakey wakey , eggs and bacee. A little corney sometimes but defenitely entertaining.

    On the other hand Speed’s other coverage of motorsports sucks. I’d love for them to dump the reality tv junk and bring back some real racing. DTM , BTCC , Austrailian Super V8 . A little less nascar coverage would be nice. Not all of us Americans are missing teeth and drinking Budweiser.

  58. I think the team at Speed does a fantastic job. Varsha, Matchett, Hobbs, and Windsor are excellent.

  59. Speed does such a great job. David Hobbs’ imitations of engine revving adds so much insight to the commentary.

    I’ve watched the Speed broadcasts for many years and find the commentary tiring. It’s full of mistakes and the three amigos seem more interested in showing how amusing they are than in providing serious commentary. But, it’s better than the feeble attempts in recent years by Fox, et al. so I’ll just have to take it as the best we can do. Hope we can start getting it in HD rather than unconverted SD (and to those who think it’s HD, it isn’t. If you believe it is, I’d say you probably haven’t experienced real HD yet).

  60. SPEED’s coverage is overall OK, what really bothers me is that they carry qualifying on tape delay, that is they start the show at the same time as the live event, but they stretch it out to 90 mins. So all 3 Q phases are broadcast w/ a 10-15 min delay. So if one follows the results on live F1.com timing, they know what happened before seeing it on SPEED.

    They need to change this.

  61. There’s probably nothing I can say that hasn’t been said yet, but I’ll throw my 2 cents in anyways.

    I do enjoy the coverage of F1 on Speed Tv. The commentators are good and I’m a bit of a Bob Varsha fan, as is my wife. Steve Matchett can be a wee bit annoying sometimes.

    I enjoy going to speedtv.com after each qualifying session and each race to watch their roundtable sessions. I also try not to miss Wind Tunnel and Speed Report, which provides some additional coverage and commentating.

    With regards to Speed as a network, it’s pathetic! I can’t stand to watch it throughout the week… Shows like Pinks, Pimp my Ride, Bullrun, Drag Race High, Wrecked, Livin’ the low Life are utterly unwatchable.

  62. Here in the US I could careless what channel does the airing, or what features are available. I just want Bob David and Steve!

  63. Speed does an excellent job for what we as American fans get to watch. Occasionally Bernie lets 2-3 GP’s out to one of the larger US broadcasters and MY GOD IS THAT BAD! The problem is, and this is not Speed Channel, it is the broadcasting rights contract, is that the Australian/Asian races are on at like 2:30/3:00AM. Balance of races are typically on at approx. 6:00AM central. The Maylasian race however was shown again at, I think, 12:30PM central. I think it is the broadcasting rights contract that must stipulate times. Wouldn’t it be better in terms of promoting the sport if there were consistancy of times, afternoon showings for example, to try to build an expanded viewing base? (In addition to the die-hard fans) I’m sure that would cost the network extra though. Over the years it just always blows my mind that F1 through FOM promotes itself to be so exclusine and high brow to the point of making the broadcasts so hard to see that they do little to promote viewership. Having said all that, I look forward to viewing the Chinese GP at zero-dark-thirty. :-)

  64. I like Speed coverage overall but mostly due to Steve Matchetts input. Otherwise the rest of the team’s love for the current WDC is nauseating at times. Dont even get me started on Peter Hamilton(as he is known on SpeedTV forums) for his obvious bias.

    Also, ads is a major pain point. Trust them to cut away just as “things are getting interesting”…

  65. I moved to the US 4 years ago. After suffering the French TV coverage of F1 (almost non-existant, no qualifying sessions, even less free practice (not even as a replay during the night), and the race constantly chopped by commercials, and good bye as soon as the podium is over (no interviews…), I can only say that Speed TV is doing an excellent job at live F1 coverage.

    The only minor complaint I would have, is as some of you have mentioned, limited re-runs at better time, and also that they don’t show enough “European” style racing.

    For everything else, I love SpeedTV. They also have a very good 1 hour summary called “Formula 1 review” for each race, with highlights and commentary of everything ranging from qualifying to final interviews. For a country not very interested in F1, I think Speed produces an excellent broadcast.

    1. It’s actually called “Formula 1 Debrief”. In addition, the other F1 shows on Speed are “F1 Practice” which is session 2, “Inside GP” which is a tour around the race track and a bit about the culture of the area, “F1 Qualification” which includes Q1 Q2 and Q3, and of course the “F1 Race” which includes the 1/2 hour pre-race show and the post race interviews. All in All, it is terrific coverage evan though I have to record most all of it at the wee morning hours and play it back later.

  66. Im just happy to be able to see the races at all in America, even though it means that I sometimes get out of bed at 4am to watch them live. I also like how speed will re broadcast each race in the follwoing few days at decent hours. I say let speed keep it, but it would be nice if the cable package was cheaper!

  67. I quit watching SPEED coverage as soon as I discovered (ITV and now BBC) bootleg streaming coverage online a few years ago. It’s terrible in comparison. I just don’t like the SPEED crew — and they’re not even at the track! Although I will say their coverage of the USGP (when they were on-site) wasn’t too bad. Here’s an idea — why don’t they replace Varsha with James Allen?

  68. As I recall Bernie holds up contract renewals right up to the first race in his ever greedy extortionate business practices. I suspect Speed will be renewed yet again for 2010 and beyond.

    I can’t see any other American broadcaster picking up F1 based on the limited mass market interest. The synergy between Speed and any USGPE effort that may get underway would be incredible and may do more to grow fan interest than anything else.

    The best thing about Speed F1 coverage? They broadcast the Far eastern races live with a taped replay on the same day. Allows me to catch what I missed during my short naps.

  69. SPEED? Is it me or do you have to fork over $$$ to Comcast for some kind of over-stuffed cable package? I’m not seing it here in Portland Oregon.

    I watched the Aussie GP vi iPlayer in the UK off my laptop which was fantastic, so I’m struggling to make an iPlayer US hack work, and researching some illicit on-line coverage.

    All hints welcome.

    1. NickO,

      Sorry you aren’t getting SPEED out there- I have the standard Comcast package here in Northeast PA, and we get it here. However, due to the ongoing feud, we don’t get NFL Network..the lack of which absolutely makes my blood boil…..

  70. e30BMWM3power
    16th April 2009, 20:37

    The only thing I can complain about with the F1 broadcasts in America is the start time. However, with the introduction of the DVR, this has become less of an issue. I think the commentary is outstanding when compared to some of the drivel other sports networks display. I would be happy to keep the coverage on Speed, with the occasional race on FOX as long as Varsha, Matchett, and Hobbs stay on.

  71. Let me just add this: Bob Varsha has an excellent vocabulary, which he often wields to bizarrely comedic effect. I think my girlfriend is in love with it. She babbled on about him for days when he called Massa “looking rather hirsute” once last year, and she was positively giddy a few weeks ago when he referred to the sight of Sutil and Fisichella duelling in Melbourne as “a brace of Force India”.

    Personally, I love the Speed crew. If they lack insight, I think to large extent it can’t be helped, seeing as how they’re watching the feed in a booth in South Carolina. Like it’s already been said, their style is more like a bunch of well-informed buddies who sit around the living room TV and banter back and forth (which given that they’re not on site, they basically are), rather than adopting the more traditional broadcasting tone of self-conscious authority. Matchett is the most earnest, throwing himself into the event with his analysis. Varsha and Hobbs, although they never fail to get excited about exciting things, also have the ability to remain a bit detached and sometimes like to take a step back and revel in the absurdity of it all. They’re sort of constantly half-winking at the audience about the fact that they’re not on site, that they have to put up with the FOM feed along with the rest of us, and they use that shared experience to bond with the audience. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, the Speed crew and F1 are inseparable.

    1. I agree with most of your thoughts, but the studio is in North Carolina my friend- the USGPE outfit should be just up the road from what I have heard.

    2. Whoops, of course Charlotte is in North Carolina, not South. Geography brain fart!

    3. Well said MarkZ

  72. I moved to the US in Dec 2003 and found Speed Channel at the start of the 04/05 season. Ok so it took a little bit of getting used to but I honestly think they do a fantastic job. The only critisism may me that it would be nice if the Speed commentators were actually at the venue for each race. Long live the crew at Speed and I hope to be listening to you and watching the Channel for many a year.

  73. Rick DeNatale
    17th April 2009, 0:22

    I’ve got no real problems with the coverage on Speed.

    I did prefer it back when it was SpeedVision and not so NASCAR oriented. I’m also a bit of an aviation nut and recall fondly the days when they had things like Pete Conrad covering the Paris Air Show. Now that it’s really just the motorsports arm of Fox Sports, it’s lost something, but that’s tangential to their value as an F1 outlet.

    Matchett, as many have already said is great, very knowlegeable.

    I have to confess that I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for old Hobbsie. In addition to his F1 experience, he used to drive BMWs in IMSA back when I lived in upstate New York near Lime Rock, so I got a few chances to meet him, as well as Sam Posey, who so eloquently opens most of the races.

    Peter Windsor also impresses me. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can make of the USF1 (sorry Bernie, USGPE) effort. Since I now live in North Carolina, I’m looking forward to getting the chance to drop down to Charlotte when they open their shop up to the public as they’ve promised.

    Varsha is OK. I just wish he would vary his “Welcome back..” schtick at the beginning of EVERY segment.

  74. In case it hasn’t been repeated, Varsha and Matchett can stay, Hobbs and Windsor can go, if I had my way.

    This only has slightly to do with F1, but when SpeedVision was purchased by Fox and became Speed, anything that wasn’t Nascar related was instantly marginalized. Coverage that they used to show for WRC and Dakar and such are largely un-hyped and expected to be discovered by viewers, while their fake reality shows like “Pinks” and of course, any stock car event, get all the station-time advertising. To give them some credit, it is a reflection of what most Americans think of motorsport, or most hobbies and pursuits: something to be marginalized.

  75. Living in Canada, I have access to three, yes THREE feeds, kinda. There is the TSN feed that uses the BBC (formerly ITV) feed. There is RDS, which is the French doppelganger of TSN. RDS has it’s own local hosts, with an on-track reporter that calls in. (fortunately they finally figured out how to get an ISDN line, upgrading their cell-phone / land line connection). Then there is SpeedTV.

    TSN, IMHO has lost ground in the presentation this year. They used to have a local half-hour race chit-chat and then cut over to ITV for the race. (warm-up lap or green-flag) This year, it’s a 2 minute preview and there you go. TSN no longer covers the post quali/race press conference.

    RDS is as good as ever, or as bad as ever. We even have our version of Murray! Pierre, on t’aime mais des fois tu dit des niaseries! They have a 8 minute pre-quali and 30 minute pre-race show. RDS does a PIP during commercials.

    SpeedTV is great, except, they don’t want to cut some 30 minute infomercial they start the quali and race coverage on the hour. that makes the show 6-10 minutes behind! Forget F1 live timing, forget online-chats.

    Here in Canada SpeedTV is generally blocked for the first few races (at least on Starchoice – East. Is it the same on Rogers, Bell, Videotron, etc.?) since they do not have the Canadian broadcast rights. So far this year I have not seen a live race on Speed and only saw 1 same-day tape-delay (Aus).

    My routine has me watching RDS, even though I am “English” and flip to TSN or Speed when RDS goes to break. I usually wind up watching that channel until they go to break.

    Perhaps SpeedTV not re-upping with Bernie would be a nice way for MotorsTV to make an entry in to the N.A. market and save us all from the crap that SpeedTV pumps out.

    1. Perhaps SpeedTV not re-upping with Bernie would be a nice way for MotorsTV to make an entry in to the N.A. market and save us all from the crap that SpeedTV pumps out.

      Only problem here is that Speed is finally gaining a foothold in the cable tv world and is in more and more basic packages as the years go by. If this were the case, then we would all be back at square one. Most houses wouldn’t have MotorsTV with it being such a new network on cable. Keep with Speed, regardless of the coverage quality…just put more into making the coverage better.

  76. I moved recently and just realized SPEED isn’t part of my basic cable package. Can someone help me out with a link / info on how to pick up or download the BBC feed on the internet.

    1. myp2p.eu

      you get all sports you want.just download sopcast as the player

  77. Oops. I was agreeing with ExPatBrit. I thought that hitting “Reply” would place my comment with his. Apologies for any confusion!

    Carolyn Ann

  78. how does the bbc pay for there programing

  79. I have no basis for comparison. However Speed’s coverage is informative and fairly on point. I look forward to F1 season every year and would hate to see it only available via sports package bundle. I fortunately have a Tivo and would recommend getting a DVR if you enjoy F1: it takes the hassle out of the 1am broadcasts and those commercials don’t bug me too much.

    I agree with Jay, “I’ll take what I can get here in the states.”

  80. Living where I do, I have to watch Speed, which is bearable, but I too find the continual ads very annoying. The thing I miss most about the commentary from my days watching F1 on the BBC is the sheer enthusiasm of Murray Walker.

  81. I rather enjoy Speed, thought I streamed Justin.tv BBC feeds for the first time for Melbourne and Malaysia and can unequivocally say that the lack of commercials is a great bonus. Other than that, I like the commentators and in fact, Speed’s coverage is the biggest reason I justify keeping my cable setup over the summer when there are no other shows on. With the new found greatness of the live blog’s (awesome job, btw Keith et. al.) and Justin.tv, I may reconsider this summer to save some cash, but most likely will keep it because SpeedHD and an F1 race on my 32″ HDTV just cant compare with streaming it on my Mac or laptop.

  82. iM AN American, so i watch SPEED
    I dont know why all you other commenters from the US have to pay extra for SPEED, cause its free for me.
    I do wish the SPEED team would go along with Peter Windsor to the races overseas.
    Overall they are great but there could be a few more commercials they could get rid of.

    ESPN, CBS, and those others arnt really F1 people. They dont have the years of coverage that the Speed team has.

    I think Bob Varsha is okay (for 20+ years of covering F1). Steve machett is very knowledgeable, since he was a former mechanic for many years.
    David Hobbs is hysterical with his random insults.
    Overall my rating: A (just a little less commercials and it will be an A+)

  83. Speed does a decent job considering there is no advertisement for f1 nowhere on TV. F1 will have a hard time appealing to the large male audience in the USA. They are hooked on Nassscaar:they go roun and round but the real kicker are the crashes.have very few spectacular crashes on Naaasacaarr and the whole enchilada will crash too as far as Tv is concerned.

  84. To Jay and Chris etc…

    I’ve just watched, for the first time, the BBC feed of today’s (Saturday’s) practice session online and now I know what you mean. Having Gascoyne there as talent, well, SPEED has no comparison to him. Brilliant.

    (Why didn’t I do this before?)

  85. As an American I have to say I think we are lucky to have Speed doing the coverage. The quality, the time given, and the care that the broadcasters but into it is great. I’m always saddened when a race is broadcast on Fox, or the few time a race was shown on CBS. The coverage is terrible and no time is given for pre-race or post-race coverage.
    I understand wanting to get to a bigger market, but when next to no time is given to show the uneducated what F1 is about, it does no good. All Nascar fans see is old looking cars turning both left and right and have no idea what is going on.
    If Bernie really wants to get more Americans into F1 work needs to be done to have adequate coverage on all the channels they may be looking into. As it stands Speed has set a high bar that other channels are going to have to live up to.
    I say thank you to Speed TV for what they do for American F1 fans.

  86. As an American who loves F1, I’m very appreciative that Speed covers it. Mind you, I’ve not seen F1 coverage except on Speed. So you’ll have to take that into account.

    The way I see it, Hobbs brings the driver’s perspective, being an ex-F1 driver. Matchett brings the mechanic’s/engineer’s perspective, being an ex-F1 mechanic. And Varsha is the Local (American) “broadcast professional”. Of the three, Varsha’s opinions rank the least important to me, while Matchett’s rank highest.

    However, Varsha does a great job considering his specified role on the coverage “team”. He could, IMHO, dispense with trying to use “British English” sayings, though I’m sure it’s tempting for a Yank to do so. It comes off as being a bit awkward, at least to me.

    I would miss Hobbs if he weren’t there. I love his dry humor and non-politically-correct “zingers” (which Varsha seems to bristle at and attempt to cover up!) He certainly knows a lot about racing and brings up interesting insights.

    Matchett is my fave, simply because after reading his books and listening to him for years now, I find that his opinions, perspective, etc., seem to mirror my own. If I could pick a life to live in the world of F1, it would be in the garage, not the cockpit and certainly not in management! Matchett seems to be the most practical amongst the three. His comments are thoughtful and always interesting.

    Peter Windsor is also a gem. I assume he’ll be replaced once his new F1 team is running races. Any guesses as to who will replace him as the track-side personality?

    Anyway, Long Live F1 on Speed! This American is very thankful to have access to the live broadcasts.

  87. I love the Speed broadcast team.

    I hate the fact that they don’t go to the tracks, aside from Windsor.

    I’d also like to see the return of Derek Daly to the pit. He was a quality member of the team.

  88. Let me Know? How many kph in racing (F1)
    for example (nearly 200 kilometer in hour) or Something

    1. At the end of the straight sections on most circuits, top speeds are in the neighborhood of 300 kph. Speeds on some of the faster circuits can reach 330 kph, while sppeds on “slower” circuits, like at Monaco, are in the 280 – 290 kph range.

      What always impresses me is how quickly an F1 car can reduce speed! I’m always amazed the brake discs don’t disintegrate after just a few laps. . .

  89. bit late to this one but…

    don’t know about speed TV but i really enjoy the website.

    for a motorsport fan that is not only fanatical about F1 but has become rather fond of NASCAR and IndyCar, its a really good read.

    when I visit the US next year I should be able to sample how its done over the water, so that will be interesting too.

  90. you know, I’m watching F1 Silverstone right now, or supposed to. I don’t understand why SPEED broadcasts the Saturday Qualifying LIVE, while probably the Sunday Race isn’t going to be broadcasted.
    Are they showing Raceday on a different channel?

    1. Rick DeNatale
      21st June 2009, 14:31

      For about four races, starting with the last race in Turkey, the actual race coverage is on the Fox Network and not live.

      So check your local Fox station.

      I my case (in the Raleigh NC market) the local channel didn’t cover Turkey, and doesn’t look like it’s carrying Silverstone either.

      Speed will show the race later this week, either Monday or Tuesday. I can’ remember which.

  91. Speed’s coverage was good until this weekend when they put themselves out of business by restricting the use of video recorders. If I cannot watch it at my convenience, I will not be watching it at all.

  92. I Love Speed’s F1 coverage, except Matchett talks too much. LET US HEAR THE CARS, YES!

    1. Matchett talks too much? Hummm . . .

      Aside from Windsor, I’ve always thought Steve Matchett was the least vocal amongst the remaining three. And that’s too bad because I really enjoy Matchett’s comments!

      I must also say that Bob Varsha does a fantastic job as well. I think I slighted him, a tad, in earlier comments, without intending to do so.

      Varsha is the “glue” which holds the F1 Speed team together. It’s one thing for Hobbs and Matchett to pipe in when they wish. But it’s another thing to be the “host” where you welcome the viewers, explain things, try to sound interesting as you attempt to prevent dead air, exit for commercials at the proper time, etc. Not an easy job!

      Varsha also has a wealth of F1 knowledge and is clearly a passionate F1 fan.

      It’s just that I prize the perspectives of Matchett and Hobbs because they have been there — they are ex-F1 people.

      Long Live F1 on Speed!

  93. Too many commercials! Also, I don’t like to watch 4 races on FOX when they are NOT live. Aside from that, all is good!

  94. David Hobbs drives me nuts. He doesn’t pay much attention to the other commentators, frequently interrupting them or repeating what they’ve just said. He grunts when he’s excited. I don’t need somebody to make squealing noises when something exciting is happening… that’s my job!

  95. The three Speed commentators (Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett) do an excellent job. however, you can tell that they are bias towards English teams and English drivers. I think that Mr. Hobbs could have also been a great comedian. However, the problem is not them the problem is the coverage. First of all let me say that I do travel all over the world and I have seen F1 coverage in some places like: Italy, England, Russia, South Africa and many more. I would have to say that the BBC has the best coverage. It starts at least one hour before the race and ends at least an hour after the race, it is free and best of all has no commercial interruptions! On today’s race (Hungarian GP 2011) Speedvision cut the program short (no celebration and no interview) to bring 2 hours of NASCAR pre-race……..are you kidding me?

  96. Hey this is a attractive looking site, is this wordpress? Forgive me for the foolish question but if so, what theme is? Thanks!

  97. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. Im quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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