Poignant night at the ITV farewell party yesterday. It was held at the Langley in London’s Covent Garden and pretty much everyone who has worked on the programmes over the past 12 years was there, even some who only worked on that first, 1997 season, which seems like a different lifetime..
Neil Duncanson, the boss of the North One Production company, read out his diary from that first year with many great stories I had forgotten, like the first Monaco GP where the show was presented from a boat and the water got really choppy, so Simon Taylor had to be carried off seasick, or the moving camera in the pits at Silverstone, which came off its rail and smashed into the pit lane about five feet from where I was standing.
As well as all the current team, Jim Rosenthal was there, as was our old head of sport Brian Barwick, who has been running the Football Association since. So too many of the engineers, cameramen, sound recordists and so on. As most of them work for what was the BBC outside broadcast unit, I sincerely hope that the Beeb retain them for next year because they are the best in the business and there is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the highly complex business of getting pictures and sound safely back to the truck and from there to the viewer, from some remote location in the paddock. ITV F1′s emphasis was always on “taking the helmet off the sport”, in other words personalising it and above all on “being there”, using the various locations of the circuit and giving the viewer a real feel of what it was like to be there.
It’s amazing to think that ITV had such a long run of producing F1 in the UK. In all we did 206 Grands Prix, only seven drivers have started more races. I was the only person to attend every one of those races , even managing to fit the birth of both my kids around the races! I’m very proud of what we achieved and of course we had the best possible ending to got out on.
The team is now disbanded. I know that many people had frustrations with the ad breaks and some found the build-up show’s emphasis on Lewis Hamilton unjustified, but there is no doubt that ITV raised the standard of F1 TV production very high indeed.