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Thoughts on the changes to BBC F1 commentary team
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Thoughts on the changes to BBC F1 commentary team
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Jan 2011   |  5:53 pm GMT  |  326 comments

Not surprisingly many readers and Twitter followers want to know my thoughts on the changes in the BBC F1 commentary line up with Martin Brundle taking the lead role and David Couthard joining him in the commentary box.


I worked alongside Martin in the ITV commentary box from 2001 until the end of 2008. We did well over 120 races together and I know he will have thought about this very carefully. He knows what is involved in taking the lead role; a lot of preparation and getting the bases covered. That is something he always relied on me to do and that’s his job now.

I think it’s a good move for him; he’s done the same role as pundit and gridwalker for 14 years now, throughout the ITV years and two years with the BBC. Why not refresh things a little?

It’s not without its challenges; rushing up from the grid, it will take some adjustment to arrive in the commentary box a few minutes before the race starts and do a mental “reset”, ready to talk for over 90 minutes. The lead commentator takes the strain, maintains the narrative, doing probably 60% of the talking, it’s quite different from the colour commentator who adds insights and colour.

Martin is more than capable of doing that. He’s studied the role alongside three different commentators now since 1997 and if he believes he can do it and fancies the challenge, I’m sure he’ll be more than ready to meet it.

As I’ve always maintained, the most important thing with a sport like F1 is that the commentator is passionate about his sport and is steeped in it and Martin ticks both of those boxes.

It looks like F1 will be broadcast in HD next season, certainly FOM is ready for it and many of the networks who take the F1 coverage have HD channels, including the BBC. So not only will F1 sound different next year, it will look a lot brighter.

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1

Martin was awesome in 2011 new commentary for 2012 is rubbish please take him off whoever he is Promote David to lead commentary, I am now going to sky because of poor quality new format.At least run the race in full even if it’s not live.

I waited for the first week to see how it was, now I’m off to sky….I hate giving them money, but I need my F1 fix and you have disappointed…JAKE GREAT AS EVER…WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PIT LANE FEEDS DURING RACE…The new tech expert is boring….no introduction to who they are and what there credentials are but both have voices to drive you crazy!

You probably wont post this one!

2

I would have promoted David Croft to be lead commentator. He is brilliant.

3

Should be interesting to hear as Martin Brundle assumes a role that has been taken in gridiron football in the US by Pat Summerall and more recently Ron Pitts, both former analysts who have taken lead chairs. Summerall by the 1970’s became known more as a lead who also presented professional basketball and golf coverage. Hope you will see how Brundle will act — as low-key as Summerall, whose career lasted nearly 40 years as a broadcaster, including Super Bowl XXXVI, Jack Nicklaus’ sixth Masters, and other signature moments, or will he go loud.

4

“…and the McLaren is going down the hill…” – I’m really not going to miss him.

I was hoping that the owner of this blog would step into those shoes again but we are denied yet again.

The prospect of having MB as main dude is interesting. His real strength in the box has been to make the viewer feel like they are in the car.

So the dream team commentary box would be:

JA – lead

MB – support

failing that

Antony Davidson – lead

MB – support

failing that

Crofty – lead

MB – support

5

JOE, as the legend RD always said F1 its IF backwards! DC rocked, and not winning the WC isnt the beall and end all. He has huge respect and a great bloke with high standards and moral conduct. ( and by the way i am not DC ! )

Mb should have died on his backside 14 yrs ago as he was never mr inspiring, but his dry humour and intelligence won over all comers. I feel that DC has the ingredients to partner MB, and as they know each other so well it will really be a partnership with good communication.

With all due respect to James, i felt there was a lacking somehow in his last yr as lead, but i respect and listen to him more now and without JA the sport is worse off no doubt.

Leggard – well he never really clicked and i think it was good and fair of the bbc to give him 2 yrs, but 2 races told me he was to go. Having said that the listener and standard has changed so much that if Murray started now he would probably not hit the spot either?? I love Murray by the way aswell.

Life moves on as JL said on Twitter. My hope is that Anthony Davidson moves up from just radio as he is top class, and should DC not pick it up then AD would kick in big style!

Having said this all, none of the people involved have ever done less than their very best and deserve respect for a hard and fast moving complicated jigsaw that is an F1 season – Happy new year to all 🙂

6

Agree about Ant D, he’s a fantastic broadcaster

7

Hi James

While we are on the subject of David Coulthard i just wanted to ask you a question about the man himself.

Is there a school of thought among the British F1 media – and if so are you a part of it – that DC could’ve and should’ve been world champion in 2003? Personally, I think he should have been and here’s why:

He calmly won the opening round in Australia, staying out of trouble while everyone else got in to it. At the next round in Malaysia he was running very well and very high up the order and almost certainly would have picked up a podium had it not been for electrical failure (i think it was) which put him out at an early stage of the race.

He would have won the rain-soaked Brazilian GP (the 3rd race) had it not been for Webber and Alonso having their infamous moments as they climbed the hill from the final corner, which lead to the race being red flagged, moments after DC made a pit stop.

The next round at Imola heralded the beginning of DC’s 2003 single lap qualifying nightare.

I can’t help but feel that HAD he picked up a solid podium (or even a strong 4th place for that matter) in Malaysia, and HAD he won in Brazil as he should have deservedly done so, then he would have arrived at Imola on the crest of a wave of confidence; probably feeling more confident about himself than at anyone stage in his career.

I just feel that the rotten luck in rounds 2 and 3, after the great start in Oz, had a psychological effect on him, which led to him putting himself under huge pressure to put his challenge back on track and not let ANOTHER opportunity to become WDC slip through his fingers AGAIN. I think he went out to qualify at Imola and overdrove which snow-balled for the rest of the season…

Has DC even spoken about this and whether he thinks the rotten luck in rounds 2 and 3 that year affected him? I just can’t see why he would’ve have suddenly turned bad at quali if he’d arrived in Europe as the clear championship leader?

One thing’s for sure: the Mclaren MP4-17D WAS up to the task – Raikkonen could’ve won that title had he not made any 2 of at least half a dozen driving erros (admiteddly the Nurburgring engine failure didnt help), with running wide at Stowe corner springing to mind…

8

NOt really heard that one before. He had a great career, no doubt

9

James Allen would have been the better choice in my opinion!

10

Hi James,

With regards to the post race press conference, I have always wondered how that works. Do you have a script given to you of questions to ask or do you decide what to ask?

I always love the post race press conference, it is one of those traditional elements of F1 that I hope they keep in the coming years.

Regards,

Matt

11

No I decide what to ask. I make notes during the quali or the race and refine them once we know the outcome. The quali one is high pressure because you don’t know who you are talking to until 2mins before they walk in the room. The race is a bit more relaxed.

12

Just as with James on ITV and Leggard on BBC, if 3 million people like DC and 10 thousand dont … the ten thousand will go on and on about him on blogs until the BBC ditch him.

Thats the way it goes.

Rather selfishly, I am glad JA on F1 will be James’s main outlet as it is, as many have stated here, the best F1 site on the net.

13

I’m actually quite pleased with the paring, they both know their stuff and are both capable of dishing out some critism.

One thing concerns me though:

Can anyone imagine Martin or DC shouting

“Gooooooooooooooooooo!”

When the lights go out?

If it doesn’t work next year, I’ll submit my out commentary DVD!

14

Haven’t read all the comments above but would echo concerns about Eddie Jordan running amuck without DC to reign him in. Is there no one better than could work with Jake as ‘main analyst’? (John Watson, Johnny Herbert, Damon, Jackie Stewart or maybe Paul Stoddart, if you want a former team owner)

Also David has to drop the pro-RBR bias if he is to work in this role. Antony Davison would probably have been a better choice to work alongisde Martin.

15

James your comments are very positive and insightful, you experience and knowledge is second to none. Carry on being a great journalist and blogger you deserve great success.

I wasn’t fond of your commentating to say the least but I cannot fault what you write and the information you gather. You are one of those people still involved in F1 in the inside and you deserve to be there.

16

A bit concerned about EJ’s extended role!

17

Agreed, am I alone on here thinking Eddie is actually, erm, pretty rubbish in his role?

18

It’s great new with MB and DC. They love the sport, they know what they are talking about and what a year we are in for with the top four teams. I was only speaking with Ross brawns dad the other day and he told me to put money on Schmi for this year as all the work they have put for this year. Not long now:)

19

When James took over from Murray Walker I thought he was rubbish. Not that I had liked Murray Walker that much, but he was amusing. After a year or so I realised that James was much better than Murray Walker because he didn’t get everything wrong. It was simply the change that had skewed my judgement.

I thought maybe a similar thing would happen with Legard but it was no use. He got everything wrong without being amusing at all. I feel kind of sorry for him now but I wouldn’t have felt like that while I was shouting at the tele during races.

They should have got James back but this is still good news. As long as DC can be a little less dull.

20

Change, it’s quite an interesting topic. Sure I have personal preferences to whom I would like to hear commenting on F1. One thing that has clearly been evident in all of the past f1 lead commentators is thier knowledge and passion for the sport. This is very clearly evident in MB.

…but, is he the best man for the job? This is where to topic of change arises. Am I just happy for his awesome role as technical driver consultant? Do I want to protect him from the barrage of criticism? First, he’s a big lad and can take care of himself. Perhaps I’m not wanting change?

In any event f1 is relentless, thus is what we love about the sport, time waits for no man, design or aero part.

We’ll look back in ten months time on another great season, there’ll be a new champion and we’ll be looking forward to a new season.

Martin will be great, DC will grow into the role and Eddy will have a fantastic array of questionable shirts. 2011 is going to be great.

21

the point of a commentator, especially on tv, is to give insights on what’s going on that you wouldn’t be able to pick up from the tv. for example if someone is putting in several green / purple sector times (or particularly slow times), if someone is pitting off screen, what tyres they are on etc. Brundle is able to do this, legard simply was not, he didn’t seem to understand anything of what was going on, and so simply just stated, or should that be shouted, what he saw (incorrectly half the time). he never seemed to grasp the concept that he was not on the radio and despite being a commentator was not required to give a full time running commentary! occasionally just leaving a little silence, for example over an onboard shot, says more than a commentator could ever say.

and how can legard say during quali for example that someone is fastest or on provisional pole when they are first to put a lap in!! it shows a complete and fundamental lack of any knowledge whatsoever. literally moments after webbers massive crash this year, he starts blabbering on about something completely inane and irrelevant.

not only am i glad legard has gone, i am also happy that another person with massive insight and knowledge is stepping into the booth. he was partial to RBR as he was probably still on their books. that will change now. i am really looking forward to F1 2011

22

I wonder whether part of the problems people have with the lead commentator is the shadow of Murray hanging over. His voice was synonymous with the sport for a considerable number of years, and I do wonder whether his style of commentating (for all its humour and it’s bloopers) is what people are struggling to look past. I actually enjoyed your commentating [the Hungarian Grand Prix with Button winning his first race, oddly with Anthony Davidson, was a particular highlight) and your knowledge was apparent, as was your rapport with Martin. I wonder if by getting the current face of British F1 broadcasting to commentate, they are aiming to prevent that backlash and let david have the job where he can be a bit more pensive and reflective, as opposed to reactive as the lead commentator must be.

23

This will be the least F1 related post ever here, promise!

First to all those who say “a commentary team should be one journalist plus one ex-driver” you are the Hispania’s of commenting. MB and DC is something different, a potential inovation which could pay off very nicely. Luckily the BBC aren’t doing what they’ve always done but experimenting.

Second to those that say they’re not sure DC will make a good co-commentator I hope then when you consider a career change you remember your own advice.

24

I agree with a lot of people on here who have said that having two ex drivers might not be the best thing.

However im happy to reserve judgement and if James thinks that Martin is more than up to the job you have to respect that, after all James was Martins longest partner.

I would have prefered Crofty to get a go at it. His commentry on the darts was good, prooving that he is a good commentator in general. Was there not a rumour that MB and Crofty dont get on? I could be making that up but if so is there any truth in it?

To use the schumi coming into the pitlane example from earlier in the thread I think what you want from a commentary team is the main guy to say “schumis coming in this is lap whatever” and make it sound exciting. The second technical guy then elaborates on it and explains what this may mean in terms of race development etc.

I think MB & DC will make a solid commentary team but I just think it will possibly lack the excitment needed to spice things up for viewers.

However I hope im wrong and they will turn out to be excellent!

25

As mention James got the dull end of the stick with trying to make the Schumacher/Ferrari years interesting and fun. I must admit I was not a fan of James’s passionate, loud (his reaction to Button’s first win was worefully over the top) but I enjoy James’s views and comments for more on the site and have totally done a U-turn on him now.

It will be interesting to hear the DC/Brundle duo work and I’m sure there will be mistakes or moments when it isn’t working. But just like the 2010 season it will need time to come good, alot of people was slagging off 2010 after the first race in Barhain!

26

Glad to hear Legard has gone. Never took to him and did not think he hsd the ability to hold his end. I’m pretty sure he did not contribute more than Martin did as I always believed Martin was lead commentator at BBC anyway. It is a pity BB did not have you (James Allen) on board somewhere too as I miss your in depth and insightful abilities.

27

Hi JAMES YOU UNFORTUNATLY DID THE NIGHT SHIFT IN F1 WITH SCHUMACHER MAKING THE SPORT LOOK BORING I THINK THE JOB NEEDS A JOURNALIST IN THE BOX TO ADD A BIT!!!

28

True that 2002, 04 and 06 was hard work to make interesting!

29

I don’t recall 06 being boring?

30

I am very happy with the change in commentary for the BBC F1 coverage.

Why, Legard will no longer taint the otherwise satisfactory coverage. I wouldn’t call the coverage instantly better with the replacement (DC), but I will reserve judgement until I get to listen to the new pair together. As I firmly believe F1 as a whole needs an American lesson on how to educate and entertain viewers, something I’ve said many times in comments here and elsewhere. Nascar and Indy are streets/leagues/galaxies ahead on the ‘show’.

Also, they listen to fans, and with the incredible volumes of fans voicing their displeasure in Legards ability (everyone had ample opportunity to gauge an opinion so fair dews), there is no way he would have lasted the entire 2010 season elsewhere.

In South Africa, SuperSport puts together an F1 highlights package of the races, without overlaying the commentary. So what I initially thought would be a nice recap of 2010 became unwatchable, as every single ‘exciting/interesting’ moment is completely destroyed by Legards mumbling, 4 incomplete sentences-in-one phrases, nonsense. How he is called the ‘senior’ is beyond my comprehension. I appreciate that being a professional commentator is not easy, but I do not recall James ever bumping over simple sentences, or using exciting commentary lines such as ‘Here he comes’, ‘There he goes’, ‘He’s the man with the plan’.

The best moment of the season commentary wise was the Brazilian GP, and on the slowing down lap Legard said something quite silly as usual, and Brudle muttered ‘idiot’ (if you have the race go look, can’t find it on youtube), it was the funniest moment, and summed up my friends and my feelings 100%, after many occasions of yelling at the TV for Legard to stop talking nonsense.

Here is to change, and I really hope this change is as good as a holiday! Bring on F1 2011

31

Actually Brundle says “Indeed”, not “Idiot” but he might as well have done, it must have been so frustrating working next to someone who talked over the top of you all the time and that you had no “flow” with.

I disliked JL style very much but I’m sure he is a great person and wish him well for the future. Looking foward to 2011 and the new BBC team, I think they will do great!

Thank you James for a such great website and always interacting with the fans, much respect.

(as an aside, I’m always impressed with how you manage to deal with the same questions over and over because people don’t bother to read the comments, good on ya!)

32

I think the pairing of a journalist/enthusiast and an ex-driver is the best one. You, James and Martin again, for example. Good F1 commentary needs enthusiasm to be able to infuse the dull moments – of which F1 has many – with enough energy to carry the audience through to the next exciting ones – and that requires an individual who is passionate about the ‘sport’ warts and all. I respect MB a great deal but his inevitable cynicism from really knowing how the internal games are being played comes through occasionally and sometimes leaves the viewer thinking that they could or should be doing something more productive with their time. As a knowledgeable inside expert off to one side that is fine, but I agree with you, a real enthusiast is necessary to carry the show – which was where Murray with all his faux pas shone through. Often this past season I found myself preferring the race coverage of David Croft and Anthony Davidson over the principal BBC team.

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