Is it sad that Formula 1 will not longer be on the BBC? Not to me. I think because we perceive it to be free to watch – though of course it is not – we are happy to accept the fact that the coverage is second rate compared to what is available to those who pay.
And it is: of course Sky can throw more money at the technology it deploys and the features it creates, but to me the crucial difference is entirely journalistic: from Martin Brundle in the commentary box to Ted Kravitz in the pit lane, there seems to be greater knowledge, more illuminating insight and more skilfully argued opinion than the BBC’s team is able to muster.
To me that is entirely wrong. Of all broadcasters, the BBC should be the one whose approach is defined by doing it properly or not at all. And by only showing some of the races live and employing a presenting team of uneven skills (some are great, others not so), it is not doing F1 properly so it is better off out of it.
From the Archive: On with the (BBC) show
Of course there may be another reason that not only is F1 better without the BBC but that the BBC is better without F1. I am told the BBC will save over £40 million by not broadcasting the sport over what would have been the remaining three years of its contract, less a fee for the early termination of that contract. And how much would you love to know how much Bernie decides to charge for that little concession? Indeed the BBC may even be breathing a small sigh of relief at having rid itself of a sport panned on most sides for becoming an increasingly boring show thanks to rules that have probably favoured the team with the biggest cheque book more now than ever before.
Then again I understand UK viewing figures have actually been quite good during 2015, so that might seem a curious place for the BBC to wield the axe. But how many of those millions tuned in because there was a Brit leading the charge to the title? Channel 4 must be praying Lewis Hamilton’s drop in form after winning the title and subsequent off-season antics have not blunted his edge in 2016. Having provided Lewis with his transport to consecutive world titles, my guess is that Mercedes-Benz would not be sad at all to see Nico Rosberg turn the tables next season. The team may be based in Britain, but it reports to a predominately German board based in Stuttgart. And of course there’s Vettel: if Ferrari continues to improve only at the current rate, you may find the title contest being fought out between two Germans with the Brit out of contention. Improbable? Yes. Implausible? Absolutely not.
From the Archive: Sky vs BBC – battle of the broadcasters
Ah yes, Channel 4. I have high hopes, because I expect it to have rather more imagination than to adopt the BBC’s strategy of being as similar to Sky as its less-lavish resources will allow. I think that with the right will and the correct creative brains behind the venture, there is the possibility of producing an F1 show that is genuinely different, thought provoking and, above all, entertaining. And we need it because goodness knows, there’s little of that out there on the track at the moment.