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Sky Sports F1 HD Coverage

Sky Sports have launched their brand new Formula 1 HD channel and this week has announced there F1HD team. Martin Brundle will go back to his previous role of co-commentator/expert from next season after Sky drafted in former BBC Radio 5 Live commentator David Croft. Alongside David Croft for the practice session will be Anthony Davidson again, the pair creating a great bond over the past few seasons. Presenting all 20 of the 2012 season will be Simon Lazenby, formerly presented the Rugby Union coverage on Sky Sports. Ted Kravitz has also been snapped up from the BBC coverage to continue with his pit-lane coverage for the 2012 season. Natalie Pinkham moves from BBC Radio 5 Live along with Croft to continue her duties within the pit-lane. The very lovable Georgie Thompson will be taking on a magazine show on Sky Sports on all F1 weeks. Finally we see the return of Steve Rider to Formula 1 after a stint covering other sports; he will have a channel dedicated to F1 legends. Mark Blundell expected to co-host this with him.

From Left to Right: Davidson, Croft, Pinkham, Brundle, Lazenby, Thompson, Kravitz

After the announcement I decided to take a couple of days to reflect on it. Many people were left with a very bitter taste in their mouth around Hungaroring 2011 when it was announced that the BBC F1 coverage had not been renewed. It was then also announced that Sky Sports had come in and snapped up the rights and crucially for Mr Ecclestone, Sky were able to pay the costs. Now as some may already know Sky is owned by News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s group, who have also been enquiring to CVC about potentially buying Formula 1 from them. Is this a coincidence? Quite possibly so, but the one crucial thing to all this is that UK viewers will get the full live coverage of all 20 races of the 2012 season. This is vital to Formula 1 as arguably the UK has the largest following of Formula 1 fans and are highly knowledgeable of the sport.

BBC has half the coverage for the 2012 season with the remaining races in a highlights package on Sunday evenings. The BBC has chosen: China, Spain, Monaco, Europe, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi, and Brazil. When I first saw this I questioned some of them such as China and Korea but then realised BBC are tapping in to a certain time zone and can delay the coverage. Some 30,000 people signed a government petition to get Formula 1 back on to the BBC for the entire season, but this was to no avail as Sky Sports had already made their move.

So with all that said what do we make of the Sky Sports F1HD team? Well I think the first and foremost thing to say here is that Sky have targeted there coverage towards the hard core fan rather than the casual viewer which BBC have tried to tap in to and will continue to do so. I for one am very happy with the Sky line up.

Martin Brundle was the catalyst in making it work; it was crucial that Sky Sports secured him. Not only that but it would appear that the lured him in to quite a lucrative deal. Brundle has often stated just how much he loves F1 and explaining the technology and the workings of the car to help viewers understand what exactly is going on. Sky has essentially said that they are willing to invest in him and his knowledge and will allow him the ability to create and make the technical guides to the sport we have all come to love.

Many people have speculated at who will lead the Sky coverage if Brundle does not. Names such as Ben Edwards, James Allen and even Jonathan Legard were all thrown about; but it was David Croft that got the lead role. Again, I think this was a great signing. ‘Crofty’ has become quite the fan favourite on BBC Radio 5 Live alongside Anthony Davidson who he will continue to do the Practice sessions with. These two as a pairing created great chemistry last year and became very popular. The Peugeot Le Mans driver giving all his technical and driving nouse to the listening and viewing audience.

Simon Lazenby is probably the most unrecognisable name to Formula 1 fans. Lazenby comes from a sport background if not Motorsport. I heard many comments such as “He has no Motorsport or F1 knowledge” well to answer those people, neither did Jake Humphrey. In fact Humphrey came from a Children’s Television background. So Lazenby if anything has a slight advantage over Humphrey even though he has grown in the BBC lead presenting role very well. Jury is still somewhat out on Lazenby though so we will wait to see how his does at the Melbourne Grand Prix in March.

Sky Sports F1 HD Team

Ted Kravitz, there is nothing really much to say. The heart of the pit lane knows everyone and everything about anyone and anything. I regard him these days as Mr Formula 1 always in the know and wanting to tell the public. He provides great depth to the Sky coverage, especially to us ‘hard core’ fans that we all enjoy.

Natalie Pinkham I suspect will take up her pit lane duties, much like she did for BBC but will have a bigger role to play and will be in pit lane during the race asking for drivers comments. Something that many people do not know is that Pinkham and Georgie Thompson are close friends. ‘GT’ will have a magazine styled show which I suspect will be studio based. For those of you that remember A1GP will re-call that she did the presenting for this and did a very good job, in my opinion. And let’s be honest here she is a bit of a “looker” as well.

Finally we have Steve Rider, a man not afraid of controversy and had many run-ins with the BBC before moving across to ITV. All we know at the moment is that he will be running a legends of the sport show on its own dedicated channel also it seems. We are yet to see much more detail on this though.

The only difference or downfall that there may be is that Sky do like a Studio setup so we may see a more ITV styled presenting approach rather than BBC style of walking up and down pit lane grabbing drivers and team members as they go. Yes, Eddie Jordan stays with the BBC.

Overall I think Sky Sports have done a very good. I think they have picked quality and talent and look set to put some good investment in to television coverage. I will just say one thing though, back in early 90’s there was massive uproar when Football moved from free-to-air television to Sky but people got over it and paid for it, same for Cricket. Just because we are Motorsport fans does not make us different from anyone else and therefore should not be “privileged” because of it. What you have to realise is that money has to be made and the television deals are key to that. The BBC just did not have the money for the coverage anymore. Yet they can go to China and Korea so I do somewhat question that, probably gone for marketing reasons. Money is the sole reason why the Premier League is the way it is and why it has the money it does. It all comes from television deals. Think of the prospect this could create for F1, we have already been told that there will be a £10 a weekend service on offer, which is still incredible value. I may be biased to this because I have had Sky since 1999 due to my other love, Football and many other sports. Some of you may even remember when Practice and Qualifying was on Eurosport or when F1 Digital was created. It is no different than that really other than it is now the entire weekend coverage. When I first moved out of home it was the first thing I bought. I love Sky’s coverage of Sport and not only that but dozens of other channels with sport on.

To all the Sky haters, do not write them off just yet. They may just surprise you…

Follow me on Twitter: @Nico888

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