Back on The Chain gang

If you’re a careful watcher of the links side bar on the right-hand side of this blog (and I don’t know why you should be), you’ll see I’ve added a link to the BBC’s new F1 website. It will have to go some to beat ITV’s effort, which has long been good and has certainly kept up its standards over the close season, with regular updates and some very well-considered analysis. The BBC’s isn’t that good yet, but presumably it will really ramp up when the season starts.

That’s only a few weeks away now, and it’s very exciting. I’ve been following the winter dramas on the ITV site, plus the slightly more cutting-edge Autosport F1 reporting, the more editorially-styled blog by James Allen and GrandPrix.com, which combines many of the strengths of the two. [Edited to add: I shouldn’t have forgotten to put Joe Saward’s blog in that list, where he offers the views he perhaps can’t put on GrandPrix.com]

The business with Honda, Brawn GP and the cost-cutting drive has been remarkable enough, but the amazing thing is how close the field is looking. In past posts I have confidently predicted that it would spread out due to the regulation changes; this could still happen, but there is no sign of it yet. Perhaps Renault, Williams, Toyota and Red Bull have made some progress; perhaps McLaren are a little behind where they would like to be; and perhaps BMW have been sandbagging shamelessly and have stolen a march on the whole field. But even though making predictions at this stage of the pre-season is a mug’s game (but still fun), it’s usually at least possible. From testing so far I’m not sure any conclusions can be drawn at all.

On the TV coverage front, the pre-race / pre-qualifying programme segments look like they’re going to offer much the same as ITV’s did, with Brundle grid-walks as before, but Coulthard and Eddie Jordan likely providing some rather more articulate punditry than the unintentionally hilarious Marc Blundell. The fact is that ITV were doing a good job, and in this department there is little the BBC look like being able to add. Their more extensive range of platforms will allow for all sessions to be broadcast, with 5Live commentators providing interactive commentaries (ie you can send emails and texts) on the practice sessions; that, and the availability of a full on-board camera shot via the red button at some races, seem to be the extent of the innovations. But it still looks like being an excellent package – I only hope the website can live up to ITV’s standards.

I will, however, mourn the loss of the ad breaks in some ways. I always rather liked the shock and excitement of coming back to the action to be presented with a replay of some key development, which required you to play catch-up and work out the consequences for yourself. It added an element of suspense.

I’m very much looking forward to it all starting in three weeks’ time.

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