BBC F1 – the verdict

When the BBC regained the rights to broadcast Formula 1 in 2009, it was the post-race coverage that really propelled it so far ahead of what ITV had been offering. Sky have not offered a similar jump in quality, which is disappointing given the cost of the subscription. But as with the BBC, it is in the post-race coverage where Sky are nudging ahead.

The BBC’s post-race F1 Forum revolutionised F1 coverage in the UK. Even though Sky have followed a similar format, the BBC’s offering now feels pedestrian in comparison.

What I have seen of the BBC F1 Forums so far this year has been very poor. Suzi Perry seemed like she didn’t know what to do or say. Perhaps there was a meltdown behind the scenes, leaving her with nothing to work with. But in four years, Jake Humphrey worked like the proverbial swan and almost never missed a beat.

I have found Suzi Perry’s presentations so far slightly nervy and uncertain. This is a surprise to me, as surely the reason the BBC chose her over Lee McKenzie was because of her vast experience in presenting live motorsport. But after the first five races, I find it difficult to believe that Lee McKenzie wouldn’t have done at least as good a job.

Suzi Perry does have big shoes to fill though. There is no doubt that Jake Humphrey is one of the best TV presenters in the business. His departure from the BBC means that their coverage has inevitably taken a step back in quality.

Where the BBC still have a clear lead over Sky is in the race commentary itself. This is interesting given that commentary was the area where the BBC struggled the most in its first few years after 2009. The commentary problem has now disappeared from the BBC along with Martin Brundle.

David Coulthard 2009

The BBC’s Ben Edwards is the best motorsport commentator in the business. He mixes sharp observations with pants-on-fire excitement. Co-commentator David Coulthard is not as much of a natural talker, but his more recent racing experience allows him to offer fresher insight than Martin Brundle.

Where the BBC’s race coverage is now let down is in the fact that Gary Anderson is no longer in the pitlane. While his role as BBC Radio 5 Live co-commentator is a real boon for radio listeners who had to endure Jaime Alguersuari’s inane mumblings last year, Gary Anderson’s change in role is a big loss for TV viewers.

BBC TV’s new pitlane reporter, Tom Clarkson, is yet to convince me. His contributions have largely been banal statements of the obvious.

If I was to play fantasy broadcaster and I was in the BBC’s position, I would get 5 Live to shell out (easier said than done, I know) for a decent full-time co-commentator to allow Gary Anderson to play his role in the pits for both TV and radio. Jennie Gow could also do her job for both TV and radio (as Holly Samos did once a few years back). That would then allow Lee McKenzie to step up to the big job.

Gary Anderson is one of the BBC’s main trump cards. His mixture of strategy analysis and technical insight offers something that no other British F1 broadcaster has ever brought.

I have seen some comments on the web castigating Gary Anderson for standing on the sidelines and critiquing other cars when his own days as a designer are in the past. I don’t understand this criticism. Gary Anderson’s job is not to design a better F1 car in his head. His job is to translate technical ideas and analysis into layman’s terms for the general viewer to understand.

People don’t tend to criticise the legions of ex-drivers that clog the airwaves with their punditry. Of course if a driver could do a better job, he would be driving and not talking about driving. But this hasn’t hindered Martin Brundle’s TV career. At least Gary Anderson has won a few grands prix, something that Martin Brundle can’t say.

Right now, Gary Anderson is the BBC’s main unique selling point. He is offering something that Sky are absolutely unable to at present.

The BBC’s punditry lineup does benefit from its diversity. It is a perfectly balanced mix with one former driver to provide the driver’s perspective, one former technical director to provide a technical insight, and a former team owner to shine a light on the political and business sides of the sport.

In comparison, Sky’s punditry is rather one dimensional. It is brimful of ex drivers, but not much else.

However, the Suzi Perry’s slightly lacklustre presentation of the BBC’s post-race coverage makes it too difficult to watch. For races that are live on the BBC, I am finding myself watching the BBC for the commentary, then switching to Sky for the post-race coverage.

29 comments

  1. My opinions have changed on Suzi, I initially thought despite my huge fandom of Lee McKenzie that she would be better in the lead role after her MotoGP experience, but she really seems to have lost something. I don’t remember her being like that when she did the same job on MotoGP, so it’s befuddling to see what she does now. On reflection I would like to see Lee step up, but that would remove her from doing the job of driver interviews where she has a proven rapport and chemistry with most drivers and the ability to get good answers out of even the Kimi Raikkonens. It’s lost something, but I will still take BBC coverage over Sky’s any day.

  2. Thanks for the comment Tone.

    Live sports presenting must be one of the toughest gigs in TV. Suzi Perry’s former colleague Ortis Deley knows that only too well!

    To pull it off, you either need supreme ability to act cool under pressure (Jim Rosenthal), a strong passion (Steve Rider), or both (Jake Humphrey). Suzi Perry appears to have neither.

    She seems to be at least knowledgeable about F1, but I’m not convinced she has the passion to pull it off. Her catty comments about F1 while she presented MotoGP might have been an act to please her bike fans. Or she might have meant it.

  3. Yes, Suzi Perry is nowhere near as assured as Lee McKenzie, who is very very good, and she was somewhat gushing at Monaco, but I think she deserves a chance to improve. I find it a relief that Jake Humphrey has gone with his still present children’s presenter attitudes “come on boys and girls” and generally irritating manner. As for commentary, it has indeed improved, but why don’t the sound engineers balance the track noise with the commentary so it may be heard? Ben Edwards voice cuts through better than the others, but Gary Anderson’s really interesting comments are so often lost. It seemed to have improved in the first three races, but now it’s reverted to the former imbalance where it’s a strain to hear.

  4. Well I watched the British GP on BBC 1 yesterday and I was amazed on how lost Suzi was. She all over the place trying hard on what to say next and sometimes there was a moment of uncomfortable silence between her and Eddie Jordan. You could almost hear her brain saying out loud “oh please Eddie talk some more for another 40 seconds to take us to the next segment” but what really annoyed me was how she grabbed Carl cutchlow (wrong spelling sorry) on the grid and started asking him questions about his moto GP career. Come on, I’m an f1 fan not a bike fan and I couldn’t care less about what’s happening on that scene, yet Suzi went for the comfort zone as it is evident she is lost in the F1 world. If I was the boss at the beeb, I would really dump her and bring in a man which would make it really interesting and fun, stand back for mr Jeremy clarkson, I think it would be gold telly and would boost the viewing figures.

  5. We’re now into the second half of the season and she still hasn’t got it. The coverage at Spa was appalling. The interview with the Force India guy immediately after final qualifying was embarrassing. She just waffled away and left the guy hanging in mid air. Fortunately Eddy saved the day by saying, “I think you’ve just been asked a question,” and then going on to ask him one in a way that he could give an answer.

    It happens time and again: you can see her dry up when she simply can’t think of what to say next and she’s clearly thinking, “Come on Eddy (or David, when he’s around) get me out of this.”

    It’s interesting to see that you watch BBC for the race and switch to Sky for the punditry. Watching via the Internet here in Germany, I prefer Sky for the race as their live stream is much more robust and the picture quality much better. But when it comes to pre and post race punditry, I turn over to BBC. The only thing that Suzy Perry has got going for her is that she is only 1/3 of the team. On Sky, you’ve got to put up with Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and Simon Lazenby and that’s too painful for words. At least Suzi has got Eddy and David.
    It’s going to be interesting to see if BBC keep Suzi next year. I would love to see Lee fronting their coverage with EJ and DC. What a dream team that would be!

  6. Must admit, I expected Suzi to have some teething troubles but figured she’d be settled by now. That said, EJ and DC have become more hesitant too. I think PC zealotry has a lot to do with it. While the boys could banter away to their hearts’ content, now that Suzi’s joined they’ve clearly been told to be ‘careful’. I think it was after the second race that EJ made an innoccuous sexist comment to her and the following day a few “Misogynist BBC!” articles appeared. Obviously, nobody wants to watch “Carry On F1” every other week but to have no such banter at all is unnatural. I think their underlying fear of criticism for “causing offence” has them all struggling to relax.

    Is it known that Lee ever wanted the presenting role? She’s great in the role she’s carved out for herself and pretty much IS the main presenter for the practice sessions. If there were a newbie for the driver interviews and ‘having a quick word’ with retirees during the races, how long would it take drivers to learn the new face, irrespective of whether they’re competent or not. We might’ve ended up with half a season or more of barely any live interviews at all.

  7. Thanks for the comments.

    @Steve G — It is on record that Lee McKenzie wanted the main presenting role. She spoke about it on the Motor Sport Magazine podcast earlier this year.

    In terms of drivers getting used to a new face, that ought not to be much of a problem. The drivers all have PR handlers who arrange all the interviews. As far as I understand it, there is a sort of informal convention whereby the big broadcasters get first dibs on an interview. So anyone associated with the BBC should be able to get an interview.

    Where a new face might make a difference is in how co-operative the drivers are during the interviews. Lee McKenzie seems to have quite a difficult time with Kimi Raikkonen, but she has had some stonking interviews with other drivers over the past few years.

  8. I love suzie perry on the gadget show but on the F1 she is awful kinda reminds me of when otis deley commentated (badly) on the world athletics on channel 4…. I think Lee mackenzie would do a much better job than suzie and actually knows what shes talking about. Lee has earnt the respect from alot of drivers but the drivers/owners/pretty much any one important must think suzie is a tool (the bernie interview springs to mind)

    I do like the clarkson idea some body posted on here that would be tv gold (just for one grand prix please make it happen)

    I was never a fan of jake and was so happy when he left i thought ideal, they cant do any worse than him, then yup they just did.

    My ideal line up of 3 presenters would have to be EJ, DC and gary anderson. 3 guys that know the sport inside and out.

  9. Interesting to have discovered this site on the web. I have been an avid fan of F1 for many years and Jake Humphrey was indeed a hard act to follow. If the BBC decided that it was time to have a female presenter I have no problem with that but I was amazed that Suzi Perry was chosen in preference to the incredibly knowledgeable Lee McKenzie. Suzi may have been excellent in her career in MotoGP but lacks the natural spontoneity and personality that Lee exudes. One often feels that if Eddie and David were not there to support Suzi that there would be some very uncomfortable silences or some rather uninteresting and banal questions being asked. I sincerely hope that the BBC have realised this and will replace Suzi with Lee for future seasons.

  10. Yes Suzi Perry so bad it’s unbelievable. She comes across as nervous, hesitant, uncharasmatic, unhappy, lacking passion and snapping at people for no reason. basically lacking all the attributes that a presenter needs. Watching the pre and post race commentary is an uncomfortable experience.
    I really hope the bbc doesn’t renew her contract next year.

  11. Sadly Suzi Perry has lost all the presenter appeal she exuded on Moto GP.
    and the Gadget Show.
    Bring back Jake

  12. I am amazed that Suzi Perry landed this job role!! For the last several years, JH along with the presentation team, did an outstanding job of race day presentation. I am aware that SP has been presenting for many years, but up until now she has failed to inspire me with confidence. More often than not a flippant or comedy answer is her response to questions asked, when a technical answer is sought. I am sorry but I don’t think that she has the capacity to present this motor sport to the level that it deserves. Get rid

  13. Looks like I agree with everyone about Suzi Perry, she just doesn’t know what to say. I never saw her on moto gp, so it’s strange if she was comfortable there but so out of depth on F1. With Jake Humphrey, I often barely noticed when he was filling, but Suzi Perry can make the most important interview of the show feel like she’s filling.

    I’m not a huge fan of Lee either, she’s fine in the pit lane but I wasn’t impressed when she stood in for Jake.

    I’d like to see the BBC do what they did with Jake – find someone from outside F1 who’s really good at presenting, and defers to DC and EJ when it gets specialist. I also think Jensen Button would make a good presenter, but hopefully not for a few years yet.

  14. I think you are having a dig at Suzie unnecessarily. Yes she was nervous in the beginning but in any new job who isn’t?? Suzie has done a fine job picking up the commentary and running with F1 so give her a chance. I have forgotten that Jake ever presented the show which shows how good a job she has done. Remember each presenter has their own style.

    I do agree though Jenson Button would be a fine commentator – he is funny, quick and definitely an entertaining watch

  15. Cannot believe you think Ben Edwards is good. He is far too excitable. I would prefer James Allen. His commentaries during practices are the most professional. All-in-all, though, whatever might be said about the BBC coverage at least it does not have Ted Kravits. Absolutely the worst.

  16. It astonishes me that there exists even one Suzi Perry fan after a season of absolute failure on her part. That she had to be baby-sat by Eddie Jordan, another waste of space, says it all to me. Tripping over some air lines in her (entirely inappropriate in an engineering environment) sling-backs, she muttered something like, ‘who left those there, whatever they are’. She doesn’t even know the basics FFS. She was completely blindsided by Ecclestone early on in the year and she hasn’t learnt a thing since. She was rubbish on MotoGP and with her simpering, rodent-like smirk, her mincing gait, her wholly undeserved self-esteem not to mention her absurd mic technique and her complete lack of empathy she should be erased from the schedule. The over-fastidious ‘OC’DC too. The BBC crew think that Lee McKenzie should have had the job. Me too.

  17. Although I think Al Wayzrite and a few others of you have been disproportionately harsh about Suzy, I do agree that she hasn’t been as effective and strong in the main presenting role as the BBC must have been hoping she would be. Having said that I think towards the end of the season she’s seemed more comfortable in her role, and if she carries on next season I hope she does well because I really want the BBC coverage to be good and do well.

    I do not agree as Dazzer suggests that just putting a man in would solve all the problems – that’s ridiculous, they need to put a presenter in who is a presenter first and foremost and who is a fan of F1 and has knowledge and a real interest in the sport – irrespective of gender.

    Lee would be fabulous; I think given the opportunity, time and support she would flourish in the main job – she’s got everything in her favour including the respect of the on air team and the drivers. Maybe the BBC will see that soon?

  18. It’s 2014 and we’re five races into the season and I have to raise this topic again…..

    It is now surely a plain fact that Suzi Perry is completely useless at presenting F1 for the BBC. Instead of gaining in confidence and knowledge, she’s gone backwards this season. I think even she knows she’s doing a crap job, is out of her depth and is not respected by team staff and even her colleagues – so someone please put her out of her misery. Even David Coulthard can hardly hide his frustration with her airy fairy nonsense in pre-race build up and post race analysis. You could tell Jake Humphrey was respected and well liked by everyone and equally you can tell that Suzi Perry has nailed to earn anyone’s respect and has been dismissed as a bit of fluffy window dressing by most of the paddock.

    I have been watching F1 since 1963 and I’m afraid that Suzi Perry is utterly wrong for this role and I find it really uncomfortable cringeing when watching my favourite sport. I refuse to pay for a Sky subscription!

    How brilliantly and wonderfully enjoyable it was to watch Lee MacKenzie presenting the Practice sessions from Barcelona – understated, inciteful, entertaining and totally professional – with not a whiff of the Perry in sight – thank God! Come on BBC admit your mistake, let Ms Perry go, promote the Mac and watch your ratings pick up where Jake Humphrey left them.

  19. I’m a big Suzi Perry fan… But I wish she would ditch the iPad !!!

    I’m starting to believe BBC has lost the plot though, fewer and fewer live races, no post race interviews or analisys in Montreal, comments that F1 isn’t q mainstream sport etc. I can’t afford to go to sky so looks like I will have to list to 5 live or not bother in the future. Perhaps Suzi and the team are now seeing an end to their contracts? Certainly feels like F1 is not any kind of priority to BBC any more.

    Just my two penneth worth for what its worth…. Melz

  20. I’ve flitted between BBC and Sky coverage since 2012 but have to admit Sky now has far superior coverage to the BBC in both pre and post race formats.
    Suzy Perry is totally out of her depth and must be removed, as should Eddie Jordan, whose banal wittering’s have become too much to bear.
    Lee McKenzie should be promoted to the top job with immediate effect!
    I was very frustrated with the Canada coverage on BBC. 60 minute coverage before qualifying yet only 40 minutes coverage before the race??? I mean come on that is just daft!
    Also cutting away from the the driver interviews on BBC 1 before they were finished was totally unprofessional.
    The post race coverage on BBC, particularly the forum, has been totally amateur. Almost like witnessing Uni students producing the show from a shed in terms of quality.
    The BBC coverage in large parts reminds me of how they used to present Moto GP which was very poor indeed.
    BBC has fallen out of love with F1 and I’ve fallen out of love with their coverage. I’ll be watching Sky from now on!

  21. Come in Suzi your time is up! You have failed to deliver. With Jensons future looking rocky, it would be great if the bbc brought him in with his mate Dc and promote Lee.

    Come on BBC time to wake up to your mistake!!!!

  22. Shame everybody or so it seams, seam to have it in for Suzi, Personaly I find her to be soft polite and a very good commentator, but not much dress scence, poorly advised I think , Come on Suzi you show them … a little more glamour (like the the sport it is F1), lets have a change of direction , knock um dead Suzi you show them You can be just like the sport Fast, Sexy, Sporty, Inteligent. All this talk of time is up etc a load of outdated rubbish. Why not make Suzi the darling of the race track as she should be without all the stuffyness of the BBC. Here I rest my case.

  23. I do not agree with peter…. i think that suzi has got worse as time has gone on (the montoya interview springs to mind), i now watch sky sports f1 for the build up but the bbc for the actual race….. it feels like lee is gearing up to take over going from the practice sessions…. i cant wait!!!

  24. Well I find all the parts with dc, ej and Suzi is informal and up to date and can I just say wow lee mackensie , she I rather Georgues and very easy on the eye keep up the good work bbc .
    Drew

  25. Everybody just get off there backs as they are doing there best as remember they only have so many rights to f1 now so keep up the good work dc , ej ,Suzi and can I just say lee mackensie is rather Georgues and very easy on the eye.

  26. suzi perry is the worst f1 presenter in f1 history. walks around clueless with her fake glasses and ipad that is never switched on. bbc needs to replace her asap.

  27. Well it’s the first race weekend of the 2015 season, and the bad news is Suzie useless Perry is still the anchor. Think l Will be going over to sky.!!!

  28. I find it amazing that you’re all such BBC fanboys.. EVERYTHING about the coverage on sky is far, far better. The pre/post race & the commentary. In fact for me, the commentary is LEAGUES above the BBC… the guy they’ve got commentating alongside Coulthard is almost as bad as Jonathan Legard. I also find Coulthard pretty irritating, but then I always have.. though at least he knows what he’s talking about.

    oh, and it goes without saying that Suzi P is abysmal.

  29. BBC, please, please let Lee McKenzie take Suzi’s place. Lee’s interviews with the drivers are so much better than anything Suzi does. She will be a breath of fresh air, I’m sure.

    Also, I look forward to the day when Jenson retires and he becomes the F1 equivalent of Gary Lineker. Not just yet though, let’s have another winning season or two. 😉

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