Channel 4’s Formula 1 commentator Ben Edwards began his broadcast yesterday saying, “For many of us, it’s an end of an era.” He talked about it being Fernando Alonso’s final race, and Kimi Räikkönen’s swansong at Ferrari. Not directly mentioned, but telegraphed, was the fact that this was also the last F1 race to be shown on free-to-air TV in the UK, with the exception of next year’s British Grand Prix.
Channel 4 have done an exceptional job of covering the sport over the past three years. I share Richard Williams’s weary assessment of the Sky coverage we must pay through the nose for:
There are aspects that stretch the patience, like the rushed and inane encounters of the grid walk and the plethora of pensioned-off drivers saying nothing very much.
When Sky first shared the rights with the BBC in 2012, the big names went to Sky — but the good names stayed with the BBC. Channel 4 have continued in that vein, if anything improving on the BBC. Their diverse range of pundits are sharper, wittier, more perceptive, more insightful, with more recent race experience.
From now, British viewers are left worse off — and so is F1 itself.