Ranking: My top 9 Sky (and F1) broadcasters
As coronavirus and the associated and disproportionate hysteria grabs Formula 1 (and the world) by the you-know-whats, it's worth having a little think about who might be missing in Melbourne and beyond. So far, everyone (especially a denial-struck Liberty Media, whose FWONK share price is sinking faster than a stone) seems to be putting an oddly brave face on what widespread lockdowns and quarantines and a highly contagious disease might still mean for arguably the most famous worldwide travelling circus this year.
But it is beyond question that getting from Europe to Australia and then Bahrain and Vietnam (spoiler alert: Vietnam ain't gonna happen) and beyond will be about as straightforward as listening to an Italian lawyer explain the technical ins and outs of how Ferrari's dodgy 2019 engine worked.
So far, we've heard that the German broadcaster RTL - and possibly one or two other television broadcasters, including the Hungarians - isn't making the trip to the opening races. But Britain's Sky Sports, who - if you haven't noticed - now works very closely with Formula One Management, is biting the bullet and sending its intrepid team of reporters to the start of what could become one of the weirdest F1 seasons of all time.
So before they all start exhaling massive chunks of virus out of our televisions, let's pay tribute to the brave souls who will be bringing Formula 1 into the lounge rooms of just about every English-speaking fan this year, and pay our respects in this way ...
By ranking them:
9. Rosanna Tennant
I know, I know: she actually works for F1. But we got to know her quite well over F1 testing this year, and she is normally the one annoying the drivers on the pre-race parade just as much as she is annoying us.
My first memory of Rosanna was when she ran a Youtube channel called Pole Position, and she announced over-excitedly to everyone that the reason Sauber is called Sauber is because it means 'Clean' in German. Yep.
I told her on Twitter recently that my big gripe during testing was the way she kept pretending to be excited about tyres. When she very politely thanked me for the feedback, I told her that my actual gripe isn't with her, it's with the obvious pressure all these guys are under to be constantly excited about a sport that is ... not constantly exciting. So it's nothing personal. I just want my broadcasters to be, you know, serious.
8. David Croft
I know I started with Rosanna, but I have a much, much, MUCH bigger problem with 'Crofty'. Let me put it this way - at the start of every race, I mute the sound, and often when I think it's safe three or four laps in, I unmute it - and then immediately mute it again. I've heard chainsaws with a more soothing tone, and I'd rather be chained to a chair and tortured with 1.000 repeats of an Amy Schumer movie than to have to listen to Croft's amateur comedy.
7. Johnny Herbert
Ah, Johnny Herbert. He was always one of my favourite second-rate F1 drivers, who seemed to always be cursed with the fallout of his completely shattered ankles and terrible luck. 30 kilograms later, he's still quirky and lovely, but let's face it: Joe Biden is better at putting a full sentence together.
But, again, my biggest gripe isn't with this happy-go-lucky chappy - it's with the people who keep putting him in silly situations that are supposed to make us chuckle but actually make us chuck bricks at the TV.
6. The girls
Otherwise known as (I had to look it up) Rachel Brookes and Natalie Pinkham, we've all seen enough of these chicks to know what they're good at and ... yeah. Rachel is very good at studying F1 stuff without caring about it (but seeming a bit like she does), and Natalie is very good at showing off Natalie. Believe me, it's not a sexist thing when I say they don't belong on our screens, because I feel exactly the same way about amateur-comedian-from-hell Crofty.
5. Simon Lazenby & Ted Kravitz
I've put these two together because, like the girls above and the execrable David Croft, they also aren't former racing drivers. But Murray Walker (yes, I know he did a bit of racing) wasn't a driver either, and he was still the irreplaceable Murray. Similarly, Simon & Ted definitely belong in F1.
Simon is the consummately professional presenter with a charming personality and what seems like a genuine (and probably newfound) passion for the sport. Bottom line, he's just likeable and not a lot more, which is why he's there. And Ted, who's been around forever, often can't STAND the utter nonsense that Crofty is spewing into his microphone, because here's the deal: although with a background in radio, if you cut Kravitz's veins, he bleeds Formula 1 fuel (with 5.75% bio-components, if you know what I mean).
4. Damon Hill
I have a soft spot for Damon Hill, as I grew up hating Michael Schumacher's mid-90s nemesis and ultimately realised that that actually makes Damon an important part of my formative passion for this sport. He often rocks up at the races having apparently not read a single piece of F1 news since the last one, and he can be awkward, but kicking out Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's old teammate would be a big mistake.
3. More ex-racing drivers
Ok, so we don't always get to see Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, but whether you like them or hate them (Nico's confidence can be irritating, 'yeah?'), we do want to know what recent world champions think - and they're good at letting us know, without getting all comedy-hour on us.
As for Ant Davidson, the situations they put him in make you feel like his job description is to perpetually pull the short straw, but he's actually a very astute communicator when it comes to describing how F1 drivers drive. Karun Chandhok took a while to grow on me, but once you're used to the accent, you realise that it's passionate drivers like these who should always be at the front-line of F1 broadcasting. And finally, Paul di Resta had the personality of a flannel when he was an actual driver, but as a broadcaster he's a lovely and very smart wee lad to listen to.
2. Martin Brundle
Once upon a time, Martin Brundle told a friend of mine that my Formula 1 news is "shit". And you know what? It really hurt. Why? Because as good a racing driver as he is, he's a much better commentator. My only gripe? He can be a little haughty. But mainly, his competence is bettered only by his obvious passion for Formula 1 broadcasting - which I assume is really all about getting one more opportunity to drive an old F1 car. Martin, I forgive you.
1. Will Buxton
I'm putting Will at number 1 for a few reasons (and yes, I know he works for F1, not Sky).
Firstly, it's because I used to agree with many of you people who think Will is crap. No, he is not. Even Martin Brundle can be wrong, and you are too.
Will's ... er ... style can take a while to get used to, but once your brain has stopped interpreting him as hugely annoying, he's actually clearly a hard-working, serious, entertaining, highly competent and incredibly passionate broadcaster whose personal mission is obviously to squeeze and expose the humanity from the all-too-often robotic characters and highly corporate teams that we are all glued to for way too much of our lives. While Ted Kravitz genuinely creams over a monkey seat, Will finds his release in making a driver relaxed enough to show who he actually is, buried under all those millions and compromised personalities. Bravo!
The opinions expressed are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of F1-Fansite.com, staff or partners.
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