Hello and welcome to the latest mini series from Sidepodcast – Post-F1 Paths. Here we are assessing the options available to Formula One drivers when they are finally ready to hang up their helmets, or if they have been politely requested to do so by their teams. This is the penultimate show and today we are looking at a gig for a driver who wants to remain close to the sport on race weekends, but perhaps wants a more relaxing time of it.
Many of the official F1 broadcasters have a template when it comes to hiring their on-air talent – traditional anchors and journalists are partnered up with former racers, so there’s a little bit of professional broadcasting talent alongside the expertise and insight of those who have been there and done that. If you take the current set up in the UK, with two TV broadcasters, it’s become a haven for ex-racers.
Channel 4 have roped in Mark Webber alongside David Coulthard and test driver Susie Wolff, with the occasional addition of former team owner Eddie Jordan. Bruno Senna makes an appearance sometimes too. Coulthard provides commentary duties alongside his on-screen presenting, describing what’s going through driver’s minds as they navigate each tricky race weekend.
Sky have managed to get more of a cross-section of experience, with Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill providing opinions from racers who have been long retired. Anthony Davidson and Paul di Resta provide insight from those who are more recent racers – often combining their role with a racing seat in another series.
And there is, of course, Martin Brundle, teamed with David Croft, to provide commentary for the race. Brundle has been commentating on F1 since 1997, moving across many broadcasters and making his voice one of the most recognisable as the voice of the sport – although no one can beat a certain Murray Walker for that.
Brundle raced in F1 for twelve seasons, spanning the 1980s and the 1990s, scoring 9 podium finishes and just missing out on 100 career points. He drove for Tyrrell, Williams, Brabham and McLaren, giving him a great wealth of experience across a mixture of competitive and not-so-competitive teams. He also endured a handful of terrifying crashes, and so his insight is truly trusted when it comes to considering what the drivers on the ground are thinking, feeling and why they are reacting the way they are.
And that’s the key for a driver to make a broadcasting career for themselves after they’ve finished racing – being able to eloquently describe the feelings, to translate what happens out on track to the armchair fan. I have no idea what it’s like to drive a car at 200mph, except I can imagine it’s exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Listening to a driver describe the experience brings me one step closer to the action.
It’s not something everyone will be able to do, but there are options across the globe – not just in the UK. Many drivers tend to gravitate back to their home country to share their knowledge with the home crowds. Alexander Wurz has been on screen in Austria, Luciano Burti in Brazil, Franck Montagny in France, Tiago Monteiro in Portugal and Mika Salo in Finland.
More and more, the current crop of Formula One drivers get a good feeling of whether they could turn their career towards broadcasting later on, as there are many media duties placed upon them. Interviews for the TV crews quite often turn into skits, sketches, games and more, as well as some of the more experimental advertisers getting drivers to do all kinds of fun things on camera to promote the brand. It’s a good sign of whether they are comfortable on screen, whether they can communicate successfully and most importantly of all, whether the audience engages with them and likes them. Jenson Button has often been discussed as a name that would make a good broadcaster, Kimi Räikkönen, not so much.
That’s all for this episode of Post-F1 Paths, the mini series from Sidepodcast that takes a look at options available to drivers who have raced their last Formula One event. Thank you for listening this far, we have just one episode remaining this series, so please do let me know your thoughts at sidepodcast.com/contact and join me again tomorrow for our final episode.
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