Thursday, September 1, 2011

Looking forward to a rare break

In Budapest

There are some questions that you hardly ever hear when working in and around the Formula 1 circus and "are you having a holiday?" is certainly one of them.

Such is the constant nature of a season: the relentless march of race followed by race means the concept of a holiday tends to be alien to all F1 personnel from March to November.

However, that doesn't apply today. As I write this blog, I'm sitting waiting for the plane to fly us home, and the various F1 team members, still wearing their kit, are discussing what they will do to fill the gap between now and the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa at the end of August.

Well, I have my break already mapped out as I've a very important job to do. My awesome little brother Tom is getting married this month so I have Best Man duties to perform.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the F1 bubble and lose perspective of what is really important in life. Particularly this weekend, when at times it has seemed like the whole world revolves around the BBC and Formula 1.

It was certainly all we talked about among ourselves. Well, now that the race is over I can press the reset button and remind myself that family and occasions like 'Nipper's' wedding is actually the 'real world' and it helps put things into perspective.

Next weekend is the stag do but I can't write anything about it here in case he reads it. I'll need my speech written the weekend after, and then it's a family barbeque seven days after that.

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When I got married, the speech went on for 40 minutes and I'm sure I'll be under strict instructions not to go on too much this time!

I'll also find space for a break, and apart from that it's time to recharge the batteries - and boy do I need it, especially after this weekend.

So, let's talk about the news about the UK TV rights which emerged over the weekend.

Having a broad understanding of television, the state the wider industry is in, and the challenges facing my own employer is essential for me. It helps me do my job better, understand how various decisions are taken, and plan for the future.

Against that backdrop I had a sense that there was a very real threat that F1 was going to be lost from the BBC for good after this year and I knew that various conversations were taking place at a much higher level than I am privy to.

I, like many of you, had seen the headlines over the past month and I suspected that we would get some news sooner rather than later. However, contrary to popular belief I didn't have the inside track on what was happening and on Thursday evening I went for dinner and then bed thinking it was set to be just like any other race weekend.

I then woke up at 7am as my phone was ringing - Ben Gallop the BBC F1 boss had flown to Budapest, was in the lobby of the hotel and had news on the TV deal.

The next few hours went by in something of a haze. There was some understandable sadness and confusion as the news sunk in that things were changing. I think my breakfast consisted of one mouthful of coffee.

I honestly believe there is only one way to do this job and it is to give 100% at all times. Since 2009 we have constantly looked to change, evolve and improve our coverage every week and I'm really proud of the job we've done.

Despite the jet lag, hours spent in airports and cramped journeys across the globe (the flip-side to the 'glamour' of F1!), every member of the production team on camera and behind the scenes feel so blessed and lucky to do this job - and our only aim has been to produce the best output for the audience. That has always been the mantra: keeping you guys and your entertainment at the centre of our decisions.

My highlights so far include: interviewing Max Mosley in 2009 as a breakaway threat loomed, when he ended up calling Flavio Briatore a "loony"; bringing you as close as possible to the sport when we were in the garage as Jenson Button won the world title; and our Bafta-winning show from Abu Dhabi last year, when we saw Sebastian Vettel crowned the youngest ever champion.

I can honestly say I have never worked with a more talented or dedicated team. From free practice early on a Friday to the F1 Forum that often finishes two hours after the race, we try to get you to the heart of the drama.

I love standing next to Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard in the paddock - and thank you for inviting us into your living rooms every weekend. I know how special it is to be in this position, and you have made it such a pleasure with your feedback and loyalty.

Now, please don't take the above as me saying those days are over! It's just inevitable that after the news of the weekend, and the messages of support we've received, I can't help but reflect on what we've done since March 2009 and how we've gone about doing it.

Trust me that we will be working even harder to make the end of this year a resounding success on the BBC and looking to be stronger, better and more professional than ever.

There's no disguising that from next year it will be different. I know it is frustrating for you to not yet know the finer detail - and as soon as we have it worked out, you will be the first to know.

From the presenting team to the races we cover live, to the transmission times of the highlights shows and how we make those a success too. You will again be central to how the BBC make those decisions.

And after 2011 please be assured of this: the BBC will endeavour to make the overall F1 offering as enthralling and compelling as possible. We never take our work for granted and we will be always be driven by that desire to produce the best shows for you, our audience.

I think the drama on the track, coupled with the kind of treatment the media as a whole has given it recently, has taken Formula 1 to new people and new heights. From 2012 onwards it won't be quite the same on the BBC - but the effort and passion invested in covering the sport certainly won't diminish.

I'm proud of what we continue to bring you - this weekend being yet another reminder of what this incredible sport can deliver, and I look forward to sharing more moments like Jenson's win after the summer break.

Have a great summer. I'm off to get working on that speech...


If you would like to comment on the new UK television rights deal, please go to the BBC's head of F1 Ben Gallop's blog on that subject


Vic Wilson Joachim Winkelhock Manfred Winkelhock Markus Winkelhock Reine Wisell Roelof Wunderink Alexander Wurz

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