Having shown Formula 1 in the UK for over 20 years before losing the rights to ITV, many were pleased when the corporation regained the license to show the sport. Two seasons into this new era and the BBC coverage has been widely hailed by viewers as successful. Jake Humphrey has impressed with his presentation and enthusiasm for the role of leading the coverage. Eddie Jordan's antics in the pitlane have both annoyed and entertained fans whilst David Coulthard has got used to commenting on the drivers rather than be on track after his retirement. Ted Kravitz has continued with his role from the ITV days and Lee McKenzie looks after interviews, as well as doing features and even hosting in Japan this year.
In the commentary box, there is Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle. From his retirement from F1 driving, Brundle has been a commentator and has been applauded for his excellence in the role with plaudits and awards. However the role of lead commentator has been the main media position to provoke debate amongst Formula 1 fans. After the departure of Murray Walker in 2001, James Allen stepped up from pitlane reporter to fill the breach. He would do the job for 7 years but come under fire from many as annoying to listen to and also for being too pro-British, particularly when Lewis Hamilton hit the scene. I felt Allen did a good job personally, he toned down his over enthusiastic character in his early years and whilst he did overdo things in regards to putting emphasis on what Hamilton was doing in the races, this was because the producers of the ITV F1 coverage wanted him to. Allen blogs regularly and still goes to many races and certainly has shown that he can have a neutral standpoint.
Jonathan Legard used to be the Formula 1 main correspondent for BBC Radio before moving onto covering Football. He then left that position to take the TV commentary position. It was a difficult opening period as he struggled to gel with Brundle and came under criticism for his repetitive nature. I do feel he was greatly improved this season and was better. He still had some issues, interrupting Brundle and getting his wires crossed with his commentating partner but in general i felt he improved. It's not an easy job calling a long and strategic grand prix and i feel some of the words aimed in his direction have been unnecessary. His blog and tweets are very insightful and he seems to have very good relationships with many people in the paddock. So his commentary may not be perfect but he does have strengths elsewhere.
Rumours have been constant without any concrete information. A few months back, reports were that Legard could face the axe at the end of the season with claims that Brundle was unhappy with the partnership. Then Legard tweeted about how he had been at a charity lunch for the Mechanics trust which would be featured on the 2011 BBC coverage which suggested he may be staying on. However this was counteracted by a claim that he had not been part of the filming. Then this morning some people were claiming that Legard was not having his contract (which expires at the end of the year reportedly) renewed. I tried to investigate these latest rumours earlier and all i could get was someone who claimed they had it from a 'second hand source' that Legard was definitely out and the search for a replacement was on.
If Legard does find himself out of the job, then several names will be in the running. As mentioned before, James Allen has previous experience of the role. Ben Edwards used to commentate for Eurosport and the now defunct digital F1 channel. He currently does BTCC commentary. Charlie Cox has been linked with the position and is believed to be good friends with Brundle but i'd be very surprised if he made the move from MotoGP to F1. David Croft could move up from radio but that would mean another recruitment search for the BBC.
All in all, it has been an excellent effort by the BBC with Formula 1. Ratings have been fantastic, many people have been drawn to the sport and things like the post race forum have provided extra analysis and insight into the sport. ITV did raise the bar with their coverage but the BBC have taken things to a whole new level. Whether Jonathan Legard remains with them on their successful journey for the 2011 installment remains to be seen. Many want him out but remember this man has been with the BBC for many years. The decision makers in this process will not decide to replace him without serious thought but certainly it is a situation to keep an eye on.