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2011 China GP – race

What happened to the BBC1 F1 broadcast team today? They all acted like they were on something. No wise cracks about them being on Telly! Jake Humphrey was all over the place, and quite manic, especially on the grid walk. Even more manic in the commentary box were Martin Brundle and David Coulthard, talking far too fast. And then there was Lee McKenzie, asking some really stupid questions – and avoiding the big one to Button. It wasn’t restricted to the BBC F1 team though, even the official FIA post race interviewer was bonkers! He asked more questions of the man who finished second than he did of the winner. I know the Chinese air is a bit polluted, but to have effects such as these it must be pretty thick with stimulants! I won’t mention Jenson’s little brainstorm in the pits…

Maybe everyone’s going down with some strange Chinese fever? Perhaps they had a big party last night as it’s the last weekend away from home before the next GP in Turkey? Whatever it was, I wish it hadn’t been.

First off to the land of lunacy was Jake Humphrey. Who let him loose on the grid? Please don’t do it again, it’s not his environment and he looked as lost as a tourist in Timbuktu. He was clearly nervous, and when he’s nervous he jabbers. Now bearing in mind that David Coulthard is the guy with grid experience, Jake pretty much ignored him. He asked a question of Mark Webber that went on and on and on – and still hadn’t got the actual point of the question. Luckily Mark was patient and let him get away with it, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Martin usually does. It didn’t stop there though, he approached a clearly “Don’t talk to me!” focussed Michael Schumacher, asked a question, and got told to “Ask Ross”.

Humphrey then walked straight past one of the Mercedes race engineers known by David Coulthard to be receptive to questions because he didn’t recognise him. Next he had to walk up to the front of the grid , and as oblivious to anything except the sound of his own voice he nearly got run over by not just one, but two F1 cars as they made their way up to the front of the grid. There can’t be many people as clumsy and disconnected with their environment as that! It wasn’t as if DC hadn’t warned him either, he was so busy jabbering he nearly had his foot broken. What an insurance risk! I’d hate to have to pay the premiums for Jake Humphrey after that. He’s just not safe on the grid!

Finally, he went over to a tense Sebastian Vettel who was sheltering between a giant umbrella and the wall with his back to everything else, fiddling with his helmet. Now, both Martin and David know that when a driver is fiddling in that manner, you just let them get on with it because you are not going to get anywhere. But Jake just ploughed in, unsympathetic, unkowing, just like a bull in a, err, China shop. Sure enough, Vettel sent him on his way. He hardly let DC get a word in edgewise – talk about taking over the whole show and not letting the experts do what they do best. He’s a great anchor, but he dragged a bit today.

After a pretty perfect qualifying commentary, for some reason Martin’s and David’s mouths went off as fast as Button from the grid when the race started. I know a lot was happening, but it was almost as if someone in White City had decided that ex-drivers really can’t be good commentators and had told someone to send them a rocket to make it more “exciting” to listen to. Probably someone who knows next to nothing about F1  and who never went to a single race he paid for himself.

And it continued throughout the race. Martin was told, or decided on his own, that when there was a lot of action on screen he should read through the driver positions – all the way to 20th position and more. Boring. About as interesting as reading out the telegrams at a wedding. He missed quite a few things while he was reading out this information, but it was so quick and I was focussed on watching the race I really couldn’t take it in.

DC was very helpful and did a good race today. Martin talked too much, and was a bit croaky which did make me wonder why he spoke so much so quickly. He at least said a few entertaining things, and avoided asking the same thing more than once. Lee McKenzie unfortunately did not. She did a post-race interview with Jenson Button after the race, asked the same question about four times – needlessly – and managed to avoid asking Jenson why he stopped in the wrong pit! I mean, that was the BIG question, the elephant in the room. Well, again I suspect someone who doesn’t know any better was messing with things today because one can only assume Lee was asked to focus on getting the drivers to talk about their emotions. That would be just the kind of thing the managers of the BBC might think a woman best at, you know, like how loads of women end up working in HR but seldom as bosses in marketing or production as they’re considered to be ‘male’ jobs.

The general TV coverage was too ‘creative’ and failed to follow sparring drivers along the straights after they had gone round the last corner bumper to bumper. Continuity is important, but for some reason they never did get that one quite right.

The race itself was a corker though. Driver of the Day had to be Mark Webber’s superb drive from 18th on the grid to third on the podium. Not often you see that! On the other hand, Hamilton made a lot of good overtakes in his drive from 3rd to first. I would like to have seen more of Webber’s overtakes though, for some reason we saw very little of him in the race, which really was exceptional. Interestingly Sebastian Vettel was just about to say “…and congratulations to Mark as well…” except he couldn’t bring himself to say it. A few seconds later, Webber got his own back when he said how Lewis should be congratulated – you should have seen Vetterl’s thundery complexion!

But the race had entertainment, excitement, tension, idiocy. Button was finally able to start how he can, and not get bogged down behind Hamilton’s slow getaways. Paul di Resta showed himself to be a brilliant driver and a good racer too. Rosberg again outdid Schumacher. A couple more laps and Webber would have overtaken Vettel whose tyres were so very shot by the end.

What now? Hopefully the Beeb will just let them get on with the shows, they really are good at it. They don’t need a prod from behind. Alonso clearly thinks he does though as he operated his DRS outside of the designated area when trying to overtake. Well, Ferrari now have Jean Todt in the FIA hot seat, so no doubt the Conspiracy theorists will be beginning to talk about Ferrari International Assistance again. They’ll also have a field day with Red Bull because of who gets all the bad luck – simple, careless stuff like not putting fully warmed tyres on, or not checking a shock absorber.

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