Formula One’s ‘Hamilton-centric’ media coverage must end now

Rodney Gordon Columnist

By Rodney Gordon, Rodney Gordon is a Roar Expert

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    Leaving aside the debate over the validity of Mercedes strategy calls this weekend, the controversy highlighted a pain-point for me, and surely millions of other Formula One fans.

    Out of pure desperation I’m publicly calling for it to be addressed.

    Until recently, Australian Formula One fans were treated to free-to-air simulcasts of the British Sky Formula One coverage. Indeed it has come to be default coverage for most English-speaking TV viewers, especially if they have forked out for cable television to watch the Formula One season in its entirety.

    Being British-centric, they understandably give their own drivers extra attention, after all they are the ones they know most intimately and those their core audience back home want to engage with.

    But after the pathetic offering during this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, it’s time to admit that their approach to covering the sport is quite simply broken, and doesn’t service the greater good in contributing to the sport’s growth.

    It’s perfectly understandable that when a driver like Lewis Hamilton has won the championship, or is challenging for a victory, that he receive his fair share of the commentators’ focus. More often than not this year focusing the spotlight on him has reaped dividends, but it’s when he doesn’t deliver the goods that the coverage devolves into an embarrassing mess.

    I’m not for one second blaming Hamilton for contributing to Formula One’s shrinking attendance figures and dwindling TV viewership, I know full well that Formula One has far greater problems to address.

    Yet it’s time to admit that turning Formula One coverage into the ‘Lewis Hamilton Hour’ is inappropriate and occasionally cringe-worthy.

    I also understand Hamilton is admired for his passion and broad demographic appeal, but the Formula One Fans survey last year not only showed that he wasn’t the favourite driver among participants – he wasn’t even in the top three!

    Yet the attention that he is currently enjoying is unprecedented, and you’d sometimes be forgiven for not thinking that other drivers were even capable of winning on their own merit.

    The rhetoric from the brains-trust during a victorious Hamilton weekend circles around phrases like ‘masterclass’ and ‘utter dominance’. Yet as soon as any other driver gets the upper hand the analysis switches to what Lewis could do to get back on top, where he might overtake and even what other drivers should or shouldn’t do to help him win!

    During the races, and throughout the post-race analysis, the result is always the same – unbridled adoration or steadfast defence. Should Hamilton win it’s because of his exquisite driving ability and all is well in the sport, yet when he loses Mercedes strategists are called in to question and the rhetoric about changing the aerodynamic profile is that cars to facilitate overtaking is ramped up to 11.

    Barrages of tweets and audience feedback suggesting that Mercedes wanted to keep Nico Rosberg happy, ensure that he takes second place in the championship and that since Singapore they’ve changed the car to suit him were all given lip service.

    Paranoid hypotheticals suggesting that Rosberg was getting payback and trying to push Hamilton back into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel were thrown around with stern seriousness. Pensive former drivers like Damon Hill bemoaned the veracity of a Formula One team who dared to ignore Hamilton’s demands for privileged treatment.

    It’s an absolute embarrassment and I’m sick of it.

    To spend an entire race weekend in Hamilton-land is exhausting. By analysing the race from the viewpoint of how, where and when Hamilton will take his rightful victory is amateurish, and robs fans of a an undiluted viewing experience.

    For those saying, ‘Well if you don’t like the coverage don’t watch, or watch it somewhere else’ you miss my point completely. A fair and reasonable commentary of the race is a virtue unto itself, and plays a crucial part in appealing to new fans.

    I’m not saying that the problems of the sport should be excused, after all sometimes sunlight is the best disinfectant, but the current bias in the Formula One media suggests an infection so festered that may require amputation.

    I should point out, too, this is also mostly aimed at the Sky Formula One broadcast. Certainly the handful of times I’ve seen the BBC coverage it has faired a few degrees better, and I can’t speak to the US coverage but I hear it lacks the depth and confidence that the primary broadcaster provides.

    In the most evident illustration of bias I could find, on the podium Martin Brundle greeted the victorious Rosberg with a question about surrendering some of his lead to Hamilton at turn one after what looked like a driving error, while subsequently disarming Hamilton and reminding the audience who the rightful victor should have been by pointing out that he claimed the fastest lap of the race.

    Returning to Rosberg, Brundle threw out a tongue-in-cheek dig that Rosberg really ought to have won more races earlier in the year, prompting the equally passive-aggressive rejoinder, “Thanks for the advice, I didn’t think of that myself”.

    Sadly, though, Sky’s written coverage is no better. Nor that of several other British publications.

    The Daily Telegraph’s Daniel Johnson wrote that Hamilton followed home “an obdurate Nico Rosberg“. If, like me, you had to Google what that means, it suggests a stubbornness or unyielding.

    It’s a bizarre label to use, and one that suggests that faced with the alternative of letting Lewis through, Rosberg decided against it. No, instead he selfishly decided he was entitled to win after taking pole position, leading the entire race and – you know – it being his job.

    A lot of publications have disappointed themselves by shifting the blame for Hamilton’s subservience to the Mercedes, who have assisted Hamilton just as many if not more times than Rosberg throughout the last three years, or the technical regulations. Most of them fail to even mention that by Hamilton’s own admission he spent the previous fortnight partying and could not possibly have been as well prepared and focused as Rosberg was to show up and get the job done this weekend.

    Hamilton is a divisive figure, and I have no delusions about which side of the bread I prefer to butter, but when a commentator fails to recognise that they’ve fallen prey to his reality distortion field it should be grounds for recusal or termination.

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    The Crowd Says (196)

    • November 18th 2015 @ 5:50am
      stuart cobb said | November 18th 2015 @ 5:50am | ! Report

      great article – well past time someone said it. if only we could get back to the days of commentary by Raymond Baxter

      • November 18th 2015 @ 10:09am
        Not convinced said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Agree, well put.

      • November 18th 2015 @ 10:16am
        Kev said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        BBC and Sky’s coverage was ridiculously biased towards Hamilton even when Vettel was dominating so it’s no surprise that they’ve cranked it up several notches now that he’s winning.

    • November 18th 2015 @ 6:50am
      Bill said | November 18th 2015 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      Just doesn’t look interested to me. Suggest he will struggle next year. Still quick but not the discipline to blow rosberg off the travkw

    • Roar Pro

      November 18th 2015 @ 7:21am
      Trent Price said | November 18th 2015 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Is it surprising that a Murdoch-owned channel would eventually attempt to enclose the sport in an air-tight hegemony? When Brundle announced his move to SkySports from the BBC, he said having “no in-race advertising was a key factor” in his decision. I think being unrestrained and having to fill air-space has blunted his badinage, with many of the nuances he used to deliver now completely absent . I am in no doubt the presenters on SkySports are operating with a precept handed down from upper management, but I think wielding the axe to its chief partisan, namely Simon Lazenby, would have a positive flow-on effect.

      • Columnist

        November 18th 2015 @ 10:38am
        Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        So true that having more air time to fill has encouraged all commentators to indulge their own biases, may well have led to it becoming their default position.

        Can’t say I’m a fan of Lazo either, some fresh blood is most likely the answer.

        • November 18th 2015 @ 10:57am
          Diane Cullimore said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Lazy is the first one to jump on Nico.What really annoys me is the way they try to stir up trouble between the two drivers.Dont they remember Imola 82 and how we lost Gilles.My heart was broken at Zolder and I never want to see that again

        • November 19th 2015 @ 9:49am
          Roarz said | November 19th 2015 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          Airtime shouldn’t be an issue, Brundle was on the BBC for 3 years, where there’s no ads, and didn’t seem anywhere near as partisan (though maybe 2009-11 was more interesting to commentate on). Sky have a far greater sensationalism bias than the BBC and there seems to be a company wide policy of overplaying national identity, as by and large popular sports in the UK ebb and flow with when British teams do well at them. The old BBC coverage (since they only cover half the races now and lost their host to BT’s soccer coverage, it hasn’t been as good) was some of the best sports television ever made, all 20-24 drivers on the grid covered in a way that you felt like you knew what was going on. All the cars pluses and minuses were analysed in depth (they had actual engineers on staff), which you don’t seem to get now. It treated the viewers like adults. Sky, probably by virtue of being in a pay tv space where there’s 11 other sports channels you could be watching, pander to the “look an english guy is winning” crowd.

          • Columnist

            November 19th 2015 @ 10:51am
            Rodney Gordon said | November 19th 2015 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            and when he loses it’s “look, the english guy couldn’t beat the other guy”

    • November 18th 2015 @ 7:41am
      mb said | November 18th 2015 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Excellent article. Spot on.

    • November 18th 2015 @ 7:48am
      8ch tractor driver said | November 18th 2015 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      “In the most evident illustration of bias I could find, on the podium Martin Brundle…”

      Ted Kravitz’s interview with Nika Lauda after Rosberg secured pole was far worse:

      • November 18th 2015 @ 9:44am
        Diane Cullimore said | November 18th 2015 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Absolutely appalling isn’t it Kravitz said to Seb dies Nico have a sense of humour?Martin Brundle was overheard saying to Lewis on the podium about Nico “I can’t stand him ” if something isn’t done soon I’m going to have a heart attack for sure

        • Columnist

          November 18th 2015 @ 10:42am
          Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Did he really say that? Love confirmation of this (as if the examples I’ve stated here aren’t proof enough).

          I also cut a paragraph about Brundle from last year casually dropping into his commentary that he believed Rosberg cheated in Monaco qualifying without backing it up with any evidence or further content. An astounding lack of judgement, on a few occasions by the sounds of it.

          • November 18th 2015 @ 10:58am
            Diane Cullimore said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:58am | ! Report

            I personally didn’t but I’ve heard people say it was whispered in Lewis’s ear and it was overheard

          • Columnist

            November 18th 2015 @ 2:08pm
            Michael Lamonato said | November 18th 2015 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            I’ve heard the “I hate you!” grab from Brundle, but that was from before he stepped onto the podium. It’d be pretty, uh, interesting if he whispered something to Lewis…

            • Columnist

              November 18th 2015 @ 4:19pm
              Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Love the mental visual of Brundle whispering sweet nothings into Lewis’ ear

            • Columnist

              November 18th 2015 @ 5:34pm
              Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

              Just listening to a YouTube clip (never the clearest audio), does he say, “I hate him… Rosberg”?

        • November 18th 2015 @ 1:03pm
          Nathan said | November 18th 2015 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

          That was actually Eddie Jordan saying ‘I can’t stand you’ or something to that effect. It was only heard on the BBC broadcast and not on the world feed (so therefore not on any other broadcast such as Sky or NBC)

          Listen closely and you can tell it’s EJ.

          That said I couldn’t understand Ted’s line of questioning to Lauda after the race either.

          • Columnist

            November 18th 2015 @ 4:20pm
            Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

            So it could well be crossed audio and EJ could be talking about literally anybody?

      • November 18th 2015 @ 10:31am
        roger said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        Holly Crap!!!!

      • Columnist

        November 18th 2015 @ 10:33am
        Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Agree, but his interview after with Niki after the race where he explained that “Rosberg is winning because he is faster at the moment, it’s very simple” might have won me back.

        • November 18th 2015 @ 11:06am
          Diane Cullimore said | November 18th 2015 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Not sure I would trust Niki he has had so many skeletons in his closet there is no room for his caps

          • Columnist

            November 18th 2015 @ 11:54am
            Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            I think he just calls it as he sees it on the day and has no filter, which is a blessing and curse I guess.

    • November 18th 2015 @ 8:24am
      Dexter The Hamster said | November 18th 2015 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      I am a bit surprised by this to be honest. After living in the UK, I noticed all the Hamilton fans bemoaned Brundle and Sky for their anti-Hamilton bias. Read any story on sky sports webpage about F1 and see the comments section.

      Its just different perceptions I guess.

      • Columnist

        November 18th 2015 @ 10:33am
        Rodney Gordon said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Love to see some examples were you feel this has happened 🙂

        • November 18th 2015 @ 12:26pm
          Dexter The Hamster said | November 18th 2015 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          Well it’s a general feeling after reading F1 stories on sky sports for 5 years. The general feeling is the fans think sky are biased against Hamilton. Not all, but that’s the way the wind tends to blow.

          I am not a Hamilton fan, but don’t mind a little adulation towards the 3 time world champ.

          • November 18th 2015 @ 8:01pm
            Diane Cullimore said | November 18th 2015 @ 8:01pm | ! Report

            General feeling?Thats a bit tenuous

            • November 18th 2015 @ 10:18pm
              Gone Purple said | November 18th 2015 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

              Dexter the Hamster is correct – Sky are seen by many in the UK as being regularly anti-Hamilton.

              To be fair – as somebody that watches every race on Sky – earlier this season there did genuinely appear to be a preference for Rosberg amongst many of the Sky pundits. In the last few races they have now gone a little over-the-top in the pro-Hamilton stakes but, hey, they’re a UK-based broadcaster providing output that is aimed predominantly at a UK audience. If Vettel had won the WDC this year I’m sure German broadcasters would’ve taken a similar approach.

              Personally I can’t stand Hamilton but that is another thing altogether…

              • Columnist

                November 19th 2015 @ 9:33am
                Rodney Gordon said | November 19th 2015 @ 9:33am | ! Report

                Still yet to see even one example of anti-Hamilton biased… to be honest given the response that this article has had it’s hard to believe that this is a commonly held position.

              • Roar Guru

                November 20th 2015 @ 1:51pm
                Kaks said | November 20th 2015 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                I really cant be arsed copying and pasting articles, but if you find any Andrew Benson F1 article on BBC sport from 2011-2014, you will see plenty of comments on the article that talk about the anti-hamilton articles and the fact that Benson would always praise Button no matter what.

                There have been slightly less comments this year since LH has been winning.

              • Columnist

                November 20th 2015 @ 3:06pm
                Rodney Gordon said | November 20th 2015 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                I can’t reply directly to the last post for some reason… but Benson is ridiculously pro-Hamilton, and isn’t part of the Sky team – so not a great example i’d have to say.

              • Roar Guru

                November 20th 2015 @ 3:35pm
                Kaks said | November 20th 2015 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                That is not the view of the average F1 fan in England/Britain. As I said, I CBF searching and posting the articles, but if you ever come across them on a lazy sunday afternoon search through mind-numbing articles then you will see what I mean when you read the comments.

                However, what it will show is that you are right about the British bias when you read them. Benson is quick to praise Button as soon as he slams Hamilton.

                Great article by the way and I tend to agree with it after watching this seasons shambles.

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