New Era for Formula 1 Begins This Weekend on NBC Sports Network
After a 17-year run on the Fox-owned Speed channel, Formula 1 racing officially makes the shift to NBC Sports Group this weekend with the Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
To make sure everything was ready, NBC sent a large contingent of on-air and technical talent to Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya for Formula 1 Text Days to gather stories, meet racers, and get a feel for the network’s newest sport.
“I think the commitment that NBC are making to open-wheel racing was exemplified by the fact that we did send all of us over to Barcelona for the test,” says David Hobbs, a former F1 driver and an analyst for NBC. “A big crew of 30-odd cameramen, audio engineers, and others will help make a great start to the season.”
NBC’s 2013 Formula One World Championship schedule includes all 19 races in 19 countries from March through November, including 13 on NBC Sports Network, four on NBC, and two on CNBC.
NBC will pick up the world feed from FOM [Formula One Management], which will produce the feed for all races, with the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix on May 26.
To supplement the live FOM feed, which includes graphics and additional on-board car cameras, NBC will travel Will Buxton, an F1 insider and former journalist, to serve as the team’s on-site reporter. He will be joined by a camera operator and a producer as the only personnel and production gear that NBC will travel from site to site. Otherwise, the network will use its new Stamford, CT, studios for all production needs.
“We have the advantage of a pretty large F1 infrastructure already on the ground providing the feed to not just us but most network broadcasters,” says Rich O’Connor, coordinating producer for motorsports at NBC Sports. “So we literally only have to send a reporter and a producer for the 16 races that we won’t [cover] as a group, but there’s still a big group [at Stamford] taking care of all of the feeds coming in and for the studio operation.”
NBC Sports Group has targeted three races as an exception — all will appear on NBC — and will send complete studio crews and sets to supplement the live coverage. The Monaco Grand Prix (May 26), the Canadian Grand Prix (June 9), and the United States Grand Prix (Nov. 17) will get the special treatment.
“We think [May 26 is] as big a day as there is in racing,” says Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “It includes the Indy 500 [IndyCar] and the Coke 600 [NASCAR], but it all starts in Monaco, and we thought it was critical to be there to be a part of it and to celebrate what is an amazing place and an important place to F1.”
NBC Sports Group’s F1 announce booth will feature lead race announcer Leigh Diffey, who will call both F1 and the IZOD IndyCar Series this year for NBC Sports; veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs; and analyst Steve Matchett, a former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team, including two years with seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.
Diffey, Hobbs, Matchett, and Buxton bring continuity for longtime F1 fans: all four worked together for several years on Speed’s coverage of the circuit.
The acquisition of F1 by NBC Sports Group brings the two largest names in open-wheel racing under one corporate banner. NBC Sports Network, which has been the exclusive cable home for the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2009, will televise more Indy races this season, 13, than ever before.