I was in Italy for the French grand prix this year. And despite being assured by the restaurant I was in that the grand prix would be shown in the end the manager seemed against it so I ran back to my hotel room and watched it there. Despite this being upsetting because it had made me miss the atmosphere which I assumed would be pretty good (especially when Ferrari won) there was one big advantage.
Part of our remit here is to criticise the itv team and I mean that impartially I mean that we wish to review and rate not damn. We hopefuly try to be balanced in our criticism and praise the things we like and ridicule the things we don’t.
One of the things that comes up often is the race commentary as you might have noticed. The problem for me is that whenever I criticise it I’m minded of the comments by Martin Brundle who effectively suggested that if you wanted to find out how really difficult commentating is then you should dip the sound the next time a race is on and see how far you get before you repeat yourself or make a mistake. It’s a clever point because it reminds you how difficult the thing is to do but is something not many people would actually do. I never want to dip the sound while watching the race because you might miss something vital. And of course if you watch a video with no sound then you’re cheating.
But being in my hotel room in Italy provided me with the chance to try it. I had a big disadvantage over the commentators in that I did not have access to the timing screens, I did not have info being passed to me by my producer and I did not have a co-commentator to talk to, also I didn’t make any notes and for some reason they didn’t show the number of pit stops screen for a long time at a rather crucial part of the race when knowing who had two or three stopped would have been helpful. I spoke for the entire length of the race except for when they went down to the italian version of Louise for the interviews with the drivers. And during that time I didn’t pause, repeat myself or make too many mistakes that I noticed anyway (although I did come to realise that I can’t really recognise those back markers from their helmets as well as I thought). And at the end of the race I’d hardly touched on the Montoya story because there was so much going on although apparently according to James it was a boring race. It was difficult to do but with the assistance they have it would have been easier and I found that whenever I couldn’t add some insight I would keep talking by simply describing what I could see rather like a football commentator or who was that guy again? Oh yeah Murray Walker.
So yes it’s tough but in the end James shouldn’t be given too much slack because with no warning, with no notes, no help and no timing screen I did a better job and had fun doing it.