On why I heart Martin Brundle.

Today, you were mentioned on live international TV. Today, you influenced live international  TV. Today, Martin Brundle* made a special effort to say ‘petROV’ rather than ‘PETrov’** until the race got too exciting, which was about as long as it took the man himself to pile ignominiously into the back of Michael Schumacher***.

You have been laying siege on this issue via Twitter to the BBC F1 team for *cough* some months now.

This is because you are cross at the BBC.

To recap, those paying attention to this blog may know that back in January, the BBC announced it was to cut loose your favourite online community.

This is not why you are cross. They could have shut the place down cold, but they didn’t, which gave you a chance to save it. And you**** did.

No, you are cross because in the ten years they had it, they ran it into the ground. Nearly into the ground. And this week it has become clear that the code has been held together with chewing gum and rubber bands for quite some time*****. Heroic efforts by the volunteer (but expert) tech team has got it up and running and plans are afoot to drag the site kicking and screaming into 2006*****. And then? Then it will get really interesting. But still. It should never have got to this point. In your opinion.


This meant that when the BBC announced that the same spending cuts which had axed your hangout meant that it would be sharing coverage of Formula One races with Sky, you were in two minds.

On the one hand, schadenfreude ruled .

On the other hand, AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Pay per view for 50% of the races? And even more importantly, what will be happening with the superlatively splendid line up of people covering the races they have this year?

To be honest, you had been rather hoping that making David Coulthard into a race commentator represented a radical cost cutting measure. Previously, Martin Brundle, who has been on the commentary team for over ten years was ex driver expert, there to lend colour to whoever was calling the minutiae of the action.  For the last couple of years, David Coulthard, a much more recently ex driver, has been one of three pundits, including Eddie Jordan******, former team owner, flown around the world to talk at the beginning and of the race. This way, the BBC at least made a net saving of one person’s wages and travel expenses, and they were getting DC and Martin******* to work harder for their money.

Sadly it appears not. And as you cannot feel but that, given a choice between working on only half the races********* and working on all the races, the cream of the crop will disappear of to Sky.

And this lot are the cream. Jake Humphrey is the host and the straight man, the Formula One layman for all the others to bounce off. Coulthard and Eddie Jordan provide the opinions, as well as extensive contacts in the business and a soupcon of bickering. This is always entertaining.

But Martin******* and DC together for the race has been inspired.

Now, you haven’t really cottoned to the last two lead commentators. James Allen tended to get a bit obsessed by the British drivers and Jonothan Legard seemed often to be doing the F1 for dummies version, although you could well believe that was the policy of the BBC rather than his own preference. You darkly suspect the person producing the programme was not a fan of motorsport and insisted that this was the level of information people would understand.

Given that races of late have been 55-75 laps of processional driving, punctuated by brief flurries of activity as everybody pitted, this got old very quickly. I mean, there really was a limit to how many times you needed the action recapped.

So the prospect of having two former drivers to call the race made you rub your hands together. You fondly imagined that you would have a soothing one and a half hours of knowledgeable and leisurely chat and reminiscing from two experts in their field, vaguely related to what was happening on the screen behind them.

Of course, the first  of time the cars set tyre on track this season put paid to that. You’ve mentioned this before**********, but various mucking about with the rules has produced some breathtakingly energetic racing. Which clearly took everybody them in the commentary box by surprise as well.

For the first few rounds. But while it was fun to listen to the frenziedly incredulous enjoyment that resulted, it’s been even more fun to hear the commentary since Martin and Coulthard have really found their feet. You still get the ‘squeeee!’ factor; you get the eagle-eyes spotting things as it flashes past them at speed that someone who hasn’t done it for a living would have to spend twenty minutes and extensive use of the pause button trying to see; and now you also get a decent idea of who is where, who’s gone out, who is about to overtake and who is having a complete shocker.

And you do get the leisurely, well-informed chat too. As long as you press the red button after the race has finished.

So, when the cuts were announced, you signed up to the ‘keep F1 on the BBC‘ campaign. Mainly, you have to confess, to needle the Beeb in your own small, insignificant way. You don’t expect the Beeb will listen. You don’t expect they can, having spent the F1 budget for the next twenty years on tantalising you with the prospect of F1 commentary Nirvana this year, thus virtually ensuring that you will have it, and half the races taken straight away. But you would like them to know how monumentally pissed off you are about it.

Now this campaign involves trying to get the twitter hash tag #keepf1onbbc to trend on race weekends.

But you don’t tweet about Formula One as a rule. So while you were contemplating this tricky issue, you heard Martin say ‘… PETrov…’ and an idea was born*************.

Because people on the telly are always getting the stress wrong in Russian names and this really scrapes fingernails across your soul. This particularly scrapes fingernails across your soul when it happens on the BBC, as you heard from somewhere that the Beeb employs a whole department to work out how to pronounce those pesky forn names and tell their on screen staff************.

So you started tweeting about this to @MBrundleF1 and anyone else who might be listening.

After a while you turned it into a virtual drinking game. Any mention by the F1 team where they mispronounced petROV’s name got a tweet.

You had a lot of fun.

But you had rather given up the hope, the very faint hope, of anybody actually taking any notice of this when suddenly, today, Martin spotted petROV’s car as he was doing his grid walk to pounce on lounging drivers, busy engineers, posing celebrities, and passing heads of state, paused, struggled briefly with the pronunciation, and conceded your point.

You are ‘someone having a bit of a moan on Twitter’, and you are so, so proud.

Sadly, the rest of the BBC has not caught on to this yet. You will clearly have to redouble your attack next Grand Prix.

Here’s the BBC iPlayer (available for one week only, to those in the UK).

Your bit starts at 41 minutes 59ish seconds. It lasts until (optimistically) 42 mins 15ish seconds. Hang about for a bit, though, and you’ll hear him forcing the stress into the right place any number of times up until petROV’s accident. Which starts at 1 hour 32 mins or thereabouts. Enjoy!************

This is petROV! Not PETrov! Image via Wikipedia

*Martin Brundle is the lead commentator on the BBC’s Formula One coverage of the sport, for the Formula One challenged among us.

**The first Russian Formula One driver. Since you have been paying attention, which would have been 1996 or so, in case anyone is feeling pedantic.

***Do you need to explain who Michael Schumacher is? Surely not.

****You use the word ‘you’ somewhat loosely here. But as you type you are clinking virtual champagne classes in the go/no go meeting which has just relaunched the site.

*****You have shamelessly stolen these lines from some of your fellow researchers.

*****It’s tempting to add ‘the flamboyant’, but that’s really just his shirts.

******You feel confident that you and Marty are now on familiar terms.

*******If anyone is interested, the deal is that Sky will broadcast all the races as part of one of its pay per view packages. The Beeb will get half the races (including Silverstone********! So that’s OK!) and the others will have ‘extended highlight shows. Broadcast after the fact.

********The British Grand Prix. Do try to keep up.

*********Does anyone actually read the motorsport posts?

**********It helped that Martin was himself ribbing DC about his inability to pronounce VETtel correctly.

***********Of course, it’s entirely possible this department has gone the way of the budget downsizing, if it ever existed. In which case, please take the rest of this post as being you doing your bit for the Big Society.

************Oh, by the way, Red Bull won the Constructor’s Championship this week. Vettel won the race, and the Driver’s Championship last week. They’ve been having an good year. This pales into significance, of course, in comparison the the much more important news of the patchily correct pronunciation of petROV’s name. But still. Well done, Red Bull and Vettel.


3 thoughts on “On why I heart Martin Brundle.

    • It’s been very watchable this year. A bit too exciting for me. I usually do the ironing and have a potter safe in the knowledge that if I miss the one bit of action, they’ll replay it ad infinitum while the rest of them go round and round. This year, by the middle of the race I am all at sea, given that I have the concentration span of a goldfish at the moment. It’s most galling. I hope it keeps up until I am getting sleep again and so can appreciate it. Oh, no, wait, I won;t be able to appreciate it because it’ll be on Sky. Damn.

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