OCTOBER 7, 2006

Commentating at Spa

The return of Formula 1 to Spa-Francorchamps next season is going to bring to joy to Belgian Formula 1 fans - but already there are complaints about the track from the TV commentators. The reason for this? Well, it seems that the F1 authorities have decided that the new commentary boxes should be built without any windows. The logic behind this strange decision is that commentary teams do not actually need to see what is going on off-camera and should be able to rely on what the TV screens show them.

The TV community is up in arms at the news even if they accept that there have been occasions in the past where they have, in effect, been commentating blind. For years the commentary boxes at San Marino have offered no real chance of seeing a racing car; the old Spa gave great views (of cars flashing in front of a hillside) and in Canada the pits are so far from the commentary boxes that even big telescopes were not much good.

But it is the principal of the thing. If one cannot talk about anything other than the screen, what is the point of being there? And if one is not there, how can one get caught up in the emotion of the racing?

There are times when one wonders if this sport has not lost its way in pursuit of profit.