Formula 1 Drivers We'd Like to See in the Broadcast Booth When They Retire
This Formula One offseason has been relatively drama-free, at least on the sporting side. Most teams had already announced their 2016 driver lineups before the end of the 2015 season, with few changes.
In the F1 broadcasting world, though, things have been more tumultuous. First, the BBC announced it wanted out of its broadcast deal early, and then Channel 4 stepped into the breach, taking over the final three years of the BBC's contract.
The deal with Channel 4 was a surprise. The general expectation, as outlined by The F1 Broadcasting Blog, was that ITV would take over for the BBC, reprising the role it previously held from 1997 to 2008.
Less of a surprise was the announcement that David Coulthard would continue in his role as analyst on the presenting team. That is a good move for viewers, who benefit from the Scot's extensive experience, his sense of humour and his ability to explain complex concepts in an accessible manner. Coulthard has the contacts that come with a 15-year F1 career, but he is not so much of an insider that he is afraid to speak his mind.
The Coulthard announcement got us thinking: Which of the current crop of drivers would we like to see in the broadcast booth when their careers are over?
This is admittedly a long shot. Sebastian Vettel is a notoriously private man, and you get the feeling that when he decides to walk away from F1, he will disappear into the sunset without looking back.
The Ferrari driver once told the Telegraph's Daniel Johnson, "I’m much happier to have a quiet time with friends, and have a nice evening, and like I said, behave like an idiot and do crazy things."
When he is no longer racing, it is hard to imagine Vettel spending half of his weekends each year following the F1 circus around the world, even if he would make a great broadcaster. His best quality, were he in the TV booth, is that he does not take himself, nor the sport, too seriously.
When he is on the track, the four-time world champion German is all business, as his former Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, learned during their time together. When the race is over, though, Vettel is ready to have some fun, as he demonstrated repeatedly in press conferences with the Mercedes drivers this year.
His sharp wit would be entertaining during a pre-race grid walk, and his knowledge and experience would be beneficial to viewers during the races.
Daniel Ricciardo is only 26 years old, so it will probably be a while before he is contemplating a post-retirement career, but he would be a great choice as a broadcaster.
Everyone seems to like the smiling Aussie, and his bubbly personality is infectious. Of course, part of an analyst's job is, at times, to be critical of other teams and drivers, but you would be forgiven for believing Ricciardo has never uttered a negative word in his life.
Even during an incredibly frustrating season for Ricciardo and the Red Bull team, the Aussie rarely lost his composure, saying things like, "It was a bit of a frustrating race," after missing a chance at a podium and losing out to his team-mate in Mexico, per the Red Bull website.
Ricciardo's enthusiasm would translate well on television and bring a jolt of energy to any races he covers.
Lewis Hamilton is a polarising figure in F1. He is an incredibly talented driver and has tons of fans, but his flamboyant lifestyle turns just as many people off.
Also, as NBC commentator Will Buxton wrote on his personal blog, Hamilton has somehow earned a reputation as less intelligent than many of his peers. In fact, Hamilton is plenty smart and very personable. When someone asks him a question, even an inane one in a press conference, he looks at the questioner and tries to give a thoughtful answer.
Sure, he enjoys the trappings of celebrity, but we should not hold that against him.
Hamilton probably would not be interested in a full-time broadcast position after his career, but that won't stop us from imagining it. More likely, with his interest in music, fashion and film, he will continue moving in those circles when he retires, dropping back in to the grand-prix scene whenever he feels like it.
But the 31-year-old Brit would be a fascinating choice as a pundit, and he might have the crossover appeal that would draw the interest of people who ordinarily might not watch the sport.
At the same time, Hamilton is not very close with many people in the paddock. His former team-mate, Jenson Button, told Sky Sports' William Esler, "In terms of Lewis as a person, I don't know him really well and I don't think there are really any drivers that know Lewis that well."
His reputation as a three-time world champion will open a lot of doors, but would that lack of a personal relationship with many drivers hinder Hamilton in his hypothetical future commentator role?
OK, this one is completely unrealistic. No broadcaster is going to pay someone to mumble into a microphone for 20 races a season.
But this article isn't called "Drivers Who Would Make the Best Commentators"—it's about drivers we'd like to see in the booth.
And Raikkonen would be awesome. His team radio messages are instant internet hits...imagine if we had that for three or four hours every weekend.
He obviously doesn't care what anyone else thinks and would have no trouble calling out anyone who needs it. The Finn is also so popular among F1 fans that people would tune in just to hear him, even if they weren't particularly interested in the race.
Like his current team-mate, Vettel, Raikkonen enjoys his privacy and may not be interested in a TV gig. But Raikkonen is also a well-known James Hunt fan, even wearing a special Hunt helmet at the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, back when that was still allowed.
Kimi Raikkonen tribute to the legend James Hunt pic.twitter.com/GroBZzyJ— XPB Images F1 (@XPBImages) May 24, 2012
He already has a world championship, like Hunt. The next step is to jump behind the microphone, as Hunt did after retiring from F1.
Jenson Button has the polished look and personality that would make him appealing to TV executives. He also has a deep love for F1. Why else would he have signed on for another year at McLaren-Honda?
More than that, though, Button has a good sense of humour and a deep well of experience to draw on in a commentator role. His F1 career, which began in 2000, has spanned multiple generations of drivers—literally. Button raced against Jos Verstappen that year and is now sharing the grid with Verstappen's son, Max.
Button may have different plans for his F1 retirement, though, telling Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Matt Beer last fall that he would like to race in the World Endurance Championship and run a rallycross team.
Which of the current drivers would you like to see in an F1 broadcast booth one day? Let us know in the comments section.
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