Welcome to my first column for e-racing365, coming at the midpoint of my first full season providing the world feed commentary with colleagues Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti and Nicki Shields.
I’ve spent the last 35 years or so covering virtually every form of motorsport (plus other sports, from archery to water skiing) for nearly every network in the U.S.
I have to say that the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is right up there with the most fun I’ve had in television.
This is in no small part because this ground-breaking series allows me to go where the races are, speak to the drivers and teams, and deal with people face to face.
The fact is that an increasing amount of racing coverage these days is done from a studio, and I much prefer the travel and human contact that comes with Formula E.
Spend just a brief amount of time around the paddock on an E-Prix weekend and you’ll see why.
In addition to the fascinating technology of all-electric racing, the drivers, engineers and team management are relaxed and approachable.
They sign autographs and pose for pictures, generally acting nothing like the reclusive stars of some other series that come to mind.
That’s not to say that the drivers and teams aren’t all-in when it comes time to compete.
If you’ve followed the season thus far, you’ve seen an inconsolable Eduardo Mortara after spinning away a certain victory for the Venturi team in Hong Kong and the bewilderment of Lucas di Grassi as issues with his Audi left him without a point through the first four races in defense of his championship.
There has been the joy of Felix Rosenqvist and his Mahindra team following back-to-back victories at Hong Kong and Marrakech, and stunned relief on the faces of Techeetah teammates Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer after an intra-team slugfest over the final laps in Santiago turned into a historic one-two finish.
That kind of raw, honest emotion is manna from heaven for TV.
As a mentor of mine from many years ago, NASCAR Hall of Fame announcer Ken Squier, once told me, viewers aren’t going to sit and watch a race unless they care about what happens to the competitors.
And making viewers care, to me, drives everything we say and do in a broadcast.
That can be trickier than it might sound, because at every level of motorsport, from karting to Formula 1, the narrative must speak to the entire spectrum of audience sophistication, from the novice to the expert.
The challenge is to give every viewer what they need to be informed and entertained, without patronizing the experts or confusing the beginners.
We treat every audience as a totally new one or we risk leaving some viewers feeling left out, which makes it more likely that they will give up and switch off.
In our ABB Formula E team I think we have the variety of perspective and experience to accomplish that goal.
Jack is full of energy, with an uncanny ability to identify individual drivers, never missing a detail.
Dario is, of course, a massively successful former driver, including three Indy 500 wins and four Indycar titles, and he also has the ability to break down the challenges of each track and explain the split-second decision making needed to race on the limit.
He is able to do this in such an accessible way that he remains a key member of Chip Ganassi Racing, providing the team’s drivers, including fellow four-time series champion Scott Dixon, the benefit of his expertise.
And Nicki’s gentle, friendly way with the drivers amid the pressures of the pit lane produces responses that help flesh out the human being behind the helmet visor.
Me? I’m the setup man, looking for ways to do what Ken Squier advised years ago: give the viewer reason to care about what happens to the athletes, as this pioneering series goes from strength to strength.
Please let us know how we’re doing.