Since beginning their Formula 1 coverage in 2012, Sky Sports viewers have been guided through the Grands Prix by the expert hands of their lead commentator, David Croft. ‘Crofty’, who was BBC Radio 5 Live’s F1 commentator before joining Sky, recently agreed to an interview with us ahead of the Australian GP. We asked him about his best and worst tracks to commentate at, his thoughts on why the sport will appeal to an even more global audience, and much much more…
RealSport: Who’s your favourite current driver?
David Croft: It’s a difficult one to answer that. To be honest, I admire any driver who can race in Formula 1, such is the high skill level needed, and incredible mental capacity these days as well. But drivers like [Lewis] Hamilton and [Daniel] Ricciardo, you have to admire for their brilliance in seizing a moment to overtake and make a move, and then making things happen – no need for a second chance, these two don’t waste the opportunity. Saying that, Jenson Button’s precision and Fernando Alonso’s ability to think way ahead of the game during the race, make them probably the strongest pairing on the grid – such a shame they haven’t got the car they would like to go with it.
RS: What’s your thoughts on the new qualifying format?
DC: It’s being introduced in a bid to mix up the grid a little and help improve the racing on Saturday and as I write, we haven’t seen it in action yet, so it would be wrong to be overly critical. But I’m not sure about it, to be honest, and I thought that qualifying worked really well and didn’t really need tinkering with. One thing I do know is that Martin Brundle and I will be up for the challenge of the new format and will be helping you all understand it every step of the way!
RS: Do you think having an American-owned team back in Formula 1 will boost the global popularity of the sport?
DC: To be honest, having Rio Haryanto, the first Indonesian driver in F1, opens up the sport to a new audience in the hundreds of millions, as much as having the first US team since 1986. F1 has been expanding its global reach for some time now. No longer is this a world championship run predominantly in Europe, as my air miles account shows! I hope Haas are successful, though, as having a strong American presence can only be good for F1 in terms of audience and potential sponsors. But in tandem with that, the recent threats regarding the future of the US Grand Prix need to be resolved. This years race goes ahead, which is brilliant, and it needs to keep happening. A successful home Grand Prix and a successful home team are what F1 needs in the US.
RS: Are the any countries that don’t have GPs this season that you think should be in there?
DC: It’s difficult to cram any more races into what is a very hectic schedule these days, but I wouldn’t be adverse to a race in Argentina again. Anywhere really, where there is a passion for motorsport. Mexico, for instance, was a huge plus last year.
RS: What are your most and least favourite tracks to commentate from?
DC: Sadly our commentary box at Silverstone doesn’t offer the best of views, although it beats the box in the first year in India, which had no windows at all! The best boxes are those that have space and a view of much of the track as possible. China, for instance, is excellent, you really feel part of the atmosphere when you can see so much with your own eyes, not just on our monitors.
RS: Do you have any particularly amusing anecdotes from your career?
DC: I did once spend 20 seconds getting very excited during a Monaco Grand Prix as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were battling away, only to find out that I was commentating on a replay and hadn’t realised. Martin Brundle was chuckling away and trying to point at the screen to tell me. I felt such an idiot, a total doofus moment, but very funny.
RS: What’s been the biggest difference between commentating for radio and commentating for TV? Do you miss being on the radio?
DC: I loved working in radio, being the eyes and often the ears for the listener, and that’s the biggest difference between radio and TV. On TV you can see what’s happening so my job is to add to the pictures and help explain the bits the viewers either can’t see or might not be aware of. Radio, you say what you see and set the scene more than you would for TV. Do I miss it? To be honest I love working for Sky and wouldn’t want to be working for anyone else. We have a great team of people on and off screen who love what they do and work so hard to bring this sport to life for the viewers. It’s hard work but great fun.
RS: If you could have anyone as your co-commentators, present or past, who would they be?
DC: Blimey, that’s a tough one, and I’ll preface it by saying that I’m very happy working with Martin, Ant [Davidson] and Paul di Resta. But for a bit of fun one day, past or present, how good would it be to commentate on race with James Hunt and Niki Lauda alongside me? That, I would enjoy immensely.
RS: What are your predictions for the 2016 season?
DC: I’m going to be a little bit boring with my predictions I’m afraid as I can’t see a way past another Mercedes double title. Testing showed that they have great reliability and also the confidence in their car to not need to show it’s ultimate pace before they really have to. As for which Mercedes driver wins the Championship? Nico needs to start well, he can’t afford to lag behind Lewis and needs to apply as much pressure as he can. If not, Lewis will be the champion for a fourth year. Nico has the talent, but he has to deliver straight away, and with more scope this year for drivers to dictate their own strategy, then maybe he can use that to his advantage. Who knows? I try not to make too many predictions, they have a habit of being wrong!
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