NBC Sports coverage of F1 concluded this weekend. Not only did it conclude but it closed a portion of my childhood and young adult life that I wouldn’t change for the world. For the better part of a decade and a half, we always knew who would be waking up with us to watch Formula One. That came to a close Sunday.
ESPN will replace NBC next season as the domestic carrier for Formula One racing in the United States. A move that has been met by groans and outrage from American F1 fans.
A Goodbye To Hobbs
F1 on NBC Sports signed off for the final time with the perfect ending, a shoey. It’s not the end of the road for Leigh Diffey, Will Buxton, and Steve Matchett but it was for David Hobbs.
Hobbs was everyone’s grandpa. He would say outlandish things, his comments would make you laugh and wonder what the hell he was talking about. Above all else, he was honest in criticism and humble when commenting. His comments about “stoning” people especially the Alonso/Schumacher battle in 2005 has stuck with me forever. Hobbs announced that he would be retiring after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Thus bringing to an end a commentating career that made F1 so enjoyable.
A Goodbye To NBC
When NBC announced they had landed the rights to F1 in late 2012 for the upcoming 2013 season a lot of us were skeptical. SPEED/FOX had done such a great job building a broadcast team and presenting the sport in a phenomenal manner it was tough to see it leave.
NBC at the time wasn’t known as the home for motorsport. A lot of us feared a terrible commentating crew would be assembled by the brass in Stamford, CT. Instead they did the right thing, they brought the SPEED team to NBC. Minus Bob Varsha who had a contract with Fox still.
Since 2013 we have woken up with Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Will Buxton. Whether it’s an 8 o’clock start or a ridiculous 2 am start, they’re always there giving up the best coverage possible. In a country that hardly cares about F1, they worked through channel changes, an onslaught of commercials and rather boring racing at times. Through it, all they showed up each weekend excited to bring us F1.
People love to complain about NBC’s coverage. The commercials were a pain, but they’re a necessary evil for a sport with a niche following in this country. Their coverage was impeccable, the presentation was top notch and the on-air talent was all we could ever ask for.
NBC went to great lengths to give us the Off The Grid series and a look outside of the track. Their pre and post race shows were incredibly informative and did a lot to help grow the sport in the states. NBC sent the boys to Monaco, Canada, and the United States GP. All in an effort to grow the sport stateside. They sent Will Buxton around the globe, to the Indy 500, let him host events in Austin and gave him the weekend off when his father passed away. NBC did so much for this sport it’s a shame it went unnoticed.
Now We Get ESPN
What F1 fans in America will get next year will pale in comparison to what we have grown accustomed to. SPEED and then NBC spoiled F1 fans with the amount of coverage and live programming. ESPN won’t provide that in 2018. They’re not even providing a commentary team. No more Will Buxton on the ground, no more Hobbs, and Matchett playing off each other and no more sensible comments from Diffey.
ESPN will be a shell of what F1 coverage should be. A cold, boring, Audi driving shell of Formula One presenting. It sucks. This sucks.
My childhood was spent waking up on Sunday mornings listening to this four guys talk about a sport I grew to love. That turned into my teenage years and then college years where I’d get 3 hours of sleep just to wake up at 7:50 am. Sometimes you had to sacrifice the pre-race show for a little bit of sleep. Now in my mid-20’s I still get up early on weekends excited to hear these guys. I put Friday practices on a monitor in my office and listened to these guys shoot the shit.
ESPN is coming. But it will never be the same.
Thanks to all the people at NBC who gave us the best F1 coverage we could hope for.
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