The Version Interview... Channel 4's F1 host, Steve Jones.
Channel 4 today unveiled their on-air presenting team for their coverage of Formula 1 motor racing. At the helm will be former T4 presenter Steve Jones.
Here, he tells us why he can't wait to be involved.
You’re fronting Channel 4’s F1® coverage. What exactly will your role be on the show?
My role as host, is one of constant curiosity. I'll be asking the questions our viewers at home are thinking to the teams and drivers alike. As well as teasing the very best analysis from the C4 panel of experts.
How long have you been following F1® for?
I've been dipping in and out for years. My rule of thumb is, if I'm in the house and there are a group of men driving at 200mph, around a track, seemingly with no regard for their own personal safety - I'm going to watch that! Admittedly I never expected to end up fronting F1® coverage so I've been watching with a greater sense of urgency lately. I might be the layman on the show but I want to know my Toto's from my Monisha's.
What are your earliest memories of F1®?
My Grandad was a big F1® fan so watching Mansell take the World Title in 92 is the most vivid.
Who have been your favourite drivers over the years?
I like the bad boys like Hunt, Senna and Raikkonen but in truthfulness Mansell's moustachioed stoicism is where my heart lies....probably my Granddad's influence playing a part there.
What about your favourite F1® presenters?
Much like everybody else, for me, Murray Walker will always be the face and voice of F1®...but I must say Ben Edwards has the voice and the passion to be a worthy successor. He's the perfect balance to Coulthard's constant insouciance.
You’ve worked on some big shows in the past – why did you want to make the jump into sports presenting?
Quite simply - I was asked. I've hosted every kind of show you can think of in the entertainment world, so the prospect of a new challenge 14 years into my career was too good to pass up.
What are the key differences between the genres?
Entertainment generally has a solid structure and format. Answer these questions and get a prize, or sing this song and get a recording contract. In F1® anything can happen, it's constantly changing from one moment to the next. What you see on the screen is only part of the story, so much happens behind the scenes and it'll be myself and the team's job to ferret out that information and present it to the viewers. Also the added jeopardy of there being no script and no autocue, means you have to react in the moment. That's an extremely exciting and terrifying recipe.
Obviously you’ll be surrounded by a huge amount of knowledge in the presenting team. Are you doing some serious swatting up to keep up with them?
I dream in F1®...no joke. My wife told me I woke up recently screaming Bernie Ecclestone's name....joke!
Who are you most looking forward to working with and why?
I've been spending a lot of time with David Coulthard. Romantic dinners, walks in the park, washing each other’s hair, things like that. So I'm very much looking forward to exploring our on camera relationship. Plus of course Eddie Jordan is an enigma I can’t wait to explore.
What is your favourite race of the season and why?
There are a few - Singapore at night is awesome. I love the fact there are motorways above the track and you can see people driving home from work or heading out to the shops as Lewis and the gang tear up the ground beneath them. I can’t wait to soak up the incredible enthusiasm and excitement of the Japanese in Japan. But the jewel in the crown for me (and my wife as she has already called dibs on attending) is of course Monaco. It's pointless explaining why, because everybody already knows.
F1® fans are absolutely passionate about their sport. What can they expect from Channel 4’s coverage?
Everything they've become accustomed to and more. We will be in more places, talking to more people than ever before and we are still planning some big, spectacular films, exploring F1®, and the people involved and the stories that are always in the news. Channel 4's support in terms of airtime is fantastic, so the programmes will be slightly longer than previously, so we won't miss a thing throughout the season.
How important is it for the sport to have a terrestrial presence?
Hugely important. Obviously "free" is better than "not free" and when it's available to all, everyone can enjoy it! The more people watch F1® the greater the long term chance of survival for the sport.
Who is your tip for the title this season?
We are half way through testing in Barcelona and already Mercedes are looking formidable. Hopefully Ferrari can sprinkle a little fairy dust on their cars to close the gap between Merc and the best of the rest, and if there's any leftover maybe they could give some to McLaren. It would be great to see two McLaren World Champions in with a chance of the podium again. The public deserve to have them racing at the front.
Will you be pushing for a Welsh Grand Prix in the future? If so, where would it take place?
Well we have the passion and the means. The Circuit of Wales in Blaenau Gwent is a fantastic facility which could easily be upgraded to host F1®. So a Valleys boy can dream.