BBC announces commentary reshuffle

Martin Brundle will become BBC's new lead Formula 1 commentator this year, it has been announced, following a shake-up of the coverage plans for 2011

BBC announces commentary reshuffle

Just hours after former commentator Jonathan Legard announced he would no longer be a part of the BBC team for this year, the corporation confirmed that Brundle would be stepping up to the lead role - with David Coulthard joining him as a co-commentator.

Brundle, who retired from F1 at the start of 1997, has forged a successful career as a broadcaster but this will be his first time as the main commentator.

Speaking about his new role, Brundle said: "I'm absolutely delighted and very motivated that BBC Sport has asked me to become the lead Formula 1 commentator alongside David Coulthard.

"We have been friends, rivals and colleagues for 18 years and combined we have driven in more than 400 F1 Grands Prix and attended over 700. I've never felt more passionate about Formula 1 and I can't wait to get started."

Coulthard is embarking on his third season with the BBC, having retired from F1 at the end of 2008. Although he is stepping up to the commentary box, he will continue to provide his expert analysis for both pre-race build-up and post-race shows.

"I'm very excited to be joining forces with Martin in this new role of co-commentator," said Coulthard. "F1 is all about challenging yourself and this will be a big challenge for me, but one that I am looking forward to. There is a great team on the BBC F1 show and we're looking forward to the year ahead and to bringing something new to our loyal viewers."

The BBC's decision to put two former racing drivers into the commentary box is viewed in some quarters as controversial - as it breaks away from the traditional set-up of using drivers only for expert analysis.

However, Ben Gallop, the BBC's Head of F1, thinks that Brundle's vast experience and his strong relationship with Coulthard, will prove to be a winner for fans.

"We're always looking for ways to take our Formula 1 coverage to another level - and for 2011 we have an exciting new combination in the commentary box," he said. "We're keen to make the most of Martin Brundle's wealth of broadcasting experience and his popularity with the audience by giving him the role of lead commentator and putting him alongside David Coulthard, one of the biggest names in British motorsport and a skilled race analyst.

"We want to tap into their combined on-track expertise - together they will provide our viewers with more immediate discussion, analysis and debate as the action happens. The results of screen tests have been very impressive and we are convinced this combination will deliver a fantastic commentary for our audience for what promises to be a thrilling 2011 season."

Gallop also paid tribute to former commentator Legard, who earned tremendous respect in the F1 paddock but whose commentary divided the opinion of fans.

"The change of direction we are taking unfortunately means there is no place for Jonathan Legard in our commentary set-up," added Gallop.

"We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Jonathan for his great work over the last two seasons. He is a first-rate journalist and broadcaster who has been a core member of our team, helping to re-establish BBC Sport as the nation's F1 broadcaster. We wish him all the very best for the future."

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