Speed Channel kicked off a new era in its coverage of Formula One racing Friday without one of its key on-air personalities.
The practice session ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix ushered in the 2010 season of Speed's live, U.S. cable-exclusive coverage of the glamorous international circuit. For more on the season's coverage on Speed, see this page on SPEEDtv.com.
Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett were there, as usual. Absent was Peter Windsor, the longtime grid reporter for the Speed/Fox Sports coverage. Windsor left the Speed crew to focus his attention on US F1, the U.S. team that planned to enter the FIA Formula One World Championship this season.
Sadly, US F1 folded prior to the season's start, citing insufficient funding.
Speed hired Will Buxton (pictured), editor of GPWeek magazine, to replace Windsor. He will join the broadcast after a few races. In the meantime, Westbury Gillett will be in the pit lanes for Speed.
"As you can tell we've got a lot to talk about, David," Varsha remarked to Hobbs at the outset of the Friday practice run after Speed's live coverage commenced at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Other changes to discuss include eight new drivers on the circuit; the return of famed driver Michael Schumacher; and new teams, though they don't include US F1.
New technical regulations are in place, significantly including a ban on refueling during a race, which will force the cars to carry significantly more weight, the Speed announcers explained.
"This year's champion is going to be a guy who can conserve his tires," Hobbs commented, noting that the extra weight had already prompted tire damage. Cars are able to pit to make tire changes, but will want to minimize such stoppages.
In 2010, SPEEDtv.com will increase its Formula One offerings, highlighted by a new fantasy game -- SPEED Fantasy Racing: GP Edition -- and a selection of video clips from practice, qualifying and race coverage. The site also will introduce an enhanced stats package and continue with RaceCast timing and scoring from all sessions, as well as providing Matchett's popular post-event "Chalk Talk" wrap-ups.
Speed will air 15 races live, complete with practice and qualifying coverage, and for the fourth year, the Fox broadcast network will air four consecutive events, beginning with the Canadian Grand Prix, using the same on-air team.
Practice and qualifying for those four events will be live on Speed (as they are ahead of Speed-broadcast races).
Bahrain Grand Prix race coverage begins at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday (March 14) on Speed.