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BBC changes F1 presenter with an eye on the 2012 Olympics

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BBC changes F1 presenter with an eye on the 2012 Olympics
Aug 4, 2010, 11:26 PM

I notice that the BBC has announced that its F1 presenter Jake Humphrey, will not be at the Japanese Grand Prix this year as he will presenting the...

I notice that the BBC has announced that its F1 presenter Jake Humphrey, will not be at the Japanese Grand Prix this year as he will presenting the BBC's coverage of the Commonwealth Games in India.

So the BBC will turn to pit reporter Lee McKenzie to anchor the show. This is a good news story in that it allows people to write "First Female F1 presenter" headlines and although I'm delighted for her, I resisted the temptation in this case because there is a more interesting angle than that for me.

Humphrey has been a revelation in the anchor role on the BBC. The coverage for the most part has been really very good this last 18 months and he has been at the centre of most of the good stuff.

I met up with him shortly before his debut in 2009 and got the clear impression that he had the right idea - he wasn't going to try to be a know-all about the sport from day 1. This is a complex sport and it is incredibly easy to come unstuck, as various non-specialists who have picked up a live microphone have proved.

But this Japan GP move has nothing to do with McKenzie breaking through glass ceilings and everything to do with Humphrey being groomed for a central role in the London 2012 Olympics coverage.

The London Olympics is about as big a project as BBC Sport could ever envisage and Humphrey's easy manner, quick mastery of a new subject and above all ambition, will translate to the games perfectly. You can almost hear the penny dropping among BBC Sport execs that here is the guy to anchor the most important event they will probably ever do, short of a World Cup football finals.

I began to wonder when he started tweeting about visiting the Olympic stadium building site in Stratford a few months ago.

But his response on Twitter today to the announcement about Suzuka sealed it for me.

"I'm keen to do the CWG (Commonwealth Games) with one eye on London 2012. F1 is still my No.1, my priority and my passion. Hope you understand!" he tweeted this afternoon.

"I turned down the World Cup to remain loyal to F1..."

I may be wrong but I don't see him hosting F1 for ever. People for whom F1 is not a passion soon find that the travel gets them and their family down quite quickly.

But also, knowing a little of how broadcasting careers work, he has used the F1 role to cement his position among the leading sports presenters in the UK. But it's not the be all and end all and there are other horizons. BBC's main sports presenters are mostly quite old and tired and Humphrey must see a virtually open goal in front of him.

Once the 2012 Olympics kicks in he will probably be the BBC's Number One and in that scenario the F1 department could well be looking for another presenter, which would be a shame because I think he does it really well.

And no, please don't send in comments about me angling for the role, because I'm not. This site covers a wind range of topics and TV needs to feature occasionally, that's all.

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