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  • Writer's pictureEllie Mae

Sky F1's Ted Kravitz on being a Pit Lane Reporter and behind the scenes of his Notebook

Ted Kravitz is probably best known for his post-Qualifying and Race Notebook on Sky Sports F1. However, as Pit Lane Reporter, Ted’s job consists of so much more than sharing what he writes in his notebook. Having started his career in Formula 1 with ITV, Ted spent time working with BBC Sport before making the move to Sky for the 2012 F1 season.


Since then, Ted’s Notebook has become a fan favourite across a race weekend. But also, as a passionate advocate for female progression in motorsport, Ted is also part of the W Series broadcast team and has been since its inaugural season in 2019.


Ted and I sat down to talk about his roles over the years and his prized Notebook.


 

As a lifelong F1 fan, Ted used to get his motorsport fix from reading newspapers and Autosport. Formula 1 was his passion and like many other fans, he used to sit on the sofa during race weekends either enthralled and jumping up and down if it was a good race, or he’d maybe fall asleep if the race was more on the boring side.


Ted never thought he would work in Formula 1, but he was training to be a radio reporter in news and sport. He was working with Capital Radio at the time, and he attended the press conference where Damon Hill was announcing his move to the Arrows team in 1997 after winning the World Drivers’ Championship with Williams the season before. It was at this press conference where he met James Allen, who was going to be commentating on F1 for ITV. James gave Ted some contacts at ITV and he got a job as a general runner.


“They needed someone who could look at a helmet and say, “that’s Giancarlo Fisichella” and they needed someone who could differentiate Heinz-Harald Frentzen from Esteban Tuero,” Ted says. “I was that person. I was the F1 specialist on the team.”


In this role, Ted would get the tapes, sit down and log them before looking back through them and remembering where the important shots were. Then, when it came to editing features for the shows, Ted would sit down with the producers to give them the particular tapes they needed with the relevant time codes.


“I learnt about how TV was filmed, edited, scripted and produced, how stories were told and what stories weren’t,” he says. “If you think about it, it’s exactly the same thing as I’m doing now but in a different position.


“The disciplines I learnt back then, even through changing technology, are still the ones I use today, even though I’m a reporter.”


Although Ted doesn’t have the time to trawl through every piece of footage filmed across an F1 weekend nowadays, he’ll still see clips in edits and features and wonder, ‘that’s a nice shot, where did that come from?’ and he’s taken back to his early days working in production and F1. He still enjoys that side of making television, too.


Image Credit: BBC Sport


Ted moved to the BBC in 2009 to cover Formula 1 and stayed there until 2012. An announcement by the UK government in October 2010 confirmed a TV licence freeze which would impact the coverage of F1. The BBC and Sky Sports struck a non-exclusive deal; BBC Sport would cover half of the races live and provide highlights for half, whilst Sky showed every race live.


“The most important part of my job is delivering timely, accurate and entertaining information into the commentary for Qualifying and the Race,” Ted says. “I felt that that role at the BBC wouldn’t be as relevant on a highlights programme as it would be needed and as worthwhile on a live programme.”


It was James Allen who wrote the template of being a modern-day Pit Reporter and it took Ted a long time to figure out how to do that job perfectly. A Pit Reporter will completely change the picture of a race or of a situation by passing information, received from a team or another official, through the commentators.


Ted started working with Sky Sports from the 2012 Formula 1 season after being persuaded by Martin Turner, Sky F1’s executive producer, that they would work together to reinvent, reimagine and improve the F1 coverage.


“He persuaded me that we were going to make some pretty bloody good television programmes.”


Image Credit: BBC Sport - N/A - BBC Sport

 

As the Pit Lane Reporter at Sky Sports, Ted will retrieve information from teams, which he then shares with viewers through David Croft in commentary. After the first lap incident at this year’s British Grand Prix involving Zhou Guanyu, Ted was told by a team manager that the race would not restart in the same order in which the drivers finished after the first lap. He shared this information with Crofty and Martin [Brundle], and viewers at home, to clear up the restart situation.


This is the most important part of Ted’s job in the Pit Lane.


“The Notebook might be fun but the bread and butter of the pit reporter’s job is to tell the audience, through the commentators, anything else that they can’t see through the TV,” he says. “You can do 100 Notebooks, but you will fail as a pit reporter unless you get that absolutely right.”


Ted’s Notebook, however, is a well-loved part of a race weekend. It started out as an online piece for the ITV Sport website, focusing on snippets from the weekend that Ted didn’t have time to report on television. When he moved to the BBC, Ted took his notebook with him. Known as From the Pit Lane with Ted Kravitz, the feature expanded from a written piece (like this one from the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix) to a short video blog, where Ted would walk around and give behind the scenes information that didn’t make the main broadcast (watch From the Pit Lane at the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix here).


Sky also liked the idea of Ted’s behind the scenes addition to a race weekend, but couldn’t use the same name as used at the BBC, so during discussions about a name for the show at Sky, Ted simply asked, “how about Ted’s Notebook?”. That’s how the name came to fruition.


“It’s something that I’ve been doing for a while,” Ted says. “Sky saw what it could be, something that could develop and get its own little bit of madness in its own little identity.”


It’s impossible to share the stories of all 20 drivers from one session during commentary. Each driver has their own battle, one might have a slow pit stop whilst another might make an amazing overtake to take P16, but it won’t always be covered on television. That’s where Ted’s Notebook comes in.


“Through watching the timing screens, watching the pit stops and talking to the drivers, the point of the Notebook is to tell the story of their race,” Ted says. “It is to tell these stories in half an hour after Qualifying and the Race.”


Of course, the F1 Paddock is a busy place and it’s likely that Ted will bump into people throughout the show – whether that be drivers, team members or other well-known faces – and sometimes, things get in the way and these things happen. However, more recently, Ted has started to delve into the topic of fan experience at Grand Prix weekends.


“My viewers – our audience at Sky – are the race fans, the people who are watching F1 and who will probably go to F1 races,” he says. “I see talking about the fan experience as an extension of providing the service we do to our viewers and customers.


“I’ve been that fan who has had to scrap stuff and been disappointed, so that’s why I think it’s important.”


Not only does Ted discuss that traffic might be a problem if you go to Silverstone, or if you go to the Hungarian Grand Prix, it’ll be hot and there’ll be a lengthy taxi queue, he has also, importantly, addressed some of the abuse faced by fans at the Austrian Grand Prix.


The process behind Ted’s Notebook begins on a Wednesday or a Thursday, depending when Ted arrives at the track. He spends time wandering around and noticing new or different aspects to the venue, whether it be a new podium design, a new grandstand, or a changed corner. Speaking to the drivers on Thursdays is a vital part of planning ahead of the Notebook; Ted can ask the drivers anything relevant ahead of the weekend, and can also access transcripts from the Press Conference.


“Viewers might not see all the stories from the Press Conference because they might not make the programme; most of it won’t make the programme,” Ted says. “Then you will start to write down a notebook line about Sebastian and bees.”


After the Team Principal Press Conference and the weekend’s Free Practice sessions, Ted picks up other bits of information that wouldn’t make it to the commentary.


“By the time you go into Qualifying or the Race, you already have at least two things to say on either every driver or every team before you start on fan experience, what it’s like as a circuit, as a venue, what the city is like,” he says. “I can often already do 15 minutes before I get to the first team.”


An eventful Qualifying or Race often leads to even more stories to tell and Ted admits he often crams too much.


“If I find it interesting enough to write down in the Notebook, then I believe other people will also find it interesting to hear,” he says. “Also, the other bit I like is that once we start, we don’t stop and it’s one take.


“That adds, I always say, an element of unpredictability and mild peril that I don’t know what’s around the next corner of a race transporter.”


Although somewhat disappointed he didn’t manage to catch Fernando Alonso and Lawrence Stroll behind a motorhome discussing the two-time World Champion’s move to Aston Martin for 2023, Ted’s Notebook has provided audiences with iconic viewing material over the season so far, like the escalator incident in Miami.




The Notebook is broadcasted from the Paddock all the time, where the receiver for the radio camera is located. After heading up the escalator to get a closer look inside the Hard Rock Stadium, Ted needed a way to get back down to the paddock.


“It’s a live programme and the only way to keep it live television was to go down the other way,” he says. “I exaggerated the amount of peril. It was quite a slow escalator.


“If it was a fast-moving escalator, then I would’ve been completely out of breath and I wouldn’t’ have been able to talk about Ferrari, which I was doing at the time, and we would’ve gone backwards.”




(A disclaimer from Ted: Pete the cameraman was not hurt during the making of the Miami GP Qualifying Notebook after Ted’s judgement that the escalator was slow enough for them to head down, despite being an upwards escalator, without it being dangerous.)


Image Credit: Sky Sports F1

 

As well as everything he does with Sky, Ted has also been part of the W Series team since the beginning in 2019. He approached Matt Bishop, who currently works for Aston Martin but was Communications Director at W Series, and soon became involved with W Series as a Pit Reporter.


“I always wondered why there wasn’t more opportunity for female drivers to show what they can do,” he says. “I understand all the arguments about segregation and ‘why don’t you just let female drivers compete at the same level as men?’.


“W Series doesn’t stop that, it aims to promote that. It aims to have that as an end result.”


Image Credit: W Series


Over the past few years, W Series has showcased some amazing talents and continues to provide exciting racing. Since the start of the current season, W Series races have been broadcast on Sky Sports F1 in the UK and it is the most watched women’s sport on Sky.


“I didn’t bring it onto Sky Sports,” Ted says. “But season one and two were successful and it was something that Sky Sports wanted to get involved with.”


W Series is the most watched racing series outside of Formula 1 and this year’s round at Silverstone brought the highest peak audience ever for W Series, with more than one million viewers tuning in.


“Our viewers recognise that the racing is great and the respect amongst the drivers is great,” Ted says. “You don’t get anybody making any questionable moves and you get some great redemption stories.


“Most importantly, whether it’s Jamie Chadwick or not, I truly believe we will get a driver from W Series who will make it into Formula 1 one day.”


 

You can watch Ted's Notebook on Sky Sports F1 and YouTube.

1 Comment


enidmac
Aug 30, 2022

What an excellent and detailed account.Ellie.Absolutely brilliant and a well done to you.

With all good wishes and much success for your future x

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