Australia’s last Formula 1 World Champion, Alan Jones, was recently confirmed as the newest face in Network Ten’s Australian Formula 1 TV broadcast line-up.
This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix will mark a return to full-time TV duties after a twelve-year absence, preceded by a lengthy stint as the cohost of the Nine Network’s F1 telecasts in the 1980s and 1990s.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Jones in action in front of the cameras, he’s a smooth operator and his no-nonsense, ‘call it as he sees it’ approach will undoubtedly endear him to fans around the country.
“I’m really glad to be back [on TV],” he told us in the Albert Park paddock today.
“I really enjoyed my time with Channel Nine and working with Darrell Eastlake (his cohost during the Nine era), and I enjoyed dong it at the time.”
So will Jones’ role be more of a colour commentator and analyst, or will he assume a more frontline position in the team alongside fellow cohosts, motorsport journalist Greg Rust and former motorcycle racewinner Daryl Beattie?
“My job is not to say ‘The blue car passed the red car’ because the TV viewer can see that,” he continued. “But if I can have people switching off at the end of the telecast saying, ‘Gee, I didn’t know that!’, then I’ve done my job.
“I thoroughly enjoy it. I like doing the research and sharing some of my experiences and knowledge with the viewers.”
His first major appearance is the biggest broadcasting weekend for Network Ten’s sport’s arm, which will air over 20 hours of exclusive coverage across its standard and high-definition channels from Friday to Sunday. How confident is he with taking on this new challenge?
“There’s a 46-page schedule for me,” he joked. “So I pretty much know what I’m doing over the course of the weekend. Of course the order of events and appearances will change, and you adapt to that.
“Daryl and I will commentate for both Friday practice sessions, and then we’ll hand over to the SKY commentary team [Martin Brundle and David Croft] for qualifying and the race.”
Additionally, he will also be feted – alongside fellow Australian World Champion Sir Jack Brabham – with the unveiling of a bronze bust in his honour on Sunday, which will enjoy a permanent placement at Albert Park, where his father Stan was an idol to many motorsport fans during Alan’s childhood.
“It came totally out of the blue and I’m just thrilled. When it’s unveiled on Sunday it will be the first time I see it, and I can’t wait.”
The season ahead is again set to be an intriguing affair after another inconclusive round of pre-season testing in Spain. Conditions here in Melbourne will be vastly different to the chilly European winter the grid has had to endure, and this could well change the pecking order on Saturday and Sunday.
“My gut says that Fernando Alonso will be the man to beat in 2013,” Jones said.
“He’s right on top of his game. He certainly didn’t have the best car last year, but the general consensus in the paddock is that he’s the best driver at the moment. And if Ferrari has improved the F138 to the extent that I believe they have (relative to the F2012), then I believe he will be hard to beat.
“Then of course, you mustn’t forget Sebastian Vettel who will also be hard to beat in that Red Bull.
“I think Lewis Hamilton will also spring a couple of surprises in his new environment at Mercedes, and I also think my old team [Williams] will spring a couple of surprises of their own this year. They tell me that this year’s car is a big improvement on last year’s car, and the 2012 machine should have picked up better results than what is managed.”
Interestingly, ‘AJ’ didn’t mention Mark Webber as a possible championship challenger, although he believed that it would be foolish to discount the grid’s oldest driver.
“He’s been very relaxed and confident of late, and that to me is a good sign that he should do well in 2013,” Jones added, before switching his attention to the grid’s other Australian, Daniel Ricciardo.
“Daniel got some results in 2012, and he’s shown good pace in the pre-season. This year he’s visiting all of the circuits for the second time at least, so he’ll be more familiar in his surrounds. I hope he can create a few surprises too.”
We offer our thanks to Network Ten’s publicity team for making this interview possible.
To read our previous interviews with Alan Jones, click here.