David Hobbs could be making his last live TV appearance this weekend as NBCSN presents its final Formula 1 race.
Hobbs, along with F1 on NBCSN colleagues Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett, and Will Buxton, will farewell the series at the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as F1 moves to its new home on ESPN in 2018, and of the four, the 78-year-old Briton knows it might serve as his closing stint in the studio.
“I know from the Twitter world we’re seeing people say that are sad to see us go, and from a personal standpoint, it’s particularly sad and heightened for me because it will, most likely, be my last broadcast,” the legendary F1, Indy car, sports car, and NASCAR driver told RACER.
“This will bring to an end a 41-year career. I’ve been broadcasting almost as long as Leigh’s been alive, and Steve would have been eight when I did my first show.”
With NBCSN’s roster overflowing with talent in IndyCar and NASCAR, the loss of F1 – a natural home for Hobbs’ expertise – has provided a challenge to make ongoing use of his colorful insights. Although he harbors no ill will toward NBCSN, the frustration aimed at Liberty Media, F1’s commercial rights holders who struck the deal with ESPN, leaves no question about Hobbs’ feelings on the subject.
“It’s a bit galling that my last show is not me retiring, but me being retired,” he added. “If ESPN or anybody had come along and outbid NBC in a rights war, and we were pushed out by a clearly superior team and deal, that would be one thing. You could say, ‘OK, I guess the best guy’s won.’ But the deal they’ve got is horrible.
“They’re not paying any rights fees, they aren’t having any studio shows so there aren’t any production costs. It’s meant to be a generic [broadcast] team from across the ocean. That is irritating, that we’re being ousted by what will be an inferior show. To be pushed out by a pathetic deal, including for the viewer, is sad.”
If a call was made from NBCSN to join its stellar IndyCar booth for a few rounds in 2018 and beyond, Hobbs would welcome the opportunity to end his broadcast career in more positive circumstances.
“Will I get an IndyCar race or two? Maybe…when Paul Tracy or Townsend Bell falls down a hole,” he said with a laugh. “There’s other people lurking in the wings, so this could well be my last broadcast, but I would enjoy sitting with the lads in IndyCar if they’d have me.
“But the end was inevitable. It was going to happen at some point. It’s just sad it’s happening in a rather unsavory way. This weekend is going to be a bit of a heartstring puller for me. I’ve been doing it since the Pocono 500 in 1976 with Ken Squier…”