Viaplay commentator Nelson Valkenburg is sure that Mercedes can get back into the fight for the world title. If that is not the case, then something is really wrong, according to Valkenburg. In any case, he expects Red Bull Racing to have the strongest foundation to build on from 2022, but the commentator also thinks that the Austrian racing team will feel the sporting sanction of less testing time in the wind tunnel.
In the Formule1.nl podcast, Valkenburg and Marco Zwaneveld, head of sports at Viaplay, discuss the expectations for the upcoming season. For Viaplay it was a magical first season with the many victories of Max Verstappen, the second world title he won in Japan, and the constructors’ cup that was awarded to Red Bull as icing on the cake. Because the constructors champion already had less time in the wind tunnel anyway, the sporting sanction that came on top of that was a bit sour. ‘Let’s hope that Red Bull gets off to a solid and good start’, Valkenburg begins. ‘Because they probably can’t keep up with the latest developments. They had that penalty and won last year’, explains the Dutchman.
‘Mercedes is just going to report’, Valkenburg is certain. “If not, then something is really wrong,” the commentator thinks. He therefore expects that Mercedes will certainly perform better in 2023 than in 2022. The story of Mercedes is of course well known. The German team was unable to compete competitively, but things got better towards the end of the 2022 season. “There is a negative attitude towards Ferrari after they scaled back that engine in Barcelona,” Valkenburg continues. “It seems they have now turned the engine up again, with more efficiency, and are back to the same power as before Barcelona. It’s going to be a season with three teams fighting for the win. But nothing leads me to suspect that Red Bull doesn’t have the strongest foundation.’
Viaplay is also entering a new season
In addition to the drivers and teams, Viaplay is also entering a new Formula 1 season. After Ziggo lost the rights to broadcast Formula 1, many people had to get used to watching Viaplay. It was quite different without Jack Plooij on the grid, the familiar voice of Olav Mol, and the previews and afterthoughts in Ziggo’s studio. ‘There were suddenly a lot of changes and people don’t like changes. I am also one of them,’ says Zwaneveld. ‘Ultimately you have to look to the future. We set everything up a certain way, and we still stand by that vision. It was difficult, but that’s part of it when you make changes.’
Valkenburg absolutely agrees. “You know it (the change, ed.) is coming, but on the day itself I received 98,000 messages,” says the commentator, who had also received threats between those messages. “The following weeks were very intense, but things turned around and after that the balance was very positive for me.” Zwaneveld explains that they constantly tried to incorporate people’s comments and criticism in order to improve everything. ‘We cannot please everyone, but we absolutely listen and we have also improved our idea,’ says Zwaneveld. ‘When we recently sat at a meeting with major channels such as Sky Sports, we were appointed as an example for others. That indicates where we stand.’
A new pit reporter and a first: ‘Video from Viaplay’
Recently, Viaplay introduced the new pit reporter to the world. Chiel van Koldenhoven will replace Stephane Kox for the 2023 season. When asked whether the pit reporter would take on that task throughout the year, Zwaneveld replied with a smile. ‘I hope so! The Formula 1 season is really intense. Only fly around the world 24 times. If you look at the 2023 calendar, with the Grands Prix towards the end of the year, it’s pretty intense. And to find someone like that who wants to do that for a whole year, that’s quite difficult’, Zwaneveld explains. In addition to a new pit reporter, Zwaneveld can also reveal that Viaplay will start with ‘Video from Viaplay’. ‘We hope that this will encourage even more people to come to our website to watch Viaplay’s videos. We are very happy that we can start broadcasting videos.’