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Why I'm leaving one of the greatest jobs in broadcasting

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Jake Humphrey | 19:08 UK time, Monday, 26 November 2012

It feels strange to be writing my final blog as the BBC's F1 presenter, just over four years after I sat down in a nondescript office in Television Centre and was offered a job that would change my life.

However, this blog also feels like the perfect place to say farewell as it's here, and via my Twitter account, that I would hope we've taken you at home closer to the sport than ever before.

I also credit this blog with helping to change the perception of me when I first got the job. I've told the story many times of how my wife Harriet rang me in floods of tears shortly after it was announced I was taking on the F1 presenting gig.

She'd read on the BBC website about 12 trillion messages saying I'd be rubbish. Some of them under the headline: 'Sack Jake Humphrey Now'. This was a full four months before I hosted my first show!

Jake Humphrey

Jake Humphrey (left) with BBC F1 co-presenters David Coulthard (middle) and Eddie Jordan. Photo: Getty  

I like to the think you and I were sharing things via this blog long before Twitter, and the access it offers, became so popular. Uploading 'behind-the-scenes' photos, video of my talkback during a live show and honest pieces written on planes, trains and automobiles around the globe.

I really do credit this blog with part of the change in the perception of me back in late 2008 and early 2009. I wanted to put out the message that I was a lucky F1 fan, a normal guy, who had been given this incredible opportunity and I wanted you to be a real part of it.

Mind you, that's not to say I've managed to please everybody - and as my Dad says: "You can't please all the people all of the time, Jacob"!

All I hope is that after four years living this life, you think I gave it my all and tried to bring something new to the table. To coin a boxing phrase, I am content in the knowledge that after four years I walk away having 'left nothing in the ring'.

And what a four years it has been. The lows have been so few that I can barely count them on one hand, the highs so frequent I could write another book.

One of my fondest memories was being in the pit-lane for our first show in Australia in 2009 when good old Martin Brundle joined us and remarked that it looked like EJ, DC and myself had been working together for years. And I must admit it always felt that way. Right from the day we first met.

One of the things I shall miss the most is hearing 'The Chain' blasting down our earpieces; the adrenaline would start to kick-in, it was time to go to work. At that point the three of us went through a little ritual. We'd get in a huddle, bump fists and say to each other '20%, you ready?'.

This mantra stems from a conversation we had with a TV expert way back at the start who told David and Eddie that they need to be themselves on the TV, with an 'extra 20% of everything'. Just as Fleetwood Mac, died away it seemed the perfect time to gee each other up. We did it every race from then on.

It has been a pleasure to share this job with DC and EJ. I always knew, as I looked across at them just as the director was about to say 'cue', that we'd have a great show because I had two stars by my side. Enthusiasm, knowledge and a real sense of adventure.

Never will I meet a man more mischievous than Eddie or one more able to deliver a dead-pan gag than David. It's a pleasure to call them both my friends, and been a pleasure to share the TV with two men who have become broadcasters over our time together, with a real sense of what the audience at home want to hear or learn.

Another high-point for me is the multiple occasions I've been left almost open-mouthed at the stunning access the sport offers broadcasters.

I love the fact we can be live in the pit-lane as the cars leave the garages (sorry if the engines have drowned us out on occasions!), that on the grid moments before the race we can interview the pole-sitting driver, or that a team boss of a winning team will join us immediately the race has concluded. Long may it continue.

My fondest memory of such access to drivers was Jenson Button in the Brawn garage in Interlagos in 2009, moments after he'd become the Champion Of The World in Brazil. You see, Brawn GP hadn't wanted to confirm the plan if he won the title, as they thought it might jinx his chances.

For weeks we asked 'how do we get him if he wins' but no answer was forthcoming. Until the Sunday itself and we were told if we're in the garage at a certain time, we would get him.

And we did, as he appeared with that 1000-yard stare, stinking of champagne, adrenaline clearly pumping through him at a rate of knots. His dream realised. The interview that followed was honest, raw and incredibly memorable.

I'd also drop into the mix EJ being thrown in the Red Bull pool in Monaco as DC clung onto the railing wailing 'no, I'm wearing BBC equipment'. We all knew it was the white jeans he was worried about!

Sebastian Vettel crying live on the BBC after wrapping up title number two in Japan, as we played him a VT of the past double-champions, was a stand-out moment.

And on the other end of the scale a very honest Heikki Kovalainen this weekend making it clear he looks unlikely to be an F1 driver next season. Doesn't sport stir the emotions like nothing else?

Taking on this job there was a great deal to live up to. Walking in the footsteps of a man as talented and loved as Murray Walker, following a professional such as Steve Rider, and being a BBC Sport presenter like my hero Des Lynam. If I could be half the broadcaster as the men I've just mentioned I'd be a very happy man.

However, above that, the real responsibility is because of you guys reading this. The British F1 fans are simply the best in the world. I will forever remember our wing-walking, our three-man bike ride and the hot-air balloon adventure ahead of the British Grand Prix, because they all gave me a real sense of the passion and love for this sport in the UK.

The queues to get into wet car parks on the Wednesday night, the crowds at the main gate waiting for the drivers at 7am on a Thursday morning, and the parties that go on late into Sunday evening.

The wing-walking was particularly special as when I wasn't holding on for dear life or laughing at a petrified EJ, I was looking down at packed out car parks and a busy A43.

You guys are the very best in the world. Knowledgeable, passionate, and rightly protective of a sport that was born right here in the UK. I think that is why being accepted by you, the F1 fans, meant so much to me.

Next year I will be joining you at Silverstone so keep your eyes peeled for a lanky bloke in the grandstand, and do come and say hi.

So, time to sign off, and what a way to do so. I thought Abu Dhabi this year was one of the greatest races I'd ever seen, but I think Brazil might have topped even that.

The whole paddock took a collective gasp as Sebastian got spun on lap 1. I thought Ben Edwards's reaction in the commentary box of 'It's Sebastian Vettel!!' with complete disbelief in his voice just summed up the mood of everyone watching.

Fernando Alonso was incredible all year. Is he the best currently? Is he perhaps the best ever? Lewis Hamilton could have won the final few races, and the title, with more luck and better reliability. Mercedes have a hell of a talent to work with in 2013.

However, Sebastian Vettel is now a member of a club with just three members - and deservedly so. His drives in Abu Dhabi and again in Brazil were masterful at times. And I can also tell you that off-camera he is engaging, honest and thoroughly likeable. I wonder how many titles he will win? When Mark Webber was his age he hadn't even made his F1 bow.

Anyway, like most of my blogs, this one has been written, cramped into a plane seat at 30,000ft, and as we're moments from landing I guess I'd better sign off.

However, before I do, let me answer a much-asked question. That of 'why would you leave F1?'

Well, contrary to some reports it not due to the rights change bombshell that hit us in 2011. Of course, not doing every race live was tough because that is where I think I and the team excel.

Losing the ability to be right in the heart of the story at the moment it was unfolding always pained me.

However, I am actually really happy that I was part of the past season. A year where our live show viewing figures were remarkably strong, and for a large audience it seems that highlights going out at a decent time of day is an attractive option.

The past 12 months the BBC has been, by far, the most watched Formula One coverage in the UK, and that is testament to an incredible production team who will continue to make great TV. They are the best I've ever worked with.

I'm now ready for a new challenge - both personally and professionally.

On a professional level I am incredibly excited about hosting the Premier League for BT Vision from next season. Just like in 2008 when I was offered the F1 job, it's a chance to test myself.

I feel I've taken the F1 job as far as I can; it's someone else's turn now with fresh energy and ideas. Meanwhile, football is our national sport, chances like this are rare, and I'll be hosting coverage of the greatest league, with the greatest teams in the world.

I'm also really excited that I'll continue to work for the BBC and explore opportunities with other broadcasters, something I've never had the chance to do before.

Another compelling factor is that instead of Singapore I'll be in Sunderland, Manchester rather than Melbourne and Chelsea rather than China. And in 2013 that will become vital for me.

Harriet and I are expecting our first child and I need, and want, to be there for them both. Harriet texted me over the weekend, the simple message: "I've missed you the last four years." It hit home.

So, my time doing what I consider to be one of the greatest jobs in broadcasting is over. And my advice to the incredibly blessed person who will succeed me is simple.

Make this your life, not your job, and most important of all...savour it.

Thanks for the past four years, see you around.

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