Today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the final broadcast for the Formula 1 on NBC Sports team after five years and 98 Grands Prix.
Booth team of Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett took the opportunity to say thanks, then pay tribute to the most famous new podium celebration coined during this tenure – Daniel Ricciardo’s podium “shoey” – with a shoey of their own.
The final credits paid tribute to the entire crew, led by F1 coordinating producer Rich O’Connor, along with some of the best highlights over the last five years. That rundown is below.
NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton checked in just beforehand with his final report from the Yas Marina Circuit, which also provided a welcome opportunity for producer Jason Swales to appear on camera alongside.
On the grid itself, Buxton did his last grid walk, which is below.
Pre-race, Sam Posey’s final essay is called “The Best of The Best,” a look at the pair of four-time Formula 1 World Champions in Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. A collection of the best of Posey’s essays is linked here.
We’d be remiss to not thank a handful of others who also appeared on the F1 broadcasts in fill-in roles. Bob Varsha and Brian Till both filled in on occasion for Diffey alongside Hobbs and Matchett in the booth. James Allen and Townsend Bell both filled in for Buxton in the pits during 2016, as Buxton had lost his father – a nice piece from Will about the power of the F1 “family” is linked here.
And lastly, 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti joined the F1 on NBC team on a couple occasions, both in studio and at the live shows. Andretti bestowed some very high praise on the team in advance of the broadcast.
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.