- Credits: Jack Nicholls

Jack Nicholls: "I love being at racetracks and I love watching racing"

He is often known as the voice of Formula E, covering every race since its inception. Now Jack Nicholls is one of racing's most popular commentators.

35w ago

Jack has covered all sorts of disciplines, from handball to winter sports. However, his dream was always to work in motorsport.

Now he commentates on various different categories such as F1, Formula E - and even marble racing.

"I always wanted to do it. If you had asked me when I was 10 what I wanted to do, I would've said Formula One commentator," says Jack. "However it didn't really feel like that was a plausible career, no 10-year-old says they want to be a mortgage advisor, you don't often say your actual career."

Jack was actually planning to become a teacher, but after not getting the A-level results he had hoped for, he couldn't go to university and therefore took a gap year - where he rediscovered his passion for racing.

"I worked on the checkouts at Sainsburys," explains Jack. "But while I was doing that I started getting involved in motorsport by marshalling."

"There were commentators at these racetracks, like grassroots racing. I always wanted to do commentary and so I thought I'd have a go at that, mainly because they got to be inside rather than outside, which is always a bonus on a rainy day at Donnington Park!"

"I then went to university but every weekend I was doing commentary, so after three years of university and doing work every weekend, I was able to do commentary full-time when I left - and things went on-and-on from there."

Before becoming established in his roles covering F1 and Formula E, Jack worked his way up through the ranks, covering racing in the lower categories. He also commentated on various different events outside of motorsport, including both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

"When I do the Olympics, those are big learning curves. You are doing handball and I have no experience of it, and there isn't really much played in England", says Jack.

"When you get into those situations, it's quite daunting to talk about something you don't really know a huge amount about. So it's always nice to comeback to motorsport and know where I am."

In 2014, Jack became part of the BBC's coverage of F1, covering the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix for Radio 5 Live at the age of just 23 - making him the UK's youngest ever commentator of the sport.

He has also been around since Formula E's inception, lending his voice to the series' television broadcasts ever since. Providing commentary for both radio and television offer their own unique benefits and challenges.

"Radio you're providing a service. On the one hand, it is kind of more fun, because you decide what you want to talk about," explains Jack.

"We can see what they show on the TV and if they're showing Sergio Perez and you would rather talk about what George Russell is doing, then you can. When you're commentating on TV, you have got to stick to the pictures they're giving you."

"There's more freedom when doing radio commentary. However, your main purpose when doing radio commentary is to provide the coverage for someone that can't see it, you're having to describe what's happening a lot more. In that sense it's a little less fun, because when you're doing TV it's like you are watching it with the audience."

"On TV you can be a bit more relaxed and involved with it, rather than being the conduit quite so much as on radio."

If you've ever watched a Formula E race, you might be familiar with Jack's catchphrase 'and we go green in (name of city),' which was an idea conceived in a rather unusual place.

"I do quite a lot of thinking about my job in bed. In the day you're busy doing stuff and you never really just think."

"I thought I'd like something to say. Obviously, Crofty (David Croft) goes 'lights out and away we go' and I had been saying something like 'we go racing' wherever we were."

"I don't remember exactly how I thought of it, but I thought of it! Then I thought oh my god, it works on two levels - even if the lights don't actually go green!"

Credit: Jack Nicholls

Credit: Jack Nicholls

The work of a commentator starts before the cars get onto the track for a race weekend, with notes being made before any action begins.

"Preparation varies throughout the season. For the first race, you do a lot of preparation as you have to find out all the stats on the drivers," explains Jack.

"But as the season progresses, I do less prep. Because when you're at every race, you just remember it - I'm sure fans feel the same."

"By the end of the year, I can do a whole Formula One race with just the grid on a bit of paper."

"In motorsport, you're in a commentary box which is plenty big enough for three of four people and they're all people you're working with - and there's internet. If something comes up that's really obscure and I don't know it, you can just look it up while the other person is talking."

Working within Formula One offers very ample opportunity to fly around the world, across five different continents and to embrace new cultures every fortnight. However, it's not as easy as just turning up, unpacking your suitcase and seeing what a country has to offer.

"You could easily get to the track at nine, get back to the hotel at five, eat food and go to sleep. You are there to work, not to have fun," explains the commentator.

"But if you're willing to put the effort in, which is something I'm keen on doing, because I love travelling the world - I don't just go from an airport to a racetrack."

"In 2016, we went from Malaysia to Japan, and spent three days in Tokyo. Then we went down and climbed Mount Fuji, it's amazing to be able to do that as part of your job."

This desire to explore his surroundings has meant that Jack has been able to experience the local flavours of the many destinations on the F1 and Formula E calendars, with Shanghai, Budapest and Austin being his favourites.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to the travelling for Jack, with his work being carried out from studios in London - which provides its own challenges.

"If you do a race remotely, it's difficult. Not only are you not travelling the world - you're also not there - you're not in the environment," tells Jack.

"I got into commentating because I love being at racetracks and I love watching racing."

During his time covering F1, Jack has been able to commentate on some historic moments. His most memorable was Max Verstappen becoming the youngest ever winner in history at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016.

Inevitably, not every race is full of drama, so calling the action can be that bit trickier on these occasions.

"In the whole time I've been commentating on F1, it's been Mercedes dominating. So to be doing that for six years, it can be a challenge to keep that interesting," explains Jack.

"I would love to have been commentating on 2012 or 2010 or all of those years where there was real championship fights."

One of the more unusual events Jack has commentated over has been marble racing. The YouTube channel Jelle's Marble Runs hosted its own Formula E spinoff, cleverly titled 'Marbula E.'

Jack was the lead commentator for the first series of racing, which pitted all twelve Formula E teams against each other, in miniature marble form.

"It was the most abuse I ever got on the internet! All these hardcore marble fans were messaging on the videos that I don't know anything about marble racing!" laughs Jack.

"I gave it a go and I was really getting into it. It's weirdly entrancing!"

"It was a lot of fun and really cool. I'm always up for commentating on something different."

Jack now covers the pinnacle of motorsport by commentating over F1. Although before he reached these heights, he was working his way up by covering esports and events at local circuits.

He encourages wannabe commentators to get as much experience as they can to improve their techniques.

"It's important to remember you're not paid by the word, you don't have to be talking all the time - unless on the radio when you do," explains Jack

"It's important not to have that white noise and try and not talk at the same level every time, to vary it up so it doesn't become boring."

"Just do it a lot and do take any opportunities you can to practice commentating."

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