Alex Jacques on his meteoric rise to commentators fame: ‘The first race was very daunting’

Alex Jacques has become one of the most popular commentators in motorsport since arriving on the scene in 2015. His iconic voice has been heard on some of the greatest battles in Formula 3 and Formula 2 along with commentating on Formula 1 from 2018. Alex sat down with F1 Feeder Series to discuss his career so far.

By Charlie Parker

Alex has been watching F1 since he was a child. The first race he watched was the 1998 Belgium GP and he fell in love with the sport immediately. He also grew up a fan of Mika Hakkinen. But it was Murray Walker’s legendary commentary skills that made him want to be a commentator: “As a kid, I was inspired by the commentary of Murray Walker. I loved the way he did it. At the time I was just drawn in, now I can’t really believe he was capable of broadcasting in a way that could draw in a 10-year-old and keep all the seasoned viewers happy with the same broadcast.

“I think that is a testament to what you can do if you broadcast in a way that is open, in a way that invites people and is warm. And I thought that would be a wonderful thing to do. 

“When you get commentary right, it is an extraordinary feeling and it’s addictive. You’re not part of those moments, but you can frame it. If the drivers and teams are the painting, you can frame it.”

Gaining experience

Before getting the role of lead commentator of GP2 and GP3 in 2015, Alex would bounce around city to city, doing anything he could to gain experience and most importantly, a show reel. Alex did everything from football to handball to fencing and the experience of variety has helped him amongst the chaos of the feeder series: “I think the techniques you learn when you get sent to a football ground and there is no press officer. You have to deal with a manager who’s just lost three-nil are the same skills you will take on.

“There’s no separation of emotions at that level. If you think about all the drivers that I’ve ever encountered, even the ones who are 16 and have just been added to the F3 grid, they’ve gone through a degree of media training. Let me tell you, when it’s raining sideways in Bury St Edmunds, no one’s been through any media training. It teaches you to drill into the craft.”

Even with Alex’s lifelong love of motorsport, and the sporadic occasions he got to cover it previously, nothing could truly prepare him for when the mic went live for the first time: “I knew motorsport inside and out. But I’ll be honest, that first race was very daunting because suddenly you’re the person holding the microphone.”

Palmer & Brundle

Alex has become a very busy man. He commentates F2 and F3 for the world feed and then covers F1 for Channel 4. This amount of work means he’s had a lot of partners in the commentary booth and Alex is thankful for who he has worked with: “All of my co-commentators have amazing pedigree behind the wheel, but they are also all phenomenal broadcasters. Jolyon Palmer’s analysis is phenomenal. Almost irritatingly good, the way he is able to disseminate information in real time, often having just finished a bag of quavers with his feet up on the desk. 

“Alex Brundle, who is considered and methodical. Yet humorous. Brilliant collaborator. He’s a phenomenal broadcaster. To do Le Mans a few days before and still want to do a full weekend of commentary, incredible.”

Davide Valsecchi

But there is one man who always stands out in a crowd: “Then you have Davide (Valsecchi, ed.), who is the sheer enthusiasm, relating his unfiltered joy of motor racing to you.

“That’s what he’s like as well, that’s not Davide playing a character. When I see Davide in the paddock now. Obviously, this is COVID bubbles permitting and all that. He claps, he’ll see me from miles away and I’ll be like, oh here we go. And he’ll be clapping while shouting YEAH. Points at me. The times we are allowed to, there will be a big bear hug.

“I had met him once before we started commentating together. He turned up late due to working with Sky Italy. It was in Monaco, back in the days we commentated in a portacabin, while all the other channels had technical equipment in it. It was like commentating in a supermarket, with people coming in and out. He came in and it was just magical. He’s an outstanding pundit. I love every single time I get to be on a broadcast with him.”

When asked how do you keep up with Davide’s energy, Alex laughed and said: “You can’t keep up with Davide, absolutely no chance. I’m not exactly low energy and yet. Someone wrote that I said things, I can’t remember who said it so apologies to them, in ‘normal commentary’ and Davide would do it his way.

“I saw a comment on youtube once that said, these two are like wrestling commentators. And I don’t know if they meant it as an insult or a compliment but I took it as a compliment. 

“I absolutely loved that for the period of time we were able to do it, well he’s a father now so maybe the energy is lower, it was just pure joy. A phenomenal way to spend 90 minutes with a mate.”

Luckiest person

Alex is living his dream job and is not commentating on something he doesn’t want to commentate on, which he admitted was a rarity. He has endless praise for all the background staff that help him be able to do what he does and although some people have hopes on where Alex will go next, he has hit the lottery and doesn’t want, or need to, play it again: “I am the luckiest person in the world to commentate on the championships I do and I genuinely love broadcasting to a giant British audience and I’m very proud to do what I do for Channel 4.”

Photo credit: Alex Jacques/Twitter

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