Jermaine Jenas and the ‘unique’ skillset which can see Formula E thrive in 2024

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A puzzled look, a check of the channel. That’s what Jermaine Jenas is expecting when he starts his new job as lead presenter in January, in front of the cameras once more but in a less-than-expected setting this time around. He won’t see the glances, won’t hear the questions, but he knows they’ll be coming when viewers tune in to Season 10 of Formula E across 2024 – and he’s backing himself to win over fans and bring a new dynamic to the broadcasting of a championship which continues to grow, but now faces the challenge of becoming mainstream in motor racing.

Perhaps therein lies part of the appeal of bringing someone like Jenas on board.

A former England international footballer who played for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, he was already a face in the public’s consciousness long before his playing days stopped and he took up a position on-camera. After early punditry work, Jenas quickly made himself front and centre across a variety of programmes – and not just in the football world.

His social media accounts tally nearly half a million followers between X and Instagram alone; if bringing a new audience is the aim, it’s reasonable to see why the 40-year-old was a big consideration.

”I know people will be like, ‘Hang on a minute whats Jermaine Jenas doing hosting Formula E? He does football’,” the new face of FE told the Independent. “But the confidence I have in myself, the ability to crossover sport and entertainment is something I have. I want to enjoy the journey, the process and everything that the fans bring. Hopefully I do it justice.

“I started off as a pundit in football but always had ambitions to get into presenting – that was my goal. I did a lot of radio to build the skillsets and after getting opportunities to present the Africa Cup of Nations, others came along which were more entertainment based – The One Show popped up out of nowhere and is in a similar space to this, it’s a different and an exciting feel to it for me to challenge myself with something new.”

The One Show might be entertainment and Match of the Day a high-profile sporting environment, but recent seasons of Formula E are entirely their own domain; they’ve shown why FE can be both similar to each type and yet nothing alike. It’s chaotic, changeable, exciting – and yet still clearly has elements which need improving, not least of all its visibility.

Jenas isn’t coming into this blind, though, having tracked the championship over the past couple of campaigns. And he’s already experienced that one aspect which does make a difference to new eyeballs on Formula E is its accessibility: this isn’t a closed-off sport with massive barriers between the drivers, the fans, the media and the teams. It’s open, it’s encouraging, it attempts to be inclusive.

“FE is leading the conversation in terms of sustainability and everything regarding sport moving forward. I had a glance around season eight and noticed it was a sport you can’t really pick a winner in – that was interesting to me,” he explained.

Preseason testing was hit by a fire breaking out in a team garage

“Valencia preseason testing was really my first time around the cars and it hit quite hard how impressive the sport is and the elite level of the drivers who all have different racing backgrounds.

“Everybody has been welcoming. I’m so used to sports being secretive, even from inside the walls everyone is so protective. The beauty of going to Valencia was meeting team principals, the pit walks…the friendly nature has been a key component as to why I know I’ll enjoy the journey.”

And that journey starts soon.

There’s not long for Jenas and the rest of the crew – some returning faces, some FE experts still in place, some new talent alongside them – to not just put together the plan for each race weekend show, but also to get to grips with the calendar. While some sections of the year are hectic with lots of travel across the month, other parts of 2024 will have a month between races. This time, it kicks off in Mexico City in mid-January – little more than a month after he is officially confirmed as the new lead presenter.

It’s an adjustment for many, but probably one area Jenas is confident in coping with from the outset.

“The race locations are incredible Look at Mexico historically with racing, it’s on the F1 circuit. The street races…my wife’s already booked her flights to Tokyo! The thought of a street race there is mad to me.

“Travelling the world and experiencing it this way is totally different but it’s another massive draw. I’ve travelled my whole life, that’s part and parcel of being an athlete – I’m fully prepared for that.”

The enthusiasm and sense of opportunity is infectious, and is something FE must harness. The start of a new season has to be one of optimism and of seizing chances, not just for the teams and drivers involved but for the senior bosses within the championship itself.

On these shores, where FE has its home, a British winner crowned in the crazy London E-Prix in July should have been a springboard for more interest, more recognition. Adding Jenas to the mix is another step in that direction but the finale of season nine was in the height of summer and precious little has been going on to keep FE in the public’s consciousness since then.

Jake Dennis won the drivers championship last season

Season ten, then, must see it become a bigger brand, be more recognisable. Having every race live on TNT Sports this term is a key step forward but it must be front and centre whenever, however, possible – and Jenas must be part of that allure, mixing excitement for new fans with racing diehards’ requirements.

More than once, Jenas makes the point of flexibility being important and of how he’s prepared to keep pace with how fast Formula E can move. If he can indeed bring along a brand new crowd for the ride, it’ll be win-win all around as both championship and new presenter continue their respective growth. That certainty of personal success he holds, then, must be the foundation for early progress – along with the telling difference Jenas feels only he can make over others in the hotseat.

“With a lot of new sports, getting an understanding of it is one side but people want to be entertained when they tune in, they want to have fun. I think the way they saw me is someone who has the ability to bring a different fanbase to the sport, somebody who can ask all those questions that maybe people are thinking at home,” he said. “As a team we can cover all angles, it’ll be fun and it’ll be the big detail. My role is to knit that together – that’s my background, team sports.

“There are going to be moments where it’s on me and I enjoy that responsibility, asking the right questions at pressurised moments. That’s where I can be at my best. Others can give the details of the car and race experience, but I can get into the athlete mindset after incidents or a loss, how to rebuild themselves and go again mentally. I’ve been in high-pressurised situations as a sportsman as well as hosting shows – it’s very unique.”

Formula E starts its 10th season in Mexico on 13 January, live on TNT Sports

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