Where's David Croft? F1 commentator's absence from grand prix explained

formula 1 commentator david croft walks through the paddock
Where's Crofty? F1 commentator's absence explainedQian Jun/MB Media - Getty Images
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Formula 1's lead commentator David Croft (aka Crofty) has been calling the action at pretty much every grand prix since 2012 for Sky – and prior to that, as lead commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live.

His cry of "It's lights out and away we go" is the sign that you're probably in for another Max Verstappen victory (or, occasionally, something a little less expected).

However, this weekend, Crofty won't be behind the mic as he misses his first Formula 1 race in 17 years. The last one he missed was the 2007 European grand prix, when his son was born.

As Crofty enjoys a break from the mic, here's why he's decided to step away for three races this year – as well as a quick profile of Harry Benjamin, his replacement.

formula 1 commentator david croft walks through the paddock
Qian Jun/MB Media - Getty Images

Where's David Croft? Why isn't he commentating at the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna grand prix?

Back in February, Croft confirmed he'd agreed with Sky that he'll be taking three race weekends off.

The first is the Emilia Romagna grand prix this weekend (May 17-19), but he'll also be missing the Austrian grand prix (June 28-30) and the Azerbaijan grand prix (September 13-15).

Speaking to The Independent, Croft explained that he's taken the decision due both to the increasingly demanding Formula 1 calendar (which, at 24 race weekends, is the longest it's ever been) and out of a desire to spend more time with his loved ones.

Plus, he's getting married later this year and he's got some planning to do for the big day.

"It's more about keeping fresh for the whole season. I'm not getting any younger," said Croft, who's been working for national and international broadcasters for 26 years.

formula 1 driver esteban ocon and commentator david croft stand in the paddock with their arms around each other
Clive Mason - Getty Images

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"I've given up and sacrificed a lot for my career. I want to give a bit of time back to my family and not be on the other side of the world. I'm getting married this year as well, so I've got a wedding to organise!"

Croft also added that he's looking forward to watching as a fan and "enjoying" the coverage from home while he's off.

"Maybe I can learn something by not commentating on a race. I can spot a few things when I'm watching – I want to see what the viewer sees."

Speaking of the lengthy calendar, including gruelling triple-header weekends, Croft was among those who have called for Formula 1 to reconsider its end-of-year timetable in particular.

formula 1 driver george russell and commentator david croft walk in the paddock at a grand prix
Kym Illman - Getty Images

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This year will conclude with a triple-header starting in Las Vegas (November 21-23), before the teams fly to Qatar for a race the following weekend (November 29-December 1) and then the season finale in Abu Dhabi (December 6-8).

"The triple headers do take their toll, you can be pretty exhausted by the end of it. The one time-shift you could really do without is Vegas to Qatar. I'd like to see Vegas change its times a bit," he said.

"A 12-hour shift in time-zones – you can't do more than that on this planet. Abu Dhabi last year was exhausting. I think that's something which could be addressed. But we'll see what 24 [races] is like. It’s uncharted territory. It will be a huge effort for everybody.

"If we have a close season on track, the adrenaline carries you along a little bit. If the title's wrapped up early, then it can be a bit 'another race, another race' so we'll see."

formula 1 broadcaster harry benjamin holds an fia branded microphone as he conducts a press conference
Qian Jun/MB Media - Getty Images

Who is Harry Benjamin, David Croft's Sky F1 commentary replacement?

Meet Harry Benjamin, who will be filling in for Crofty as Sky Sports F1's lead commentator for the Emilia Romagna, Austrian and Azerbaijan grands prix.

Harry was appointed as lead commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live (a position previously held by Croft) last summer, and is a regular on the station's F1: Chequered Flag podcast.

His commentary clips have been used in the Netflix reality docuseries Drive to Survive, and he's previously been heard commentating on Formula 2, Formula 3 and the all-women's F1 Academy series during its debut season.

Harry is fairly active on social media, and recently shared a Toast of London-style insight into additional commentary recording for the latest season of Drive to Survive.

Before becoming a sports broadcaster, Harry trained as an actor at RADA. With a long list of radio credits to his name, he's also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and on the West End, and worked as a red carpet reporter.

Harry has also worked with Sky before leading its F1 Juniors commentary stream, calling the action alongside young fans of the sport.

While he specialises in motorsport, Harry also has an interest in entertainment and music, and on his official website he adds that he has "a keen interest in electric and sustainable technology".

Harry will be commentating alongside former F1 driver Karun Chandhok this weekend.

Sky's main co-commentator is Martin Brundle, but he doesn't attend every grand prix due to other commitments throughout the year. During a Q&A in late 2023, he confirmed he works at 16 grands prix (two-thirds of this year's schedule).

Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Anthony Davidson are among the former drivers who've also featured as co-commentators for Sky in recent years.

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