Steve Matchett

Steve Matchett, born in England on December 23 1962, is currently a commentator for American cable TV station SPEED Channel on its various F1 programs. Notably, he hosts F1 races with David Hobbs, Peter Windsor and Bob Varsha.

He is also a columnist for the Speed Channel website, and is a contributor to and technical editor of F1 Racing magazine.

He has published a semi-autobiographical trilogy based around his years in the F1 pit lane.


Loughborough University (technical college) 1979-1982, City & Guilds Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship

Early career

He started working as a mechanic for Greypaul, a UK Ferrari dealership in 1986; then a BMW dealership from 1989 to 1990.

The Formula 1 years

Employed by Nigel Stepney, Matchett worked as a race mechanic with the Benetton F1 team from February 1 1990, through February 13 1998. During this period Michael Schumacher won the Drivers' Championship in both 1994 and 1995 before leaving the team, moving to Ferrari the following year; while Matchett and his team won the Constructors' Championship in 1995. Throughout his time with Benetton he worked with many key drivers and personalities of the era. Michael Schumacher; Nelson Piquet; Riccardo Patrese; Martin Brundle; Johnny Herbert; Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi all drove F1 cars prepared by Matchett.

Herbert and Matchett both claimed their maiden Formula 1 wins in the 1995 British Grand Prix, a race perhaps made most famous for the fact that Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill crashed out of the race while battling for the lead. Although Matchett had by this time experienced many wins as part of the Benetton team, the win at Silverstone was significant as it was the first Benetton victory secured by a Matchett prepared car. Ten years later, in his closing remarks of the relevant episode of Formula 1 Decade Matchett described his feelings during the closing laps of that landmark race, and how much the win had meant to him. Said Matchett:

I freely confess that those closing laps at Silverstone rank amongst the most stressful times of my life; they seemed to take forever!
Herbert and Matchett would team up for another Formula 1 win in at the 1995 Italian Grand Prix held at Monza, another race in which Schumacher and Hill crashed out together. His career as a mechanic was brought to an end by a back injury sustained while operating the rear jack on a car during a pre-race practice session (from which he has since recovered).

Throughout his Benetton career Matchett formed a close working relationship with both Stepney and Ross Brawn who was then technical director of Benetton. Brawn and Matchett remained on amicable terms even after Brawn's move to Ferrari at the end of 1996 and Matchett's own move into television four years later. During the Speed Channel Formula 1 broadcasts Matchett often cites conversations he has had with Brawn - and indeed other leading F1 engineers - by way of explaining to his viewers the pressing technical issues of the day.


He made his television debut for Speedvision in 2000 filling in as a substitute commentator during the Canadian GP weekend. He joined the crew for two more races in 2000, then joined Speedvision's F1 broadcast crew full time in 2001. In late 2001 Speedvision was acquired by Fox Television, rebranded as Speed Channel and relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. Matchett made the switch to Charlotte and has remained loyal to the network from then to the present day.

His broadcasting niche is one of giving priority to the teams' involvement, rather than to any specific driver. During the Speed Channel shows he has often stated that the Constructors Championship is of greater significance to him than the Drivers Championship. At the end of each race show David Hobbs reads out the driver points; Matchett always reads out the team points. Unlike his co-announcers, Matchett's unique approach is to talk of the races from the perspective of the competing teams (the engineer's view) rather than the driver's perspective. He describes the track's challenges to the various GP teams and describes how the mechanics prepare the 'set up' of the race cars to try and win the race. He is also credited with having a 'good eye' and is known for his ability to notice minor changes that the mechanics have made to the cars and for his ability to spot mechanical problems on the cars even while they are running on the circuit. In addition to his duties calling the racing action, Matchett also calculates, typically with unnerving accuracy, exactly when the cars will be visiting the pits for fuel and tires. Matchett is Speed Channel's telestrator man: he uses his Benetton race team experience (of working on F1 cars) to explain technical complexities in an easy-to-understand way.

From 2003 to 2005 Matchett also hosted Speed Channel's Formula 1 Decade.

On April 2, 2004, the show had the daunting task of airing the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, showing the crash that claimed the life of 3-time World Drivers' Champion and 41-time Grand Prix race winner Ayrton Senna. Matchett, a mechanic for Benetton-Ford that weekend, made these remarks at the beginning of the broadcast:

Welcome to F1 Decade, SPEED Channel's retrospective of the 1994 Formula 1 World Championship. We have reached round three-the San Marino Grand Prix. The constant, metronomic beat of the clock has led us, inescapably, to Imola, and when the date 1994 and the name of Imola are brought together, they combine to form nothing but black, somber memories. The events of that race weekend, from the morning of April 28, when the teams first assembled at the track, until the evening of Sunday, May 1, rest amongst motor racing's darkest times. It was a weekend of tragedy, despair, and death. Ten years on, it may be that some viewers would prefer not to watch the coverage of these events, and if you feel in any way unsure, then I urge you to switch off your TV now. We cannot shy away from the fact that three very serious accidents happened.* The events of Imola are a part of the sport's history. The aftermath of that horrible weekend would forever change the way Grand Prix cars are built, and forever change the way the races themselves are conducted. We at SPEED Channel feel it is only proper that the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix is correctly documented, and that, in our opinion, must include correct coverage of Ayrton Senna's fatal accident.

(*)-There had already been two serious accidents in the days before Senna's, one on April 29 during Friday practice that nearly killed Rubens Barrichello, and one on April 30 during Saturday qualifying that killed Roland Ratzenberger.

In 2007 Matchett hosted a series of features for Speed Channel called RPM - Racing Per Matchett in which he interviews members of the Red Bull Racing F1 team and explains different features of their race cars.

In January 2008 Matchett hosted the first visit to America by BMW Sauber's popular Pit Lane Park Formula 1 show, supporting the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He also emceed the four-day event alongside Mark Goodman of Sirius Satellite Radio, one of MTV's original VJs. Graham Rahal son of Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal drove a BMW Sauber F1.06 car in a series of demonstration runs during the event.


Matchett's F1 trilogy:

  • Steve Matchett (1995). Life in the Fast Lane: The Story of the Benetton Grand Prix Year. ISBN 0-297-81610-1.
  • Steve Matchett (1999). The Mechanic's Tale: Life in the Pit Lanes of Formula One. ISBN 0-7603-0754-7.
  • Steve Matchett (2004). The Chariot Makers: Assembling the Perfect Formula 1 Car. ISBN 0-7528-5649-9.


The following quote is from Matchett's Speed Channel biography.

Honestly, the world confuses me. The real world that is. I don’t understand it and I don’t really desire to. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. I used to follow the news, keep up with current affairs but I found I was becoming so disheartened by all the things in the world that we, as individuals, have no control over, that I made a conscious effort to shut it out. The facts are these: I can help someone to cross the road; prevent a kid from running under a bus; help a neighbour with a leaky tap or a reluctant starter motor. But there is nothing on earth I can do, absolutely nothing to prevent a bomber (for reasons I find totally unfathomable) blowing himself and countless innocents to death. All I can do is to weep and feel beyond useless.

So, some years ago I made a simple decision: to help where I can and do what I can to shield myself from the bad stuff, the evil oily slick that threatens to engulf us. For some time now my hearing and my short-term memory haven’t been so great, I wonder if some of this is a result of my attitude to what’s happening around me?

''Some may call this simple philosophy running away from reality, escapism, but, frankly, I don’t care what they call it. I do know this, however: by immersing myself only in what inspires, I have become a considerably happier person. A friend once told me that my approach to life has the feel of Buddhism about it. I’m not particularly religious, certainly not a practising Buddhist, but if we do share a similar ethos, well, it does make me feel a little less selfish. And I’m all for that.

Formula 1 is part of my life: Escapism in its purest form. It’s a world I do understand, that I do follow and I take great enjoyment from sharing my thoughts of that world. The competition between Ferrari and McLaren, the passionate, heart-pounding desire for each team to beat the other to the winner’s trophy? Yes, I get that. The rifle crack of an exhaust as the throttle is blipped; the banshee-like wail from an engine running at 19,000rpm? Yep, I get that too! Just the thought of it sends a tingle down the spine! Problems in a pit stop, a wheel nut spinning out of reach of a mechanic’s grasping fingers! React! React! Reach for the spare nut; set the gun to tighten, align the drive pegs twixt wheel and axle; pound the nut home; release the car back into action! No panic, just ultra-swift beautifully poised efficiency! Yes, yes, I get it, I get all of that! Wow, I’ve never typed so fast or used so many exclamation points! Forgive me but that is what grand prix racing does for me. It excites! It’s so much more that the greatest sport in the world, it’s the greatest lifestyle in the world. I know I’m exceedingly lucky to have it, to be a part of it, and to share it with friends, with colleagues and Speed’s viewers, well, it’s just the icing on a fabulous cake.


Matchett is currently restoring a home in the Cognac region of France.

His three favourite books are:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

In The Chariot Makers he describes himself reading Three Men in a Boat, his favorite book, when he is joined by characters from that book. Those characters become characters in Chariot Makers.


1 Speed TV coverage of 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix

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