But Croft leaves the BBC with anger still simmering over the controversial shared rights deal between Sky and the BBC, which has meant that only ten races will now be available live on free-to-air television each season. Digital Spy caught some time with Croft to discuss his move to Sky, "growing up" from the BBC and why he feels the Sky rights deal is good for fans of the sport.
So, you have gone from a pretty small F1 team at Radio 5 Live to a massive operation at Sky Sports; this is a really big move for you, right?
"For a man who is notoriously bad at remembering people's names, it is an absolute killer, to be honest. I am working with mate, pal, geezer. If by the end of the season I have learned all the names of the crew it will be brilliant."
What are the main differences?
"Well you are a family on the road, so it's like that. But now it's a bloody big family. It's then about learning what everyone does and where they fit in. The on-air people are going to get the attention, in the same way that the drivers get the attention, but without the guys behind us making things happen, we are nothing. You have got to have good producers, good VT people, and Sky have all of that. We have hired some super camera people, including many people who I have worked with before over the years. We have put all the pieces together, but then it puts incredible pressure on me, Anthony Davidson and others, to perform. Hopefully people will like it."
"I said at the press launch when we all got together for the announcement that it was like the first day at senior school. In that you had come up with all your mates from junior school, and you were now meeting all your new mates at senior school. It had that air of grown-up about it, and arriving at somewhere that was much bigger. It was great to have people I knew around me. Me and Martin Brundle never worked together, but we were mates and knew each other well. Simon Lazenby and Georgie Thompson, I hadn't worked with either of them before, and that is my loss because they are super people to be around."
Are you going to miss Radio 5 Live?
"I absolutely love radio, I think it is a fantastic medium. I have said before that 5 Live is chronically underfunded, but a gem in the BBC stable. It does something that no other station really does, and I am always listening to it when I am out and about in the car. It was a fantastic place to be and given me some experiences that I will never forget, but I was glad of the opportunity to move on. When Sky Sports come to you and say they want you to join their team, it's a massive compliment to what me and Anthony have been doing. Sometimes you have just got to grow up a bit, and push yourself."
"What the BBC did for F1 was superb. Their coverage was very, very good. They are rightly proud of the coverage, and they do feel a sense of injustice about the coverage, and I can totally understand that, but the fact is that the BBC went to Sky for a deal. They said they wanted to work something out, it was not Sky muscling in. Those guys who were working on that BBC coverage almost feel like they have been sold out by the bosses. But they will do it their way and I think they will do it really well.
"There has been a lot of talk about this deal and the shared coverage, but other than the fact that some people are now having to pay £30 more a month to watch a sport that they could previously see for free, other than that side of it, the fans will benefit. It's the new iPad app, the virtual car, the multiscreen options; but also, you have every practice, race and qualifying session on one channel.
"All of that is adding to what we have come to expect from broadcasters of Formula One in this country. I totally understand the people who say £30 is a lot of money to find, it is, in this time, it certainly is. But Sky Sports has been my default channel for many years. I would gladly pay £70 odd a month, I would gladly pay it because I am a sport nut."
But there were rumours of a Channel 4 bid for F1, so why couldn't the BBC have explored a free-to-air partner instead of pay-TV?
"But you would have had adverts in the race. Do you want adverts in the race?"
"Yeah, and it didn't work. Anyone who said there can be adverts in racing, never watched it. Suzuka, in 2006, when Michael Schumacher is in the lead and ITV are counting down to an ad break, and then when it gets to 2, 1 you see a puff of smoke and then you are off into the advert. Meanwhile, I am shouting on 5 Live, 'Schumacher's blown!' But TV viewers missed that moment, that defining moment when the championship has gone, because ITV had to go to an advert. If you are an F1 fan, this is the best deal. Channel 4 might have come in, but you would have had adverts throughout the race, and nobody wants adverts throughout the race."
Interestingly, the lack of free-to-air TV coverage could benefit 5 Live's commentary team. How would you feel about that?
"All I am concerned about this year is going in and doing the job as best I can for Sky Sports F1. If 5 Live benefit from it, then great, well done. James Allen and Jaime Alguersuari and Jenny Gow, the three Js, are at 5 Live and are all great people. It is great to see James Allen back in the commentary box. But we are just focusing on what are doing, we are not looking at everybody else.
"I know that it is going to be billed as the battle of the broadcasters and a big competition between the BBC and Sky, but that is not how we are looking at it. We are just thinking what people want from coverage and what can we give people that makes them go 'wow'. We are not trying to beat the BBC, because that is a foolish way to do broadcasting."
> Formula One on Sky has raised the BBC's game, says Jake Humphrey