F1 a high tech world? Not for the general public.

Posted: August 29, 2011 by thevillainf1 in Insights

When the first noteable incident of the weekend occured, everybody was waiting for some good footage of the strange contact between Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton at the end of Q2. For a long time all we got to see was a far away shot of what seemed to be Pastor slicing across Lewis in a retaliatory move which has no place in motor racing.

I took two and a half hours for the stewards to pronounce their verdict and true to form, the information given was minimal. The official FIA report as per usual made no effort at all to motivate the decision, merely mentioning a 5 place grid drop penalty and that a reprimand was handed out for ‘causing an avoidable accident’. Now I don’t get the reasoning when you give a grid penalty to one car, it’s pretty clear he’s the one to have caused the incident. Why then a reprimand is warranted is beyond me. Perhaps the FIA stewards had valid reasons for this, but as they always refuse to give any detail on the decision making process the fans at large are left to guess and bicker on forums. Check here to see the only information coming out of the FIA regarding penalties and decisions during the weekend. It’s lack of detail is pitiful.

Finally I turned to trusted youtube to find an -illegally- posted video of Lewis’ onboard, taken from the BBC website which ofcourse is blocked for non UK viewers (that don’t know how to use a proxy 😉 ) FOM bloodhounds are always quick to delete said videos and even have the youtube channels taken off air with striking regularity, and yet again this is a huge missed opportunity for Formula one. Why is this footage not available on the official website? Within 30 mins the video of Lewis’ onboard had thousands of views on youtbe, traffic I’m sure the official F1 website would be glad to have.

However, even Lewis’ onboard that got released was inadequate, as it omitted a crucial 5 seconds before the incident, to show the twitch Lewis did to the right. Pastor’s onboard was nowhere to be seen, even though it is the most crucial piece of footage to determine whether there was malicious intent on his part or not. Adam Cooper broke the story on his blog that Pastor’s footage was simply not available, because FOM cannot record more than 9 onboard cams at once. I find this quite shocking that in a sports that prides itself on its high tech credentials has such inadequate recording software. From the footage we did get, it all seemed pretty damning for Pastor, and to me it seems quite clear he deliberately took a swipe at Lewis. In light of the harsh stewarding this year, I believe he can thank his lucky stars to have gotten away with a minor 5 place grid drop penalty (the same penalty he’d have gotten had he replaced a gearbox). However we can never be sure because a: the stewards give out zero information on why they came to that decision and b: crucial footage is not made available for fans to judge for themselves.

Even Lewis Hamilton himself went back to see the stewards on his own initiative so he could get an explanation from them as to why he had gotten the reprimand. You’d expect that at least the stewards would give a detailed report to the teams and drivers involved on why they thought such a decision was necessary but apparently the drivers get the same non-information given to the public.

There are countless examples from this year alone of how inadequate FOM coverage providing the world feed really is. The Di Resta Heidfeld incident at the Nurburgring wasn’t caught by any camera of the dozens covering the track. We can now guess that no onboard was available because they simply weren’t able to record them. The best footage I saw from that incident was a fan made amateur video from way off in the grandstand.

The Kamui-Lewis incident which saw Lewis’ race ended early was again an example of inadequate coverage. Where is the onboard from Kamui?! Where are the shots from the Team Lotus cars coming together in Turn one after Glock hit Di Resta, an incident also only caught on the edge of the screen. At the end of q1, why did the cameras pan out to look at cars coming into the pits when Kovalainen was finishing his do or die lap to scrape into q2 with a massively impressive performance? Where is the coverage of Petrov’s brakes failing on the final lap and his spin at the bus stop chicane which let Massa take 8th place at the very last corner on the final lap? Where is the footage of the Buemi-Perez incident which badly damaged Buemi’s rear wing and forced him to retire, resulting in a drive through for Perez? Why did we only see the lucky escape by Jenson having his front wing and mirror torn off by debri from Senna’s front wing long after the race had finished?

FOM coverage is a disgrace, wholly embarrassing for a sport that claims to be at the pinnacle of technology.

Stewards need to be open in discussing their decision making process. This will allow fans and drivers alike to know what is accepted on a race track and what is not. This is also crucial for future generations of drivers. The world feed during the race needs better directors, important footage needs to be made widely available to the public on the official website. Interactivity when viewers can pick and choose which driver they want to watch, which part of the track they want to keep an eye on is the logical next step but still way off in the future in fairy tale land. The technology exists, but FOM has its head stuck in the sand.

BBC, Sky,…doesn’t really matter who gets broadcasting rights as long as FIA and FOM keep up this embarrassing performance.

stay tuned for the 3rd backmarkersF1 podcast for a proper race review together with Matt coming up soon. Just had to get this off my chest already as it’s driving me insane 😉

  1. JourneyTH says:

    Compare this to Nascar, which allows its viewers (not for free obviously, it is, after all, Nascar) to watch the race from any driver’s point of view. They can do that for their 40+ cars on track, but we can’t?

    Horse. shit.

  2. As usual, I couldn’t agree with you more!

    The FOM directors are a joke sometimes, especially the one directing the Belgium Grand Prix (Quali, Race and the GP2 Race were equally bad in coverage, missing almost all the big incidents and failing to deliver replays of them).
    As I said before in another post on this blog: I would support a pay to watch solution on formula1.com in an instant, IF I can chose which camera to watch, which driver to follow and have the world feed in a small window somewhere.
    And I find it completely ridiculous that the software maintaining the on-board cameras can only handle 9 of them. Okay, maybe the computer running the software can only handle so much incoming video traffic or the software is coded bad or whatever.
    But here is a simple proposal to the FOM. You seem to have one computer running the software to maintain 9 on-board cameras. How about you buy two more of those? That would mean 27 possible on-board cams recorded simultaneously. Maybe you can’t switch the feed between on-boards on the three computers? Fine, use the original one as you do now and use them for live on-boards, but use the other ones to at least RECORD the other cameras so we can get the replays that matter delivered at all!

    And if the stewards would only listen to you..

  3. Gareth says:

    Perhaps they should put the resources that the DRS software uses to bring a better viewing experience to the public. As we saw in Turkey, the DRS was overdone again in Spa, making it far too easy to pass.

  4. JMD says:

    Nice article here.

    This is the type of writing missing in a lot of print media on the topic of F1 for me. The glamour, glitz and fashion is part of the F1 culture of the sport and it get’s the lion’s share of the coverage in print media in general. Whilst I have no problem with it, I tire of it quickly and I do tend to search in vain for more meaty topics regarding the sports coverage and discussion. Maybe I’m reading the wrong stuff … so anyone with links for me, please do share. and yea, this blog is bookmarked now.

    The F1 TV feed quality is something a friend and I was talking about on Saturday. Kovi’s storming final quali lap was missed as a Sauber [I think ??] was been recorded as it drive into the pit lane. What???….. Where is the track sense in the TV director/editor room? Where this a single case, then one may well let it go, but the Blog above nicely lists plenty of other examples. No wishing to just jump on the bandwagon for the hell of it …. but it’s difficult not to!

    On a wider topic, the provision of TV in general is in need for a kick in the butt to boot it into the 21 century. I simply cannot pay for the channels I wish to watch on my home TV and there is plenty of reasons given why but no proper explanation nevertheless.

    The issues highlighted regarding in the blog above are merely a thin slice [the F1 Motorsport slice] of a cake that represents a wider immaturity in TV broadcast. Sports, current affairs, documentary and so on all suffer from the same illness.

    Free-2-View Vs Pay-2-View is always going to be a discussion point. For example, Pay-2-View does not yet offer the choice or range of channels, languages or timings to make the service a really worthwhile proposition. I have over forty channels and most are unnecessary. In Free-2-View TV broadcast, the bar is not raised sufficiently to trigger change, within the FOM for example. to provide anything better than the coverage they are providing today.

    The BBC Vs Sky saga may well provide a positive thing for F1.

    Regarding the BBC coverage, notwithstanding the loyal and vocal support for the BBC, it is limited to the race edit provided by FOM and the show only goes so far in the discussions that are held on air. The BBC is free-2-View coverage which is probably the single more attractive characteristic. {yes, if you are outside the UK, you cannot view it “in your area” and if your inside the UK, free-2-view does require a TV licence which does cost a few bob }

    The Sky coverage prospect does mean Pay-2-View in a more direct sense and with this hopefully comes an expectation of improved quality of coverage. We all have our favorite commentators but we can learn to love and respect other commentators who prove themselves worthy of the love and respect.

    Just as the BBC have done in the recent years, Sky will likely compensate for the FOM feed’s limitations with their own feed, commentary and discussions. My hope is that there is potential that given Sky’s reach [more global that the BBC] and the direct Pay-2-View nature of their business, the FOM will realize the need to review and improve their TV product to better serve their fans.

  5. Gareth says:

    I know the Sky issue has been covered already, but what non existing customer that likes F1 will pay a premium subscription to watch half the races? I’m not sure what you mean by Sky’s global reach, the deal only accounts for the broadcast of F1 in the UK.

    I’m aware that there is a German Sky channel, as we often see Martin Brundle bumping into the German Sky TV reporter on his grid walks.

  6. JMD says:

    “I’m not sure what you mean by Sky’s global reach, the deal only accounts for the broadcast of F1 in the UK.” Gareth …

    I was not very clear above was I?

    The Sky/BBC deal is UK only … and the UK is a big and prominent audience and commands attention. Sky is large provider of TV services and being a pay-2-view service, will need to ensure they provide a product worth the money.
    Now, with a wider reach than the BBC and because they sell their service in more countries, I am hopeful they may have more weight being them with negotiating with the FOM/FIA.

    That’s what I was driving at …

    Now, I mixed general TV provision with FOM race feed quality as I feel that one has a determining factor on the other.

    “what non existing customer that likes F1 will pay a premium subscription to watch half the races? ” Gareth …

    Exactly, If there is poor customer demand on a pay-2-view service [UK only case as you point ], Sky and FOM will be unhappy and surely this will force some change. [Assumptive statement].

    Widening out this argument to take into account that Sky broadcasts in other countries [ and assuming Sky wish to broadcast F1 in other countries also [outside of the UK sky deal now] adds weight to this case and I hope some of these changes would be improved FOM feed.

    Appreciate the comments.


  7. thevillainf1 says:

    Thanks for the insights JDM. I’ve recently been amazed to discover the quality of German skysports channel of F1, it is simply amazing. A German listener explained it as follows:

    “You can choose between: “Supersignal” which is the normal program like on BBC in England, “Cockpit-Kanal”, which shows you different onboard cameras, “Schwarzrotgold-Kanal” which is the channel for the german drivers, there you can see the onboard of the german drivers like Rosberg, Schumacher, Glock, Vettel, etc., “Renndaten”, which shows the laptimes of every driver around the track and where every driver is on the track and last a “highlight channel”

    If I were brit, and sky coverage was elevated to these standards of interactivity, I’d gladly fork out the money for F1 and it could really be a blessing for F1 fans. Think of it: as a true F1 fan, how much time do you spend on f1 sites, watching races, listening to podcasts? If you’re like me, it takes up enough time to be classified a ‘hobby’. I fork out money for sports club for other hobbies, so why not for F1?

    What I won’t pay for is pay2view sky coverage with the same basic use of the FOM feed like BBC does now.

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