What Can Be Done To Improve Formula One’s Coverage?

What Can Be Done To Improve Formula One’s Coverage?

Every year, Formula One fans the world over bemoan the coverage of their beloved sport. Be it the broadcast from Bernie Ecclestone’s company, FOM, or be it each countries pre and post-race shows. The media aspect of Formula One also comes under fire with some regularity, with online viewing currently not being allowed and videos being taking down from all the popular sites. In fact, the only good thing I can see with the coverage is the official live-timing, but even then it sometimes slows down or doesn’t work as it should. So what can be done, what should be done, and what would we love to see in the future?

Current Situation

Being a UK resident, I have to watch Formula One through ITV, and although their contract will eventually need renewing, it is likely they will win the bid and continue controlling how British fans view the sport. For 2007, ITV’s presenters have turned the show into a Lewis Hamilton love-fest, and this has riled many fans up and down the country. While Hamilton deserves mentioning in just about every broadcast – he did do well, after all – the man doesn’t need to be brought up in every interview with every driver. We certainly do not need to see the same footage of Hamilton in karts over and over again. The odd interview with the man himself is fine, but continually stalking Lewis for each and every sound bite only adds to the incredible bias we have seen from ITV this year. I believe Adrian Sutil had a reasonable rookie year, and I believe the kid has talent. He’s also very well educated and speaks well to the camera. But how interviews did we get to see…? Flavio Briatore also does well when asked questions on international live television, perhaps not for the same reasons as Sutil, but he is entertaining to say the least. Did we get to hear the flamboyant Italian this year…?

Furthermore, this love of Lewis has come at a cost of all the great pieces Martin Brundle used to do for the programme. Being a former driver himself, Brundle is great behind the microphone giving professional insights that add a great dimension to the commentary. However, this season we have seen fewer tutorial type work that Brundle used to do. The only example that comes to mind is the work both Brundle and Blundell did with Williams earlier in the year. From what ITV have shown, the pieces were of high quality and Martin did a superb job of explaining all the different areas a driver has to deal with when competing. Car set up, overtaking, G-forces etc… It was simply marvelous, but unfortunately was often put on the back-burner whenever ITV had the chance to speak with Hamilton. Or send Louise Goodman to Kovalainen’s flat for a cooking lesson and chat.

Time and time again the advert breaks have been poorly placed. In the final race of the season, viewers missed so much because ITV wanted to make a little extra cash. We missed Hamilton’s slowing down, and the replay shown was not labeled as such which caused confusion. We also missed Fisichella and Yamamoto coming together and more. To be polite, it was amateurish at best.

Online, ITV have their website, but this season I have found myself only visiting to find out which of their channels will be showing qualifying; ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 or ITV4. Red Bull's Red BulletinMore often than not, it was pushed to ITV4, a shame for those fans who do not or currently cannot get these extra channels. Friday’s practice sessions are still not broadcast either, another great shame. The ITV website does have lots of nice parts to it, and it is catered for most part time fans. No discredit at all to anyone here, but I get the impression the site is aimed at those people who watch a race every now and then and need a bit of background information. This doesn’t help those who are a full time fans. At least, I don’t visit the site too often. I find it too fluffy and poorly designed (yeah, I know, like I should talk). I honestly find it hard to read at times.

Formula One as a whole doesn’t do much better online either. As I mentioned previously, the live-timing is great when it is working, but this really is the only praise-worthy part. Online viewing of the entire race is non-existent, even though NASCAR have shown it to be perfectly possible and popular. Short clips that get posted to sites like YouTube are often pulled as quickly as they are put up and it seems as though the controlling organisations are shunning the internet when they should be embracing it. They really should learn from the music industry on this one.

What Should F1 Coverage Be Like?

I would like to see online viewing. This way I can cut out ITV and enjoy the race without all the silly interviews that aren’t worth seeing. With online viewing I could also be placed in the directors chair. I can follow the driver I want to follow, get replays whenever I want them and generally be in more control. I can have either ITV’s commentary or Radio 5 Live on in the background and totally immerse myself in the race.

If Formula One doesn’t do online viewing, I would like to see a tighter control on the TV director. I would like to see someone who knows what their doing put in the seat, and this person should be the same at all the races. This would hopefully avoid the bias we see too much of the time.

In terms of the websites, it would be nice for Formula One to open up a bit. Currently, the rules and regulations are posted to the FIA’s website, but they are only available as PDF downloads, and they do not even attempt to explain the key regulations in plain English. For new fans to the sport who want to learn more, they are going to have a tough job. The Formula One site was given a face lift earlier in the year, and it does look prettier, but it still doesn’t give out the information it should. The content just seems a bit bland and uninspiring.

Your Say

I’ve intentionally glossed over much of the faults of Formula One’s coverage and only scraped the surface. This is because I would like you to let me know what you think of the coverage. You may be in another country, in which case I would love to find out what your coverage is like. You may think Formula One is adequately covered as it is, in which case please say so. But if, like me, you think it could do with improving, leave a comment below saying how. Which area irks you the most? Should Bernie and Max be embracing the internet, or scolding it in the style of Ron Dennis?


  • Jeezo, where to start ?!

    How much text can these comment boxes take? 😉

    To keep it short, this is what I’d like from ITV:

    1. No James Allen.

    2. More Martin Brundle.

    3. No Mark Blundell.

    4. A more useful role for Louise Goodman.

    5. Coverage of practice sessions – albeit on ITV4 or whatever.

    6. A way of keeping us informed of the running order at the very least during ad breaks – it’s not always possible to use the FIA’s live timing while watching races.

    7. Less biased coverage – it’s all aimed at whichever Brit is doing best at that moment, and the rest is normally taken up with items on whoever is leading the world championship (if that’s a different person).

    What I’d like from FOM:

    1. A dedicated subscription channel with no ad breaks so I don’t have to watch all the above in ITV as I know they will not listen to reason!

  • Living in the States as I do, I have to be grateful that F1 is shown on TV at all. The amazing thing is that SpeedTV do an excellent job, as evidenced by their website. Yes, Peter Windsor is a bit embarrassing in his pitlane walkabouts but certainly not as bad as James Allen, by the sound of it. The commentators are pretty good, in spite of David Hobbs’ strange voice, and really I can’t think of anything to complain about, except the ads and those are inevitable on American TV.

  • I wish BernieVision had done better, I never got to try it out before they pulled it. I turn the sound off and commentate myself; Lewis is great but I know more about him, Kubica, Rosberg and the other drivers I’m particularly interested in than MB does. I thought Allen was a stupid choice from the start, Ben Edwards would have been better.

    I don’t think it’s ever going to be commercially viable to provide coverage for full-time fans on a main channel, but I fully agree with Ollie that internet coverage would be a huge asset.

    I just looked into subscribing to Setanta for the Irish coverage, it’s lots better (David Kennedy, Gary Anderson) but they say it’s only available in Ireland. Unless I can do some unscrambling, I might get a Slingbox for my inlaws in Waterford.

  • I also live in the states and I am also pretty satisfied with Speed’s coverage and website with extra content.

    F1 is definitively a niche here in the states so Speed’s broadcasts are aimed towards real fans and not casual watchers… in fact, the few races that were transmitted via Fox (a much larger audience I believe), kinda sucked and were watered down compared to the regular Speed broadcasts; even with the same announcers.

    My only complaint is that the announcers got blinded by Hamilton’s (amazing) success, and by mid-season they became a tad too biased.

    Forza Ferrari!

  • I’ll be writing on the subject on my blog some time during the Winter. But a few brief thoughts.

    I would be really interested to see what Speed’s coverage is like. It sounds really good compared to what we get from ITV. The prospect that Peter Windsor is the most embarrassing person on Speed is brilliant. I was always under the impression that he was one of the best journalists around.

    Formula1.com has really improved this year. Their tentative steps into video must be extended though. Ideally, a subscription service in the same vein as Bernievision would be the dream.

    I think you’re a bit harsh on the website, Ollie. All of the important rules are right there in HTML on the F1 website here.

  • Heres what I think we need for the UK coverage (and this is going to be controversial)…

    Sky Sports HD with Mutli-Angle.

    Don’t get me wrong, that’s into expensive subscription TV territory, so the contract should be split give ITV the “terrestrial” rights, and Sky gets the chance to bid on a much more complex and advanced form of coverage – after all, they know how to do interactive, user controlled, multi-angle sporting coverage.

    Of course, while the “feed” is controlled by FOM, there’s no hope of user controlled multi-camera coverage. I know that, but I can still dream

  • Also @ Doctorvee: Yes, Peter Windsor is an excellent journalist but I am also led to believe that James Allen is a lot better in the printed word than on TV. Windsor also has the advantage of being a really nice guy but this proves his downfall for the job SpeedTV has given him; he is just too self-effacing. He treats everyone with far too much respect and they respond by ignoring him. When one of the greats deigns to answer a few of his questions, poor Peter is so honoured, he reacts like an excited puppy receiving attention at last. It’s sad but it’s also embarrassing.

  • I’m glad someone has commented on this because I have always been dissapointed by the coverage. Not so much from bias as that can be expected, but from the way the director handles GP’s. The Japanese GP this year was terrible in how they missed all the major crashes and missed Raikkonen challenging Kovalainen at the end. Cameras tend to follow a driver around a corner and then subsequently they switch to the next camera to follow him more. That’s Ok when they are on their own but when there is a group of cars, especially in the first few laps, I wish that they would just stay focused up the straight and we can see the drivers go past one after another. It’s not enough for me to keep checking the timed gaps, a visual marker is so much more. After all that’s why we’re watching. I always think that they stay too long on one driver too, I wish they would flick quickly between them sometimes. Although I can understand them not wanting to do this for those that aren’t fans won’t be able to keep up with who they are following. Anyway, my two cents.

  • My comment here kind of grew out of hand, but in summary:

    ITV presenters (Martin Brundle excepted) need to acknowledge that there are 20 drivers on the grid other than Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, at least some of whom may be more relevant to a given matter in F1 than the aforementioned duo.

    The FOM needs to get rid of the camera directors it has and get some more competent ones on board.

    Starts need to be followed through the grid, not just watching the first 8 and then going to catch the leader.

    Adverts must be more judiciously timed if they have to be used.

    Official sites need to work (the formula1.com site rarely loads at all for me, and the FIA one doesn’t work too well either)

    The FIA regulations need to be updated more promptly (they are over 24 hours late with the most recent changes) as well as more accessible (it shouldn’t require a librarian to explain to people how to access simple bits of information off that site…)

    There needs to be a combination of free and paid video content on the internet. Users can submit their own free non-downloadable short clips, and the FOM can take responsibility for managing (and earning income from) a paid-for service. I’d prefer there to be both pay-per-view and subscription methods of paying, to cater to all types of user.

  • Technically, it’s not permitted under the contracts that the broadcasters signed with Bernie. Simply because Bernie has not pursued this avenue with the vigour that he has pursued YouTube and its relatives does not make it legal to broadcast races over the internet.

  • I agree with all the stuff you’ve written here provided that you change all the names to match the the sick joke otherwise known as the coverage of F1 transmitted here in Germany by RTL. By this I don’t mean the fact that all their stuff is in German (which it isn’t, unless all the words like “speed”, “pits”, “grip”, etc. that pepper their commentary are all German words, which they’re not), I’m talking here about Q-u-a-l-i-t-y. This word (including the German equivalent Q-u-a-l-i-t-a-e-t) is unknown at RTL.

    What I need is an online English-language sound-only commentary synchronisable with the BernieTV moving pictures of the race transmitted by RTL.

    I’d even pay for it…

  • I’m not sure if Radio 5 Live allows internet streaming of its F1 commentary because it doesn’t provide that information on its website. But you may wish to put the address http://www.bbc.co.uk/fivelive/sport/commentaries.shtml somewhere safe in case it does, for the commentary team on that is commonly believed that their team is better than the ITV lot (and, by the sounds of it, the RTL brigade). From that page, you would want to go to “Listen” at the appropriate time and it should be completely synchronised with the TV pictures. Better still, there are no ad breaks.

    If this doesn’t work out, Jim, I would advise you to investigate who has the radio license to broadcast F1 closer to home. You may get a pleasant surprise as to the quality of whoever has the German radio rights.

  • Jim, I’m sorry the German coverage isn’t much better than the UK’s. But deep inside I’m happy I’m not the only one who is suffering. 😉

    Great tip there from Alianora. The Five Live commentary is good (in my opinion) but I do like Brundle. If only I could synch all the best bits together…

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