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A closer look at FOTA's F1 TV plans
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A closer look at FOTA's F1 TV plans
Posted By:   |  06 Mar 2009   |  1:01 pm GMT  |  0 comments

From a fans’ point of view the big story from yesterday’s FOTA press conference was the changes they’d like to make to shorten the races, change the points and boost the TV coverage.

Martin Whitmarsh spoke about the desire to change the points system to reward the winner and podium finishers and to shorten the races by fifty miles, which for the average race will take about 20 minutes off the race time. The points thing will exaggerate the difference between the top teams and the rest and is possibly a payback for the big guys agreeing so many cost cuts and giving cheap engines and gearboxes to the smaller teams for the next three years.

All of this is in response to a huge public survey FOTA conducted. Unlike the recent ING/F1 Racing survey, this one asked people who are mildly interested in F1, not the diehards and the proposals are a response to that. These are the right people to be having that dialogue with because they represent the potential for growth.

Flavio Briatore picked up this theme, talking about how the TV show needed improving. And here we get into some difficulties.

FOTA propose to spice up the show by revealing the weights of the cars after qualifying, opening all radio conversations, showing which cars are fuelled to the finish and showing predictions of where a car will slot in after a pit stop.

Removing all suspense in other words, which I have to say might be a mistake. Telling people right away how much fuel everyone had when they set their fast lap makes qualifying even more meaningless than it is already and takes all the suspense out of the opening phase of the race. The not-knowing sometimes is the best bit. There were quite a few times when I was a TV commentator that I knew more than I let on because it was clear to me that by revealing the information I would ruin the sporting suspense.

The problem here is that they want to make it more accessible to the casual fan, which is laudable and they have some very good ideas like constructors’ championship points for the fastest pit crew. There is some fantastic information the teams have which would be of massive interest to viewers, like a graphic which shows the different lines drivers take around a corner, the radio traffic of course and things which only they see at present.

But to reveal many of the things proposed today would make F1 races less a sporting spectacle and more like a scientific process, with a predictable outcome. I think they need to be more selective, not give all the goodies away too soon.

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  1. Tom says:

    “There were quite a few times when I was a TV commentator that I knew more than I let on “…

    Tell us more! Did you know how much fuel drivers were carrying, or something else?

    Now that teams know when their rivals are stopping, do you think this will affect strategy e.g. McLaren tell their driver “Let him go Lewis, he’s stopping in two laps”?

  2. Jon says:

    Good point about the suspense James but I have to ask.

    An offshoot from Tom’s question, if you would ruin the suspense by knowing, then how did you come to know? Why did you want to ruin your own suspense and enjoyment of the race? ;) Why didn’t you block your ears when they told you? I suspect the fans want to know the data, for the same reason that you wanted to know the data. I agree about the suspense but we are an impatient bunch, us passionate F1 fans aren’t we.

    One positive is it makes for better comparisons. The cars have different fuel burn rates/engines, and sometimes when they stop, they stop a lap or two earlier then they need to (in case of SC or because of tyre wear or just for strategy like Nurb 06 with Schumacher). We know what lap they stop but we don’t know the exact amount of fuel. This way we know the exact weight and who did the best qualifying lap.

    I agree it ruins some of the mystery and it takes away from strategy possibilities in the race. However there is still some room for improvisation on race day. And most importantly, with the new regulations let’s hope that “leap frogging” becomes a thing of the past and that most overtakings are done on track.

  3. Moog says:

    The teams knew this sort of data already surely with radars detecting gear ratios, people timing each others fuel stops and so forth. Stopping this will surely cut costs which is a good thing.

    Regarding James’ point of ruining the spectacle, that depends on how the information is presented. Currently FOM have a bunch of data that is that is shown on screen in a very factual way, and you can get more with the live timing (which I love). It’s interpreting the data and turning it into information which is key, and I see this being left to the commentary team to pick up on just like sector times and fuel loads currently are.

    It’s a great idea of showing the different lines, what I’ve liked in the past is when ‘ghost’ cars or split screens are used to show different cars in qually or so, allowing you to see the earlier braking and the different lines. Oh and bring back DC’s chin cam (albeit without DC of course!)

  4. Kristian says:

    All very good proposals regarding the TV, but true that the suspense will be missed.

    However, I really hope the proposal to shorten the races does not go through. The races are too short as they are; personally I think F1 should go for a 100min (1hr 40) time limit – it would mean TV companies would know exactly how to schedule, and those at the circuit would get their money’s worth each time. A 250km race at Monza would be less than an hour in normal conditions, which is not becoming of the world’s premier motorsport.

  5. Paul L says:

    I have a fair solution to keep qualifying meaningful and the race suspenseful.. just let everybody qualify on low fuel and then let them decide and set the strategy for the race indoors like old times.

    I have disliked the whole qualifying with race fuel and then having question marks about qualifying performance all along. Even when fuel levels are uncovered at the first round of stops, it’s impossible to truly tell who performed in quali – you have to go by a theoretical mathematical formula of a tenth and a half per lap of fuel is it? How is the average fan to differentiate the time gap per lap between Monaco and Spa?

    As a fan I want to celebrate someone’s achievement there and then on the day and at the time. I don’t want to hesitate in the moment so-and-so captures pole and think “but is it genuine?”. It’s a dampener on the occasion.

    Personally too, I don’t see what this 12-9-7-… points system achieves. Medals might be flawed to some, but give it a shot. Maybe keep the points for drivers and constructors but for drivers only let it be the deciding championship factor when the wins are equal.

  6. Jake says:

    “But to reveal many of the things proposed today would make F1 races less a sporting spectacle and more like a scientific process, with a predictable outcome.”

    Surely the problem is that Formula 1 races to a large extent ARE a scientific process with a predictable outcome. If the drivers had more influence over the outcome, all known factors could safely be revealed without spoiling the suspense. Fix that, then TV can empower the audience as much as it likes.

  7. Aaron James says:

    Here’s a bright idea. How about letting them just take the fuel out and go flat out in qualifying? We have fuel in qualifying because of the way Schumacher dominated the early part of the decade.

    He’s now been retired for a couple seasons, can we please just go back to how it was before Mosley and Ecclestone got so mortified at how Schumacher just poled and ran away into the sunset?

    I want to see guys like Hamilton, Kimi, Massa, Vettel, Webber, Alonso going flat out and I want to see which driver, and which team can get it all perfect. Not who happened to put the least fuel in their car.

  8. Jose Arellano says:

    For the shorter races i think i agree, because i have a feeling that the drivers would driver with a lot of more eager in a shorter race, than in a large one… and in countries where you have a limited TV time coverage, you could see more apart from the race, previous and post race stuff.. and i think i would be good for newcomers so they can understand the sport better…..

    For quali i think we all agree that a perfect blinding fast lap with almost no fuel is what differences a very fast driver from the others. and that’s what we want to see!

    There’s another thing nobody has said for TV coverage. but when i watch races in speed Latin America i get very desperate to see how low the volume of the engines is! and how the commentators are just talking in such a dull manner, that makes is veeeery boring (not for me coz I’m watching live timing) but for any newcomer i would be very boring,, because you only see the cars but you don’t hear them and that doesn’t make sense the speed… if you don’t hear them they look slow… anyway, i think ANYTHING that would improve the SENSE OF SPEED the cars have, to the TV. would make a much much better spectacle… (closer cameras or i don’t know, what do you think?)

  9. Martin says:

    If there is more overtaking this year then perhaps the spectacle and suspense will just move from strategies to racing? (although I have always liked the strategy side of F1).

    And next year there won’t be any refueling during the race, so does this mean low fuel qualifying?

    Maybe we should look more at the longer term plan rather than the short plan.

  10. Jason C says:

    Personally, I don’t like the idea of knowing the fuel loads in advance: it would spoil the suspense. Yet I’d still find out if the information was available. Curiosity and all that.

    I like the points tweak, but something tells me it will be tweaked again within the next five years.

    I don’t like the idea of shortened races, but what about this for an idea: now that testing is reduced, surely there’s capacity for a couple more grands prix in the season.

    Keep all the current ones, plus Korea and Abu Dhabi, and get back a race in North America. Maybe two.

  11. To reveal many of the things proposed today would make F1 races less a sporting spectacle and more like a scientific process, with a predictable outcome. I think they need to be more selective, not give all the goodies away too soon.

    I find this analysis very depressing. Do you really think F1 is a better sporting spectacle because it uses artificial devices like refuelling to try to improve the racing, and then hides essential information like what fuel load each driver is using from the fans?

    The not-knowing sometimes is the best bit.

    I couldn’t disagree with this more. In my experience people like to know what’s going on in the sport they’re watching. F1 is more subtle and complex than something like football and what FOTA has suggested is sensible ways of explaining its intricacies better to less hardcore fans.

    I had some sympathy for ITV for having to broadcast F1 at a time when it seemed the rules were changing every five minutes (2003-present). But you can’t pretend that keeping the fans ignorant of what’s going on is a substitute for a genuine sporting spectacle.

    One of the worst things about F1 today is how the spectacle of qualifying has been destroyed by having the drivers run on different fuel levels, and having those fuel levels a secret. You believe it creates tension at the start of the race. I say it doesn’t: it creates incomprehension among casual fans and indifference among passionate fans who, as the FOTA survey shows, are largely uninterested in refuelling strategy.

    The drama in motor sport should come from the excitement of the battle between the drivers on the track, not from hiding important information away from fans to create an artificial spectacle.

  12. Jonathan says:

    I was hoping that FOTA would be announcing some interesting (and obvious) additions to make F1 more interesting but had to LOL when I saw the list of “possibilities”. They have been so vague in their wording with their “plans” it makes you wonder if they have any clue what will make the “show” more interesting.

    Of course I have some suggestions…….
    Firstly, F1 desperately needs a separate TV show which accompanies the main race, which is WATCHABLE. Here in the US, NASCAR fans have fabulous TV coverage of post and pre-race, with all their fav drivers in round-table discussion on the previous race(s), all with their hair down, being themselves. It’s nice to see these guys being themselves! Races have great captioning with data which makes FOM captioning look VERY basic.

    SpeedTV knows how to do this. In past Indy GP’s they would have 2 hour shows with live interviews of all drivers in front of a large crowd of fans. It made for a great show, something we rarely see otherwise.

    Also, a visit to http://www.nascar.com or even http://www.indycar.com will give you some idea of what could be done for F1 fans. We desperately need a content rich website with streaming video, interviews, views, etc etc.

    Bernie said only a few weeks ago that he is not interested in the www and it’s the teams’ responsibility. That statement just goes to show that Bernie needs to go. Gold medals? Get stuffed.

    Oh and shorter races? That means less value for money for racefans. Isn’t it expensive enough to go see a race without them pulling the plug 30 mins early? That sucks.

  13. Tomys says:

    Hmm, very interesting point, it has its pro’s and con’s. It will make the race more interesting with all of that informatioj available, but you made very good point, that it will be predictable. Hard to chose!

  14. Chris says:

    Weren’t there proposals a while ago to ban refuelling in 2010? Do these new proposals from FOTA mean that refuelling will stay? I for one have never liked refuelling since the teams have come to rely so heavily on pit strategy, there is often no incentive for a driver to risk his car trying to overtake.

    If refuelling were banned then presumably quail would be run on low fuel or race fuel – either way grid positions would be a genuine reflection of speed.

  15. Robin Capper says:

    Shorter races, right up there with reverse grids in the “lets dumb down the sport stakes”. It would remove much of the tactical interest for TV viewers, reduce sponsor exposure and make a day at the GP less appealing.

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