F1 Winter Break
Behind the scenes images from Japan
Behind the scenes images from Japan
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Oct 2009   |  6:13 am GMT  |  44 comments

I’ve picked out a couple of Darren Heath’s images from Japan to write a short post about as they offer a nice behind the scenes insight. Some of you may be familiar with these things but others might appreciate it.

Photo: Darren Heath

Photo: Darren Heath

In this first picture, you can see the timing page 1 from the official FOM timing system. This is different and more detailed than the page you see on the F1.com website, which only gives lap times to the nearest tenth of a second and does not give the last lap time on the right.

I always prefered looking at this page when I was commentating and still do now when preparing the live text commentary on the official F1 Apple iphone app.

The lap is divided into three sectors from left to right and the last lap time is at the end on the right. The sector time is to the nearest 1/1000th of a second and the maximum speed at the measuring point on each sector is indicated in KMH.

Where a sector time or lap time is purple, that means it is the fastest anyone has done in the session. A green sector of lap time means its a personal best for that driver.

The numbers down the right side are the total number of laps a driver has coevered in the session, while across the top are the fastest sector times anyone has done and the ‘ideal lap’ time, which means the three fastest sectors added together. Often these are not all set by the same driver, especially in Suzuka where the Red Bull was untouchable in Sector 1, but the McLaren and Brawn were pretty fast in Sectors 2 and 3, which are less downforce dependent.

Above the timing screen from the McLaren pit wall, you can see the radio buttons for communication with drivers and key personnel. Note the button in the bottom right of the screens, it is for speaking to the Strategy people back at McLaren’s HQ in Woking, England, who are modelling the race on computers and advising the race engineers what to do next.

Photo: Darren Heath

Photo: Darren Heath

In this second image, Darren has gone behind the scenes into FIA Race Control. The man in the blue shirt third in from left is Charlie Whiting the race director and on his right is Herbie Blash, my old boss from Brabham team days in the early 1990s and one of F1’s most enduring characters.

The banks of TV monitors are from CCTV cameras all around the circuit and Whiting and Blash can judge clearly whether an incident merits a red flag or a safety car and the exact point at which yellow flags are being waved.

They can then forward these images to the race stewards, who sit just down the corridor at every venue, for consideration.

This was important during the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying when five drivers failed to observe the yellow flags and the session had to be stopped three times for accidents. Race control was a very busy place in Japan.

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I am glad every time he came, Send to a high standard, but good material given to me.


When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same

comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

Thank you!


Can you please explain how to read/what means the coloumn of Raikkonen (the RAI one). Thank you,



Nice, thanks for the images and explanations.


Great insight.

Would also love to know more about how the TV pictures are edited into the form in which they reach us. Is it one guy pushing a button to select each camera in turn? There’s so many cameras nowdays he must have the reactions and concentration of a flight traffic controller! How do the individual camera guys know which car to follow?


James, whats the official iPhone app you mention?


It’s the F1 timing app, the one with the official F1 logo in the app store, has a really cool 3D track map which shows the positions of all the cars.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Thanks James for your brilliant insight and donating time to post all these interesting features for us fans.

Lagard is not a patch on you does not even do 1% of your analysis. Hope to see you back ….. on the BBC.


Very interesting. Thanks for the insight behind the scenes.

I would love to be able to sit in the race control room for a race weekend. Have Charlie Whiting or Herbie Blash written any books, either autobiographical or about F1?


No, they are not public facing


James , I was sorry the Beeb didnt want you , but is there any chance of you commentating 2010 instead of that [mod] Legard


The communication panels & system (intercom) are designed and maintained by Riedel (http://www.riedel.net/). Thomas Riedel, the company president & founder is a huge F1 fan & although their systems are utilized in all types of live and broadcast events their first love is still F1.


Good job I’ll never have to commentate and read off these columns at the same time.

On timings, James, if that system were to fail, as I think it may have done in a recent race when no timings were available, is each team still able to get their drivers’ times and maybe some others?


Yes there are several back ups, but they are all FOM controlled.


As a really keen photographer I’d very much like to know what problems the night race at Singapore caused Darren (if any)?

I am really interested to know how much light he lost over a normal day (or even a cloudy one).


Hi Leigh,

Shooting at the SG night race presents a number of challenges to the photographer but to be honest it’s not very different from covering a day race.

One has to focus on the shot required being aware of backgrounds, composition, and the desired effect or mood of the shot.

One has to take into account the performance drop off of the camera’s sensor at higher ISO speeds but by shooting plenty of slow shutter speed shots one can still use ISO ratings as low as 100 or 200. When photographing more run-of-the-mill race/news pics one necessarily has to use ISO ratings as high as 1600 (or in extreme cases the ‘H’ expansion setting) but too be honest the cameras are that good these days that any problems with digital noise are minimal.

The lights that provide illumination in SG do give a slightly green cast when shooting on auto white balance but again that’s a minor issue if one knows how to work Photoshop well.

Hope that helps.




Thanks Darren, very interesting indeed.

I guess those super fast lenses you use help a bit too.

Thanks again, I enjoy your work. It conveys the atmosphere of the races brilliantly.


I’ll send him a message and hopefully get his reply on that.


Is it coincedence that u posted a pic with Rosberg doing green second sector? 😀


This behind-the-scenes coverage is fascinating stuff James, thank you very much!


Thanks for the insight James. Is there any chance you could give us a reason for why the live timing available on Formula1.com is a more simplistic version as to that available to teams and the media at circuits?


Well because I guess they feel that it’s all that most people need. It’s annoying but in the main media centre at Grands Prix they only have the simplistic page on the screens which is all most journos see.


Brilliant work man!! Really liked this pictures a lot, just shows how much work race control and stewards have in their hands!!


That timing screen appears to be broken – it has Kovalainen showing a purple sector!


This is way off topic but I am needing an explanation. Why are both quali and the race in brazil at 1400hrs local time but in the UK quali is at 1800hrs and the race is at 1700hrs? This is according to formula1.com. Am I missing something? We still use BST until the follwing week I think. Answers appreciated



Although the UK doesn’t change until the end of the month, Brazil changes time (into their summer time) on the morning of race day (according to http://www.timeanddate.com) – hence the offset to UK time changes by one hour.



You are correct about BST. The difference comes from the Brazil side, as they go on daylight savings (+1hr) on the 18th.


I too would very much like to hear a bit more about the strategy side of things, and also maybe a bit of insight into how the teams go about setting up their cars for balance and all that.

As a relatively new F1 Fan (since about 2005 or so) I am constantly coming across lots of interesting bits of information and history on your blog. Please keep up the fantastic work, and I hope one day we may work together if my secret career plan as an F1 photographer pans out 🙂

Don’t worry, I won’t get too close to Kimi.


On the strategy side there is a feature with Pat Symonds talking about how it all works under FEATURES on the site.


Does that feature not just read. Fuel one car light, crash the other on purpose and let first car win race??????????


Interesting stuff, many thanks. I’d noticed on TV that the pit wall timing screens are more detailed and have more decimal places than the live timing application on the website.

Do you know if FOM are ever likely to improve the amount of data provided via the F1 website? I realise bandwidth will be an issue but it would be interesting to get three decimal places and the race control messages, at least. (It would also be nice if it filled the screen rather than being in a box in a corner.) It’s still great to have even as it is though.


Thanks for the insight James. That’s really cool stuff. I should probably download that app!

It would be really interesting to watch/read an interview with Whiting or Blash. Those guys have a raw passion for motorsport and it would be nice to see that brought to the fore more often in F1.


Sorry to bother you with another off topic question: Any idea why Gilles Simon left Ferrari?


Slightly off topic question but of interest too.

Hi James, thanks for another great post.

About behind the scene stuff could you do a post about the team’s race simulators. We hear a lot about these and I can’ t remember having seen any photo of these beasts anywhere. Especially of the McLaren’s one which is supposedly the best of the bunch. Could you do something about that? That would be of interest for am of us I am sure, ta!


There’s a video of Mark Blundell using the Williams one before being let out in their car for a piece on ITV a couple of years ago.


You won’t see it either because they are very secretive about it.


Thank you James, very interesting. I just wish the images were a bit bigger? Cheers Mark


Thanks very much for the interesting insight from behind the scenes. Especially interested to know more about McLaren’s HQ in Woking, England and the amount of information that is passed back and forth during the races, who are making the decisions etc…

I can easily imagine Ron Dennis sat in a darkened room in front a huge bank of computers, screens and flashing lights at Death Star HQ Woking, advising his Padawan, Whitmarsh in the ways of the Dark Side.

Perhaps given we’ve not see Ron Dennis recently, he has already left his body merging his mind into state of the art positronic brain, where he can computate new words, whilst plotting world domination.

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