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?
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. More 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.
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?