Formula 1’s television coverage

Sergio Perez has been quoted that he believes Formula 1 TV directors aren’t doing a great job when it comes to capturing all the most exciting moments on track during a Grand Prix weekend.

He is not the first to raise such concerns with Carlos Sainz being another driver to have aired similar reservations about the coverage given to those in the midfield.

This is not just an issue that the drivers are concerned about, with others within the sport making the suggestion that more broadcast time could be given to midfield runners due to the often sterile action at the front over recent seasons.

2019/4/13-Arend7d-384” by Arend Kuester is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

I don’t believe that is as simple a solution as some may think it is with the problem being a little more complex. The main problem is how does a television crew capture and present three to five different things happening all at once, live, for the audience to view.

Even before Mercedes’ dominant period it is often the case that the grid will naturally separate into at least two separate groups, if not more, all potentially worthy of time front and centre during the broadcasting of a Grand Prix.

There are also key moments during a race that you would not normally want to miss out, those being the start, certain pit stops and also the finale to any race, that of the winner crossing the finish line, welcoming the waving of the chequered flag.

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There are a few solutions to this however, the most obvious to me is having your main picture while having ‘boxes’ in the corners showing another piece of action elsewhere on track. This is done sometimes with certain football coverage where the action on the pitch takes up the whole screen while a box may appear in the bottom left, normally showing a manager/coach on the touchline.

The drawback to this is you would still only end up covering two distinct battles on track, potentially missing out on other battles elsewhere. Even if you had a main picture and then anywhere between one to four ‘boxes’ in the corners, this makes for a messy and probably dizzying viewing experience.

Perhaps a cleaner presentation would be to take some inspiration from another series such as MotoGP, where they have a main picture but will often utilise its live timing tower on the left hand side of the screen to expand and show action elsewhere, this is normally an onboard of a particular rider showing under their name on the timing tower. An example of this is having a main picture showing a battle for second between three or four riders while showing in the tower an onboard of the race leader who has separated themselves from the battling group.

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This solution is something that Formula 1 has hopefully looked at as it has a timing tower of its own which has the potential to be utilised further, by not just showing what groups of cars are together on track, but then showing a live feed of that battle in the tower.

Despite issues of viewers not seeing close midfield battles as often as they perhaps should, and midfield drivers being annoyed at this, there is something to be said for a commentary team helping out in this regards. This help is often as simple as not just commentating on what is being presented directly to a viewer, but also making the viewer aware of what is going on elsewhere on the circuit, normally off screen. It is also important to then provide regular updates as to the progress of the off screen battle during a race. This is something that commentators would have to do often back in the 1980s and early 1990s when television coverage wasn’t as extensive as it is today.

This could extend to foregoing what is currently on screen to focus on a battle elsewhere, although an issue with this is that it is now important for commentators to ensure they have provided ‘soundbites’ for highlights, not to forget it being a little strange for something like the winner crossing the finish line but the commentator providing information on a battle elsewhere off screen.

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Yes by commentators doing this it still doesn’t show the viewer what is actually taking place but it does nevertheless help raise awareness of other battles taking place on the circuit as well as proving that even though it may be dull up front, that doesn’t make it a dull Grand Prix, where most of the action could be taking place in the midfield or at the back.

The problem of giving the right amount of coverage to a particular team, driver or battle is difficult to manage as it will, like most things, boil down to personal opinion as to whether something was either given too much television exposure or too little. It is however a problem that Formula 1 should address with there being hopefully a relatively straightforward, in terms of presentation, solution to covering all the numerous battles that can be going on all at one time during a Grand Prix, as there is clearly some entertaining racing in the midfield that viewers are missing out on.

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