What F1 can learn (and forget) about NASCAR

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Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, Suzuka, 2005 | Daimler ChryslerI watched the first round of the 2008 NASCAR season yesterday – the Daytona 500.

I’m not a big fan of the style of racing but I’ve got a list as long as my arm of the things F1 can learn from NASCAR’s presentation.

What F1 can learn from NASCAR…

Loads more cameras – F1 uses a few distant, wide-angle cameras to cover the races, and a couple of high-mounted on-board cameras.

NASCAR has stacks of on-board cameras (admittedly it’s easier to fit them to big stock cars), static wall cameras that shake as the cameras pass, helicopter and blimp cameras, and cameras in the floor to show the cars zipping past. It gets the most out of the spectacle.

Team radio – Constant chatter from the teams and drivers was fed throughout the NASCAR broadcast – even a discussion between two team mates at one point.

F1 teams are allowed to withhold their conversations from the airwaves – which Ferrari and McLaren make heavy use of. The radios should be open and free for TV stations to use and fans at the track to listen to.

Talk about the history – before the race they had the drivers pick their favourite moments from past Daytona 500s and why they liked them. F1 should do this more – and Ecclestone shouldn’t be so stingy about letting TV companies use the footage to illustrate it.

High definition – NASCAR has it, F1 doesn’t. F1 needs to get this sorted now.

…and what it should ignore

Constant interruptions – If you think F1 gets a lot of interruptions (up to 15 minutes of adverts per race) NASCAR has much more.

Happily the UK broadcast on Sky didn’t cut away to adverts on every occasion the American feed inserted them, but on top of the breaks the commentators even take time out from talking about the action to plug various products. No thanks.

Boogity – Many UK F1 fans think ITV commentator James Allen is annoying. They probably wouldn’t if they had to put up with Darrell Waltrip shouting “boogity boogity boogity” every weekend.

Four hour races – Everyone told me not to judge NASCAR on the Daytona 500 alone and I can see why. Nothing happens for 180 laps, then there’s a couple of crashes and it finishes. Hmm.

Photo copyright: Daimler

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37 comments on What F1 can learn (and forget) about NASCAR

  1. I found the coverage including the little technical interludes very good – the atmosphere – in hd with surround sound – great – only thing it was too long but it was a true 500 miler and had to go to bed as early start – but not F1 – and definetly F1 would benefit from the points about cameras / radios etc – getting us involved/commited that is what showmanship is about – ps do you think wee man gets a ride on a camel when trauling for new venue’s – may explain why he takes the hump at times with organisers

  2. AmericanTifosi said on 18th February 2008, 23:37

    I watched a few minutes of the Daytona 500 with my brother and was appaled at the amount of cautions and crashes. I also caught a bit of a truck series race. I couldn’t stop laughing at the trucks apperences.

    A side note, it seems to me that NASCAR is immune to the “green racing” disease. They run many more races than F1 for much longer, have more cars, more practices(how much practice does it take to go in a bloody oval?), longer qualifying, and pointless races that don’t even count for points during the week. Why must F1 br plauged with stupid, pointless regulations to try and make the sport “greener”?

  3. Gerry said on 19th February 2008, 1:28

    I’m not a NASCAR fan but people in the US are truely fanatical about the sport. The qualifying process is complicated to the point of being mystical. Trying to figure it out makes you head hurt and the cars are as simple as they come. They still have carburetors. If a driver wins that the fans don’t like they throw beer and chicken legs at the car, something I’m sure the FIA would launch an immediate investigation over. I do however agree with comments about more cameras and team radio. If you want to make F1 more exciting get rid of some of the inane rules like not allowing team orders.

  4. re: NASCAR and “green”, a hilarious side bar. When the United States Government mandated the switch from leaded to unleaded fuels in the 1980s, NASCAR somehow got an exemption. So, for something like 25 years after the rest of the country was forced to unleaded fuels, NASCARs still using the nasty stuff. Last year NASCAR finally switched to unleaded fuel and put out some press releases about how NASCAR was going to be more environmentally friendly because of the switch, and the major news sources bought it. _NO_ONE_ except for a few bloggers pointed out how hilarious it was to claim to be environmentally friendly when they were 25 years late to the party, and the parties already out of date – Indy’s running 100% ethanol and other series are starting to explore KERS. What a joke.

  5. re: Qualifying. It’s a little bit more fair to say the Daytona 500 qualifying is complicated to the point of being mystical. I consider myself a fan and I honestly don’t fully understand how the reconcile the qualifying laps and the qualifying races.

    That said, the normal process is different, but not significantly more complicated, than F1 qualifying.

    NASCAR:
    * 43 cars start
    * top 35 cars in owners points automatically entered
    * most recent series champion who doesn’t qualify by top 35 or time gets in (“champion’s provisional”)
    * remaining 7 (or 8 if no champion’s provisional taken) chosen by fastest time of those not automatically entered (the “go or go home” cars)
    * The starting grid is ordered according to qualifying time regardless whether your entry was guaranteed or earned.

    F1:
    * every car starts
    * all cars go out on track for 15 minutes to make their best time. bottom 6 qualifiers are removed and will start 17-22 as set by their qualifying time. The times of the other 14 cars are dropped.
    * the remaining 16 cars attempt to set their best time. As before the lowest 6 qualifiers are dropped and set in pos. 11-16 according to time. The fastest 10 advance.
    * the remaining 10 cars attempt to set fastest time. pos. 1-10 set according to fastest lap in this period.

    F1 qualifying is certainly more entertaining than NASCAR’s (heck, more entertaining than F1′s races, sometimes), but at least as complicated if not more. I really wish they’d do away with the top 35 rule in NASCAR qualifying, but at least there’s still the thrill of some people not qualifying.

  6. Hi, John — thank God you figured it out, grin … I’ve been watching NASCAR qualifying for years, and I still haven’t figured out the Daytona rules, as they’re far different from the rest of the year.

    (The Duels, for example — part of our favorite part of Speedweeks, and two separate qualifying races — pointless, as another has mentioned here, in terms of championship points, yes. But, not pointless in Daytona at all, since that’s how some have even a prayer of getting in on speed/skill. In fact, I think many NASCAR fans would like to see this prior to most races, as the top 35 and other qualifying nonsense doesn’t allow for the fastest/”best” to run every week. It’s just cost-prohibitive for a series that runs 36 races a year — and, aside from that, these teams would not have personal lives if they spent that much time actually racing every week.)

    As far as F1 — I’ll probably never understand some things, but that’ll never stop me from watching and/or loving it!

    Though, I have to agree, and think I’ve probably posted about it more than a couple of times — qualifying is sometimes MUCH more exciting than the actual racing in F1. It simply seems so much more passionate and all-out than some of the races, with so much more strategy and drama, etc.

    But, again … I think, for both series, it takes watching enough of it to appreciate the differences — not to mention, to even attempt to “get it”, lol!!

  7. NO_ONE_ except for a few bloggers pointed out how hilarious it was to claim to be environmentally friendly when they were 25 years late to the party, and the parties already out of date – Indy’s running 100% ethanol and other series are starting to explore KERS. What a joke.

    Better late than never, right?

    As for Enthanol: “We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels and also the social problems are bigger than we thought they were. So we have to move very carefully,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told the BBC.

    “We have to have criteria for sustainability, including social and environmental issues, because there are some benefits from biofuels.”

    Guess seeing some biofuels barely cut emissions at all, having others lead to rainforest destruction, driving up food prices and prompting rich firms to drive poor people off their land to convert it to fuel crops is OK with you. And apparently with the IRL also.

    Sorry, not for me, it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt and will do nothing for the environment.

  8. Hmmmm, wow so many people with different ideas, Mr Eccelstone are you listening? Or just seeing how many $100 dollar bills you have under your bed? If only the F1 powers that be actually listened to the racing fans? At least maybe a short list could be taken on for F1 tv changes, maybe Ron and Jean need a bit more inticing ($$$) to open the radio airwaves. instead of changing technical rules every 10 months if the tv “Spectacle” was a bit more inticing for the viewers i’m sure it would encourage more people to watch and in turn more revenue for the teams hopefully putting off the need for “Cost cutting” technical changes, ie 4 race gearboxes engines etc. If F1 is the pinnacle of technology on track then why not off. HD broadcasting indeed and more access to the teams and drivers- why so shy? Well done NASCAR for taking the veiwers into the cockpit

  9. “Why must F1 be plauged with stupid, pointless regulations to try and make the sport “greener”?” His name is “Mad Max”, enough said.

    Relative to “Boogity” man Darrel Waltrip his moniker while he raced was “Jaws”, as he never met a microphone he disliked. He has many intelligent things to offer when in an interview setting such as “Wind Tunnel” with Dave DeSpain on Speedtv. His on air personna is all marketing.

    As for NASCAR’s popularity here in the US, my personal feeling is that it probably has peaked and will stay more or less where it currently sits.

    With the pending implosion of the Champ Car series my fondest wish is that open wheel racing can regain a hint of it’s former greatness. Which will lead to better F1 coverage as well.

  10. Nathan Jones said on 19th February 2008, 8:13

    talk about the history?
    ur kidding rnt u?
    with new venues drivers can only talk of a race up to 2 yrs ago!

  11. I agree with some of the original sentiments raised above i.e. particularly the access, radios and cameras issue. Access for me is a huge issue. F1 is paranoid and stingy about its access. I generally love most motorised racing and happened to watch the Nascar for the first time also. I did find it a little long winded at times. I did not care much for the commentators. Some of the graphics were great but sometimes i just wished the screen would be cleared of all graphics so we could just sit back and enjoy the racing. There was just to much rubbish scrolling all over the screen.

    I watch F1 on ITV (in the UK) and as much as i enjoy what ITV generally do, i think they can do much much much more. I wish ITV would use split screens so we can always keep one eye on the racing, and at the same time watch the pit reporters for example interview a driver who may have crashed out… yes we can multi-task too you know, lol. I also find it baffling that right now ITV does not even give us any ongoing weekly testing updates from the track. I am certain this is a wasted opportunity.

    Lastly, during the season ITV has traditionally shown a highlights package of GP2 a week later. I’m amazed they have not even bothered with the GP2 Asia series?! I watch it on sky anyway but it’s a real shame because it sends a message that ITV really don’t care much for their viewers.

  12. Seb Carter said on 19th February 2008, 11:19

    NASCAR definitely has some items that F1 should adopt. i mean f1 drivers are pretty much gods to the racing fans and i think its important that the fans get an interaction with their idols other than the pre scripted and frankly terribly boring pre/post race interviews. how about an autograph session, or simply even press conferences where fans can ask their own questions? i really think that to improve popularity Eccelstone should do more than just trying to expand its fan base and as well improve the already existing fan base.

    I especially like the idea of team radios. i think its terribly exciting when you get a drivers opinion on whats going on and the idea of finding out exactly whats going wrong can be quite comical. I seem to remember times where drivers would just complain and the pit crew would just tell them to get on with it etc.

    Overall i think F1 has a lot to learn from american sports, but that being said, there are somethings they should just ignore, just as was said in the article!

  13. I agree with what you said keith but on the radio side, i’m kind of new to nascar but i think that nascar if first and foremost a strategic series.

    I listened to radio comms on some onboard videos and the radio guy is always required to tell the pilot who is around him, if the line is “clear” etc..

    In F1 i think we would need a better selection of team radio because radio comms seem more scarce.

    However that would be great, i recall last year at one race a radio comm to hamilton telling him the pace needed to exit the pitlane ahead of his rival.

    That would be really interesting.

    On the cameras i just don’t understand why we can’t get premiere live everywhere! damn onboard cameras are so cool!

    Also more telemetry is needed, last year the G-forces telemetry was shown on only two cars (heidfeld and trulli i think) and for not even one full lap.

  14. It seems no one likes F1 TV coverage. I wonder if that is just fundamentally flawed by the nature of the single director/video feed for the world? This is an open ended question, but perhaps there are differences in the type of broadcasts that different countries and cultures want that require this no-frills, lowest-common-denominator video coverage that we get? It seems that the Brits here generally think the NASCAR broadcast is better, but perhaps flashier than they would want. All things considered, America and GB culture are not terribly far removed from each other when considered against the backdrop of world history. Perhaps Asian, African, South American, even continental European cultures are far enough removed that, although spicing up the broadcast would appeal to some cultures, it would have a more negative impact on total viewer appeal across the entire viewer base?

    That said, I’m probably giving the FOM far too much credit, but it’s an interesting anthropological question. Regardless of whether the FOM is lazy or calculated, I think it’s safe to say no one will ever be totally happy, and the only way to get better is if FOM sells video feeds to all cameras at the race and allow local broadcasters to produce it however they want.

  15. @marc – I never said I was a fan of Ethanol, I was merely holding it up as a mirror to NASCAR’s absurdity in the area of fuel and eco-friendliness. I think Ethanol is a marketing sham also. That said, I live in the middle of a state full of corn fields, ethanol refineries, and toyota and honda plants. So who am I to judge?

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