F1.com should offer more to F1 fans

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1.com has live timing but no live video
F1.com has live timing but no live video

F1.com, Formula 1’s official site, has a lot going for it. The live timing during F1 sessions is invaluable and it has some insightful news and features particularly on technical developments.

But it falls far short of what it could provide in terms of interaction with fans, providing F1 video or other useful material.

Here’s four things I’d add to Formula1.com if I were in charge. What would you change about the site?

Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t get the internet. He calls it ‘the ether’, and his Formula One Group has been painfully slow in waking up to its potential because Ecclestone doesn’t see how he can make money out of it. It hardly helps that he doesn’t run advertising on F1.com.

As a result, F1.com lacks many of the interest features found on other official motor racing sites like indycar.com, nascar.com, motogp.com, wrc.com and even a1gp.com. Here’s what I’d do to improve Formula1.com:

Live F1 video

Those of us in Britain are fortunate enough to be able to see F1 races, qualifying and practice sessions (except Saturday practice) online via itv-f1.com. (There are ways for people outside Britain to hack into the feed as well).

But the feed is interrupted with advertising and has no better footage than the standard coverage. There must be huge numbers of fans out there who’d pay a reasonable fee to be able to watch F1 over the internet on the high-quality Premiere feed instead of the standard footage ITV gets.

Presumably Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t want to offer this because he thinks it will devalue his television contracts. I think it’s a missed opportunity to attract F1 fans whose local coverage of the sport is poor or non-existent.

F1 video archive

Watch F1 video on F1.com? It\'d be quicker to wait for the season review DVD.
Watch F1 video on F1.com? It'd be quicker to wait for the season review DVD.

Ecclestone attempts to place stringest restrictions on the re-use of Formula 1 footage. Again, this is intended to keep the value of his TV contracts high.

Formula One Group uses the NetResult company to pull F1 videos off sharing sites such as YouTube, but with little success. There is so much interest in F1 that most deleted videos are quickly uploaded again.

Official F1 video on F1.com is limited to a short highlights clip of each round and the execution of it is decidedly third-rate. There’s no individual clips of particular drivers or incidents, the video has to buffer in full before you watch it and you have to agree to a disclaimer every time you go to the video player.

Ecclestone needs to stop seeing this as a weakness and harness it as a strength. Start putting proper F1 video clips on F1.com and either charge people to see them or run advertising on the site.

Fans’ photos and videos

F1.com’s interest in the wider F1 fan base goes little further than a perfunctory poll on the front page. No forum, no commenting, no social interaction at all.

Other motor sports’ official sites like indycar.com encourage fans to share photographs of races they’ve been to. Instead Formula One Group have even ordered the removal of fans’ videos of races from YouTube.

Preventing F1 fans from sharing videos they’ve shot themselves not only needlessly hampers the promotion of the sport, it also robs us of some excellent footage. Last year I posted five excellent amateur videos from the 2007 F1 season including the famous film from the Japanese Grand Prix that almost changed the course of the championship.

To share your F1 images or videos with F1 Fanatic contact me via the contact form, Flickr or Youtube.

Get into F1 blogging

I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet here, but I think Formula 1 has one of the most diverse and interesting blogging scenes of any sport.

F1.com should harness it and bring in guest bloggers to write posts and engage with the wider community.

And of course we’d all love to read the Bernie Blog…

How would you improve F1.com? Leave your ideas below.

40 comments on “F1.com should offer more to F1 fans”

  1. I don’t use formula1.com so my input to this will be limited. However, with this site, Pitpass and the f1technical site you kindly pointed us to a few weeks back, I manage to keep up alright :) I find the three sites together give me everything I need and I don’t think I’d use their service even if they started now. They’ve missed the boat.

    I think they’ve missed a trick, though. Especially being so dictatorial over video content. The main thing F1 is, it’s a visual medium, and getting rid of people’s personal video of events is just plain wrong. Next thing you know, everyone who visited an event will have their memorys erased.

  2. Jonesracing82
    18th August 2008, 8:29

    for a start, of all the sites based ion f1 i visit, f1.com i go to least of all, all other sites (including this one) have daily updates! f1.com has bugger all!
    and those stories it does post i have already read elsewhere!
    also, banning f1 fans home video content is ridiculous, for a start nobody pays for the video in the 1st place so no contracts r devalued, also, this is sometimes a better view than the tv camera gives us! take Kubica’s Montreal accident and ralf schumacher at Monaco quali in ’05!
    next they’ll ban ppl taking camera’s in the races!
    another thing, via Youtube etc, u can send the vids to ur friends who rnt really bothered about the sport and it could even generate a interest in it from them!
    FOM and Bernie really need to wake up to themselves and see how suffocated us F1 fans really are!

  3. Jonesracing82
    18th August 2008, 8:32

    P.S i could rave on a hellava lot mre but it’s not like FOM etc r going to read this all let alone care!
    shows how sad the situation is regarding thier lack of respect for thier own fans and the very ppl who visit the races and generate the income the sport needs to survive!
    i cant think of any other sport that strangles it’s own fans to a point where only die hards would keep bothering to try to get something from it!

  4. I contacted the guys at the formula one website trying to get information on the structure of their live timing feeds. I wanted to see if I could make a better view of the data, allowing the user, for example, to select two drivers and see graphs of their relative sector times updated as they happen.

    They weren’t too keen on this because of the closed nature of the live timing system.

    Due to the nature of F1, there are a lot of fans with strong IT skills. If they made their data available huge communities would form around building mash-ups of this data. My ideas for the data were fairly simple, but if it was there some more talented people would build some amazing stuff which would be great for fans and F1’s image.

    Same with the photos / video thing really. F1 needs to embrace it’s fan community rather than the current “Pay money, come in, watch race, then get out.”

  5. I think Bernie has missed a chance with F1.com. It ought to be possible to select a car and follow the race through its on-board cameras, and joggle between that and the trackside cameras(or watch on tv)as it goes through the race. And get better information too. This is where you could hear all of a Team’s radio transmissions too. Bernie has all the rights to everything and is too scared to share it properly.
    I have use this blog to get more information than I can just using F1.com

  6. I just don’t use Formula1.com. Autosport, GrandPrix.com and this site offer me plenty of information. And historical data I just gather from Forix and Wikipedia.

    I, too, think that FOM missed the internet boat — it’s still (too) focused on TV. Had Bernie seen the opportunities the web offers, he’d be an even richer man, I presume. But hopefully CVC ownership will bring in more features on F1.com — they seem to have done the right thing for MotoGP through Dorna.

  7. Hi all.
    I for one would love to be able to see F1 online with a good quality.In my country, Portugal, you have to have cable, and then subscribe to a specific channel which all in all mounts to 50€ on a monthly basis which is more than i can handle. There are apps like tvu or sopcast which allow to see it online but the quality is not that great.
    So if f1.com offered that i’d happilly pay a monthly subscription :)

  8. I would prefer to have the live video – I don’t mind paying a reasonable subscription fee :) – and collections (from anyone who wish to contribute) archived in F1.com! Bernie should know, not all the events and not all the visual angles are covered in his footage! If there is something more, what’s wrong in sharing it?

  9. Oh, and live video of test sessions would be nice… :)

  10. The one decent aspect of f1.com is the technical analysis they do over each race weekend – I’d be happy if they expanded that, as well as implementing your other suggestions.

  11. I think F1.com would have to improve a hell of a lot before it could be considered a decent website. It’s supposed to be the ‘Official’ site of Formula 1 but really it’s second rate at best. If for nothing else they don’t have anywhere near enough articles or inter-active media for the fans. Sometimes two or three days go by before they’ve added a new article!! If it weren’t for sites like Autosport, F1 technical and of course F1FANATIC!!! ;-)…..I’d be lost

  12. Yes Dorian, I feel the same. I didn’t think there were any sites better than that excusee for an “official” website, until I discovered the miracle of F1 Fanatic… :)

  13. Jake Archibal there is an application that could help u.
    Check out this link http://www.linux.com/feature/55014

  14. The two biggest lies in F1 are Max’s safety/environmental contribution and the oft repeated no-one could do a better job than Bernie commercially. Bernie never made it out of the 80s.

    F1.com is a joke of a website and if it wasn’t for the live timing I would never use it and at recent races the live timing has been none too reliable. Had Bernie sorted out the F1 merchandise a decade earlier he should by now be using that site to advertise it and be running all the features discussed above for free never mind for a subscription. He could sell team gear from the site and make a couple of quid per item. He controls all the intros to F1 TV coverage so that could be used to advertise the website.

    He has screwed up F1 computer games over the past few seasons. What kind of commercial genius can fail to do a deal which involves signing a licensing deal and sitting back collecting money while someone else carries all the costs and risk?

    I only hope when he finally disappears that his replacement takes the same view as Domenicali and turns the immediate past on its head within a few weeks. Same for Max’s replacement.

  15. Rui – that’s very interesting, I take it it’s Linux-only though?

  16. Just spotted on the olympics live feed –
    1302: Latest from Beijing. “Would you believe it? Bernie Ecclestone is being given a guided tour of the weightlifting venue. He’s backstage at the moment in the warm-up area. I think he might be about to tackle 15kg.”
    BBC’s Andrew Cotter

    Could wee see F1 in there in 2012 ?!

  17. The only thing I use F1.com for is the live timing, be it at home or at work, for those Friday ‘morning’ (I am GMT -5).

    it would be nice to see a better version of the live timing, perhaps with current on-track position information and with a log of past lap/sector, pitstop time.

    I am fairly lucky in that I have 3 feeds for F1, TSN, RDS and SpeedTV. TSN uses the ITV feed, RDS is local French-Canadian and SpeedTV is US based. Saying that I don’t really have a need of on-line live video, though a historic video archive would be wonderful.

  18. Keith: Yes, it’s Linux-only. Looking at the source code though, it’s not hugely complex so someone who knew their C could maybe port it.

    I hadn’t seen the software before, but all it does is provide the timing screen, but in a text format for people who like using the command line.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to see that another person has figured out the live timing protocol and data structures (and even made use of it!) :)

    Maybe we should see who else is into software development and get some ideas for what we could do with the data…

  19. An alternative to use the app, without installing Linux, is to use a Linux Live CD – you can get these from most distribution sites and basically it’s a Linux Boot CD which loads up the interface and whatnots. Might not be so good if network configurations are required though.

    The live video feed is a dream, but as already mentioned it will devalue the licensing contracts Bernie holds with the multiple broadcasters around the world. I guess in the money making machine of F1 the license to broadcast free, internationally, over the internet is a definate no-no.

    In comparison, YouTube was used to broadcast free live feed of the Olympics to selected countries (UK not being one of them) which would have limited coverage.

    Maybe when F1 moves to full HD-only will we see maybe a low definition live feed . . . but by the time that happens commodity connection speeds worldwide may be fast enough to stream bloody HD.

  20. I quite like F1.com because its clean and simple with not much clutter. I don’t think it needs advertising. It’s a relief to not be bombarded with advertising on a website for a change. There is so much money in F1 and Bernie takes a huge slice that I can’t believe they can’t do more. Perhaps the resources should be redirected more wisely from trying to block fans uploads etc and rather used to enhance the site further as you say above.

    Furthermore I firmly believe all the practice sessions should be available globally to view live on the site. I don’t see how this will devalue the TV contracts as many don’t bother to show the practices which is a real shame.

    In fact I think Bernie should be looking at launching a dedicated F1 TV channel. I sincerely think that he is missing a huge opportunity here. Just look at how much money football generates on the cable/satellite channels. The channel could have in depth pre and post race discussions and analysis. It could also show previous races from that season, as well as the many great races over the years and decades. It could also prove to be a central hub for behind the scenes programming from manufacturers to show what they do etc etc etc. Somebody just needs to show Bernie there is invaluable loyalty to be gained from the website and big money to be made from a F1 TV channel and he will make it happen… and I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t eventually happen.

    I contacted them many many years ago about setting up a RSS feed for the latest news etc from the site. It took them over a year before that was done. I’m so glad you raised the issues about this site Keith. I think they do a good job but they are no where near achieving the potential that so many fans expect. They are only ultimately doing themselves a disservice. It often feels they don’t much care for the fans.

    I guess it just needs time for them to see the error of their ways and catch up with the rest (like it eventually took for apple to see its error with DRM).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.