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).

  21. DG & Chaz

    I seem to remember a pay-per-view system on Sky satellite tv in the UK a few years back, which offered much of the services you suggest above. I didn’t see it myself but there was quite a bit of hype about it at the time. I think it was ahead of its time though, I do’t think there were many takers. It wasn’t cheap either. If anyone else has more info, fill us in :)

  22. In fact, a little googling and I’ve found a review of the service circa 2002:


  23. I love the fact that Moto GP have embraced iTunes and Podcasts. You can download video highlights from the dedicated Moto GP itunes page. They also offer lots of post and pre race reaction which is exclusive to the Video/podcasts.

    All this for free as well!

  24. I use the living timing alot and would have loved an archive of each lap and sector time for each drive for all grand prix, practise sessions and tests upto when live timing started. Even though this is alot of data it is still alot less than maybe 10 video clips put together

  25. Formula1.com is a bit of a joke really. The saddest thing about is that what is on it now, which is not a lot, is considerably more than there was 4 or 5 years ago, when it might as well have been a blank website. In a way we’re darn lucky to even get the live timing and crummy video highlights – those are relatively new things.

    Moto GP’s website, while not overly tidy, shows what sort of content F1.com should be providing.

    It’s bizarre, really – for such a high-tech sport it’s not adapted itself well to the internet at all.

  26. I agree with all your points. I check in to the official Formula One website a few times a week, just incase a new article has been added. But like you, I feel it is lacking. For me personally, I’d love to see the addition of a forum and live video and archived video. We get qualifying and the Grand Prix live on TV here in New Zealand, but I would love to see more than just ITV’s coverage. Maybe practice sessions, and the ability to change angles etc, like following a driver that the race director isn’t following at that time.

    Anyway, great post. With a bit of luck Bernie might read this and see some sense.

  27. Formula1.com can start by getting its live timing working properly. For two races in succession, Kimi Raikkonen’s car data has been extremely erratic and there have been other glitches noticeable too. It’s bad enough the site being something of a one-trick pony without the one trick it has being of questionable accuracy.

    I would also appreciate a low-graphics version of the site (my computer wouldn’t load it at all until the middle of last year, and still struggles with it sometimes).

    The ideas Keith came up with should also be implemented.

    Formula 1 should be represented by one of the best sites on the subject, and it currently isn’t. That’s sad.

  28. Good point about Raikkonen’s car data. Of course, there is the conspiracy theory that Ferrari deliberately messed up his transponder so rivals teams couldn’t monitor his progress to aid him during his pit stops. Better send Mulder & Scully to investigate that one…

  29. “Good point about Raikkonen’s car data. Of course, there is the conspiracy theory that Ferrari deliberately messed up his transponder so rivals teams couldn’t monitor his progress to aid him during his pit stops. Better send Mulder & Scully to investigate that one…”

    I have a new favourite conspiracy theory for this year, that’s brilliant :-D

    Even better than that mental article BBC.co.uk had about the “flat earthers”.

  30. @Noel – thanks for the link, I remember a lot of talk about that service, but I didn’t realise it had actually existed, but then I don’t have Sky!
    Perhaps this is the time for Bernie to try again, although now with everyone going digital (in the UK anyway), he could arrange something with the BBC and other broadcasters to provide a multi-view service which might not cost as much. And if he was sensible and added it to F1.com, he could keep control…..

  31. Noel – thanks for the link.

    I had no idea about this. I think £12 per race weekend is far to much and I’m not surprised it withered away. I would not have paid. Many of the other digital sport packages on sky are slowly falling into the basic sport package start-up.

    I think people are increasingly disillusioned with F1 (and other high profile sports in general for that matter) because of what seems excessive greed. They generate and earn so much money and yet they still seem to want more at the expense of fans. Fans don’t really get value for money anymore.

    I still believe F1 TV is viable and linking it with their website would seal the gap of content control that Bernie is so obsessed about. They will have to change eventually as this is called “progress”, or they will be left embarrassingly behind and continue loosing their loyal viewer audience. They should just look at the other high profile motor sports websites for an indication of whats expected. As said above, F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport and its such a shame their website does not continue this ethos.

    Come on Bernie… you can do it…

  32. Very commercial… trying to make petty money out their website…. no wonder the world’s RICHEST sport is loosing fanship…

  33. It should be added that the GP2 site is not very good either especially considering this is supposed or regarded as the feeder group to F1. I often wonder why live timing wont show the GP2 times???

    (P.S – for those in the UK and with sky they are showing daily a F1 retro through the 70’s on ESPN Classic)

  34. Says it all when most of their merchandise is either generic branded posters or £225 carbon mouse mats wrapped in quality F1 tissue paper.To be fair they are offering teamwear though now.

    Again , if it weren’t for live timing there’s very little there at all asides from historical race results.If Bernie’s so paranoid of devaluing his TV contracts why can’t he at least upload classic races to the F1 website or sell them on DVD? Monaco 96′ has been up on Youtube for a year and averages around 9000 views for all the parts.There are more people than ever uploading full races from 10-15 years ago.

  35. AmericanTifosi
    20th August 2008, 15:03

    How do you hack into itv’s coverage of Qualifying and Practice? I was crushed when I found out it was only for UK residents.

  36. AmericanTifosi – have a look at the links in the FAQ: F1 FAQ. If they don’t work then join us during the Live Blog while one of the sessions is going on, and ask what feeds everyone else is using. There’s usually one available somewhere.

  37. “If Bernie’s so paranoid of devaluing his TV contracts why can’t he at least upload classic races to the F1 website or sell them on DVD?”

    Because Bernie/FOM sells old F1 footage for several thousand quid for about a quarter of an hour.

  38. I’m in the States, but every week I’m able to keep up with Reading FC by watching or listening through the pay per view service available through World. Yet I have to pay my local cable provider almost $100/month so I can see F1 races.

    I can’t believe Bernie has completely ignored selling a pay-per-view broadband option to view practice, qualifying, races and even test sessions. It’s an inconvenience to me, and for FOM, it’s money left on the table.

  39. I think that its a sham that F1.com asks us what we think after showing us the different camera angles of the Fuji race and then provides us with no ‘official’ way to actually tell them. I mean, what gives? I used to go to their site for all the news, but really dont even care now. The ‘stewards’ involvement in the last number of races to keep the champioship ‘exciting’ is a sham. i am getting really sick of F1.

  40. I just tuned into A1GP today to wath the Malaysia race and am highly impressed with what the A1GP website has to offer its fans for free. They have definately upped their game from last year.

    For example, from my computer I can
    1) watch the GPS car track positions,
    2) choose a driver whose telemetry I want to see and follow,
    3) watch the race by live video stream and this is uninterupted by irritating adverts or commercials,
    4) watch live timing of all the cars similar to that on F1.com

    F1.com really needs to pull its finger out. I’ve been screaming about this for ages. F1.com should be embarressed and ashamed. This is how you get and keep fans in a sport. I’m glad to see that A1GP have been smart enough to build these costs in and provide these services free to fans as it should be.


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