F1.com should offer more to F1 fans

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.

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

  1. D Winn said on 18th August 2008, 13:12

    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 ?!

  2. 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.

  3. Christopher said on 18th August 2008, 14:23

    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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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 :)

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

    http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/tv-channels/f1-digital-plus/368259/

  8. Scott Joslin said on 18th August 2008, 18:28

    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!

  9. NDINYO said on 18th August 2008, 19:18

    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

  10. Robert McKay said on 18th August 2008, 20:19

    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.

  11. SkinBintin said on 18th August 2008, 20:53

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th August 2008, 21:34

    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…

  14. Robert McKay said on 18th August 2008, 22:19

    “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”.

  15. @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…..

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