High definition broadcasts arrived six years after NASCAR’s. Formula One Management’s relationship with YouTube goes no further than barking orders at them to take videos of F1 racing down to ensure the sport remain a secret from a generation of young fans.
The appearance of an official Live Timimg App a few years ago signalled a shudder of movement in F1’s glacially slow progress into the 21st century. Is the latest iteration a genuinely useful application of new technology – or just another shiny product on which to slap the F1 logo and an unrealistic price tag?
For those familiar with F1.com’s live timing page – still running on creaking, bug-riddled Java – the main timing page on the official app is a substantial improvement. Sectors times are given to three decimal places, each driver’s top speed in each sector is shown along with and – most usefully – live tyre information.
Flip between pages and you can see breakdowns of which tyres each driver has used during the session, instant ‘perfect lap’ calculations and more.
If you’re unable to watch a session live you have the option of re-playing them and pause, rewind and forward through them.
In every area the official app brings you a step closer to the level of detail the teams get on the pit wall. However quite a few of the pages present the same information in different ways, so that I found I relied almost exclusively on the main timing page when using it.
The latest version of the app also incorporates Twitter feeds and allows you to add your own. But although I find Twitter a very useful service during race weekends (and post hundreds of updates to it during sessions on F1 Fanatic Live) it’s hard to credit a paid app for including a service which is available for free.
With so much information available the bigger the screen you’ve got the more useful the app is. On an iPhone 5 I found the 3D view unusably small and constantly had to scroll up and down the timing screen. This app is much more at home on a tablet.
Then there is the sticking point of the reliability of FOM’s services. There have already been several occasions this year when the public timing screens have not been available and the official app is not immune from the same glitches.
I found myself wondering who the app is aimed at. Armchair viewers can glean much of the same information in real-time from Twitter, multi-channel TV coverage and the existing free live timing page (which makes me wonder how much longer the latter will remain in existence).
It would be most useful for track-side spectators to stay abreast of the action they can’t see. But network availability and the cost of data will be a problem at many circuits – one that the late lamented FanVision service had cracked, as well as offering live audio and video, though for a considerably higher price.
If the thought crossed your mind of buying a one-off subscription for a race weekend visit, the disappointing news is the app is only available on a per-season basis. Android, Apple and Blackberry platforms are catered for but there is no version you can simply log into with a web browser.
Priced more competitively or offered with a more flexible payment system this slick and useful app would easily get four stars. As it is for most tech-literate fans this is a product that’s nice to have but one you can live without.
F1 Fanatic rating
The official F1 Live Timing App 2013 can be purchased through Google Play for Android, iTunes for Apple and BlackBerry World. The Android app is also available via Amazon in the USA:
Official F1 Live Timing App 2013
Format: Android, Apple, Blackberry
Publisher: Soft Pauer
Published: March 2013
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