The F1 School of ‘bright ideas’: Output #132


In a desperate bid to demonstrate everyone is contributing to Bernie’s new favourite song, “The show must go on”, we are continually presented with bright ideas of how Formula One can be made more attractive to viewers.

However, the show needs to do more than ‘just go on’, if it is to halt the decline in race attendances and those watching the sport on TV.

The resulting push for ‘showtime’ innovation gave us double points at the season finale – the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP – yet having been proven ‘not such a popular bright idea’, this has been dropped for 2015.

Sprinklers randomly turning races from dry to wet, standing restarts following the safety car, a twin engine Formula, allowing the teams to decide which pair of dry compound tyres they run (we quite liked that), getting FOM on twitter and a new website…. Have all been solutions proposed to save Formula One from the terminal decline it appears to find itself in.

Speaking on SKY sport’s ‘the F1 show’, Claire William’s has suggested moving the European races back later in the day may garner a greater TV audience. When asked whether reducing the length of the race would help, Williams replied: “You could cut the two-hour race [limit] to an hour, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll bring about change. I think it’s more important when we’re broadcasting our races.”

“The way that society is now people want to spend time with the family and doing something together, and actually giving up your whole Sunday, which you have to do to watch a Formula 1 race, completely clobbers your whole day.

“If we moved it to later on in the afternoon, you go out, you do your day with your family, you come home and watch the grand prix at 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon. Those kind of considerations are the questions to ask first.”

This may indeed have an effect on those who are prepared to cough up for pay-per-view, but the reality in the UK is around half the races are broadcast live on free to air anyway.

However, as with much of the output from the ‘F1 school of bright ideas’, this latest proposal which would see European races starting later in the day has failed to consider an important factor – Sunset Time.

Since the FIA panel of experts reported on the Jules Bianchi crash, the World Motorsport Council have ratified a regulation that forces all F1 races to be scheduled to start at least four hours before local sunset time.

Currently the Spanish GP begins at 2pm CET (1pm GMT). Sunset in Barcelona on the day of this year’s race is at 8:58pm local time. This would require a start time of 5pm CET (4pm GMT).

Similarly in Italy, the race will be held September 6th 2015 and sunset local time is 7:58pm. This would require a start time of 4pm CET (3pm GMT).

Belgium start times would be the same as in Italy, and Monaco would mirror Barcelona.

In the UK, 3 and 4pm starts hardly achieve the goal Claire Williams sets out – where the family is returning from a day out and switches on the big Formula One event, whilst preparing for dinner.

It is highly unlikely the FIA will rescind the regulations which state the start must be four hours earlier than sunset, due to the grave circumstances surrounding this rule’s incorporation.

Lights could be fitted at the circuits affected, but then the expense of doing this has to be paid for by someone.

Further, will such late finishes see fans opting out of travelling to certain GP events, because they will be forced to take the following day off work if their journey home is more than a few hours.

IndyCar run many of their races at similar times to the current F1 GP’s. 9 of the 17 races for 2015 begin at 3:30pm local time or earlier.

Of course this wheeze is aimed to facilitate better the European TV audience which at present is a substantial proportion of the total worldwide ‘box watchers’.

Yet, do you think Formula One shown late afternoon or in the early evening (worry not about the matter of times zones etc for now) would be better for you as a fan of the sport.

20 responses to “The F1 School of ‘bright ideas’: Output #132

  1. As a father of two small children and living in California I sure like the 2am start times as I get to record it, wake up early, and enjoy the race with a cup of coffee and the wife all while fast forwarding through the commercials.

    Race is over just in time for the kids to be kids.

  2. I’m quite happy with the European start time of races as it makes my local start time of the races about 8:30pm Sunday evenings which is a very convenient time for me to watch the race. The select ones that are shown live on free to air here that is…

  3. On the other side of the world, a later start time means it’ll be impossible to see another race live. But that’s becoming more difficult to do anyway, so…

    • Hear you Mark.
      Just what we need, farking around with things that don’t need to farked around with.
      Get out and do something positive….give Bernie the ares, FFS!

  4. Most people these days need cable or satellite to see F1 races on TV. Most people that watch F1 on TV also have DVRs (digital video recorders). Hence, they record the race and watch at their leisure. Furthermore, moving the races to late afternoon then results in attendees heading home in the dark. Not a welcoming scenario. Finally, the only reason for current race times is to provide TV broadcasters with an awake audience.

  5. “The way that society is now people want to spend time with the family and doing something together, and actually giving up your whole Sunday, which you have to do to watch a Formula 1 race, completely clobbers your whole day.”

    I don’t see any other sport changing its start time so as to accommodate families spending time together, to me this just is nonsense. The start time for the races are perfectly fine.

    • A lot of sports already have more family-friendly start times. However, football has changed a lot over the last 20 years or so to make more and more games available for broadcast at times when people will be in from work or days out.

      Personally, I find that over the summer I watch most of the races on the iPlayer as even if I’m not out somewhere with my wife I prefer to be doing things outside when the weather is nice. If the races could be scheduled later I’d certainly prefer that – the Brazilian GP is always a great one, starting around tea-time.

  6. Everyone has their reasons not to like the way F1 is broadcasted now – bad hours, biased commentary (aww Lewis does this and that and yeahh, we haven’t seen much of Lewis…, but LEWIS HAMILTON WINS AGAINST ALL ODDS AAAAAAAAHHHHHH from pole yet again). Why all the screaming, everyone can see it coming, I mean there’s no real surprise that after leading for 50 laps Lewis can lead the very last one too, right? It may be a pet peeve, but they tend to scare my kid, disturb the cat’s sleep and annoy the wife with all that yelling at the end. They even did it on safety car.

    So what can Bernie do to improve the appeal of F1? Here’s what. Me, I like the cars on track, the real noise. Unfortunately no amount of broadcasting savvy-ness, HiFi speakers or very high volume could replace the noise of a real racecar. When the admittedly slow Viper GT3 rounds Tertre Rouge the whole darn hill I’m standing on jumps at every cylinder detonation, how can they pass that feeling on TV? Why even try? My experience at the race track is that one is vaguely aware of the classification; in stead one is more focused on the noise, looks, twichiness of the cars on corner entry/exit, especially in the rain. What broadcasters should do is to make it convenient and informative. At the track if a pass happens in front of you, well that’s bonus and a very welcome one. When I watch the race at home on a 5 foot screen, it can’t be as immersive as being on track, but it has its advantages and broadcasters should focus on them in stead of the noise and the ever-suprising (insert dominant driver / manufacturer name HERE) passing the chequered flag 1st yet again.

    What I would want is this: make it easy for me to watch it whenever I want. I won’t pay for a DVR, I don’t want to pay for a TV or cable, but I would pay to see the race in 1080p. I can hear the wolves howling in the background, but will say the accursed words: internet streaming – give us this and many young(ish) folks may actually watch F1.
    If the race were available after the fact I could just pass a quick glance at a news report and if it was rubbish I can simply not watch it, thus not have to pay for it. If the race was good, then 10-15£ isn’t a lot of money for good entertainment.

  7. You keep saying “free to air” on BBC, and I recall reading over the years that there’s an annual fee or tax for having a radio and/or a TV. How much is it, and does it depend on how many radios/TVs a person has? And what about the radio in your automobile? Will someone explain this to me? Please?

    • It is a ‘per household’ charge and applies to anyone who has equipment capable of TV reception – a lot of people get caught out thinking they don’t need one if they just record and watch later or use the iPlayer.

      There used to be a separate radio licence but that disappeared long ago.

      Basically, for this fee we get TV and Radio without adverts and get (IMO) some of the best TV production in the world. Because the BBC doesn’t need to please advertisers or chase ratings they can concentrate on more specialist program production which you don’t often see with commercial broadcasters.

      You do get some people complaining, personally I’m happy enough to pay £12 a month for the service. The alternatives are either advertising funded TV (ITV, Channel 4 and 5 in the UK) or subscription based TV such as Sky.

  8. Timing is not the blo0dy issue. These guys just don’t get it, and never will.

    The sport is run by a bunch of tools.

  9. Over here in asia, we’ll just have to stay late to watch for races. And coverage is getting closer and closer to the pay gate routes. Free stream sites are slowly getting tracked down by sky. I find it hard to pay for the premium HD channels at the current state of F1, seems like the result is always over on Saturdays despite what most people say bar the rare challenge of Ferrari.

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