As TJ13 has reported many times before, in days of yore the F1 world feed TV producer followed the lead an expert English language speaking commentator to highlight the relevant action which is imminent on track.
James Allen was the last person to function in this role before FOM TV decided they would decide the relevant pictures to broadcast that tell the story of a Formula One race.
Of course the lead commentator would have at least one analyst sat beside him, following the timing screens to anticipate the ‘next event’ worthy of commentary.
For example, it is clear from the sector times when a midfield driver is closing at a significant rate on another car – and so this would become the next story during the race, particularly if little was happening at the front of the race. The TV pictures would then focus on this chase and the viewers could see the battle unfold before their eyes.
FOM in its wisdom decided a number of years ago that they could perform this function equally as well and so ditched the ‘lead expert commentator’ model.
Of course FOM TV have a lot of other matters to consider too. They must ensure the virtual track side advertising is repeatedly shown, messages from Bernie together with making sure that teams who are persona non-grata fail to get the relevant airtime.
All of which devalues the experience of the viewer in terms of the race story being presented.
The tail may well now be now wagging the proverbial dog, as the new breed of F1 race commentators appear to deliver their commentary – based upon the pictures selected by FOM TV. The experts are repeatedly criticised for missing the nuances in the narrative of the race, by fans as they take to commenting on their favourite websites race review articles.
Jenson Button was forced to sit out the Bahrain GP as his ailing McHonda gave up the ghost before the red lights went out at the start. He tweeted amusing and at times facetious comments as he watched the fourth race of the season unfold in his garage.
However, the British World Champion has commented this weekend on other observations he was able to make because he wasn’t driving his car in the heat of battle.
“The thing that amazes me when you watch a race like that is how much you [TV commentators and the media] miss of what is going on,” Button observed.
“Obviously you’re fully in it and you’re looking at the leaders, but there is a lot going on that doesn’t get picked up. It’s very difficult to pick up on everything, but when I’ve got the timing screens I can see what’s going on”.
Button explains by way of example exactly what he means, and it is worthy of note the commentary he followed was from UK SKY F1
“You could see Kimi was possibly going to win the race from where he was, and he went one lap long in the pit stop, and if he hadn’t he probably would have challenged for the win”.
The SKY team were slow to pick up the implications behind the Iceman’s alternative strategy, even to the point where Kimi pitted for a second time.
Of course as Jenson says, at times there can be a lot going on during an F1 race – yet the 2015 Bahrain GP was fairly processional when compared to the Spanish GP of 2013 which Ferrari won. They did so by stopping four times which amusingly sent the TV commentators went into melt down – as they were unable to interpret properly the contenders for the win because cars were out of position on track and running different strategies.
This level of incompetence is the reason why many F1 fans watch the FOM feed but listen to radio commentary – which by the very nature of its medium tends to force those behind the microphone to better follow the tales within the tale of the race.
It’s time the F1 TV commentators raised their game even if just for personal pride, because fans now have access to the timing screens for just $26 a year – which makes the race commentary failings even more stark.