12 down, 9 to go. Formula 1 returns from its Summer break, with the classic Spa Francorchamps circuit playing host to round 13 of the season, as the championship speeds towards the finish line.
Given what has been a frantic month so far for the sport, one would expect a packed weekend for all the UK’s F1 broadcasters, with no room for filler.
Sky have a new kid on the block, with a new programme on Thursday afternoons. Welcome to the Weekend is a live 30-minute show wrapping up the Thursday interviews with Natalie Pinkham presenting. The show replaces Paddock Uncut, which used to fulfil the same purpose and aired for 15 minutes on Thursdays prior to each weekend.
Elsewhere, a special 90-minute edition of Speed with Guy Martin airs on Bank Holiday Monday on Channel 4. As noted last month, the show sees Williams Heritage rebuild their FW08C car for Martin to race at Silverstone in a challenge that occurred prior to the British Grand Prix weekend.
Martin challenges Jenson Button, who will be in the banned six-wheel Williams FW08B car, which the team were going to race in the 1983 Formula One season. As with his two previous Formula 1 orientated programming in March 2016 (bike versus racing car) and September 2017 (pit stop challenge), the turnaround time from filming the challenge to airing has been short, with a six-week gap in total.
On two wheels, MotoGP are the ones heading to Silverstone this weekend, with live coverage as always on BT Sport 2. In addition to their usual coverage, BT are also covering both British Talent Cup races live, whilst a one-hour live magazine show will air live from Woodcote on Thursday evening, with Suzi Perry presenting.
Because the F1 races this year are starting 70 minutes later, it means that the British MotoGP round starts at 13:00 UK time instead of 15:30 as it has done for the past few years, avoiding a clash with the F1.
Channel 4 F1 Sessions
24/08 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1
24/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
25/08 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
25/08 – 12:55 to 15:45 – Qualifying
26/08 – 13:00 to 17:35 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build-Up
=> 13:40 – Race
=> 16:30 – Reaction
27/08 – 21:00 to 22:30 – Speed with Guy Martin: Classic F1 Special
Sky Sports F1 Sessions
24/08 – 09:45 to 11:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event from 10:00)
24/08 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/08 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3
25/08 – 13:00 to 15:40 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
26/08 – 12:30 to 17:10 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live
23/08 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
23/08 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
25/08 – 16:55 to 17:30 – The F1 Show
BBC Radio F1
23/08 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
24/08 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
26/08 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
MotoGP – Britain
24/08 – 08:45 to 16:15 – Practice 1 and 2 (BT Sport 2)
24/08 – 19:00 to 20:00 – ICYMI Live (BT Sport 1)
25/08 – 09:00 to 16:15 (BT Sport 2)
=> 09:00 – Practice 3
=> 12:00 – Qualifying
26/08 – 08:45 to 16:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:45 – Warm Ups
=> 10:30 – Moto3
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:15 – Moto2
=> 15:30 – Chequered Flag
For the first time ever, Formula 1 has given fans a behind the scenes look at how they direct a Grand Prix, and what happen during a race-changing incident.
Through Formula 1’s Fan Voice site (login required), a six-minute clip covering Sebastian Vettel’s accident during the German Grand Prix, complete with full open audio of the main production desk, has been uploaded by the team.
The clip offers an eye-opening account into how motor sport production works, and the effort that goes in by those working on the television product, from the camera operators situated at each of the designated points, to the lead director. Before going any further, it is worth taking a look at how the British Superbikes outside broadcast truck is operated, which is what this site did last year (here and here). Whilst F1’s production is on a much grander scale; the broad principles apply across the spectrum.
For the six people portrayed in the video to function properly, many other people must be on their toes and ready at the correct time for the machine to turn. To put it simplistically, the video depicts four work streams:
Main Feed – otherwise known as the World Feed that millions of fans around the globe see. Philip Rorke leads the ship, with Paul Young the production assistant. Rorke chooses between the Track Mix and all the other camera options available to him, such as heli-cam, on-board, and pit lane angles, whilst Young is making sure we are not missing anything on the other feeds.
Track Mix – imagine Formula 1, but without the added extras, such as replays, crowd shots, on-board angles, or pit lane shots. The track feed is simply that. Dave directs the track mix, calling the next camera number along with the style of the shot, whilst “Foxy” is the link between Dave and the camera operators, ensuring Dave has not missed anything.
Replays – the ability to isolate specific shots, and choosing an order for the play out of the best angles. If you heard Tony shouting different colours during the video, that is what he is doing.
Team Radio – a team of four, led by Ray, listen to the radio feeds throughout the race, choosing which snippets are worth playing out over the World Feed.
The four work streams are constantly interacting with each other, to deliver the best product to fans. In the six-minute video, the underlying World Feed switches feed twenty times, flipping between the track mix, roaming pit lane and paddock cameras, the ‘cam cat‘ camera, amongst other angles. I will at this point apologise if I have misinterpreted anyone’s voice and attributed it to the wrong person below.
Feeds used during Vettel’s German Grand Prix accident
00:00 to 00:16 – track mix
00:16 to 00:43 – heli-cam
00:43 to 00:53 – track mix
00:53 to 00:57 – roaming camera 2
00:57 to 01:05 – track mix
01:05 to 01:09 – roaming camera 3
01:09 to 01:13 – track mix
01:13 to 01:27 – roaming camera 1
01:27 to 01:31 – special
01:31 to 01:44 – cam-cat
01:44 to 01:57 – track mix
01:57 to 02:39 – replay (roll A)
02:39 to 02:50 – track mix
02:50 to 03:08 – heli-cam
03:08 to 03:19 – track mix
03:19 to 03:24 – roaming camera 2
03:24 to 03:42 – cam-cat
03:42 to 03:59 – roaming camera 4
03:59 to 05:05 – track mix
05:05 to 05:10 – roaming camera 2
05:10 to 05:55 – replay (roll A)
05:55 to 06:00 – track mix
Although only used for just over two minutes in the clip, the track mix is operational for the entire race. If you listen carefully, even while the heli-cam was the focus of the World Feed before Vettel’s crash, you can hear Dave calling the track mix shots.
“Stand by 12. Stand by 12. And take 12. Stand by 15. Stand by 15. And take 15. Stand by 16, we are going early, wait for Hamilton. Stand by 18. Stand by 18. Take 18 early. Stand by 19 early. Ooh, there’s an off!” The very moment you hear Dave start to begin the last sentence, a wall of noise reverberates on the clip, along with shouts from Rorke to take track mix.
Some of the above should be self-explanatory, but to explain, the camera angles around the circuit are numbered 1 through to an arbitrary number, not every circuit will have the same number of cameras. Some turns may have more than one angle, so camera angle 11 may not be turn 11. “Stand by 15” means “stand by, track camera 15” rather than “stand by, camera at turn 15”, an important distinction to make.
A director may want to take an angle earlier than usual if they want to establish a shot, usually the case if a new segment is about to begin (for example, an emerging battle). By having multiple feeds in the background, it meant that Rorke and his team could switch straight from the heli-cam to the track mix as soon as Vettel headed towards the tyre barrier.
The emphasis from Rorke about what he expects is fundamentally clear throughout the video, Rorke leading the team from start to finish. No two races are the same from a direction perspective.
Telling the story
Directing a live sports broadcast is not just about capturing the incidents, it is about telling the story, something Rorke reiterates throughout the clip. The story was Lewis Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel, with the other drivers playing a supporting role.
That might be exaggerating the point slightly, but other potential points of interest, such as Carlos Sainz changing onto intermediates and Lance Stroll spinning were excluded from the main feed as they were not considered part of the story that Formula 1’s production team was trying to tell. “Is it important to see Sainz on intermediates, not really, this is the story,” notes Rorke.
One of the roaming cameras captured Sainz’s change to intermediates, so the option was there to switch, whilst the attention of the track mix was on Hamilton and Vettel. Given that Stroll spun not too long before Vettel crashed, switching to Stroll on the track mix could have resulted in switching to Vettel slightly later than what they did on the main feed. Playing Stroll’s spin out following Vettel’s accident would have added very little to the overall story-arc.
Later in the six-minute period, Sergey Sirotkin retired with a mechanical problem, Sirotkin’s retirement considered a minor topic compared to re-establishing the running order up front following Vettel’s accident. Anyone who has ever watched a motor race will know that the order can radically change because of a Safety Car period. In between Vettel’s accident and Sirotkin’s retirement, several cars pitted, and whilst the timing wall is present in the graphics set, Rorke considers establishing the order critical, with several back markers also in shot.
Phil – Okay, now let’s see who is behind the Safety Car.
Dave – Hamilton is leading, now let’s get to the front please.
Phil – Don’t worry about Sirotkin for the moment. [camera cuts to him] Go to the cars then.
Dave – Here come the cars coming down here. There’s the cars.
Phil – I just need to establish the order again on that next shot again please.
It is a high-pressured environment, with things that fans, including myself, take for granted at home, discussed in finite detail to ensure that the product is not rough around the edges.
All perspectives covered following Vettel’s crash
The World Feed goes “round the houses”, covering all angles of Vettel’s accident, including crowd shots, and angles from both Ferrari’s garage and pit wall.
As well as this, the team are keen to portray the raw emotion and body language that comes with Formula 1. “Stay on this. Stay. On. This.” is the very direct instruction given by Rorke to remain on the same track feed in the opening seconds after the crash.
The supplementary stories of both Bottas’s and Raikkonen’s pit stops play out, but the overarching story is clearly Vettel’s accident as the production team returns to him walking away from his car instead of changing focus. Rorke again establishes the leadership position aboard the production truck. “Vettel is absolutely pissed off, stay with this please. There’s loads of stops going on, but this is what is all about.”
The team continue to follow Vettel back through the paddock and into the Ferrari motor home. Throughout all of this, the graphics appear at the right time, almost invisible to the conversations that we hear in the video.
Vettel’s accident is replayed over the World Feed twice from different vantage points, once without team radio and once with team radio included. There is enough breathing time between the two replay suites, the second set of replays also including a slow-motion angle of Vettel entering the motor home. Throughout the video, different conversations are taking place in the background, with decisions made that impact the television product.
Would supplementary track feeds make for good additions to F1 TV?
As mentioned earlier, the track mix is simply a feed without additional bells and whistles. For the retro gamers amongst you, think of Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4, which featured a TV mode, but without the obligatory helicopter angles, pit lane shots or crowd reactions.
There are some fans who may prefer this method of viewing, and if F1 is putting together this feed for internal purposes, one might argue that the feed should be made available via Sky Race Control and F1’s new over-the-top service.
One other thing that the six-minute video brought to the forefront was that the World Feed consciously missed some moments that occurred further down the field. In the grand scheme of things, I cannot imagine many getting too upset at missing a Carlos Sainz pit stop or Lance Stroll spnning. The decision-making in this instance was on point.
Nevertheless, it brings up an interesting question as to whether a ‘Track B’ feed, which was prominent during the F1 Digital+ days, should return. The feed focused on action further down the field that the main feed may not have been covering, which in 2018 terms would be the equivalent of covering anyone from Haas downwards.
A nice idea maybe for F1 TV, but the video posted by Formula One Management represented the most dramatic portion of the season so far, and not representative of the season so far where such a feed may be useless. In a 22 or 24 car field, maybe so, but I am not sure you can justify producing a mid-pack feed in a field of 20 cars. Nevertheless, it would give the main director an extra track feed to switch to, should they desire.
Motor sport is a team event in many different respects, and that extends itself to the production side of the event. If this video does anything, it helps make you appreciate just how much effort week in, week out, goes into producing Formula 1 television. It is not an easy job…
A superimposed Rolex clock during coverage of the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix resulted in multiple Formula 1 broadcasters raising concerns to Formula One Management (FOM), the UK communications body Ofcom has revealed.
Ofcom, the body that regulates UK television and radio communication in the UK, received a complaint in relation to Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the Singapore qualifying session from 2016. The complaint related to a Rolex clock, which FOM superimposed over the Singapore Flyer during coverage that weekend, the complainant arguing that the clock was unduly prominent. As part of their investigation, Channel 4’s highlights programme was also brought into scope.
Readers will be aware that Rolex plays a major part in Formula 1’s timing system and graphics set, with their logo displayed at regular intervals, something that is frequently referenced during Ofcom’s write-up (an area they are unconcerned about). However, the Rolex clock went far beyond what had taken place before.
Sky argued that, under the terms of their contract with Formula 1 to broadcast the action live, they had to broadcast an unaltered World Feed of qualifying, and as a result an “increased tolerance around undue prominence and product promotion was needed,” something that applies for all live sporting events.
Channel 4 argued that, for practicality reasons, the turn-around time between the live broadcast ending and their highlights show starting was “extremely limited”, and that the placement of the graphic made it difficult to remove from the broadcast without disturbing the flow of the action significantly.
Whisper Films, who produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage, raised what Ofcom describe as “serious concerns” about the undue prominence “at a senior level with Formula One”, with another broadcaster according to Ofcom’s write-up doing the same. In addition, Sky informed Formula 1 that the superimposed Rolex clock was “beyond levels it felt would generally be accepted.”
Both Sky and Channel 4 in their submissions to Ofcom stated that this level of undue prominence has not occurred since. In both rulings, Ofcom said “These images [of the superimposed clock face] dominated the screen, appeared during location shots, and were not integral to the sporting event that was the subject of the programme.”
Ofcom declared Sky’s incident as resolved, because of the steps Sky took following the broadcast, and the fact that Sky’s broadcast was live. However the body, in this instance, did not believe the inclusion of the images was justified for Channel 4’s highlights broadcast, declaring the broadcaster in breach of Rule 9.5 of Ofcom’s Broadcast Code (No undue prominence may be given in programming to a product, service or trade mark).
The body said “We took into account Channel 4’s submission about the time constraints on producing the programme. However, this was not a live programme but an edited one featuring highlights of the race. There was therefore an opportunity for these images to be edited out of the programme as broadcast. [..] We therefore concluded that the commercial references were unduly prominent, in breach of Rule 9.5.”
The fourth season of the electric Formula E championship struggled to gain viewers in the United Kingdom, overnight audience figures suggest.
For the first time, Eurosport aired live coverage of the series in the UK, with every race covered besides the Paris E-Prix, which aired on tape delay.
Channel 5 provided free-to-air coverage for the second season running. However, the championship received less than optimal coverage from the broadcaster, with some races demoted to 5Spike, and others not aired live.
Hong Kong (R1)
Channel 5 (tape-delay)
Hong Kong (R2)
Channel 5 (tape-delay)
Punta del Este
New York (R1)
New York (R2)
Of the twelve races in total, four aired live on Channel 5, six aired live on 5Spike, whilst the season opening Hong Kong E-Prix double header aired in tape-delay form on Channel 5. When races aired live on 5Spike, Channel 5 committed to airing a 60-minute programme the following day. The exceptions were Santiago and the first race of the New York weekend, the latter failed to make the air following a technical error.
The Rome and Paris rounds of the championship clashed with live coverage of the Aviva Premiership Rugby, where Channel 5 have a contract to air five live games per season. Considering Formula E announced their calendar months in advance, and the final set of rugby games was announced in March, Channel 5 could, and should have, avoided Formula E weekends.
Having four Saturday’s of sporting action is better than two Saturday’s where they are competing against themselves for the same demographic. If anything, it demonstrates a serious level of incompetence from Channel 5. With inconsistent scheduling, channel switches, and large gaps between some rounds, it is little wonder that Formula E has struggled to gain traction this season.
Where Channel 5’s main channel did not air coverage live, this site has accounted for 5Spike’s live coverage, combined with the Channel 5 highlights programme that aired on most occasions. Eurosport used Formula E’s World Feed output as the basis for their coverage. Instead of taking the World Feed commentary led by Jack Nicholls, Eurosport opted to use their own in-house team off-tube, usually led by Tom Gaymor and Mike Conway.
Fans cannot watch the race itself live via Formula E’s social media channels, including YouTube, as the existing broadcasting rights restrict this.
The 2017-18 story
The season started with an average audience of 217,000 viewers watching both Hong Kong races across Eurosport and Channel 5, a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 206,000 viewers on Channel 5.
Whilst the tape-delay situation was frustrating at the time, you can see Channel 5’s logic in it: a new presentation setup combined with the time zone difference meaning that a 09:00 time slot is significantly better than a 06:45 time slot.
Viewing figures took a downward turn with Marrakech, which averaged 198,000 viewers on January 13th, a poor figure for an afternoon round. With no highlights programme on Channel 5, Santiago bottomed out at 118,000 viewers across 5Spike and Eurosport.
Highlights of the Mexico City E-Prix on Channel 5’s main channel helped push its combined audience of 290,000 viewers above last year’s figure of 238,000 viewers, with Punta del Este two weeks later (live on Channel 5) also in a similar ballpark.
But channel hunting for Paris and Berlin meant that Formula E never hit 300,000 viewers until the Zurich E-Prix, which averaged 301,000 viewers. The combined peak audience of 412,000 viewers was also the highest of season five.
The season ended badly in New York, with a combined audience of just 69,000 viewers watching Jean-Eric Vergne winning the championship in race one, due to Channel 5’s highlights programme failing to make the air. The second race of the weekend picked up only 146,000 viewers.
Combined average and final thoughts
An average audience of 18k (0.20%) watched Eurosport’s coverage across the whole season, covering 15-minutes of build-up and some post-race reaction. The highlight for Eurosport was the Santiago E-Prix in February, which averaged 32k (0.17%), peaking with 65k (0.35%).
Formula E for Eurosport, in the United Kingdom at least, is filler and nothing more, part of a wider pan-European deal. If anything, Eurosport’s audience figures show that Formula E needs a free-to-air deal in this country otherwise the series will sink without trace.
Collectively, Channel 5’s coverage attracted a weighted average of 177k (1.8%) across the 12 rounds, a significant decrease on season three’s audience of 280k (2.6%), following the same trajectory that ITV’s coverage faced between their first two seasons, although it should be noted that ITV did not mess with the scheduling in the same way that Channel 5.
When Formula E airs live on 5Spike, the championship loses three-quarters of its audience. The races that Channel 5 aired live, including Hong Kong’s tape-delayed coverage, averaged 220k (2.2%), whilst 5Spike’s live races attracted 61k (0.46%). It is also worth pointing out that Formula E consistently rated below both Channel 5’s and 5Spike’s respective slot averages.
A combined audience of 196,000 viewers watched Channel 5’s and Eurosport’s season four coverage of Formula E, a hefty decrease of 30 percent on the 2016-17 average audience of 280,000 viewers. The audience is an increase on season two’s average audience of 138,000 viewers when the championship aired live on ITV4, but down on season one’s average of 216,000 viewers.
When factoring in ITV’s highlights programming, season four is likely to be the lowest on record for Formula E in the UK. Where could live free-to-air coverage of Formula E be heading next in the UK? Head over here to find out…
As the first half of 2018 concludes following a frantic period on and off the track, here are some of the broadcasting stories you may have missed over the past few weeks…
Perry expands BT Sport’s MotoGP commitments for 2019
Suzi Perry will present every round of BT Sport’s MotoGP in 2019, she has confirmed. In response to a fan question on Twitter, Perry confirmed that she will be in the hot-seat for all of the expected 19 rounds next season.
Perry has shared presenting duties with Craig Doyle since 2016, although Doyle has been part of BT’s MotoGP coverage since its inception in 2014. However, as first reported by Motorcycle News, Doyle is ending his commitments at the end of this season to focus on his ever-expanding rugby commitments with BT.
At the half way stage of 2018, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage has averaged 117k (1.45%) for its race day programme from 09:30 to 14:15, or equivalent according to overnight viewing figures, identical to last year’s audience figure of 117k (1.29%).
In comparison, an average audience of 403k (2.2%) have watched Channel 5’s highlights programme, a decrease on last year’s equivalent figure of 446k (2.5%). The World Cup has hit Channel 5’s MotoGP overnight viewing figures. Their audience for the Catalan round dropped by 38 percent year-on-year, thanks to a clash with England’s opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia.
Meanwhile over in Italy, MotoGP will be remaining on Sky for the next three seasons.
Formula E’s destination hinges on Channel 4’s Formula 1 future
As of writing, there is no official confirmation or additional information as to whether Channel 4 will continue to air Formula 1 in 2019, beyond what was reported during the British Grand Prix weekend last month.
If you are Formula E, the sooner Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is finalised the better. I understand that, whilst Channel 4 has shown interest in Formula E, the series may well remain on Channel 5 should Channel 4 retain F1.
A separate obstacle between Channel 4 and Formula E concerns the finances of the contract. During season four, Channel 5 and Formula E agreed to split the production cost, something that is proving trickier to negotiate with Channel 4.
Formula E’s fifth season starts in Saudi Arabia in December, so there is no immediate rush to confirm the UK contract. In 2016, when Formula E moved to Channel 5, the announcement was made just one month before the season began.
BBC commissions motor sport special
The BBC’s World Service has commissioned a motor sport documentary to air across their networks later this year. The one-off special sees Billy Monger meet Alex Zanardi, both of whom had their lives changed following high-speed motor racing accidents.
Following his crash in 2001, Zanardi has gone on to win gold medals at the Paralympics, whilst Monger returned to racing this year after his own accident last year. Jennie Gow went with Monger to visit Zanardi in Italy, and will present the special programme.
The special will air across BBC Radio 5 Live, online and television later this year. Normally BBC World television documentaries also air on the BBC News Channel, so expect the documentary to turn up there, as opposed to one of their general entertainment outlets.
Elsewhere in the BBC spectrum, the broadcaster aired a special technology feature filmed during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend. Their weekly Click programme went behind the scenes, with presenter Spencer Kelly interviewing people from Mercedes and Formula One Management, focusing on the latest developments in F1. If you have 15 minutes spare time, this is worth a watch.