The Japanese Grand Prix saw a return to the usual status quo, with Mercedes back on top form as Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory.
But on the broadcasting side of things during the World Feed coverage that Formula One Management (FOM) produce, something looked odd: the noticeable lack of coverage given to either Mercedes car during qualifying or the race. Deliberate or just a coincidence? Conspiracy theories abound as to the reason why. AUTOSPORT, amongst other media outlets, are reporting that Mercedes are going to query it with Bernie Ecclestone. It is not the first time that a team has been “blacklisted” from FOM’s World Feed, most notably Force India during the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session.
First points first, the direction was abysmal, probably the worst of the entire year to date. I’ve complained about the direction before with relation to virtual advertising and missing changes for the lead, but today was a different kettle of fish. Which is sadly saying something considering Fuji TV hosted the Japanese Grand Prix feed prior to 2012, famously concentrating their coverage on local stars such as Kamui Kobayashi and Takuma Sato. Incidents today included a static camera for around half a minute and a camera on Sergio Perez’s car that served no purpose at all. I don’t know if the same crew does Singapore and Japan, I assume it is the same people, but that may be one reason why the direction was worse than usual.
During qualifying, Mercedes were rarely shown during Q1 and Q2, whilst their fastest laps were not aired on the World Feed. The race itself started with Lewis Hamilton overtaking Nico Rosberg. The only two camera angles we had were from far distance, neither onboard was featured in the World Feed coverage, although they were broadcast during the post-race shows.
Mercedes were only really shown immediately before and after pitstops (as the above graphic shows), alongside team radio. It is difficult to “blacklist” a team who are running at the front of the field and who will obviously play a pivotal part in the race. I don’t think “blacklist” is an appropriate word given that they were actually featured, but it does feel like that there was a concentrated effort to feature either car as little as possible. We did see a Mercedes pass through shots on multiple occasions, but they were never the main focus, pitlane aside.
In my opinion, there was definitely an effort to not show Mercedes as much as possible. Clearly someone has done something to annoy Bernie in the past seven days…
Update on September 27th at 17:50 – I’ve updated the above to add a bit more context. I notice that the BBC are noting that Mercedes are not FOM’s (or Ecclestone’s) only issue. Whilst they say that the Mercedes issue is down to their refusal to supply Red Bull, they are also reporting that Ecclestone is “in dispute with the teams about the display of sponsor logos in the garages.” This explains why we never saw any garage shots of team members observing the action, instead FOM choosing to use a fly-by overhead camera during the weekend. At the end of the day, it is the viewers that lose out here, and why, I’m not entirely sure. So we can see another Rolex logo in the garage? I think Ecclestone and FOM need to look at the definition of “over exposure”, because that is seriously what they are doing if that is what they are thinking about.
Update on September 28th at 19:30 – Bernie Ecclestone says no. Speaking to a German newspaper, Ecclestone said that the new approach was decided “a couple of weeks ago”, with the intention of showing more of the midfield teams. So, evidently he is denying that there was a Mercedes blackout.