Footage from driver briefings will be released to TV stations for the first time from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards, it has been reported by Motorsport Total and Auto Motor Und Sport today (October 5th).
Previously, TV stations had never had access to the footage from the driver briefings, but Formula One Management are now planning to make this available widely to broadcasters. It is possibly the first small, but noticeable footprint that Liberty Media is making with Formula 1. Driver briefings have always been filmed, so that aspect is not changing.
As the Motorsport Total article references, driver briefings played a key part in the ‘Senna’ film, showing the various debates between Ayrton Senna and then FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre. Without that footage, the documentary would not have been as powerful as what it was. In my opinion, this is a positive move and opens the inner workings of Formula One out to the wider public which is exactly what Liberty Media want to do.
It should help showcase the personalities, however there is a caveat. In the past, drivers knew that footage would be kept ‘private’, out of the media spotlight. Now that the relationship appears to be changing, will the driver briefings become a watered down ‘fake’ TV version as a result? I hope not, otherwise it will simply become a glorified version of the drivers’ press conference.
I’m looking forward to seeing the footage, if it emerges this weekend, or if Japan turns out to be a trial for 2017 to gauge feedback from broadcasters and drivers. Will we see the whole briefing, or snippets? I’d be wary if we see snippets as clips can be manipulated to suit an agenda.
The death of the drivers’ press conference?
The pre-race weekend FIA press conference has been a thing for years, with six drivers facing questions from the media. This was never played out in the public spotlight on television, it was just the drivers and the media asking questions. If an interesting snippet was said, it would have got words in an article somewhere, but nothing beyond that. It was, and still is, a medium for the written ‘Fleet Street’ media to do their bit.
The relationship changed in the early 2010s. The emergence of Sky Sports F1 and pay-TV meant that there was a growing desire to cover just about everything related to Formula 1 from testing to the first moment a driver walked into the paddock onto the last activity on a Sunday evening. Sky started covering the press conferences in 2012. At first it was a nice to watch thing, but four and a half years on, it is just ‘there’. It is easy to see why it was never broadcast on television in the first place, its simply of very little interest to anyone outside of the paddock. Does it still fulfill its remit?
Broadcasting the pre-event press conference on television exposes the fact that it is very dry and frankly dull as dishwater, or at least the F1 version is. This is really interesting for me, because I attended all the MotoGP press conferences when I went to the British MotoGP round last month. I can’t claim to religiously watch the MotoGP conferences. But, what I discovered is that the line of questioning felt more intelligent and the reactions felt more ‘human’. Is this an F1 problem, or is it a MotoGP problem as well?
So, should the press conferences be ditched, perhaps in favour of airing the Friday driver briefings (which would give media more juicier ‘lines’ to take) or Fan Forum events? Lewis Hamilton made his feelings clear on Friday in the press conference itself and on Twitter. Anyone who dismisses his tweets and Snapchats as being ‘disrespectful’ is frankly being naive and ignoring the problem that is staring at everyone in the face.
What Hamilton is, quite rightly saying, is that the FOM presser questions are the same week in, week out, which is a view echoed by many. Funnily enough, this problem may only get worse with the takover of AUTOSPORT from Motorsport.com (more on that in a separate piece soon possibly), reducing the number of journalists possibly in the paddock. If the questions journalists ask are dull, that in turn means the output is dull. That might not be the fault of the journalist – if the information and video content they themselves have access to is ‘dull’, then their questions may be dull. It is a vicious cycle.
It does show and prove the point that the output as a whole from a driver interaction standpoint needs to be reinvented, which is where the driver briefings and the like come in. Sky, the BBC and Channel 4 have done fantastic work on that front. Now, FOM need to step up the game.
Update on October 8th – No footage from yesterday’s briefing has yet appeared online. There was a discussion during Sky’s coverage of practice three regarding the driver briefings, Anthony Davidson noting that “most of the time it wouldn’t make for very good television.” It is clear that there have been discussions about the footage been released, just that FOM have decided not to release the footage just yet.