A new era, and a new graphics set for Formula Two

The machinery on the track might have looked the same in Bahrain, but off the track Formula 1’s leading feeder series has a new identity. Enter, the Formula Two Championship. The championship takes over that title from the now defunct GP2 Series.

Throughout its duration from 2005 to 2016, the GP2 Series maintained the same style of graphics: a combination of blue and white, with rounded ‘squircle’ like edges. Whilst Formula One Management (FOM) enhanced the graphics set when Formula 1 moved to high-definition, it retained the same look and feel as the original non-HD version.

By 2016, the graphics set had outlasted its stay compared to other championships. Formula 1, MotoGP, and IndyCar had refreshed their graphics on numerous occasions whereas GP2 and GP3 were left behind. A common GP2 complaint was the lack of a timing tower during qualifying, meaning that it was incredibly tricky to follow the action. In this respect, GP2 was a decade behind Formula 1, FOM introducing the tower when Formula 1 moved to a three-part qualifying format in 2006.

2017 Bahrain Formula Two - Fuoco.png
A shot of Prema’s Antonio Fuoco during the 2017 Bahrain Formula Two practice session. Note the familiar timing wall down the left hand side of the picture.

Finally, with the rebirth of Formula Two, F1’s leading feeder series is no longer treated as inferior in the production department. The new graphics set is consistent with F1, the only difference being the colour scheme, which is distinctive to Formula Two and with a call back to GP2’s colour scheme. I dare say that Formula Two’s graphics set is better than its bigger brother.

Elsewhere, there was some evidence in Bahrain that the new FOM may use Formula Two as a testing ground for new techniques. For the first time in twelve years, FOM used picture in picture during both of their live race broadcasts. The first occasion was as one of the leading drivers made a pit stop, with the second used on the formation lap of the sprint race.

I do not know if this happened in the old regime, but it would make sense to use GP3 and Formula Two as a test bed for new ideas, bringing the new features into F1 once tested. Admittedly that is difficult when the two championships run different schedules (unlike Moto2 and Moto3; Formula Two and GP3 are not present at every of their big brother’s races such as the Russian Grand Prix this weekend), but it is something that FOM should look to do now that both series are using a streamlined graphics set.

2017 Bahrain Formula Two - Leclerc
On-board with Charles Leclerc during the 2017 Bahrain Formula Two practice session.

It is not just on the graphical side, but all the way through production, the feeder series are a feeding ground in many ways. New talent should start work on directing GP3 and Formula Two, working their way to Formula 1.

Is it right to criticise Sky over lack of Formula Two promotion?
A criticism on social media over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend was Sky Sports F1’s treatment of the series. Sky did little to promote the series opener, treating Formula Two (like they did with GP2) as a channel “add-on” rather than an integral piece of furniture. Furthermore, Sky’s scheduling was not up to scratch throughout the weekend, cutting off an excellent feature race on the slow-down lap as opposed to after the podium celebrations.

On one hand, yes, Sky should promote the series more through their supplementary programming. However, it is Liberty Media’s task to help encourage broadcasters to promote the series further, and to help embed the championship into the wider product. The new FOM needs to make Formula Two and GP3 feel important, in the same way that Dorna treat Moto2 and Moto3 with care.

Formula Two’s and GP3’s social media standing across Facebook and Twitter for an international motor racing series is alarmingly poor, whilst neither championship has a presence on YouTube. The second Formula Two race in Bahrain won by Charles Leclerc featured fantastic racing, but this was unexploited due to Formula Two’s absent YouTube presence (GP2 did not have a YouTube channel either).

A lot of drivers in Moto2 have built up sizeable fanbases due to social media, which needs to occur in Formula Two as well, given that Formula 1 will be relying on this talent in the future. It is probably no surprise that Sky have treated GP2 / Formula Two the way they do given that the Commercial Rights Holder has done little historically to help the championship. Hopefully that will change under Liberty Media’s ownership.

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Happy 5th Birthday!

The journey of The F1 Broadcasting Blog started in early 2012. I had been toying with the idea of starting a Formula 1 blog site for some time, but never quite hit the right note.

I have been watching motor racing since 1999, and wanted to start writing about the sport, alongside my University studies (now turned full-time job which I thoroughly enjoy). Like most people, my first attempt of blogging consisted of writing race reports. Quite quickly, it felt like a chore to write the reports. I love watching motor racing, but writing about the action did not interest me, it did not click.

Motor racing is not just about the cars or bikes on the circuit, there are a range of topics associated with the sport left unexplored by the mainstream press. Broadcasting has many different avenues that can be dissected. Scheduling. Viewing figures. Television rights. Social media. On-screen graphics, and so on. With that in April 2012, The F1 Broadcasting Blog was born. Broadcasting is an area that I am passionate about, and I hope that comes across in the opinion and analysis pieces I post.

In the five years since inception, the site has recorded over 1.5 million total hits with visitors from around 200 countries. I am immensely proud of how far this site has come since then, breaking stories to readers around the motor sport broadcasting landscape. Last year, I attended both Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch and the British MotoGP in a professional capacity, with the intention to bring readers closer to the sport, something that continued at the AUTOSPORT Show in January and will continue moving forward.

The top 10 pieces on the blog (by number of hits) from the past five years are as follows:

10. Channel 4 announces Formula 1 on-air team – March 2016
9. Dissecting Georgie Thompson’s decision to leave Sky F1 – February 2013
8. Davidson and Brundle highlight strengths and weaknesses in Sky’s Formula 1 team – July 2016
7. Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2013 – January 2013 (2017 piece: here)
6. Predicting BT Sport’s MotoGP team – October 2013
5. Tom Clarkson added to BBC F1 TV team – March 2013
4. Predicting Channel 4’s Formula 1 team (part 1) – December 2015
3. ITV4 wins rights to screen MotoGP highlights – March 2014
2. Georgie Thompson to leave Sky’s F1 team – February 2013
1. Gary Anderson to leave BBC’s Formula 1 team – January 2014

If you are a long-term reader from the beginning or someone who has just spotted this site, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the content coming up in the remainder of 2017.

Thanks,
Dave
Creator and Editor of The F1 Broadcasting Blog

Scheduling: The 2017 Russian Grand Prix

The 2017 Formula One season moves back onto the European season for round four of the championship, as the paddock moves to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix!

For the second race in a row, Channel 4 are broadcasting live coverage, and for the first time in 2017, Eddie Jordan is back with the team. Jordan joins Channel 4’s usual line-up headed by Steve Jones and David Coulthard.

As in Bahrain, the channel will be airing another new episode of F1 Meets prior to qualifying. On this occasion, Coulthard chats to Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo. Elsewhere in their line-up, their race day programme is a whopping four and a half hours long, with Channel 4 staying on air until 16:30.

Unusually, Channel 4 are airing new programmes following F1 on Saturday and Sunday afternoon: The Auctioneers on Saturday at 14:30 and the World’s Most Expensive Cars with Ant Anstead on Sunday at 16:30. This is good to see as there were occasions last year where repeats followed live Formula 1 programming.

The full scheduling details, including the IndyCar Series and the World Rally Championship, can be found below.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
28/04 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1
28/04 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2
29/04 – 09:55 to 11:25 – Practice 3
29/04 – 11:55 to 14:30 – Qualifying
30/04 – 12:00 to 16:30 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build-Up
=> 12:35 – Race
=> 15:10 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
29/04 – 11:25 to 11:55 – F1 Meets… Daniel Ricciardo

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
28/04 – 08:45 to 10:45 – Practice 1
28/04 – 12:45 to 15:00 – Practice 2
29/04 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3
29/04 – 12:00 to 14:40 – Qualifying
30/04 – 11:30 to 16:10 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
26/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
27/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Driver Press Conference
27/04 – 21:00 to 21:15 – Paddock Uncut
28/04 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Team Press Conference
28/04 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show
03/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
27/04 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
28/04 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/04 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/04 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/04 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

British GT – Oulton Park (Frontrunner)
30/04 – Races
=> 10:45 to 14:00
=> 15:00 to 17:15

British Superbikes – Oulton Park
30/04 – 16:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
01/05 – 12:30 to 18:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
02/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Estoril
29/04 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
30/04 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

FIM CEV Repsol – Albacete (BT Sport/ESPN)
30/04 – 10:45 to 15:45 – Races

IndyCar Series – Phoenix (BT Sport/ESPN)
29/04 – 02:00 to 05:00 (Saturday night) – Race

International GT Open – Estoril
29/04 – 15:00 to 16:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
30/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

Speedway Grand Prix – Slovenia (BT Sport 2)
29/04 – 17:30 to 21:15 – Races

World Rally Championship – Argentina
29/04 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 09:40 to 10:10 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 13:30 to 14:00 (BT Sport 3)
30/04 – 02:30 to 03:30 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
30/04 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 09:40 to 10:10 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 11:30 to 12:00 (BT Sport 2)
30/04 – 16:00 to 17:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport/ESPN)
01/05 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 09:40 to 10:10 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 16:00 to 16:30 (BT Sport 1)
01/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – Assen
29/04 – 09:15 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
30/04 – 10:00 to 13:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
02/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Championship – Italy
29/04 – 14:00 to 14:30 – MAC3 time trial (Eurosport 2)
30/04 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport)

As always if anything changes, the above schedule will be updated.

Update on April 26th – I have added Euroformula, the International GT Open and the Speedway Grand Prix to the above post, all three starting their 2017 seasons this weekend. Unlike previous years, Euroformula and the GT Open will not be on Motors TV (now rebranded Motorsport.tv of course).

Vettel’s Bahrain victory peaks with 4.3 million viewers

Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix peaked with 4.3 million viewers, overnight viewing figures show. In comparison to recent times, it was a stronger than usual afternoon for Formula 1.

Race
A special note about Channel 4’s live races this season. Channel 4 have decided this season to split their programming into three sections: pre-race, the race itself and then post-race analysis. As with Sky Sports F1’s viewing figures, this site will take Channel 4’s build up and race numbers for the season average. This will help provide a valid year on year comparison given that Channel 4’s live programming is expected to run longer this season.

With that in mind, Channel 4’s programme from 14:50 to 18:15 averaged 2.23m (15.2%). The build-up averaged 991k (8.2%) from 14:50 to 15:35, with the race itself averaging 2.57m (17.2%) until 18:15. Around 950,000 viewers continued to watch Channel 4’s analysis from 18:15 to 18:45. Channel 4’s average audience is in-line with last year’s average audience of 2.30m (16.2%), which considering the tough football competition on Sky is a strong number.

Sky Sports F1’s live coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 averaged 597k (4.1%), an increase of 51,000 viewers on the 2016 average audience of 546k (3.9%). Nevertheless, the average audience is down slightly on 2015’s average of 640k (4.3%).

Looking at Channel 4’s breakdown, one of the fascinating aspects is that its pre-race segment rated significantly lower year-on-year, by around 400,000 viewers which deflated the overall average. Channel 4’s programme clawed back the year-on-year difference throughout the build-up, drawing level at race start time.

Across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, the race started at 16:00 with 4.03 million viewers. The race followed the same trajectory as last year with a small dip to around 3.8 million viewers, but unlike last year the viewership climbed back up, hitting 4.04m (26.1%) at 17:00.

The audience dipped again slightly, but quickly picked back up, with 4.34m (25.9%) watching at 17:30, an increase of 433,000 viewers compared with the equivalent point last year, despite both races starting off with the same base. Last year’s race peaked as the lights went green, whereas this year built to its conclusion, showing the difference between a close fought contest and a relatively one-sided fight.

The combined average audience of 2.82 million viewers is in-line with last year’s average audience of 2.84 million viewers, the marginal drop a result of Channel 4’s pre-race build-up bringing in less viewers’ year-on-year. The combined peak audience of 4.34 million viewers is up 8.4 percent on last year’s peak audience of 4.01 million viewers. As with last year, both numbers are significantly down on the live BBC days from 2009 to 2011. Nevertheless, the increase compared with 2016 is promising.

Qualifying
Channel 4’s live coverage of qualifying, which aired on Saturday afternoon from 14:55 to 17:30 averaged 1.23m (12.7%), a drop of around 190,00 viewers on last year’s average audience of 1.44m (13.2%). An audience of 349k (3.5%) watched Sky Sports F1’s qualifying programme from 15:00 to 17:45, a marginal drop on their audience last year of 360k (3.3%).

A peak audience of 2.54m (22.6%) were watching qualifying across Channel 4 and Sky at 16:55, which compares with a peak of 2.60m (20.3%) last year. The reason the peak audience is much closer to last year was because 2016 saw the elimination qualifying farce, meaning that the session did not build to a crescendo like it did this time around.

The combined audience of 1.58 million viewers is down on last year’s average of 1.80 million viewers, the lowest for Bahrain since 2008.

Analysis
The overnight viewing figures that were released for the opening two rounds of 2017 were disappointing for all concerned. Does the Bahrain Grand Prix mark the start of a turnaround?

It is always fascinating that the first race live on free to air television in the first one that shows a stabilised, or increased in the case of the peak, picture year-on-year. A peak audience of 4.3 million viewers against two of the biggest football teams in the country is a good result and something that Channel 4 and Sky can further build on as we head towards the Russian Grand Prix.

The 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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ITV4 grabs World Endurance Championship highlights

ITV4 will broadcast highlights of the FIA World Endurance Championship this season, The F1 Broadcasting Blog can confirm.

Highlights of the championship, which aired on Channel 4 last year, are expected to be shown in a Saturday morning time slot on ITV4, starting with the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

In addition, this site understands that there are plans for the channel to air some of the 24 Hours of Le Mans live in June. The exact technicalities of the Le Mans agreement are still being finalised, but expect the level of live coverage to be on a similar scale of that provided by Quest TV in 2015 and 2016.

Quest TV’s live Le Mans coverage peaked with 258,000 viewers in 2015 and 191,000 viewers in 2016, so ITV4 should be looking at a peak of close to half a million viewers for Le Mans. Whilst moving from Channel 4 to ITV4 for the highlights programming is a sideways move, having live coverage of Le Mans on ITV4 is excellent for all concerned (if that element goes ahead).

As noted in the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduling piece, BT Sport, Eurosport and Motorsport.tv are airing live coverage of the championship this year. BT Sport have signed a two-year deal to cover the series, which explains why the series’ organisers touted BT as “the new home of live WEC in the UK” last week.

Update on April 21st at 22:20 – This has now been (un)officially confirmed, on the basis that tomorrow’s schedules, which have been updated at the eleventh hour, show WEC highlights airing on ITV4 at 07:55. Really poor planning by the various parties not to publicise that information formally through a press release.