The Chinese Grand Prix was a notable step up from Formula One Management (FOM) on the production front following a series of issues during the season opening Australian Grand Prix last month.
Thankfully, aside from the first half of practice three, the graphics played ball for the remainder of the weekend. FOM removed the ‘mini timing loops’ from their qualifying graphics, although it is unknown at this time whether that was a deliberate move or a result of earlier issues. During the race itself, FOM presented more information within the timing tower, choosing to disregard the ticker that has been present in their coverage for the past decade.
When the race finished on Sunday morning, I tweeted stating that I believed the direction overall was “generally good.” It felt like, assuming it was not my tired blurry eyes, that the majority of action was captured in some form. The only blip was a failure to replay Valtteri Bottas’ spin during the Safety Car period, although this was uploaded to social media and played out on Sky Sports F1 during their post-race programme.
I thought it was worthwhile going back through the race and seeing how many of the 32 overtakes (source: Forix) were captured by FOM. Note that this does not include the first seven laps, which were interrupted by both a virtual and real Safety Car. FOM broadcast around two-thirds of all overtakes (21 of 32). It is easy to criticise and suggest that every overtake needs to be shown. Some overtakes are of little importance to the overall race, especially if the overtake is for slim pickings. So, what overtakes were missed, and why?
- Lap 8 – Carlos Sainz on Fernando Alonso
- Lap 8 – Valtteri Bottas on Felipe Massa
- Lap 9 – Esteban Ocon on Felipe Massa
- Lap 9 – Stoffel Vandoorne on Jolyon Palmer
- Lap 9 – Nico Hulkenberg on Jolyon Palmer
- Lap 10 – Valtteri Bottas on Daniil Kvyat
- Lap 10 – Nico Hulkenberg on Stoffel Vandoorne
- Lap 11 – Daniil Kvyat on Esteban Ocon
- Lap 11 – Nico Hulkenberg on Felipe Massa
- Lap 16 – Jolyon Palmer on Stoffel Vandoorne
- Lap 16 – Romain Grosjean on Stoffel Vandoorne
- Lap 33 – Jolyon Palmer on Marcus Ericsson
Looking at the above, it is easy to suggest that FOM’s direction was poor in the laps following the Safety Car. At this stage, the most important battle was Red Bull versus Ferrari, as both Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel tried to challenge Hamilton. Verstappen overtook Raikkonen quickly on lap eight and was ready to pounce on his team-mate. It would have been an error of judgment for the director to switch to battles further down the pecking order. So yes, some action was missed in the phase after the Safety Car, but for the right reasons.
In hindsight, you could say “the director should have replayed some of the key moments above” or cut to them live, but these are split second decisions that are being made. Given the tricky on-track conditions and the relative gaps between the four cars, I can understand why the director was fixated on the battle for 2nd until it was eventually resolved on lap 28.
By that point, little value would have been gained in replaying the moves from earlier in the race. It would have been nice to see them, but not a necessity. The only value we lost was not seeing Valtteri Bottas climb through the field, but apart from that, I thought the direction was fine. In the F1 Digital+ world fifteen years ago, you could imagine the Red Bull and Ferrari battle being part of the Supersignal feed, with the Bottas climb through the order being covered in the secondary track feed.
As a future enhancement, I do think that FOM should look towards picture-in-picture so that they can focus on two battles at once (maybe with an on-board camera from a secondary battle, like MotoGP currently do). It is an unlikely scenario, but it is something that they need to think about so that they can adequately cover the entire field.