No live F1 testing coverage ahead of 2018 season

Formula 1 fans hoping to see more than a sneak peek of the 2018 machinery may be disappointed, as there will be no live coverage of testing ahead of the new season, I can confirm.

At the back-end of 2017, there were rumblings that Formula One Management (FOM) would provide enhanced testing coverage this year. The suggestions were amplified by comments made during Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz noted that commentator David Croft would be “standing in a commentary box” for long periods of time during testing, alluding to the potential of live coverage.

The idea was that FOM would use Sky’s personnel on commentary for their coverage of testing, with coverage airing on Sky’s F1 channel, and via FOM’s new over-the-top platform or YouTube. However, I can now reveal that plans have not come to fruition. The news means that the first-time fans will see cars in live action will be during the Australian Grand Prix weekend in late-March. The one time testing aired live was in 2013, the move primarily designed to promote Sky’s 3D offering.

I understand that FOM will provide a similar level of coverage to last year’s testing season, with clips, such as on-board footage, shared via social media, and live segments from the paddock on Facebook during the on-track lunch break.

Many make the comparison between MotoGP and Formula 1. MotoGP does produce a live feed of their post-season test from Valencia; however, all their production equipment and facilities are already on-site following the final race of the season two days earlier. Dorna’s pre-season coverage of testing from Sepang largely consisted of updates at various points of the day (around three hours in total), with footage of riders on-track, live reports from pit lane and extended interviews.

In comparison, IndyCar produced a live stream of testing from ISM Raceway earlier this month, but this consisted of one static camera situated on the start-finish straight. So, there are ways and means, but unless you already have the facilities on-site, there is reluctance to produce a World Feed, as the cost outweighs any benefits it would bring. Famously, IndyCar did stream Fernando Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation day live last year, but they were extremely unique and unprecedented circumstances.

For me, the best scenario would be to go on-air with an hour of testing left each day, with some analysis after the chequered flag. Of course, the ‘hour’ of testing could consist of footage compiled from earlier in the day, along with key developments. A show of this nature would do the job nicely, giving each team ample air-time, as well as showing off as much of the cars as possible, whilst removing the need for a full circuit production.

ESPN’s US coverage to take Sky’s UK commentary
Overseas, ESPN have confirmed that their US coverage will take Sky’s UK commentary line-up of David Croft and Martin Brundle. The agreement between ESPN and Sky Sports was “arranged by Formula 1”, likely a result of the fact that Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s Managing Director for Commercial Operations, used to work for ESPN.

ESPN follows in the footsteps of many broadcasters around the world who take Sky’s UK commentary, such as TSN (Canada) and FOX Sports (Australia). Sky Sports will also produce special segments to supplement ESPN’s television coverage, something they do not currently do for other broadcasters.

A variety of outlets have reported this deal as ESPN taking Sky’s coverage, which may be stretching the truth. ESPN say that a further announcement on their content plans is coming in forthcoming weeks. If Sky’s pre and post-race segments turn up, I suspect it will form part of ESPN’s online offering given that race start times have already adjusted to suit their needs.

Whilst Sky’s UK coverage is excellent compared to many broadcasters, and stateside fans will love hearing Martin Brundle’s commentary, American fans deserve to have a broadcaster covering Formula 1 who are prepared to invest time, money, and home-grown talent into the sport.

To NBC’s credit, they produced content tailored to their audience, with Will Buxton, Jason Swales, Leigh Diffey and more at the helm. Viewing figures may go up, but audience appreciation of the raw Formula 1 television product in America could decrease because of the ESPN deal.

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4 thoughts on “No live F1 testing coverage ahead of 2018 season

  1. Good riddance to NBCSN but the real problem with the television coverage is FOM.
    These morons have no idea how to script a Formula One race and have it make sense to the viewers. In case you guys haven’t noticed the pathetic, mindless, anemic and boring camera shots they also like to include full screen cutaways of backs of peoples heads….. during the race???? That’s not exciting.
    I have pages of deplorable camera shots created by these nameless directors who don’t seem to know the meaning of “FOLLOW THE ACTION” or “CONTINUITY”.
    I feel sorry for these idiots because they miss so many fantastic camera shots and ruin the production every single time. They obviously don’t know what they’re doing. God help us.
    I have pages of suggestions to improve the show if anybody out there is interested.

  2. One thing that we hope FOM will do especially with Sky is work where the commentators, cameramen, producers and others work together in agreement. As this weekend is the weekend of the NASCAR Daytona 500, the first live full telecast in 1979 was well-known for an incident where the CBS director could not find the new leaders after the first and second place cars crashed out. Eloquently, Ken Squier went to his radio instincts and kept his binoculars on the new leaders, even barking out directions to the production truck on air.

    One concern that I think will happen is with the Sky production on ESPN is that with the new contract of Nicole Briscoe (wife of a Ford GT racer) if she or Ricky Craven (an ESPN SportsCenter motorsport analyst) would take charge and host F1 coverage with a pre-race programme before heading at the top of the hour to race coverage. One thing that UK fans probably learned at the Indy 500 last year was Allen Bestwick’s style was fairly low-key, with a touch of the late Pat Summerall’s style known in NFL, golf, and tennis coverage influencing him, allowing the noise of the cars and the action to often tell the story in its own way. Much of his style was influenced, as were many US motorsport commentators who were raised doing NASCAR, through the late Barney Hall. Bestwick, Mike Joy, Adam Alexander, and Marty Snider each worked under Squier and Hall at Motor Racing Network radio group, which did NASCAR, and in the 1970’s, the USAC Championship Trail (non-Indianapolis races on the Indy car tour) and Formula One at Watkins Glen. Joy was a sectional commentator for the USGP in his 20’s outside the Loop-Chute, and in the 1980’s did some F1 races on CBS as a pit reporter when Squier called the races. The style of a Jenkins, Squier, Joy, and Bestwick, all radio-trained where they weave the story is different than the Croft or as we learned in FE with Nicholls.

  3. susan and chuck

    First off, need to say I love the blog, even as a yank.

    I do like the SKY team, but for all it’s problems I’ll miss the NBC team dearly. Even though SKY puts on a better show, I really liked having a U.S. centric broadcast and I think a lot of Americans did too. I’m afraid Americans may need to get ready to probably never hear about HAAS again. Also ESPN has said many times they are NOT showing any pre/post race coverage, and we’re all pretty sure that’s why Liberty changed the race start times, so unless that changed we are gonna loose about an 1.5 hours of coverage a race. Also the OTT package and any content other than 10 minutes before the race seems heading for the internet and not the ESPN network. Since Americans already have to pay for ESPN (through cable subscriptions) any further pay service is yet more Americans will have to pay for F1 (if it’s not on ESPN’s site for free).

    But that’s just a small cookies compared to the big problem. WHAT ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL BREAKS?! There is no mention of ESPN showing this commercial free in the announcement or reports. So that means that unlike with NBC, when ESPN goes to commercial SKY is just gonna go on like they do now not knowing or caring about what U.S. fans missed. NBC would at least show us what we missed while we where away, talk about it and show us a replay, but SKY isn’t gonna do that because their real audience (the UK) saw it live.

    I fear Americans are gonna miss on track things that will not be shown to us when ESPN cuts back. Get ready to be watching Alonso driving the wheels off the car only to cut to commercial (probably mid sentence) and cut back in 2 minutes latter (probably mid sentence) and yelling “why is Alonso sitting in a deck chair now?!”

    SKY may have a better production, but that doesn’t mean that U.S. fans aren’t taking a big downgrade with this deal.

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