A catalyst for change?

Fernando Alonso’s testing and rookie orientation day in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 later this month has drawn attention from far and wide. His orientation day has also reignited the debate about whether there is value in covering testing live.

From the outset, the circumstances around Alonso’s IndyCar appearance are unique, in a situation unlikely to be repeated. A peak of around 72,000 devices watched Alonso’s orientation via YouTube, with the stream provided by the IndyCar Series consistently above 40,000 devices.

Furthermore, IndyCar streamed the event via Facebook to a reach of 800,000 users. Other forms of motor racing, such as Formula E, have struggled to break through live streaming barriers on YouTube. The numbers recorded for Alonso’s orientation are staggering, especially considering that this was a weekday event.

There is a great deal motor racing can learn from this, not just Formula 1 but also other forms of the sport. Watching cars drive around a track, essentially collecting data, for hours at a time may seem like a useless activity for much of the population to watch.

The actual process of testing doesn’t have the intensity. It is much more difficult to understand because different people are doing different things. Testing highlights are really interesting, live coverage of testing is really, really boring. – MotoGP journalist David Emmett speaking to me last year.

Dorna broadcasts MotoGP testing live from Valencia post-season and Sepang pre-season via their app, combining ‘as live’ footage with studio discussion. Sky Sports F1 aired Formula 1 testing live in 2013, although this was shoe-horned around the 3D gimmick that never went any further.

The argument against live testing is that the cost is too high and the expected audience is too low. Setting up a full camera crew at say Barcelona requires a lot more people than the Indianapolis oval. For Dorna, cameras are already in Valencia following their season finale a few days earlier, so it makes logistical sense to cover the post-season test in an in-depth format.

Alonso’s Indy 500 test is the first time that testing, in any form, has aired live via outlets such as YouTube and Facebook in this live and raw form. Firstly, I absolutely applaud IndyCar and those involved from McLaren through to NBC for making this happen. The stream today allowed new fans to appreciate the demands of oval racing.

Discussions between Alonso and his mechanics were broadcast, with an openness displayed throughout. In comparison, during Formula 1 testing, the prying media have no access to drivers’ conversations with mechanics. To broadcast F1 testing in the same way as Alonso’s IndyCar test would require a significant culture change for teams up and down the pit lane.

Imagine Lewis Hamilton testing new parts on his Mercedes, and then openly giving feedback on camera in front of his mechanics instead of behind closed doors, with microphones picking up his every word. Whilst fascinating to those watching, the information provided would also be golden to his rivals.

Broadcasting testing live via social media would help viewers and fans of the sport appreciate the intrinsic nature of testing. It may bring new fans to the sport, if they stumble across live testing and become captivated by the nature of it, in the same way fans were captivated by the stream today.

Whilst I do not want to see every minute of testing live (a few hours at most each afternoon would suffice), the extremely positive reaction to IndyCar’s live stream ahead of the Indianapolis 500 may serve as a catalyst for change. How Liberty Media can implement that into Formula 1 might need a little bit of persuading from a variety of parties…


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.

A brief look at FOM’s Chinese Grand Prix direction

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.

A new era of Formula 1 begins in Melbourne

The 2017 Formula One season started in Melbourne this past weekend, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel emerging as victor. On the broadcasting side, the ‘new’ Formula One Management (FOM) under the arm of Liberty Media made a step up in several areas. However, as was evident over the weekend, not everything was plain sailing for FOM…

Timing graphics tweaked
One of the biggest changes for 2017 is the introduction into the World Feed graphics of the individual mini timing ‘loops’. For those that are unaware, each of the three main sectors is split into mini sectors. This information has been available to teams for years, and as of last year was made available on the ‘Data’ feed. This year, FOM has integrated the loop information into the World Feed.

2017 Australian GP - new graphics
FOM’s new timing graphic.

To briefly explain the graphic above, the three horizontal purple lines cover your three traditional sectors; with each ‘blob’ above that representing a sub-sector. Purple means that a driver is fastest of all, green means that it is the drivers’ personal best and grey means no improvement. So, for sector one, Lewis Hamilton was fastest of all. However, within that sector, he was fastest only in one individual loop, setting a personal best in two other loops and failing to improve in the other loops.

During Friday practice, the graphics also displayed the drivers’ predicted time throughout the lap, along with ‘as live’ gap updates. FOM removed both of these features from Saturday onwards for reasons unknown (there is an argument that seeing the cumulative gaps in qualifying would dilute the spectacle as cars finish their qualifying lap). I am glad to see the timing loops integrated into the World Feed, if anything it shows that FOM are ahead of the curve in comparison to other series that have access to this information, which is great to see.

A neat addition during the weekend was the usage of infographics. Infographics helped explain in a non-technical language what key phrases meant, such as a ‘red flag’. Yes, regular readers to this site may know the sporting regulations inside out, but the first time viewer is unlikely to know, so it is important to have these explained on-screen in a non-offensive or obtrusive manner, which FOM perfected.

Improved track cameras show off the speed
Even with the faster 2017 cars on show, what was clear is that the FOM have made some slight, yet noticeable, changes to track cameras in order to capture the speed of the cars. The placing of some cameras was lower than in previous years on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit course.

The broadcast gave off a F1 Digital vibe from the late 1990s and early 2000s, which Formula 1 needs again. The picture will not be perfect overnight, and you can understand why Liberty Media will want to keep the balance between showing trackside advertising and capturing the speed of the cars. Technical issues aside, it felt like the direction was better in Australia than we have seen for a long time, with more focus on the cars and less focus on the surrounding advertising. The move to ultra HD for the majority of trackside cameras has helped.

There is a lesson as well in strategically positioning the cameras, the video which best shows off the speed of the cars is actually from a static fan camera on the entry of the turn 11 and 12 chicane. A video, shared on reddit, shows one of the Toro Rosso cars passing through the shot. Blink and you will miss it. It is an amazing piece of footage, demonstrating the change of direction, however the shot includes little sponsorship exposure and falls right on the other end of the spectrum, were FOM to use a shot like this in future races.

Failures blight World Feed coverage
On the negative, the World Feed graphics for the majority of the weekend were sub-standard, with numerous failures from the outset. Various sources have confirmed to this site that there was a major outage on the production side just nine minutes before the World Feed was due to go on air for qualifying. Initially, this meant that FOM only had access to pit lane cameras and the heli-cam, with only a limited set of graphics. Normal service was restored towards the end of Q1.

The race itself featured only a basic graphics set, and way below the usual output from the team. The direction was fine, but with no supplementary graphics such as the timing ticker at the foot of the screen, the race was difficult to follow at stages. An inferior product, especially one that fans have paid for through pay television in some instances, is unacceptable and resulted in some social media backlash.

As a fan, failures on the World Feed are frustrating. However, as someone who also works with IT systems (and has had to deal with failures on a much more localised scale), I sympathise with the team in Melbourne and in London. In the circumstances on Saturday, FOM did a fantastic job to get things up and running as quickly as they did, meaning that Q2 and Q3 went off without a hitch.

In IT, failures do happen. However, failures in recent years have been too frequent, compared to say the likes of Dorna’s MotoGP coverage. Maybe FOM’s production team would welcome a proposed ‘round zero’ from next year to ensure that their systems are up to the expected standards… a ‘round zero’ would not only test new ideas on the sporting front, but also ensure all the production systems are up and running as expected.

Social media rules relaxed
As reported throughout the pre-season across motor racing websites, Liberty Media have relaxed the social media rules for Formula 1’s teams and drivers. During an interview in Channel 4’s Australia qualifying programme, Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s Commercial Director, noted that prior to testing FOM had never issued any social media guidelines, which shows how just behind the curve the corporation were.

As they did in testing, teams have exploited the social media relaxation to varying degrees, with Red Bull, Williams and Mercedes heavily using social media to their advantage. Of note, Williams ran a few Facebook Live sessions, the first of which saw Paul di Resta and Karun Chandhok joined by Lance Stroll and Paddy Lowe on ‘Williams TV’. Every video for every team is a social media experiment as they learn more about the demographics of their audience, and which videos are more popular than others are.

FOM have been continuing to produce live social media programming through the Australian Grand Prix weekend, building on the content produced at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and during testing. FOM streamed a live fans forum to social media on Saturday morning with David Coulthard hosting in front of the Melbourne crowd. Some of this may have been in the works prior to Liberty Media’s take over but arguably, change has occurred on a greater scale thanks to Liberty. Small steps, such as presenting the FIA World Drivers’ Championship on the starting grid help go a long way to giving the sport a more human element.

On all fronts, the genie is out of the bottle. There will be bad moves; there will be experiments that fall flat on their face, by both the teams and Liberty Media. Now is the perfect time for mistakes to happen when fans are generally accepting that change is happening, and are prepared to accept that there will be early bumps in the road. You would rather make mistakes now when these forms of communication are niche for Formula 1, working to establish common ground, themes and decision-making as the season progresses. I would much rather see risk taking over the next few races instead of an organisation that is clearly relaxing or unable to adjust, as was clearly the case with FOM in previous years.

Flashback: 2012 Australian Grand Prix

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of The F1 Broadcasting Blog, we are looking back at five races from the archive and chewing over them. Being a broadcasting site, these races are not being analysed from a racing standpoint, but instead from a media perspective.

The five races include Grand Prix from the BBC and ITV eras, crossing over from the Americas, into Europe and Australia. Some races picked are your usual affair, whilst others have major significance in Formula 1 history. I did think about looking at five ‘major’ races, but each race has equal merit from a broadcasting standpoint, irrespective of how great the race was.

The fifth and final race of the initial series keeps us in Australia, for very good reason. The 2012 Australian Grand Prix marked the start of a brand new era in Formula 1 broadcasting and was, partly, one of the drivers behind this site starting one month later. The race was the first that Sky Sports F1 covered.

This piece gives us an opportunity not only to look back at how Sky’s coverage started, but also to see what has changed and evolved since their inaugural race five years ago. On track, the 2012 season saw six World Champions on the grid: Schumacher, Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Alonso and Raikkonen. It was arguably the strongest field Formula 1 ever had. The key broadcast details can be found below:

  • Date: Sunday 18th March 2012
  • Channel: Sky Sports F1
  • Time: 04:30 to 09:15
  • Presenter: Simon Lazenby
  • Presenter: Georgie Thompson
  • Reporter: Ted Kravitz
  • Presenter: Natalie Pinkham
  • Commentator: David Croft
  • Commentator / Analyst: Martin Brundle
  • Analyst: Damon Hill
  • Analyst: Anthony Davidson

It was a stacked line-up to begin Sky’s coverage. Five out of the eight people listed above defected from the BBC, two of the eight were internal to Sky, whilst Damon Hill was the only person making a return to the TV broadcasting scene, having previously been part of F1 Digital+ in 2002. Sky’s Formula 1 channel launched on Friday 9th March, with a live studio show, followed by the Australian weekend one week later.


Sky used stylish VTs in the opening minutes to cover the past greats for newer fans of the sport who may not be aware of the sport’s legacy. The channel set the scene for the season ahead; introducing fans to the various methods of watch Sky’s Formula 1 coverage, making it clear that they intend to cover the sport from all angles. Presenter Simon Lazenby introduced viewers to the rest of the team, with the crew stationed around Albert Park. Anthony Davidson and Georgie Thompson are in the Sky Pad, Ted Kravitz in pit lane and Natalie Pinkham in the paddock.

2012 Australian GP - grid graphics
Sky’s qualifying grid graphics following their qualifying report.

Following the qualifying wrap-up is a discussion about HRT’s abysmal performance, the team having failed to make the 107 percent rule. Martin Brundle in particular was scathing of his assessment of them. Further discussion follows about the Mercedes concerning that innovative ‘F Duct’.

One feature that was prominent during the build-up was the usage of live driver interviews from the paddock. Our first is with Williams driver Pastor Maldonaldo (the timing of which slightly amused me given that it directly followed some promotion for Sky’s Legends of F1 series). Nevertheless, it is a good interview with comment given on his live qualifying performance. A paddock interview with Romain Grosjean followed later in the pre-race broadcast. It is not clear whether these interviews are actually live, the impression is that they are, but the timing is slightly suspect as Grosjean is not in his race gear at this stage.

However, if it makes for a more compact show, I am all for that approach. My only criticism of these is that the interviews are brief, which is unfortunate. There are more in-depth pit lane interviews with Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh. Whitmarsh says that the tyres look better which may “detract from the show and the challenge”, Whitmarsh also commenting on the relationship between Hamilton and Button in their third season.

The Sky Pad segments are infrequent throughout the build-up, with Davidson and Thompson housed inside a miniature studio, making them feel detached from the rest of the programme. Neither Sky Pad segment is in great depth, showing that Sky did not know how to best utilise the tool at this stage, but this is very early in its development cycle. The analysis itself was great, with Davidson on top form already.

In 90 minutes time with the world watching with bated breath those five red lights will go out and the 2012 Formula One season will have begun. Many are saying it’s the greatest field ever assembled. Six world champions they and the rest of the grid gunning for one thing. To be called the best driver on the planet. – Sky presenter Simon Lazenby introducing the programme

Thompson introduced us to the track walk with Brundle and Hill focussing on the key parts of the circuit. Again, this feature shows off Sky’s virtual graphics (courtesy of New Zealand company Virtual Eye). The show flows well at this point, with Kravitz next up talking about the various strategies that could play out during the Grand Prix. Brundle notes that the tyres look a “bit too good and durable to me!”

Unlike the ITV races we have previously covered, there is a lot of ‘still to come’ and ‘coming up’ in Sky’s initial broadcast, with extensive promotion of Sky’s new ‘Legends of F1’ series and paid advertising from Hilton Honours leading in and out of adverts, along with Brundle’s Ferrari feature receiving attention. There is too much filler leading in and out of commercial breaks, resulting in shorter paddock discussion.

The Brundle piece at Ferrari’s Fiorano base featured contributions from John Surtees, Nigel Mansell and from Stefano Domenicalli. The feature was promoted too much by Sky, meaning that the viewer expected more than what was aired during the programme. As a feature, it was good but not memorable. Arguably, this segment should have been a standalone 30-minute programme in its own right. As Brundle said moments after the VT aired, he ran at Fiorano for 40 laps, so we should have seen a greater depth of footage instead of small snippets.

2012 Australian GP - Sky Pad
Anthony Davidson and Georgie Thompson overseeing the Sky Pad. Note the amount of white space…

On the other side of the break, there is a second recap of the grid, but the top ten this time is presented in a different format to previously with focus on the individual drivers, going from 10th to 1st using virtual animations. Brundle’s first grid interview is with the youngest driver on the grid, rookie Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso.

The grid walk shows off how vibrant Formula 1 is, helped by the sunshine and blue skies beaming down onto the circuit. It is a great grid walk, with various voices heard from celebrities to drivers and onto the pit crew, from Leo Sayer through to Ciaron Pilbeam. The grid walk was unrestricted by the national anthem at quarter to the hour; drivers back in 2012 were not required to walk to the front of the grid. Thompson takes viewers through the various viewing options, with Sky Race Control available through the Red Button, iPad and online. There are a few interviews in pit lane before a further Sky Pad bit with Thompson and Davidson, and then, it is race time!

One of Sky’s early changes was to show key interview snippets in a picture-in-picture format during the warm-up lap, I cannot remember whether Sky dropped this after the first race though.

Brundle and David Croft handled the start sequence well, with a lot of energy on display throughout a frantic opening phase of the Grand Prix. We also saw one of the classic Brundle phrases in relation to Sebastian Vettel, as the German fought his way past Nico Rosberg at turn nine, “and that’s the man they said can’t race in Formula 1, he can only win from the front apparently, I don’t think so!” Moments later, Maldondo successfully overtook Grosjean, but ended up whacking the Lotus in the process, eliminating the French driver from the race.

2012 Australian GP - Ricciardo helmet cam
Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo finds himself with a face full of Bruno Senna’s Williams.

FOM caught the majority of drama, but the opening laps also shows why you cannot be trigger-happy with replays in the early phases. Nevertheless, the replays did help to show what unfolded in the second half of the field at the start. The on-board footage, notably from the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers, showed how badly the Pirelli tyres were to handle towards the end of a stint, as showcased on various occasions with drivers struggling with understeer and oversteer. The on-board of Vettel also captured Schumacher heading off the circuit and into retirement.

The only commentary bugbear, which became clear early on, was a Sauber and Williams misidentification. Other than that, commentary was good, and more importantly, Croft and Brundle gelled, doing well to keep on top of the changing order during the pit stop phases. There was a ‘talk too much’ tendency at times more so in the early laps, but this brews back to Croft’s 5 Live days, radio commentary and television commentary are two different beasts, and it takes time to transition from one to the other.

I forgot how good this race was, to be honest! Australia’s Melbourne circuit has always shown off the speed of the cars, and this race is no exception as Button streaks off up front with Hamilton behind.

2012 Australian GP - helicopter.png
The helicopter shots at Melbourne: a beautiful picturesque scene panning over the Melbourne skyline, whilst also helping to show the various gaps during the first pit stop sequence.

The focus is on Sauber’s Sergio Perez, attempting a one-stop strategy against a two-stop strategy for the other leading runners. The artificial DRS overtakes do not detract from Perez’s brilliant race, which Brundle and Croft sell brilliantly.  At this point, Pinkham also gets a paddock interview with John Button, which is unfortunate timing as the Sauber of Kobayashi and Raikkonen bang wheels in a clean fight.

The longer this race lasts, the more I realise how weird the FOM graphics set looks from an alignment perspective. The graphics set is not 4:3 safe, nor are they fully 16:9 centric. It is a halfway house to appease both the old and new worlds. However, the graphics are more informative: the ‘ticker’ at the bottom of the screen helps decipher the gaps between various drivers, which becomes critical during the pit stop periods. FOM also use a ‘Previous Gaps’ graphics regularly to show the variation, as Jenson Button increases his lead over Lewis Hamilton up front.

Petrov’s stranded Caterham on the start-finish straight causes a Safety Car immediately after both McLaren’s pit. Vettel jumps up to second after his pit stop as a result with Maldonaldo exiting just behind Alonso.

I might be alone in this, but I don’t like this rule. It’s the luck of the draw, if the leaders have to get through some backmarkers on the restart, so what. They’re the best drivers in the world, let’s see them negotiating them. I think we should get rid of blue flags, you’ll hear me say that once every three races, passing backmarkers is a core skill of being a racing driver. We’ve wasted a lap, we should be racing now. – Brundle on the lapped cars may now overtake rule.

Attention focuses on the battle between Vettel and Hamilton for second, as Massa and Senna collide in an extremely clumsy accident. “At least it’s not Hamilton he’s crashing into this year,” jokes Croft. The two Red Bull cars separate Hamilton’s McLaren, as Brundle and Croft remind viewers of Webber’s difficult start to the race. There are several stories still unfolding in the last few laps, with drivers scrapping over the last few points.

Regrettably for Maldonaldo, having had his performance praised by Brundle and Croft throughout, the commentators’ curse strikes on the last lap, crashing out of fifth position. “It is Button’s day down under!” Croft declares. Behind the leaders is a mess, with cars moving positions both on and off the circuit. The FOM replays just about pick up what happened, which was very difficult with a lot going on in the background!

Under the Melbourne sunset, Button, Hamilton and Vettel take to the podium to celebrate the start of the 2012 season. Hill’s comments about McLaren are quite sad now given their current predicament, Hill referring to their “technical expertise”, also noting, “When they’re down, they get back up”. The first post-race interview is with John Button, describing his son’s win as “an incredible start to the season”.

2012 Australian GP - Button

Lazenby covers Sky’s Malaysian Grand Prix programming, including the GP2 Series before heading off for the first ad-break. Lazenby and Hill analyse the race with Whitmarsh, although it turns into more of a chat, with Hill and Whitmarsh bouncing thoughts off one another, which makes for great television I feel.

Some interviews from Pinkham in the pen are aired next, starting with Mark Webber in fourth position. We start to move towards the more relaxed setting of the paddock, as Lazenby covers the various ways to contact the team, including Twitter and e-mail (no #AskCrofty back then). The McLaren theme continues, with a brief VT covering Button’s key moments, although it does not amount to much as his race was relaxed! Some of the discussion that follows does ramble a little bit with it being ad-lib, but overall it is good post-race discussion. Brundle is holding the show together and at times appears to lead the questioning.

This year is a very special year in Formula 1, last year was also having five world champions, but having six world champions and so many competitive teams, it’s good to see that Formula 1 is in a great place right now and it’s a great sport to be a part of – McLaren’s Jenson Button speaking in the post-race press conference

The rest of the post-race broadcast follows a similar structure, with ample discussion given to Red Bull, Lotus and Williams, the team conducting interviews with Christian Horner, Eric Boullier and Adam Parr respectively. All three interviews are structurally similar, touching on the various sporting and technical elements for each team, including the blown diffuser ban in relation to Red Bull. Sky did not air any FOM material during these interviews, meaning that the paddock analysis suffered as a result.

Thompson and Davidson in the Sky Pad covered the analysis, analysing the start and then the Maldonaldo and Grosjean incident later on. It is clear that, like in the pre-show earlier, Sky were unclear on how to integrate the Sky Pad segments into the overall package, something that they have worked to perfect. Intertwined in this was further pen interviews with both McLaren drivers and a paddock walk with comment given on Sauber’s strong performance.

Attention turns back to pit lane as Sky’s team assemble around the McLaren garage to wrap up the show under the Melbourne sunset. Viewers are shown tweets on-screen, which is followed by a final word with Button. Four and a half hours after Sky’s programme started with Just Drive, it is left for Insomnia’s Faithless to play out coverage of Sky’s inaugural Formula 1 race.