Formula 1 29 Jun 2006 11:24 am

FIA Formula 1 survey 2006

Once again the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) – global motorsport’s governing body – is conducting an on-line survey about Formula 1. You can access the survey here.

I took the survey, and quite enjoyed the experience. I found many of the questions to be reasonably obviously (heavy-handedly, even) seeking to garner opinion in support of some regulatory directions that the FIA is trying to push for F1. In many cases, however, I’m happy to be counted amongst the supporters of reform – for the good of the sport, F1 needs to have its avaricious appetite for money reigned in.

But I was a bit frustrated about some of the questions that weren’t asked.

Regular visitors to this site will know that I have strong opinions about some of the fundamentals of the telecasting of F1. I would have liked to see some questions like:

* Do you think F1 telecasts should use the widescreen format?
* Do you think that F1 qualifying should be shown in full on television?
* Do you think that broadcasters showing F1 races should be forced to show them live?

I wonder whether you can guess what my answers would be. Actually, I don’t wodner about that at all.

F1 telecast format (wide or narrow)
If F1 wishes to lay claim to the epithet ‘the pinnacle of world motorsport’, then surely the TV coverage should reflect that status. But it doesn’t. F1 is not broadcast in widescreen. Australian readers need only watch any V8 Supercar round to see just how much better is the coverage when the picture is wide. Motorsport is a ‘horizontal’ sport: showing a greater horizontal ‘spread’ of the action significantly improves the viewing experience.

Broadcasting qualifying
In recent years, F1 qualifying (the process by which the starting order is determined) was boring. This year, it’s an exciting spectacle (see comments here). But we don’t get to see it in Australia. For reasons known only to itself, Channel 10 (the Australian holder of F1 broadcast rights) prefers to show infomercials and other late night ‘gems’ rather than F1 qualifying. Australian F1 fans would love to see the FIA pressuring Channel 10 to show us qualifying.

Showing F1 races live
F1 nerds (OK, I admit I’m one) find it interesting to watch the real-time lap-timing available at the official F1 website while the race is in progress. The lap timing allows you to see precise gaps between cars at every moment of the race. You can see who’s putting in quick laps, who’s catching up to those in front, and who’s falling back. But the real-time lap timing is of absolutely no value at all if the race isn’t being shown in real-time (live). Once again, it would be great to see some pressure from the FIA in this regard.

I wonder whether future relaxation of broadcasting laws might ease the situation… Right now, Channel 10’s digital transmitters have the capability to broadcast several completely different programs at the same time. It would be great if the law (and commercial reality) allowed them to show F1 races live on one of their digital channels, while simultaneously showing the usual Sunday evening fare for those who don’t follow F1.

I fear I’m sounding like a cracked record. Take the survey. Tell the FIA what you think about F1 – even if you can only tell them about a carefully chosen subset of F1 issues.

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