Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 voyeur - Peeking inside a Formula 1 garage // Access all areas with telemetry and photography

Published by Mr. C

With Red Bull Racing's post Turkey shenanigans still dominating news and opinion three days after the race, I wanted to give credit to those who are being more transparent about the way in which they go racing - team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

A webcam looks around the inside of Jenson Button's empty garage during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix in 2010.
Credit: McLaren.com

Another case of history repeating

I dug the following line out of the Sidepodcast archives yesterday.

Imagine how much information could be gleaned if we'd had access to the same data from the cars of Hamilton, Webber and Vettel?

Back in 2007, I was referring to the incident at the Japanese Grand Prix, when Sebastian Vettel mounted the back of Mark Webber's car whilst following Lewis Hamilton and a safety car. Although there are few parallels between Fuji '07 and Turkey last weekend, the names at the centre of the storm remain the same. Additionally, following a controversial crash and subsequent division of opinion amongst fans, the situation remains that more data could and should be made available for public consumption, either as it happened or after the fact.

I notice today, that Formula One Management have successfully pulled all manner of Vettel / Webber clips from YouTube in a misguided attempt to "manage copyright". In the process of course, denying F1 fans the ability to analyse anything with their own eyes.

Further compounding the situation, Red Bull Racing haven't been forthcoming with any evidence that might back up their own assertions about who was or wasn't to blame. This data is clearly available to the team, they are in a position to make it public, they have simply chosen not to do so.

Inside information

Three years ago, I was a huge champion of the Renault F1 team's live race data, which at the time provided fans with real-time streams of, amongst other things, a drivers speed, gear selection and steering angle. Information that could have been incredibly useful to fans this past Sunday afternoon.

Much to my frustration, Renault ditched the live data viewer, but thankfully another team have stepped up to the plate.

McLaren's 1.0b live data system which debuted at the start of this season, has taken the idea of live data to a whole other level. We've previously covered the depth of information that can be gleaned from post-race analysis, including the provision of global positioning information from both cars. Sadly, not for the first time, it was the wrong team providing the information we could have found so very useful.

Imagine being able to replay the moments leading up to Sunday's accident, comparing steering input and speed and engine revs and chassis position.

Camera obscura

Back in 2007 I also wrote:

It'll probably be many years before this data is available from all teams, it may never happen at all.

Three years on and Formula 1 has barely moved forward at all. Except for McLaren that is.

In addition to providing all the detailed car telemetry during sessions, the team have cameras taking snapshots of both sides of the garage which are uploaded to their site, offering fans the chance to get ever closer to the action. Although initially displayed small on the homepage, images can be opened full size. It's a simple, but well executed concept, and you have to ask why every team isn't obliged to do something similar?

You see when crews are readying for a pitstop, or if a car gets wheeled into the garage unexpectedly. Action usually unfolds long before the TV cameras or commentators pick up on it, and it brings fans right into the heart of the drama.

This year the FIA even have 360 degree cameras installed inside every garage, at every race, to monitor movement during parc fermé conditions. Is it really so much to ask, to make those images available for fans during live action?

Looking back, I genuinely expected more teams to be open and transparent by now. It was only this year we finally got off-season testing lap times courtesy of AT&T Williams. F1 needs more innovation like garage cams or the 1.0b and it's needed it for a long time. Must fans wait any longer?