Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

The Renault F1 website - A change of direction from the once-accessible team

Published by Mr. C

Several times last year, I felt like I was a one man marketing machine for Renault's online F1 presence. Not a week went by it seemed without me extolling the virtues of the team's blog, website or even their attempts to embrace Second Life.

This year on the other hand, there couldn't be a more stark contrast in my opinions.

It all went wrong back in January when the team decided to split the 'fan' section from the 'team' section. Presumably this was to satisfy the sponsors and the groups legal team who were probably a bit uneasy about all those fans with their outspoken opinions.

Once the split had occurred though, things appeared to go from bad to worse.

Regarding the 'fans' section - after four months of waiting there still isn't any form of news feed to track either blog updates or user comments, the picture submission section is rarely updated and despite many attempts of trying, the "submit an MP3 podcast" page has never yielded a successful response from ourselves or any other member of the public. It's utterly, utterly useless.

Moving onto the 'team' section, things don't get any better there either. The content area is massive (filling the majority of my screen), slow to download and noisy (a soundtrack plays each time the page loads). Many things are still missing months after the initial release with 'coming soon' flags still featuring in most areas. However, without a doubt, the worst crime by far is the damage done to 'Race Control'.

12 months ago Renault did something amazing, they beat Bernie at his own game and provided fans with some stunning insight into what goes on in a car during practice, qualifying and the race. We talked about it in detail during episode 15 and posted screenshots later in the year.

Essentially what Renault had done was provide all the live information about their cars in a handy window roughly the same size as the official live timing screens. In short, it was an engineers view of the race unfolding. Throughout the year we ran the two windows side-by-side, and sometimes referenced the Renault data post race.

It was brilliant in every possible way, but this year they've got it all wrong.

Alongside the flashy, but bloated new website, the team have debuted a trainwreck of a timing solution. In principle I can see what they've attempted to do, and that is to take what they offered last year to the next level, but in doing so they've ruined the very essence of it. It's hard to describe, so here's a screenshot:

Screenshot of Renault Race Control

What you're looking at there is an image I grabbed during Free Practice 2 in Bahrain. The track in view is live 3D representation of the each car's location on the circuit, the wheel represents Alonso's steering angle, while the dial indicates revs, speed and gear selection.

All of this information slows my laptop to a crawl, takes up 100% of screen real estate and tells me nothing that a simple two-dimensional circuit map and an animated line graph couldn't tell me in half the time, for a fraction of the effort. It is a triumph of style over substance and leaves me hopelessly frustrated. It is unusable.

To add further insult to injury, none of the data can be reviewed or replayed post-race either.

Given that Pat Symonds spent a considerable amount of effort convincing all and sundry post race in Bahrain that Alonso hadn't lifted and caused the accident with Hamilton, and given that all of that data was actually already available to anyone who wanted it during the race and therefore should've made Pat's job redundant, I can only conclude that absolutely nobody uses Renault's Race Control for it's intended function.

It is beyond useless as a concept, beyond useless as a tool and is an utter waste of everybody's time... including Pat's.

Now can we have the old timing system (and the old blog) back, pretty please?