Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Things I learnt from watching Franck - IndyCar's live data puts F1's information for fans to shame

Published by Mr. C

Franck Montagny Dashboard

Given that we're done with all that pesky weekend racing action for a while, I'm playing catch-up on a couple of things that should've been covered months ago.

Something that has been bugging me since August, is just what a raw deal Formula 1 fans get in terms of official information offered during a race.

In the latter half of this season, thanks largely to a rather expensive iPhone application, we do at least now know where all the cars are on track. Prior to that only Renault could be bothered to tell us what they were up to. Bernie, as ever, spent 2009 providing us with his ever fallible Live Timing system, which managed to go one better in the summer, going down for everyone at the track too.

You could argue that both Renault's and Bernie's solutions are provided free of charge, and this season, UK residents were able to watch all of the weekends sessions online.

I really should be grateful for what little I have, shouldn't I? Yes, I know some people have to put up with much worse coverage and maybe we just don't need more information?

In truth, my three months of continued disappointment with the F1 experience are born from watching a single IRL race back in August. As those with good memories will recall, many of us tuned in to watch Franck Montagny's auspicious debut in America's premiere open-wheeled series. A quick scan through the conversation shows one of the things that simply floored us during the race, was IndyCar Race Control.

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This online dashboard is a feast of insight for any race fan. In addition to the main camera feed, you can choose to track onboard shots from three cars (two more than F1 offers), you also get a familiar live leader board, but when it comes to driver detail, it feels like you've entered another world. Pick a couple of guys or girls you're interested in following and you'll get direct feedback on the following details:

  • Head-to-head competition view
  • Interactive steering wheel position
  • Gear paddle selection and current gear
  • Car speed and current RPM
  • Throttle and brake usage
  • Driver radio
  • Commentary updates

Forget what was happening in the race, I could've played with the thing all night. I managed to squeeze data from six drivers onto my screen along with Live Commenting. Renault F1 do provide similar information for their cars but with the IRL you get all this data for every runner to contrast and compare. Truly staggering and open and free for anyone to use.

At present, Formula One has nothing that comes remotely close to a solution such as this. A combination of two websites and a mobile phone could see you get a little closer, but who's going to bother setting that up five times a weekend?

You could argue that I'm being unfair on Bernie here, IRL could be the exception right? Yes it could, but we also took it upon ourselves to watch and comment on the Bathurst 1000 in October, and would you believe the organisers of that event do a better job too?

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Again, completely free of charge. Live timing, a car tracker and live audio/video all to be found in a centralised dashboard for anyone who cares to keep up with such things.

Formula One has fallen woefully behind its counterparts in recent times. I'm led to believe NASCAR is another step above what both IRL and V8 Supercars are able to offer fans, which must put our sport somewhere near the bottom of the pile. Just to ram the point home, I'll bring up the subject of 2CV racing. Yep we watched and commented on an endurance race featuring a collection of 4-speed Citroëns, and their Live Timing system was on par with the kind of thing you'll find on Are you listening Bernie?

Will anyone wake up and make changes for 2010? FOTA has long promised to improve the experience for those fans watching at home. To a point they appear to have addressed some deficiencies in our television coverage, and I'll cover some of those in a later post, but are they aware of how big a mountain F1 has to climb when it comes to areas such as race control?

I think telemetry can only serve to enhance the viewing experience, it should be made available to those you are interested in such things. Maybe it's not everyone's number one priority, but I challenge anyone to try IRL's Race Control for one race and not wish something similar was available in F1.