Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

This is how the teams do it (Part 2) // Our second roundup of Formula One team websites

Published by Christine

Once again, we're reviewing other people's websites, this time looking closely at the teams to see how they fare. The first five can be found here, in Part 1 of the series, and this is Part 2, looking at the final five. I'll be checking out how good they are from a fan's point of view, whilst the geeky one will lift the hood on the technical bits.

Toyota

Toyota's site

There’s more detail here about the car than anywhere I’ve seen so far, Toyota don’t seem afraid to share things with the fans. There’s an incredibly deep interactive experience looking at the team’s setup for Grands Prix, the motorhome, etc. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of connecting with their fans, but there are videos, images, wallpapers, and a nice set of features that will keep you reading for a short while.

Toyota's site is stuffed to the rafters with content. With technical details, images, videos and an immersive factory tour, you'll want make sure you have some free time before visiting this place.

Considering the breadth of information available, the navigation is okay. The virtual tour opens in separate window making it feel like a bit of an afterthought, and there seems to be a couple of different routes to the same content, leaving me confused as to what I'd seen and where I'd been.

Generally though, this is a nice site and you can't argue with a team that merrily answers the frequently asked question - "Please let me drive for the team - I am loads better than the current drivers!". No doubt a hangover from the 2007 season, that one.

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso's site

As you would expect, Toro Rosso is very similar to the Red Bull site, including the flashing timings that don’t actually do anything. I can’t find anything that makes it stand out, in fact, except a newsletter sign up. Does anyone still do that?

Hmm, this is a typical example of corporate branding gone wrong. Apparently STR aren't even allowed to stand on their own two feet online. But while the homepage may look like a second-rate version of the Red Bull site, there's a couple good things hidden under the covers.

I especially love the interactive car on the Flash version of the site. It displays specific details about the inner workings of their F1 challenger, yet when you rollover the tyre information hotspot, it simply says "Wheels". That's my kind of education. Additionally much kudos should be given for text displayed as the image gallery starts up. The message reads "Loading page XML". Even for me, that's one step too geeky.

Points must be deducted for the annoying engine noises that endlessly loop, never wanting to go away.

Honda

Honda's site

The Honda site opens up a new window that takes over the screen, and it moves around a lot before settling into a homepage. I feel like either I’m being a bit backwards, or the site isn’t quite right, because I clicked on the GP link expecting results or news from Canada, and it took me to images. Still, if you can work out the navigation, and put up with the switch between screens, there’s the excellent Honda Racing TV to watch, and a fans area to upload your photos and videos.

Considering how uneasy on the eye Honda's current Formula 1 campaign is (think dumbo wings, earth livery and green pants), I had low expectations of their home on the web. Those fears are unwarranted though as this is a surprisingly nice looking site. I personally prefer the HTML version (although I'm denied access to the videos from there), because the pages are clean, simple to navigate and they get the information across with little fuss.

A brief excursion into the hi-band, flashy pages sends my processor and accompanying fan into overdrive. I get the impression whoever designed the interface had plenty of fun doing so, but the constant flipping around gets tiresome quickly. The TV section of the site works well though, and Honda are the class of the field when it comes to online video production, although the embedded player is unfathomable in its refusal to rewind or forward anything, ever.

Force India

Force India's site

The Force India site seems a bit rough and ready about the edges, things open in new windows and some of the links are confusing, but they really embrace the online culture. There are widgets for you to download, so you can have a Force India count down to the next race, and there are embed codes for badges to support the team. As I look at it today, there’s even a poll about budget capping. I like its homely feel, like it’s been cobbled together by a fan.

I'm a fan of this site. Everything in moderation seems to be the motto, it's not extravagant, but neither is it understated. The homepage provides a quick-fix of the latest information and the rest of the pages contain the in-depth detail. Talking of which, some of the those could do with more content or layout revisions, the contact page for example looks positively lost in a sea of grey.

Club Force, the social network for all FIF1 fans is a worthy addition to the site and the team have really got this right. From personal experience I know some of the interfaces in the section look half finished and 50% of the time videos we upload simply never appear. But while I think it needs more work, I appear to be in the minority given there are 15,855 registered users and counting (currently twice that of Renault), so they can't be doing much wrong.

McLaren

McLaren's site

The McLaren site could be considered the exact opposite of the FIF1 pages, and represents the team perfectly. Looks pretty good, does what it does well, but is more interested in being corporate than being friendly. The only thing that even vaguely caught my attention was the link to the official Facebook page, and the information on Racing Line – the members only McLaren magazine. They also have a Fantasy F1 league, which is quite cool, but we all know how good I am at those, so I skipped past that.

Did this site get a lick of paint recently? I remember it being more imposing in the past, but I like the new airy feel. Navigation is consistent across every browser I could throw at it, but I dislike the links that appear to the right-hand side of some pages. I feel I have to tilt my head 90 degrees just figure them out.

The use of light-box popup windows when viewing pictures and videos is a nice touch, but good lord the videos are awful. Check out the "French Grand Prix Track Guide" from Heikki to see what I mean. I can only assume a team member's youngest child offered to do them for free, blindfolded, because they're not up to the McLaren standard at all.

Video complaints aside though, I did enjoy browsing around. I would probably suggest a wider window for displaying content as reading tended to involve a lot of scrolling, because panel width had been constrained, but that's about all.

One final thing to mention, and this isn't strictly related to McLaren's site, but we know how much people enjoy F1 games. Santander have created their own version of a pit-stop game at santander-racing.com and it is worth 5mins of anyone's time.

That's it for our team website reviews. As ever, we'd love to hear what you think about them below - and watch out for our circuit website reviews coming up shortly.

All content in the series Website Reviews 2008