The Twitter outlook

There may be one significant change in the drivers’ table, but that didn’t stop the average increase numbers hitting record lows, with an average increase of 1,956 followers for the 21 drivers active on Twitter. With just ten days to go to Belgium (phew!), here’s the Twitter numbers that you need:

Drivers – The Top 10
01 – 1,077,218 – Jenson Button (McLaren)
02 – 977,311 – Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
03 – 976,948 – Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
04 – 471,038 – Bruno Senna (Williams)
05 – 413,866 – Mark Webber (Red Bull)
06 – 251,310 – Sergio Perez (Sauber)
07 – 247,773 – Pastor Maldonaldo (Williams)
08 – 186,629 – Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
09 – 168,833 – Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham)
10 – 164,671 – Pedro de la Rosa (HRT)

Drivers – Biggest Increases
01 – 9,126 – Fernando Alonso
02 – 6,445 – Lewis Hamilton
03 – 3,757 – Jenson Button
04 – 2,803 – Mark Webber
05 – 2,730 – Bruno Senna

Drivers – Smallest Increases
01 – 202 – Charles Pic
02 – 264 – Timo Glock
03 – 309 – Jean-Eric Vergne
04 – 346 – Daniel Ricciardo
05 – 439 – Nico Hulkenberg

Thanks to gaining three more thousand followers than Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso is now in second place in the drivers’ table! At the beginning of July, I predicted that Alonso would overtake Hamilton in the Summer break and that is exactly what has materialised.

Teams – The Top 10
01 – 317,786 – Ferrari
02 – 219,764 – McLaren
03 – 145,182 – Red Bull
04 – 141,913 – Mercedes
05 – 127,382 – Lotus
06 – 83,147 – Caterham
07 – 76,935 – Marussia
08 – 72,961 – Force India
09 – 72,450 – Williams
10 – 68,576 – Sauber

Teams – Biggest Increases
01 – 1,625 – Red Bull
02 – 1,604 – Ferrari
03 – 1,047 – McLaren

Teams – Smallest Increases
01 – 180 – Williams
02 – 354 – Toro Rosso
03 – 385 – Sauber

Williams and Force India swap places again, something I expect to continue until the season ends. Sauber makes its first appearance in the bottom three as well. One thing that can influence the placings in the Summer break is how often the drivers and teams tweet, some may shut up shop while others may choose to continue tweeting. In the case of Sauber, they went on holiday from the 4th to the 18th August, with a tweet on the 18th wishing Chelsea good look, followed by more tweets yesterday.

Driver and Team statistics as of Monday 20th August 2012.

Sky Sports dumps IndyCars behind the Red Button… again

We’ve been here before… and it looks like we’re going here again. As announced by Keith Huewen on Twitter, next Sunday’s IndyCar Series race from Sonoma is again being dumped behind the Red Button from 19:30. Meanwhile, over on Sky Sports F1, they have the Belgian Grand Prix. The remaining Sky Sports channels at 19:30 have:

– Sky Sports 1: Live Spanish Football (18:55 to 23:00)
– Sky Sports 2: Live Super League (18:30 to 21:00)
– Sky Sports 3: Live US Open Tennis (16:00 to 00:00)
– Sky Sports 4: Live PGA Tour Golf (18:00 to 23:00)

With Sky Sports F1’s Sunday schedule is as follows:

Sunday 2nd September 2012 – Sky Sports F1
11:00 – Live Belgian Grand Prix
16:15 – Inside Track: Pastor Maldonaldo
16:45 – GP2: Belgian Race 2 (R)
17:50 – ten minute filler
18:00 – Legends: Murray Walker (R)
18:30 – Inside Track: Pastor Maldonaldo (R)
19:00 – Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
20:30 – Legends: Alan Jones (R)
21:00 – Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
22:30 – Inside Track: Pastor Maldonaldo (R)

So, why can’t the schedule run like this?

11:00 – Live Belgian Grand Prix
16:30 – Inside Track: Pastor Maldonaldo
16:55 – GP2: Belgian Race 2 (R)
18:00 – Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
19:30 – Live IndyCar Series
22:00 – Belgian Grand Prix Highlights

It is as if the schedulers don’t communicate with one another. Yet again, this is Sky treating IndyCars with gross incompetence. Common sense says to anyone that if Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have live programming on, then you put it on Sky Sports F1. There is nothing illogical about that, it is the most sensible and obvious thing to do. Plus, give the IndyCar a bit of publicity during the F1 programme, and the job is done.

I’ve wrote multiple times about poor ratings for the IndyCar Series, it needs to be on Sky Sports F1 with more promotion, and putting it behind the Red Button helps no one. The more eye-balls, the better.

To finish off, here are some other IndyCar related pieces I’ve written on this subject:

April 26th – where common sense did actually prevail
May 23rd – the benefits of putting Indy 500 on Sky Sports F1
June 21st – Sky’s IndyCar scheduling this weekend

It is quite ironic how earlier I pushed my latest Verdict post online that included a paragraph on IndyCars and it being put on Sky Sports F1, and then a few hours later we find out that the penultimate race of the championship next weekend will be on behind the Red Button. Disappointing.

Update on August 30th: I’ve updated the above schedules as a result of a Pastor Maldonaldo one-off programme being announced.

Why Sky Sports F1’s mid-week programming needs a rethink: The Verdict so Far

The Mid Season Verdict series continues with part four of five, this time focussing on Sky Sports F1’s programming outside of race weekends, and how they could improve it. When the channel was first announced, the question for many was “how do they fill the hours outside of race weekend?”. Which, is a perfectly valid audience. A channel, as well as having content aimed at the casual fans during the race weekend, is also meant to be aimed at the hardcore fans outside of race weekends. Has it done that? Not really, in my opinion. At the moment, outside of race weekends, we have:

– F1 Fast Track: 30-minute highlights of 2012 races so far set to a backing track
– Weekend in Words: 1-hour compilation of clips of people talking from the previous race weekend
– Weekend in Stills: 30-minute compilation of images from the previous race weekend
– The F1 Show: see my description in Part 3
– Season Reviews: reviews from 1988 to 2011, most taken from the official DVD season reviews

There has also been Classic F1 races, but only for Monaco and Britain. The problem with the Classic F1 races that they have shown is that some are not even worthy of the title ‘classics’ seeing as they are races from the past five years. On the whole though, Sky are focusing their programming in the wrong areas. As a dedicated fan, who watches the majority of things, only The F1 Show and the Season Reviews appeal for me. The casual fan is more likely to watch F1 Fast Track and the ‘Weekend in…’ programmes (although Weekend in Stills admittedly caters to both), however are casual fans likely to watch the Sky Sports F1 channel during the week? Not really. It would be in Sky’s interest to focus more on the dedicated fan during the week and non-F1 weekends by putting on programmes that appeal to them as they are the core audience for the channel during that time period. Official figures from BARB showed that the highest rated programme between the British and German Grand Prix weekends had 45,000 for The F1 Show on Friday evening, a small pocket of the audience. The channel during that week reached only 99,000 viewers per day, again, a small portion of the audience, and most likely a dedicated contingent. If you’re churning out the same programmes day in-day out, where’s the incentive to watch? I can’t see any. For Sky, they should at least be aiming to produce programme for the dedicated audience, but also accessible for the casual audience.

The current programming does not do that. F1 Fast Track is a waste of half an hour of airtime and is nothing more than ‘filler’ which should be dumped. Weekend in Words serves no purpose either, and is twice as worse seeing as it is 1 hour long. Half of the quotes are outdated, and as the dedicated audience would have watched the majority of programming during the race weekend, this programme is effectively repeating the same interviews that the viewer has already seen during the main coverage. This programme, again, does nothing for me and should be dumped.

Weekend in Stills is okay and should stay. I can see why people would enjoy this programme, and while it is not my cup of tea, images capture a lot more than what TV images can, so it is probably worth keeping. The F1 Show I shall skim over here, because I’ve already stated multiple times that I believe this is the best piece of TV that Sky Sports F1 produce, so I hope to see this a staple in the schedule. The Season Reviews is a bugbear. Yes, dedicated fans would like it. But why not full races? The thing I don’t like here is that Sky went back on what they said on their Twitter account before the season. Given that this is a dedicated channel, I find the decision to not broadcast full, classic races bizarre. Showing Season Reviews is a step back from the BBC’s fantastic Classic F1 offering between 2009 to 2011 where readers would get a choice of five races and they would get to pick the best for an extended highlights offering, see here as an example. The writer on the blog, Andrew Benson admitted I believe that the Classic F1 series was basically done ‘off a piece of string’, yet they appear to have put in more effort in this area than Sky so far.

I make it sound like this is a ‘big deal’, but it seems a sensible thing to do considering it is easy hours of material to fill on their channel instead of another repeat. Some of you may be wondering whether Sky Sports would actually have the rights to the material. I think they would have the rights to the majority of the material (and commentary) considering it is filmed, and recorded, inside the confines of a race circuit, so that is not an excuse. My overriding opinion is that it’s disappointing for Sky not to exploit the rights. Why both with a dedicated channel if you’re not going to run archive races during non-F1 weekends? I don’t really get it. They have shown Classic races for Monaco and Britain, but what have they shown during the break? Classics races? Nope. Nothing. Nada, zilch. I suggested a classic season. It would be pretty simple, open a vote in May on the Sky Sports F1 website, get people a few weeks to vote any season between 1990 and 2008, they screen the winning season during August. Not too difficult. It is an extremely lazy approach, repeating the same programming over and over again. It is quite sad seeing that a dedicated channel was created for Formula 1 fans, yet it is still not being maximised to its full potential as it should be. Sky can’t claim “it costs money”, as I said above, BBC did it on a piece of string! For me, the F1 channel could be so much better outside of race weekends. It is unfortunate that at the moment it is barely above average.

The other programming is too weak for an F1 channel, in that there should be more. The following is some simple ideas of programming aside from replaying Classic F1 races, which are as follows, and yes, they are the same suggestions as April, because all (bar one) have not been implemented:

Radio Soundbites
– 1 hour
– The best team radio soundbites from the weekend
– containing clips from the World Feed and also the Pit Channel

Cockpit View
– 1 hour
– The best onboard moments from the weekend
– containing clips from the World Feed and also the Onboard Channel

Hybrid
– 1 hour
– a Hybrid race feed containing the best bits from the World Feed, Onboard and Pitlane with Team Radio and Natural Sounds over the top

The Paddock View Live
– 30 minutes (or 1 hour depending on race ‘excitement’)
– two or three F1 journalists in a studio looking at newspapers and opinion pieces, agreeing or disagreeing
– also asking for viewers opinion
– credit where it is due, Sky trialled this during The F1 Show a few weeks back with David Croft as host. Would love to see it back every two or three weeks.

Fanzone
– 30 minutes
– a few dedicated fans in the studio, preferably straight after The F1 Show with the viewpoints being ‘handed over’ to the fans for them to give their thoughts
– also asking for viewers opinion
– for those that watch Peter Windsor’s online show, The Flying Lap, this is basically what happens when his show has gone ‘off the air’ where he keeps the feed open for 15/20 minutes so people can ask questions

And how would all of that, including the existing programming and full classic races instead of Season Reviews? Like this…

Mondays
14:00 – GP2: Race 1 of previous weekend (repeat)
15:30 – GP3: Race 1 of previous weekend (repeat)
16:30 – GP2: Race 2 of previous weekend (repeat)
18:00 – GP3: Race 2 of previous weekend (repeat)
19:00 – Race (repeat)

Tuesdays
20:00 – Weekend in Words (new)
21:00 – F1 Fast Track (new)
21:30 – Weekend in Stills (new)
22:00 – GP2: Race 1 of previous weekend (repeat)

Wednesdays
20:00 – Cockpit View (new)
21:00 – The Paddock View Live (new)
22:00 – GP2: Race 2 of previous weekend (repeat)

Thursdays
20:00 – Radio Soundbites (new)
21:00 – Hybrid (new)
22:00 – GP3: Race 1 of previous weekend (repeat)

Fridays
20:00 – The F1 Show Live (new)
21:00 – Fanzone Live (new)
21:30 – The Paddock View (repeat)
22:00 – GP3: Race 1 of previous weekend (repeat)

The end result being that you have 7 and a half hours of original content with original content on Tuesday through Friday, a vast improvement on now. And how would Saturdays and Sundays shape up?

Saturdays
10:00 – Race Highlights (repeat)
11:30 – Weekend in Words (repeat)
12:30 – F1 Fast Track (repeat)
13:00 – Weekend in Stills (repeat)
13:30 – Cockpit View (repeat)
14:30 – The Paddock View (repeat)
15:30 – Radio Soundbites (repeat)
16:30 – Hybrid (repeat)
17:30 – The F1 Show (repeat)
18:30 – Fanzone (repeat)
19:00 to 22:30 – Classic F1 Race (new)

Sundays
10:00 – The F1 Show (repeat)
11:00 – Fanzone (repeat)
12:00 – Classic F1 Race (repeat)
15:30 – The Paddock View (repeat)
16:30 – Radio Soundbites (repeat)
17:30 – Hybrid (repeat)
18:00 – Weekend in Words (repeat)
19:00 – Weekend in Stills (repeat)
19:30 – IndyCar Series (live)

One classic race per weekend is fine in my opinion, with a repeat of it the following day. Anything else would be too much, but one classic race per weekend when F1 is not on would be fantastic in my opinion. Saturday and Sunday offers a catch-up for anyone who missed the weekend offerings, and it also means things are not repeated that much compared to now where some things are repeated many times, for instance the Australian Grand Prix highlights show must be on its 10th repeat by now (editors note: I said ten back in April, I dread to know the amount by now…)! Also, I didn’t sneak IndyCars in there at 19:30, that was deliberate! It should be on Sky Sports F1 in my opinion to prevent it being thrown around Sky Sports 2, 3 and 4. It’s the logical thing to do, unfortunately though it has been left to the other Sky channels leading to embarrassingly low ratings. Three thousand viewers for an IndyCars race? Irrespective of your opinion concerning IndyCars, it should not be getting as low as three thousand viewers in the UK.

One of the things that does slightly annoy me a bit as well is how things are timed ‘oddly’ on the schedule, programmes seem to start at ten past, twenty past, five past, why not on the hour or half an hour like the majority of other TV channels? Most of the above is exactly the same as what I wrote in April, with a bit added here and there. Unfortunately nothing has changed on this subject, aside from Sky trialling “The Paddock Club” and the Classic races from Monaco and Britain. Hence why the majority of the content in this piece has to stay the same. Sadly.

Sky Sports F1 – Top 10 ratings (week ending 12th August, 2012)

From BARB:

1 – 29k – F1 Legends (Saturday, 19:03)
2 – 15k – 2003 Season Review: Part 2 (Wednesday, 21:47)
3 – 13k – 2004 Season Review: Part 2 (Thursday, 22:00)
4 – 12k – The F1 Show (Friday, 20:02)
5 – 12k – 2004 Season Review: Part 3 (Thursday, 23:10)
6 – 12k – 2005 Season Review: Part 1 (Friday, 21:01)
7 – 10k – 2002 Season Review: Part 2 (Monday, 21:41)
8 – 8k – 2003 Season Review: Part 1 (Wednesday, 20:30)
9 – 6k – F1 Legends (Tuesday, 18:31)
10 – 6k – 2004 Season Review: Part 1 (Thursday, 20:31)

A better set of figures compared to last week, although obviously still low due to the Olympics. Disappointing for The F1 Show, a pity because the Journalists edition there was a great watch, although the first airing was up on the 9k it recorded last week.

Sky Sports F1’s weekend output: The Verdict so Far

In the first two parts of my five part mid-season series looking at BBC F1’s and Sky Sports F1’s output, I looked at both of their current line-ups and their strengths and weaknesses. In this part, I intend to look at the weekend output from Sky Sports F1, including suggestions of how to improve it. In the fourth part of this series, I shall look at Sky’s programming outside of weekends, again, with suggestions on how it could be expanded upon; while the final part of the series shall look at the television ratings, and whether the new broadcasting deal has led to an increase in ratings, or a decrease in ratings.

As I noted back in April, I will not be doing a part on how BBC can improve, simply because I feel that they have reached ‘the rooftop’. There is not much at all in my opinion that BBC could do to expand their current output beyond their budget constraints. My only suggestion is that from October, is for them to put practice sessions on BBC Two now that all children’s programming is leaving BBC Two. Aside from that, there is not much else for them to do. I did, however, look at in detail their Qualifying broadcast for this year’s German Grand Prix, for those that wish to read that, please click here. As thus, I won’t spend a part of this series giving suggestions that are never realistically going to happen.

The Sky Sports F1 channel covers every session of the 2012 Formula 1 season live, from the Drivers’ Press Conference on a Thursday afternoon right through to the race itself. The channel also covers every session from the feeder series called GP2 as well as the Qualifying and the two races from GP3. The stars of GP3 typically move up to GP2, with their end goal to reach Formula 1.

Practice Sessions
Each practice session on Sky Sports F1 is covered with 15-minutes build-up and 10 minutes post-session analysis fronted by Simon Lazenby for practices one and two with Georgie Thompson for practice three. David Croft and Anthony Davidson are normally the commentators, although with Davidson’s 24 Hours of Le Mans injury and commitments prior to the injury, Jerome d’Ambrosio and more recently Allan McNish have stepped in for him. During the session Natalie Pinkham, Martin Brundle and Ted Kravitz rove up and down the pitlane; Brundle also with Lazenby before and after the sessions. The amount of time dedicated in the build-up to practice is fine, as is the length dedicated after practices one and two. However, “running off air” three minutes after practice three is quite embarrassing for the sake of seven minutes of advertising, given that the advertised off air time is given as 11:10. The reason I say embarrassing is because of what happened at the Monaco Grand Prix. A quite hectic end to practice three thanks to Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonaldo, and Sky decide to rush off air before the world feed ends with Thompson, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill looking a bit clueless in a boat. For the practice sessions, the way they cover the sessions is fine, and there is nothing to change. The commercials I can accept, in fact, commercials in the practice sessions are a good thing as they allow me to hop onto the Red Button (or Sky Race Control in Sky’s language) and access the onboard feeds, which is a good watch while the commercials are on the main channel.

Occasionally they also cut away from the World Feed to show Brundle or Kravitz demonstrating something in pit lane, I don’t mind if they do this, as long as there is a reason for doing it. I don’t like them doing it if cars are on track, they should only cut away if absolutely necessary in those scenarios. It does grind though as there are one or two cuts that are too long, it is as if the director has fallen asleep for a few seconds to me. At this point, I would suggest the Picture-in-Picture (PiP) option for the channel, but I’m not sure whether the broadcasting rights allow them to go PiP during an actual session, so I’m unsure if that is a valid suggestion. Another thing is how Sky treat the practice sessions. I don’t mean in terms of air-time, I mean how they approach the commentary. Back in the 5 Live F1 days from 2009 to 2011 with Croft and Davidson, the editorial decision was that the session were mostly interactive with a lot of discussion encouraged via Twitter and text. That in my view was the perfect way of doing it, the pictures were essentially an addition to the commentary, as it should be for practice. Unfortunately, with Sky the editorial stance appears to have changed in that a lot less tweets are read out and more of a focus is put on what is happening on the track. I mean, there is nothing wrong with that, but I don’t really agree with it. I prefered the discussion nature of things that Croft and Davidson did with 5 Live back from 2009 to 2011 in all honesty.

The F1 Show
The first of its kind in the UK, The F1 Show airs on Friday’s presented by Ted Kravitz and Georgie Thompson, either on location or in the studio. This paragraph is going to be short, because for me it is by far the best and most enjoyable hour of the content that Sky produce. As I said in Part 1, the combination of Kravitz and Thompson is one that has gelled quickly, the two are clearly relaxed working with each other, and it makes for a better programme as a result. The programme also airs outside of race weekends, for instance on the March 30th edition of the show we were treated to Patrick Head as a guest on the show. The limited commercial format (only 2 ad-breaks on the show) allowed Head to talk in detail about his time at Williams without the need to cut away quickly to the next feature. The show also has cars past and present in the studio, such as this year’s Mercedes or the 1993 Williams car. I don’t think there is anything I would do to change The F1 Show, because it is already a brilliant hour of television, arguably the best piece of television that Sky Sports F1 produces. And long may that continue.

The above paragraph I wrote in April, and to be quite frank (pardon the pun seeing as I was talking about Williams above!), I don’t feel the need to change one word.

Support races
As I noted above, Sky Sports F1 is broadcasting the two feeder series’ to Formula 1: the GP2 Series and the GP3 Series. I’m glad that Sky have taken GP2 and GP3, I was confused when BBC Sport decided not to pick up GP2 in 2009, it seemed they had let it slip through their fingers, and was a bizarre decision in my opinion. That’s for an issue for another blog, though. For all of the coverage, Sky takes the World Feed coverage for every session, with commentary from Will Buxton and Jerome d’Ambrosio. However, their coverage only starts 5 minutes before the race, and finishes 5 minutes after the race. This applies for every session. For practice, that’s fine, I wouldn’t expect any other coverage outside of the World Feed. For the Qualifying and the Races, though, I think Sky should consider adding a pre and post-race show. For the pre-race show, I would suggest 10 minutes build-up with Georgie Thompson presenting and interviewing one or two drivers’ on the grid alongside Johnny Herbert. Just to bring some flavour and voices to the coverage, while after the race they can grab one or two of the finishers and get their analysis on the race. It doesn’t need a lot, but just something to add to the bones to the coverage so the drivers’ can be introduced to the public.

This isn’t without precedence, I’m not suggesting something which has never been attempted before. Back in 2008, ITV4 won the rights to screen GP2 live on their channel. Instead of just taking the World Feed coverage, ITV4 opted to have a pre-race and post-race section to their coverage, presented by Charlie Webster. Ignoring how good (or bad!) the presenter was, it showed for me a commitment to bring GP2 coverage up to a higher level compared to how Eurosport covered it previously. It doesn’t look like Sky are going to change this for the remainder of this year, so I hope to see the GP2 and GP3 coverage advanced up a level for the 2013 season.

Pre-Show, Post-Show and the dreaded commercials…
Whilst I believe Sky’s Friday coverage is a fine piece of work, and there is really not much to change about it (unless I was to nitpick!), Saturday’s and Sunday’s main coverage leaves a lot to desire. I could have split this blog into two or three sections, with each section focussing on a different area, but I don’t think that is necessary and it would soon become repetitive, as we get back to the same problem: commercials. Commercials plagued the ITV F1 shows, and they appear to be doing the same for the Sky Sports F1 shows, the only difference this time is that Sky took the wise move to run the Qualifying and Race sessions during the race with adverts before and after the race.

Now that we are halfway through the season, however, a pattern has emerged. During the races where BBC are live, Sky run what they like to call “limited” adverts. However, when BBC are not live, Sky run adverts every 15 minutes during the build-up and after the race. Apart from the fact that, in my view, this is extremely petty, it also makes the programme a dozen times worser because of it. Having adverts disrupts the flow, it means the director is constantly shouting at the presenter “5 minutes to adverts” and it means the viewer gets pointless VT’s that add nothing. I really don’t like it, to be honest and I don’t get why they do it, or why they find the need to do it. Aside from that though, they have produced some stunningly good features this season. The Brundle goes to Ferrari features have been well done with super access to Maranello, but the feature at the top of the pile for me unquestionably has to be the Nigel Roebuck series as he looks into his archive. For a Formula 1 fan, this makes for fascinating viewing as Roebuck listens to his past recordings of legends such as Gilles Villeneuve. I hope we get to see more of Roebuck’s archive as the pre-race shows continue on Sky Sports F1.

The post-race shows need to be tidied up a little still and perfected, but I appreciate that the barriers move every race depending on the nature of the race. I noted with the practice session section earlier about interactivity and the same point applies here with the post-race show, I don’t think I have seen any of the Sky members ask for questions on Twitter to ask any driver, which is a contrast to seeing Jake Humphrey on Twitter constantly scrolling down the iPad looking for questions to ask drivers’ or team bosses. On the brighter side, I was extremely pleased to see Ted Kravitz’s Notebook become part of the post-race show. Alongside The F1 Show, this is one of the highlights of the race weekend as Kravitz wanders up and down the pitlane with the technical gossip and pitstop mishaps.

How to improve for the future is quite simple, in my opinion:

– limit the amount of adverts for every race programme, irrespective of whether its rival broadcaster is live or not
– increase interactivity in practice sessions and post-race
– continue high quality features such as the Nigel Roebuck features
– introduce a proper GP2 and GP3 programme
– ditch the pointless pre-race VT’s that add little

If I was a scheduler and had a say on decisions, this would be my perfect weekend schedule. It is an expansion of what I put in April, along with some adjustments based on shows that are now in Sky’s schedule:

Fridays
08:15 – Drivers’ Press Conference
08:45 – Live Practice 1
10:55 – Live GP2 Practice
11:35 – Classic F1 (35 minutes)
12:10 – Classic F1 (35 minutes)
12:45 – Live Practice 2
14:50 – Live GP2 Qualifying
– session on from 15:00 to 15:30, giving small build-up and reaction from paddock
15:45 – Team Pricipals’ Press Conference
16:15 – Classic F1 (35 minutes in 45 minute slot)
17:00 to 18:00 – Live The F1 Show

Saturdays
08:35 – Live GP3 Qualifying
– session on from 08:45 to 09:15, giving small build-up and reaction from paddock
09:30 – Live Practice 3
– length increased to prevent ‘awkward’ filler
11:15 – Classic F1 (35 minutes in 45 minute slot)
12:00 – Live Qualifying
14:25 – Live GP2: Race 1
– race starts at 14:40, so gives Sky time to go onto the grid and interview a few people, with reaction afterwards
15:55 – Live Qualifying Roundup
– Ted Kravitz in the paddock with a live (or as live) Notebook getting a roundup of Qualifying events, with a few interviews/Sky Pad analysis which could not be fitted in the main show
16:10 to 17:10 – Live GP3: Race 1
– race starts at 16:20, so gives Sky time to go onto the grid and interview a few people, with reaction afterwards

(although I’ve labelled it as different programmes, on screen it will be a seamless hand-over at 14:25 from Simon to Georgie, a seamless hand-over from Georgie to Ted at 15:55 and so on)

Sundays
08:15 – Live GP3: Race 2
– race starts at 08:25, so gives Sky time to go onto the grid and interview a few people, with reaction afterwards
09:15 – Live GP2: Race 2
– race starts at 09:35, giving Sky time for a feature and grid interviews, extended as it is the main day of racing
10:30 – F1 Legends
– what is normally shown after the race, but instead shown between GP2 and the main F1 programme
11:30 – Live Race

See on Friday’s, by adding things worth watching between the sessions, it gives me a reason to keep watching the channel. Instead they schedule repeat number 218 for no particular reason and with no relevance to that particular race. There is not a lot of change compared to now, but subtle differences compared to the real schedule to make GP2 and GP3 more prominent which as I’ve outlined above is necessary in my opinion. I’d argue that would bring more viewers to GP2 and GP3 as there is a seamless transition between races instead of fiddly 5-minute fillers which are more likely to make viewers tune out, maybe not realising that another race is coming up. There may be an argue that showing support races may be of detriment to the rest of the product with extra resources needed for pre-show and post-show, I disagree.

I suggested earlier in part 1 that Georgie Thompson could be host for the support races, a suggestion I stick to. On Saturday’s and Sunday’s, let’s be honest, she doesn’t do much apart from throw questions to Anthony Davidson in the Sky Pad. Therefore, having her as host for the support races would be a perfect way to utilise her. Comparing the above to F1 Digital+ in 2002, see here for my piece a few months ago, F1 Digital+ stayed on air longer before and after sessions, half an hour for the practice sessions, although it probably should be noted that the coverage, pre-show and post-show was produced by FOM and not Sky Sports. Nevertheless, it is not unprecedented.

As with my verdict series in April, part four will focus on Sky’s Formula 1 coverage outside of race weekends, while part five will look at the ratings picture as Formula 1 enters the second half of the season. My verdict has been outlined above, but your verdict is equally as important. How do you feel about Sky’s weekend coverage at the moment? I look forward to your comments.