New documentary to showcase ten F1 classic races

A new documentary coming soon on Blu-ray and DVD is to showcase ten Formula 1 classic races. The documentary, which will be released at the end of October, will include new footage from Formula One Management’s (FOM) archive.

According to Duke Video, the documentary will run to 100 minutes, meaning that there will be around ten minutes of footage from each race. The documentary includes insight from the personalities at the centre of each race weekend.

The races that will be featured are:

  • 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix – Niki Lauda
  • 1986 Australian Grand Prix – Alain Prost
  • 1987 British Grand Prix – Nigel Mansell
  • 1990 USA Grand Prix – Jean Alesi
  • 1994 German Grand Prix – Gerhard Berger
  • 1997 European Grand Prix – Jacques Villeneuve
  • 1999 European Grand Prix – Johnny Herbert
  • 2000 French Grand Prix – David Coulthard
  • 2007 Grand Prix of Europe – Fernando Alonso
  • 2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Jenson Button

A tweet from AUTOSPORT’s Glenn Freeman confirms that the documentary includes new camera angles of both Nigel Mansell’s blow out in Adelaide 1986 and Jos Verstappen’s pit lane explosion in Hockenheim 1994, amongst other things.

The formula for tomorrow

It was announced on September 7th that Liberty Media have agreed to acquire the Formula One Group, a move which could have ramifications in the months and years ahead. The agreement needs to be go through numerous hurdles, and there is a chance that the deal could fall through at any of those stages.

In the short-term, there is unlikely to be an immediate change. However, there will be areas that Liberty Media may try to put their footprint on going forward, such as social media and content distribution.

Although it does not face an acquisition, MotoGP itself has issues to contend with going forward. Whilst the motor cycling series has equalised the championship somewhat with a series of technical measures to make it a more exciting show for the fans, there are obstacles that lie ahead.

Social media remains an area for MotoGP to exploit further. And, MotoGP has to ask the question: how does it replace Valentino Rossi? Can it replace Rossi without suffering decline?

The calendar and race weekend format
From the outset, I think it needs to be established that any move Liberty Media makes with relation to Formula 1 should cater to the fan of tomorrow and not necessarily the fan of today and yesterday. Does Liberty Media want to please the fifty-year-old who has been watching Formula 1 for thirty years, or do they want to please the twenty-year-old who has only just started watching the sport? Arguably, their decision-making should be tailored towards the latter group of people, and that should be the case for all motor sport series.

Yes, that may upset some of the veteran fans the sport, but it is fundamental that Liberty tries to sustain Formula 1 for the next generation moving forward. It is why I expect the format of the race weekend to be one of Liberty Media’s first points of enquiry. The traditionalist fan likes the 90 to 120 minute races. But would two x 45 minute races or some other variation generate a larger audience for the sport, or a more diverse audience?

If there was interest in doing that, broadcasters would benefit as a result: Sky for example would be able to maximise air-time out of two x 45 minute races than one x 90-minute race. You could also flexibly schedule, for example, racing at 17:00 during the European season when sunset is not until 21:00.

What I don’t think should happen, and something I’m firmly against, is expanding the calendar to 25 race weekends, something that applies to both Formula 1 and MotoGP, but is mooted in Liberty Media’s F1 presentation. If it did get to that stage, I think I would pick and choose which races I watch as opposed to watch all 25. I also think that, with 25 races, the audience actually becomes more dispersed. Picking and choosing what you watch would not open the sport to a larger audience.

Liberty Media need to be clever about the scheduling and not turn F1 into something that becomes over-exposed. 21 races push it to the boundary already and I fear 25 races would send it over the edge, and that is even without considering everyone associated with the F1 paddock that is on the road for those races. MotoGP have currently got it right: I’m left feeling that I want more with 18 races and wanting less than 21 races with F1 – although the state of the respective championships tells the story.

Aside from Formula 1, I wonder what Liberty Media may want to do with GP2 or GP3. Although GP2 and GP3 are miniscule in the grand scheme of things, the relationship between the feeder series’ and the main series’ is significantly different with F1 compared to MotoGP. Should GP2 and GP3 be integrated more into the main package in the same way Moto2 and Moto3 are with MotoGP, thus increasing the reach of GP2 and GP3 and benefiting F1 in the longer run? Should Liberty Media start from the ground upwards as opposed to ‘changing’ F1 straight away?

These are questions I anticipate Liberty Media will ask, there’s no right or wrong answer. I can foresee a full review of the race weekend being conducted, although the racing on track is only as good as the design of the car itself. A poorly designed car not suited to overtaking means that the racing will be boring as a result unless you bring gimmicks into the show.

Social media and television rights
One of MotoGP’s biggest strengths over Formula 1 by some margin is social media, thanks to the rights holder working with the teams in order to generate the best result for the championship.

Even better for us is the past two years have seen a fundamental change in how [Dorna] interact with the teams via social media. In the past it has very much been standalone. MotoGP and social media, it’s to promote the championship, it’s to promote MotoGP. The teams had been left to themselves, we don’t have that audience at all. Even the biggest team here does not have the audience that the championship has across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Now, they couldn’t help us anymore than they are. – In conversation with Ian Wheeler (part 1)

MotoGP is several years ahead of Formula 1 where social media is concerned, something that Liberty Media should recognise. Social media was previously a ‘dirty’ word for both Formula 1 and MotoGP, but the latter adopted earlier. Formula 1 has been hindered by previous reluctance of those higher in the chain to exploit social media. I’ve spoken before about what Formula 1 needs to do in the new media space: short-form present day relevant video (see below for more on this point), genuine synergy between on-screen and social media and the creation of an over-the-top network, similar to the WWE Network or, a bit closer to home, the MotoGP Video Pass.

The Liberty Media purchase makes an over-the-top network more likely in my opinion. Their presentation to investors makes reference to opportunities including “enhancing distribution of content, especially in digital” and to monetise the digital space where possible. Again, this will not be an overnight shift but one over the next year or two. The problem for Liberty is that the world around us is moving at a fast pace: Formula 1 is already behind the curve. F1’s job is not to implement the trend of today or yesterday, but to look at the trends that are starting to emerge.

Dorna held a social media workshop for MotoGP’s teams, which included representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter. Liberty Media should strongly consider doing the same for Formula 1 if Formula One Management (FOM) have not already. Evidently Dorna’s workshop has helped MotoGP significantly in the past two years to move onto the right track.

Hand-in-hand with social media goes the television rights of today and tomorrow. Should Formula 1’s television rights be less restrictive, meaning that FOM can post more video content during each race weekend? Arguably, yes. This works to the advantage of MotoGP which posts a race incident, in turn going viral to the benefit of all who work within the championship. #SepangClash is the incident I always mention, 15 million views on Facebook is simply an amazing example of something on track going viral. Formula 1 has missed so many golden opportunities to go ‘viral’ this season, thanks to the restrictive television deals in place with the likes of Sky Sports.

To start with here, the idea that Liberty Media is going to rip up any contract in place now or scheduled to begin in the future is nonsense. But, there does need to be a way to allow Formula 1 to flourish on social media with new, innovative and informative content, yet get the big bucks from pay-TV, whilst also keeping the sport accessible to the widest possible audience. It is a fine balance to try to achieve. MotoGP appears to have the social media element built into its television contracts (saying that Dorna is free to exploit MotoGP in video form for X minutes of content on social media), whereas FOM doesn’t have this built into contracts.

Should Formula 1 and Liberty Media take a (slight) financial hit by reducing pay-TV income, thus loosening up on their social media as a result? I think so, but it is not a simple yes or no answer.

Creating global superstars
The ambition of both Formula 1 and MotoGP is to reach as many viewers as possible. Each series has drivers or riders. But beyond them, there are stars that transcend motor sport: Lewis Hamilton, Valentino Rossi, Fernando Alonso and Marc Marquez to name just a few and there are many countless names that have previously done that. A good percentage of viewers watch Formula 1 and MotoGP for the household, blockbuster figures. The ‘Bolt’ of the field. But, what happens when one of those names disappears?

Valentino Rossi has been a house hold name for MotoGP fans for two decades. Soon, his time on the racing circuit will come to end, but MotoGP will continue. Rossi’s reach in MotoGP is comparable to the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in Formula 1. What will happen to MotoGP when Rossi retires?

There’s lots and lots of talent [coming through the MotoGP ranks], the problem is: how do you replace an icon like Valentino Rossi? The honest answer is you don’t. What you have to do is mitigate the effect. So what you want when he goes is a stable, attractive product in place which will retain some of the existing fan base. The idea is people come and see Valentino Rossi, but they stay because they find MotoGP an interesting and exciting sport. – In conversation with David Emmett

In my opinion, an opinion shared by leading paddock voices, is that MotoGP will suffer a short-term dip. But, thanks to the moves Dorna have made in the past few years technically, they are in a much better position to keep their current audience. Can MotoGP have another global superstar like Valentino Rossi? In the next five to ten years it is highly unlikely, but you never know what is around the corner.

Max Verstappen could become Formula 1’s next superstar. Whilst is in everyone’s interests to create a global superstar, as it boosts the sport as a whole in every metric possible, what isn’t in everyone’s interest is to try to force the next superstar onto us. The emergence of Max Verstappen should happen naturally over the next few years, but there is a worry that the bubble could burst before it has started, thanks to the early hype surrounding his Spanish Grand Prix victory and everything following that. Trying to replicate an aura from someone beforehand is dooming to fail.

Overall, although Formula 1 is significantly bigger, MotoGP feels more confident about the direction it is going in thanks to moves made across the board in recent years to increase the competition on the track, whilst increasing pay-TV revenue, yet keeping the sport open via social media. It will be fascinating to see what effect Liberty Media has, if any, on the state of the Formula 1 circus.

Scheduling: The 2016 Singapore Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads east for the first of the flyaway races to wrap up the 2016 season. There are seven stops left on the calendar: Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Singapore marks the two-thirds stage of the season, with the Marina Bay Street circuit playing host to round 15 of 21.

Sky Sports are live through the whole weekend, with Channel 4 providing extensive highlights. The time slots are slightly different for practice and qualifying before reverting back to the usual 13:00 start time for the race. Channel 4’s highlights programme airs later on Sunday evening due to coverage of the Paralympic Games before it. This should result in a higher viewing figure, but does mean that the highlights clash with ITV’s The X Factor, which might dent things slightly. 5 Live’s programming is truncated slightly by Paralympics and football coverage.

On the personnel front, Holly Samos is again standing in for Lee McKenzie, who is covering the Paralympics for Channel 4. McKenzie will be back for the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks time. Elsewhere, the IndyCar Series season comes to an end late on Sunday night in the UK live on BT Sport//ESPN. Back home, both the British Superbikes and Touring Car championships are in action at Donington Park and Silverstone respectively. Below are all the scheduling details you need.

Channel 4 F1
17/09 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
18/09 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
16/09 – 10:45 to 12:50 – Practice 1
16/09 – 14:15 to 16:15 – Practice 2
17/09 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3
17/09 – 13:00 to 15:45 – Qualifying
18/09 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
14/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
15/09 – 11:00 to 11:30 – Driver Press Conference
15/09 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
16/09 – 16:15 to 16:45 – Team Press Conference
16/09 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
21/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
15/09 – 20:30 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16/09 – 10:55 to 12:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/09 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18/09 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
17/09 – 16:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
18/09 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
18/09 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
22/09 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Silverstone (ITV4)
18/09 – 11:00 to 18:30 – Races

FIM World Endurance Championship – Bol d’Or (Eurosport 2)
17/09 to 18/09 – Race
=> 13:45 to 16:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 17:00 to 18:55 (Eurosport 1)
=> 19:00 to 23:00 (Eurosport 1)
=> 23:00 to 00:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 06:00 to 10:00 (Eurosport 2)

IndyCar Series – Sonoma (BT Sport//ESPN)
18/09 – 23:30 to 02:30 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Sandown 500 (BT Sport 1)
17/09 – 04:45 to 05:45 – Qualifying 1
17/09 – 07:00 to 08:00 – Qualifying 2
18/09 – 06:00 to 08:00 – Race

World Endurance Championship – Austin
17/09 – 22:30 to 05:30– Race (Motors TV)
17/09 – 23:00 to 05:15 – Race (Eurosport 1)

World Superbikes – Germany (British Eurosport 2)
17/09 – 09:15 to 13:15 – Qualifying and Race 1
18/09 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Support Race
18/09 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Last updated on September 9th.

Formula E heads to Channel 5, but will interest increase?

It has been confirmed today that Formula E will be broadcast on Channel 5 for the next two seasons, a move that safeguards the future of the series on free-to-air television in the UK.

Their press release confirmed the following:

– Channel 5 will broadcast every race live
– Spike TV will broadcast every qualifying session live
– Channel 5’s online social media accounts will broadcast every practice session live

From the outside, this is good news for the series moving forward. As revealed last month, ITV and Formula E parted company at the end of season two. Channel 5’s race coverage should rate better than ITV4’s coverage simply because Channel 5 reaches more viewers than ITV4. However, Channel 5 (unlike ITV) does not have a known track record of covering live motor sport.

I believe the last time Channel 5 covered live motor sport was MotoGP back in the early 2000s. I expected ITV4 and Formula E to be a good fit, but evidently that was not the case: Formula E rated below the ITV4 slot average in just about every slot the electric formula was placed into.

Channel 5’s sporting portfolio is not as big as ITV4’s which may pose another problem. I’m not as convinced that, because Formula E is on Channel 5, it will automatically find more viewers by default. A lot of promotion is needed across various outlets and channels to get the message out, before and during the season.

Given that Channel 5 does not screen first-run programming on Saturday afternoons, a re-run for Hong Kong is necessary, and I hope happens, this being a major mistake made by ITV. I wouldn’t broadcast an hour-long build-up, the interest simply isn’t there for it. ITV did it because they thought interest would be higher for the series than it turned out to be.

Broadcasting every qualifying session on Spike TV is a wise move, and should help tap into a different demographic. Likewise, broadcasting practice session across Channel 5’s social media accounts will help to a degree, although I don’t expect the sessions to draw hits beyond the hardcore aficionados. Are fans of sport likely to be following Channel 5’s social media accounts? I don’t know.

I don’t think there will be miracles straight away is the key message, time will tell. Personally I hope the deal is a success, because the more motor sport on free-to-air television, the better. No personal have been announced yet for Channel 5, nor the structure of their live race programming. Formula E suffered second season syndrome in my opinion, something that needs to be reversed for season three and beyond.

Italian Grand Prix peaks with 4 million viewers

A peak audience of four million viewers watched a tepid Italian Grand Prix across Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1 yesterday, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, which aired on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:25, averaged 1.99m (20.4%). An audience of 3.09m (28.3%) were watching their coverage when it peaked at 14:15. Both measures were marginally up compared with the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend.

Over on Sky Sports, their live coverage averaged 576k (5.7%) from 12:00 to 15:30, which is Sky’s lowest since the Spanish Grand Prix. This number includes the unusual Sky Sports Mix arrangement, whereby the Mix channel only showed the build-up, but not the race itself. Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.01m (9.6%) at 13:05, which is higher than in both 2013 and 2014 (which they shared with BBC).

The combined audience of 2.57 million viewers is the lowest since Canada in June and down 33.8 percent on last year’s audience of 3.88 million viewers. A low average audience and solid peak is a sign that viewers did not stick around for the post-race segment, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the predictable nature of the race itself. The build-up to the British MotoGP on BT Sport might have inflicted some damage.

The combined peak of 4.o2m (37.9%) came at the unusual time of 13:30. It is good to see the peak back above 4 million and down less with a 19.3 percent drop year-on-year. Nevertheless, it is the lowest average for Italy since 2006, and the lowest peak audience since 2007.

Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 11:55 to 14:30, averaged 1.27m (14.1%). Their coverage peaked with 1.83m (19.1%) in the five-minute period from 13:55 as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position. It was Channel 4’s highest numbers for qualifying since the British Grand Prix in July.

Sky’s live coverage, which aired across their dedicated F1 channel and Mix, averaged 433k (4.8%) from 12:00 to 14:35. It is Sky’s second highest number of the season, only behind the German Grand Prix qualifying programme. Sky’s coverage peaked with a strong 801k (8.3%) at 13:55, again one of their highest of the year so far.

Despite the high numbers relatively speaking for 2016, the combined audience of 1.70 million viewers is the lowest for the Italian Grand Prix qualifying session since 2008. The combined peak audience of 2.63m (27.4%) at 13:55 is the lowest for Italy since 2008. Despite this, the peak audience is only 13.3 percent down on 2015 and 10 percent down on 2014, which is not as bad as we have seen with previous races.

The 2015 Italian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.