Formula 1’s teams and drivers have been given extra flexibility for testing, with Formula One Management (FOM), now under the ownership of Liberty Media, giving them the freedom to upload short videos to social media. The news was first announced through Motorsport Network’s portfolio of websites.
The new guidelines allow teams and drivers to film footage from the confines of the paddock and pit lane, and then upload it to social media. A variety of content has been uploaded within the past few days. Red Bull have produced multiple Facebook Live sessions with Christian Horner, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo from the paddock, something that was impossible under the previous regime.
Other teams, such as Mercedes, have recorded footage from pit lane of cars going at full speed down the start finish straight. The possibilities this opens up for teams, from a marketing perspective are endless with drivers now able to directly interact and record video for their fans straight from the circuit. The only team that is stuck in “the Bernie era” is Ferrari, who have yet to upload any video content from the circuit to social media.
FOM themselves have been doing new things. A lot of quick bite-sized video clips have been uploaded to social media. The key moments that were uploaded included a high-speed spin from Valtteri Bottas, caught from an exterior camera, and a camera looking back from Jolyon Palmer’s Renault capturing a spin at turn three. However, it also looks like that some broadcasters, such as Canal in Latin America, are airing footage that has not been uploaded to social media, such as on-board footage from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
By uploading these to social media, it unlocks a new audience, and future revenue stream. An audience that may have never watched Formula 1 may see this footage for the first time on social media, where videos can go ‘viral’, and hook them onto the sport, converting them to a fan. The idea of sharing new on-board footage on social media, let alone from testing, was unheard of just six months ago! It is a new world for the sport which is quite rightly being exploited.
With that in mind, it is mildly frustrating to see that Sky in the UK, despite being a pay TV broadcaster, is not taking advantage of FOM’s relaxations. The channel did not air Bottas’ spin during their round-up in Tuesday night’s broadcast, for example. One of my pet annoyances is to see five seconds of car footage in a 90-second feature. FOM’s current approach, with a full-round up at the end of each day narrated by Holly Samos, is geared towards the right audience. Whether Sky’s approach to testing is correct, when you compare it to that of other pay TV broadcasters, could be debated.
Overall, whilst FOM’s coverage of testing is clearly not on the scale of MotoGP or IndyCar, it is a natural step in the right direction for Formula 1. You could argue that we have lost content with no round-ups throughout the day, but the majority of fans are watching testing videos for the large part to see the cars in action, not to see talking heads.