Croft: Mini sectors risked “ruining the jeopardy” of F1 qualifying

At the start of the 2017 Formula One season, Formula One Management (FOM) added mini timing ‘loops’ to their graphics for the Australian Grand Prix qualifying session. However, mini sectors disappeared from television screens without trace for the remainder of the season. Speaking exclusively to this site at the Autosport Show, Sky Sports F1 lead commentator David Croft said that the graphic risked “ruining the jeopardy” of qualifying.

Each Formula 1 race track consists of three sectors, which are in turn split into mini sectors, FOM choosing to present mini loop information on-screen for the first time at the start of 2017. The new graphic enabled viewers watching around the world to see detailed splits for the driver in focus, such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s battle for pole in the Melbourne qualifying session. However, Croft amongst others did not see the appeal.

FOM graphic comparison - mini split with and without.png
With and without the mini sectors: on the left, FOM’s qualifying graphics, from the Australian Grand Prix, and later in the season from the United States Grand Prix.

“In the commentary box, you have Martin [Brundle] and I interpreting the timing screens for you, picking up where the stories are, building up the tension, using our vocabulary, helping you to become more involved and engaged in what is happening on the track,” Croft said. “Why do you need to see on a screen half way between the end of the second sector and the finish line whether someone’s going to get on pole or not? There is no tension involved in that.”

“It’s like going to see The Mouse Trap and half way through Act II someone telling you who did it, or someone spoiling Star Wars. Sometimes you’ve just got to keep the excitement, and have to keep the anticipation. You don’t open your Christmas presents on December 19th.”

Croft noted that he was not alone in his opposition to the new graphic. “I said to the guys at FOM when they brought this in, and Martin [Brundle] was of the same view, that you risked ruining the jeopardy of this. People can sit there and go ‘I need to know all of this information.’ It might be nice for a handful of people, but actually you’re spoiling the crescendo.”

“FOM took everyone’s feedback on-board, and made their own decision, which was to get rid of it. Have we missed them? I haven’t. If someone has missed them, tell me why.”


9 thoughts on “Croft: Mini sectors risked “ruining the jeopardy” of F1 qualifying

  1. They let me see what was happening, without being at mercy of whatever commentator one had to listen too, and potentially have to suffer their bias.
    They weren’t perfect though, as they didn’t tell the whole story and I was hoping they’d improve through the year. Instead, we had information taken away from us … so commentators could lie to us?

  2. Thank you David for that really interesting insight.
    I’m afraid it confirms my feeling that David Croft is a ‘knowledge is power’ person who wants to keep information to himself to give him power over his viewers.
    In my subjective opinion, David Croft and Martin Brundle have a tendency to talk down to the viewers and they seem to forget that we pay an expensive Sky subscription for them to provide us with as much information as possible.
    This is the main reason I no longer listen to the Sky F1 commentary – I watch the Sky F1 coverage with the sound off and I listen to the live commentary (race, qualifying and all practise sessions) from Jack Nicholls and the rest of the BBC F1 team on Radio 5 (and/or the BBC F1 website).
    In contrast to the ‘we know best’ attitude of the Sky F1 team, I really enjoy the ‘mates in a pub banter’ style of the BBC coverage.

    1. I too can no longer listen to the shouting of David Croft, his inane comments, his fixation of statistics and his apparent assumption that he knows how to drive an f1 car.
      Am I right in assuming his background is not in motorsport?
      Sky, do the right thing and bin him asap, please.

  3. I didn’t notice it disappearing but I use the F1 App. From purely a viewing point of view, only the 3 main sector times are needed, the constantly changing gaps that are used in the States on the ovals are ridiculous, they’re meaningless.

    It’s an interesting view from Crofty and other broadcasters, about ‘ruining the jeopardy’. It was ruined for me when FOM started broadcasting in 4k. It was bad enough when the TV pictures were delayed by 3.5 seconds, but when it’s more than doubled to nearly 8 seconds it becomes farcical.
    I can see who’s on pole from the F1 App, go and feed the cat and just get back in time to watch the car cross the line. They should be ashamed to even call TV broadcasts ‘live’ with that kind of delay.

    I’ve used the App ever since the sector times were removed from the once free, and what is apparent is how much the commentators miss, how many mistakes they make etc. No amount of OSG will improve that, R5Live make some absolute howlers.

  4. Why can’t FOM have it like MotoGP(see example here:, so you see for each sector if they are before or behind the fastest lap for each sectors. micro sectors is maybe to much, but at least sector 1 2 and 3 would be appreciated. also add this to the list on the left so you can follow all drivers instead of just the ones FOM picks up. I use the F1 app myself to watch these sector times but it would be handy to have it on the same screen.

  5. Pity they still cannot put the subtitles up without covering part of the leader board. It is better in HD as onlt the two right hand digits are lost but in SD most to the top two are covered.
    I have been complaining for years about this and no one takes notice.
    Still sfter this next season F1 is finished in the UK for many of us who refuse to pay extra to watch it on Sky. I am sre there was a clause in the 100 year agreement that F1 must also be in FTA tv, but no one dare speak about it. It came to be public knowledge when Berie was being castigated for the Sky deal, he got around it by saying that there were highlights on FTA tv and that satisfied the legalities.

  6. I’m pretty sure I posted on here about my severe frustration, in respect of the mini sector graphic, when it disappeared nearly as quickly as it appeared?

    It was a neat and concise, yet detailed and informative feature, which I’m sure was of interest to many regular viewers.

    However I thought the reason given back then (when it just stopped without explanation) was some “technical issue” with providing it to the live FOM feed?

    Turns out it was apparently actually to satisfy the ego of hacks like Croft!

    Personally I’m for any increasingly granular visual aid, that might keep him quiet, or at least render his contribution less meaningful and distracting from the important business of racing.

    For the money Sky charge, they at least should be able to implement options that give the customer a degree of customisation – in respect of the main screen graphic options.

    The BBC managed to offer an impressive array of Red Button and web based options, all at zero cost to the viewer.

    The fact Sky have the temerity to gouge every last penny from captive customers, whilst offering such a poor customer experience – speaks volumes about their priorities and the wider state of UK broadcasting!

  7. Reading the other comments it seems i’m in the minority in agreeing with David Croft in this respect. I hated those mini sectors and to be honest I’d almost forgotten they existed. Now thinking back I remember watching Qualifying in Australia and being bored because by watching those mini sectors I already knew Hamilton was fastest before he crossed the finish line because i could see he’d been purple in every sector. Vettel crossed the line before Hamilton to set his lap time, but I didn’t care, i knew it wouldn’t be pole because I could see on the other side of the screen that Hamilton had already been faster throughout the lap. It ripped the drama and fun out of watching Qualifying for me and I was so glad to see them disappear.

    I always think when it comes to information being given to us, both on the screen and through the commentators and particularly team radio, less is more. F1 had such mysticism and excitement back in the early 90’s and 80’s and before that when we didn’t have this constant feed of information all the time. We couldn’t know exactly what was going on at any time. We didn’t know what the strategy was or if a driver was struggling. We had to watch as everything spontaneously happened without warning in front of our eyes and we heard the shock and awe in Murray Walkers voice as he tried to commentate over it. In the digital age F1 has lost that. It is extremely rare (usually weather related) that anything happens in F1 now that hasn’t been foretold either through team radio or some graphic or Ted explaining strategy before the race.

    Everyone always says that F1 was more exciting in the past and F1 has tied itself in knots trying to chase that excitement in the past decade or so but was F1 really so exciting in the past. Going back to the 80’s I think you’d be shocked at how many processional “boring” races there were. But we didn’t know what was going to happen back then. Anything could happen and it usually did, and we weren’t told about any of it before the race and so it was all exciting and shocking and magnificent.

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