F1 unveils first-ever Strategic Plan

Formula 1 has today unveiled its first-ever strategic plan, giving fans an insight on what the future holds for the series ahead of its 70th year.

The slide deck builds upon what Liberty Media have achieved during their first three years as guardians of the sport.

The plan, released as part of F1’s Corporate Strategy, covers all aspects of the sport at a high level, broken into six pillars:

  • Race
  • Engage
  • Perform
  • Sustain
  • Collaborate
  • Empower

On the broadcasting side, Formula 1 makes it clear the direction that the sport is heading in, with a strong focus on bringing in younger fans through an expansion of F1’s Esports Championship, and through engaging with influencers.

F1 also references ‘exciting new formats’ on the sporting side, but does not offer any specifics on what this would entail. An attempt to bring in reverse-grid qualifying races for three races in 2020 failed to gain the required approval of all F1’s teams.

Interestingly, the slide deck makes no reference to free-to-air or pay television. Instead, the sport says it will ‘reach the broadest audience on relevant linear and digital platforms,’ suggesting that the distribution model will remain different on a country-by-country basis moving forward.

As anticipated, F1 intends to grow their over-the-top platform to, in their words, ‘super-serve hardcore fans.’ Over-the-top is not new, or a surprise, but it is fascinating to see F1 reference this in a public-facing document, something that was unthinkable five years ago.

Elsewhere, F1 mentions the desire to ‘multi-feed’ through a ‘more cloud-based sports broadcasting platform, showing where they see the future to be from an innovation perspective. 5G gets a mention in the slide-deck, with F1 hoping that will enable a ‘hyper-connected car, fan and paddock.’

Sustainability is a key theme throughout the slide deck, with F1 wanting to ‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race,’ building their facility further at Biggin Hill to support in this mission.

Other key areas on the broadcasting front include sharing content and talent, as well as generally increasing the awareness of Formula 1 through promotional opportunities.

F1 does not offer any timescales on the period that the Strategic Plan covers, but given some of the ambitions that the sport covers, I suspect it covers the next five years, with a view to look beyond that in many of the areas.

At the start of the month, F1 unveiled an amended logo to celebrate 70 years of F1, with activities planned throughout the year to celebrate the milestone.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Santiago E-Prix

After a two-month gap since Saudi Arabia, Formula E roars back into action in South America for the Santiago E-Prix.

The Santiago race was under some jeopardy prior to the festive period, with social unrest taking place elsewhere in Chile, however the race is understood to be going ahead as planned.

In a surprise move, practice airs live for the first time on the BBC, in addition to qualifying and the race. Motorsport Broadcasting is working to confirm if this is a one-off arrangement, or permanent for the remainder of the season.

Discovery’s Eurosport platform is also covering qualifying and the race, albeit the former airs on tape-delay; with Quest airing late-night highlights.

Fans wanting to watch shakedown will need to venture to Formula E’s social media pages for Santiago.

On a Formula E related note, Motorsport Broadcasting would like to send best wishes and positive vibes over to legendary commentator Bob Varsha, who has commentated on Formula E, Formula 1, and IndyCar, amongst other championships in his illustrious career.

RACER confirmed earlier this month that Varsha is battling a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer. Fans wishing to help support Varsha and his family at this time can do so over on a GoFundMe page that has been set up.

Formula E – Santiago
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
18/01 – 10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 1 (BBC’s digital platforms)
18/01 – 13:10 to 13:55 – Practice 2 (BBC’s digital platforms)
18/01 – Qualifying
=> 14:45 to 16:15 (BBC online)
=> 18:05 to 18:45 (Eurosport 2)
18/01 – Race
=> 18:00 to 20:30 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 18:45 to 20:00 (Eurosport 2)
19/01 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

As always, I will amend the schedule if details change.

Update on January 16th – Speaking to this site, Formula E says that it intends to air as “many sessions as possible live across the BBC this season,” with practice airing on the network where possible.


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Alex Jacques joins W Series broadcast team for 2020 season

Alex Jacques will be W Series lead commentator for the 2020 season which begins in May, the series has confirmed.

Jacques, who took over as Formula Two lead commentator at the beginning of 2015, replaces Claire Cottingham in the commentary booth. In making the announcement, series organisers say that they have “made a conscious effort to fulfil its mission of continuing to develop emerging talent on and off track.”

Cottingham was commentator throughout the first season of the all-female series, commentating alongside the likes of David Coulthard and Allan McNish.

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that the decision to replace Cottingham was made by W Series themselves, as opposed to Whisper, who produce coverage of the series.

“I’ve followed W Series with great interest throughout its first season, 2019, and I’ve been extremely impressed by what I’ve seen, so much so that when I received the call inviting me to become its lead commentator, it was a very easy decision to make,” Jacques said.

“But, in addition to the spectacle and appeal of W Series, I’m truly delighted to be taking this opportunity to make a positive impact on a sport and industry that I’ve come to love and respect.”

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting at the Autosport Show, W Series’ CEO Catherine Bond-Muir defended the decision to replace Cottingham with Jacques.

“Now we’ve had one season, I think we’re much better placed to go out and get the best lead commentator in the world, and we believe that Alex is one of them,” she said.

“He’s young, incredibly enthusiastic and has got a fantastic voice. I think it’s a real feather in our cap that we can get a commentator of that quality.”

“From the beginning, I was very keen to get as many women involved at all. But what we must remember is that we are a business that promotes women in motor sport,” Bond-Muir continued.

“David [Coulthard] said ‘you’ve got to see this guy Matt Bishop’, but I had no interest in having a male as communications director, because in quite a sexist thought in my head, I thought ‘at least we should have the comms director being female’. In hindsight, Matt was so much better than anyone else.”

“I had an early problem with having so many men involved, but actually what we needed to have, are the people who are the best in the business in their roles in order to complete all of our aims.”

“What’s quite important is that we don’t positively discriminate against men too,” she added. “We are an equal opportunities employer, but I do understand the point that you make. I think Claire is fantastic, she’s a great friend of ours.”

“Having someone of Alex’s calibre, who is really in demand, the fact that he is so keen to get involved in W Series I think is a great feather in our cap.”

W Series plan to make further announcements about their on-air team soon. Last year, Lee McKenzie presented the World Feed output, with Ted Kravitz reporting from pit lane.

One mooted suggestion is that a female could partner Jacques in the commentary box, continuing the gender split.

The all-female series clashes with the Italian round of the Formula Two season, meaning that Jacques will miss one of the two events. I understand that Jacques is continuing with his Formula 1 commitments for the 2020 season, covering the Pit Lane Channel, Formula Two and Formula Three.

Organisers of the championship have also confirmed that Whisper are remaining on-board as production partners for a second season, but no news is yet available regarding the status of the series on Channel 4 in the UK.


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Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict Revealed

As always following the Formula 1 season finale, Motorsport Broadcasting asks readers for their opinion on all things broadcasting, and 2019 was no different.

Thanks to all of you who commented on the article after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December. There were a range of opinions on offer, varying from Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage through to podcasting.

With the Formula 1 television model in the UK changing from the start of the 2019 season, fans sought to find new ways to consume their favourite sport. Matthew Restaino was one of several readers who looked outside of the traditional box.

I’ve started consuming F1 in different ways. I subscribe to at least four F1 podcasts: Box of Neutrals, Missed Apex, Back of the Grid and For F1’s Sake, and listen on a weekly basis. I also watch the six minute YouTube packages of qualifying and the races plus the little best on board videos.

Matthew was not the only commenter who has ventured into the podcast space, with davidd93 referencing Whisper’s On the Marbles podcast and the WTF1 podcast, both of which he enjoyed. Davidd93 also makes the prediction that Lando Norris is going to shine on social media moving forward, taking the opportunity to praise McLaren’s YouTube output.

Other championships also benefited from the change of F1 broadcasting arrangements, as rosswilliamquinn explained.

I watched the whole W Series and Formula E because it was accessible to me, despite not being too big a fan of Vernon Kay, I tolerated him.

Whilst readers gave Channel 4 and Sky’s F1 coverage both praise and criticism, they were less kind when it came to Formula 1’s race direction.

Some of the direction has been abominable. That’s not the fault of the broadcaster but the stories have sometimes been missed to see Lewis driving in clean air. – rosswilliamquinn

There has been actioned missed (sometimes until a couple of days after the race), which is really baffling and frustrating at times, it happened too often. The race director seemed to have a vendetta against [Carlos] Sainz this year, saw little of him but he was such a standout performer this year. – davidd93

The directing was nothing short of appalling this year. Twice – at Silverstone and Monza – the director cut to the crowd whilst we were in the middle of something happening. To be fair to him, Crofty managed to smooth over the Silverstone one very well. – Rhys Benjamin

A sub-plot to the poor direction was the fact that Sky’s commentary now feels and very much acts like the official F1 commentary feed, a view echoed by Rhys Benjamin, who recalls the days when the UK commentary team would actively criticise the race direction, something that rarely happens nowadays.

Elsewhere in the FOM spectrum, the F1 Insights graphics divided opinion. Thomas Pitts saw the additions as “positives” overall, an opinion not shared by Rhys Benjamin.

The general verdict from readers was that Channel 4’s coverage had declined in quality, but given the change of broadcasting arrangements, this was also seen as not a surprise.

The Channel 4 coverage has come across very much as being run because the rules of the game say it must be run. We know the coverage, bar Silverstone, has all been pre-recorded. Exciting moments have been lost and the highlights transition between sections of the races hasn’t always been coherent and clear. [..] Yes, I accept that because it’s highlights there will be stuff to cut out, but there was so much cut from Brazil it was ridiculous. – seanbarlow

The C4 coverage has not been as good this year, but I’m confident this is to do with the restrictions placed on them by Sky, so not their fault. Really like their coverage though taking the restrictions into account. – davidd93

Over on Sky, Thomas Pitts believes that their wrap-around coverage has improved, but did mention the lack of promotion for the remainder of the channel’s offering, a recurring theme through several comments.

Inevitably following the events of early-2019, readers made comment on Ted Kravitz and Karun Chandhok. The general impression was that readers were thankful that Kravitz remained with Sky, if only in a reduced capacity, and that Chandhok was a needed boost to Sky’s team.

Ted not being there for every round was a disappointment but better than the alternative or having no Ted at all. Karun, while ok, doesn’t seem to have the depth of knowledge that Ted does. – Thomas Pitts

Karun Chandhok has been a good addition to Sky’s broadcasting team, it’s nice to get a new face to ‘mix it up’ as it was starting to get quite stale on Sky in recent years. [..] Even if a race is boring the Notebook never is. I’m so glad Ted Kravitz was part of Sky’s coverage in 2019, if we had lost him it would have been so much worse. – Alessio Dimaria

Other comments on the Sky front included a note from seanbarlow lamenting the lack of promotion for the pre-season Now TV offer (F1 Season Pass), with Sean and Alessio Dimaria also believing Sky would benefit from trimming their pre-race build-up, now 100 minutes long end-to-end.

There were 19 thoughts in total, so the above only represents a snapshot of what readers were talking about during December on Motorsport Broadcasting.


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New publication The Race to enter the motor sport landscape

A new motor sport media entity is to launch ahead of the 2020 season, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal.

Earlier this week, @wearetherace appeared on Twitter, stating that the outlet would soon be operating, followed shortly be the creation of pages across Facebook and Instagram.

Investigation by Motorsport Broadcasting shows that the concept has been in development for several months. ‘The Race Media Limited‘ was officially created on September 30th, 2019, with Darren Cox listed on Companies House as company director.

Heavily involved with eSports in recent years, Cox has been in and around the motor sport industry for over twenty years. I understand that Andrew van de Burgt is heavily involved in the project, having left Autosport as Editor-in-Chief at the end of September.

The publication has signed up former MCN journalist Simon Patterson to cover the MotoGP action on two wheels, whilst several former Autosport journalists are expected to also be joining The Race, with official announcements due shortly.

Comparisons between The Race and traditional motor sport website, such as Autosport and MCN only go so far though. I understand that The Race is following The Athletic‘s path, with long-form content.

The Athletic, which focusses on a variety of sports, launched in 2016, moving into the UK-space last Summer. However, it is unknown as of writing if The Race will be subscription only, like The Athletic.


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