Scheduling: The 2019 Mexico City E-Prix / F1 Barcelona test 1

Formula E hurdles towards one-third distance as the second leg of its South American tour takes it to Mexico for the Mexico City E-Prix.

The electric championship uses part of the Formula 1 circuit, encompassing the famous stadium section. As usual, the race airs live across the BBC’s digital platforms, with BT Sport, Eurosport and Formula E’s YouTube channel also covering the action.

Formula E’s support series, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy returns in Mexico, with both qualifying and race airing live on BT Sport. Sweden plays host to round two of the World Rally Championship, where one expects much more snow than what fans saw in Monte Carlo for the season opener.

Meanwhile, Formula 1 testing gets underway in Barcelona, where the big news is that the first test will air live across F1’s over-the-top platform and Sky Sports F1. However, the F1 TV stream is only available to Pro users (which UK fans do not have access to), meaning that UK fans will need to watch Sky F1 for testing.

Sky are covering each of the four afternoon sessions live as well as the review show, whereas F1 TV is covering the complete day live. Sky are not repeating the live action, so if you want to watch it, you will need to set your recorders. Little is known about the presentation team currently, although Karun Chandhok has alluded to his involvement on Twitter.

Elsewhere, the Williams documentary premieres on BBC Two having been released on DVD in 2017. Whilst I am happy to see it premiere on a major platform, the decision to air it against Formula E on the Red Button is an odd move by BBC’s schedulers.

Formula E – Mexico City
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
15/02 – 21:45 to 22:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
16/02 – 13:15 to 14:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 15:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3 and Eurosport 2)
16/02 – 21:30 to 23:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms from 22:00
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
16/02 – 21:30 to 23:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
18/02 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Formula E Radio – Mexico City (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/02 – 17:40 to 19:10 – Qualifying
16/02 – 21:45 to 23:15 – Race

F1 Testing – Barcelona 1 (Sky Sports F1)
13/02 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Racing Point Launch
14/02 – 12:00 to 12:30 – McLaren Launch
18/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 1
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
18/02 – 19:55 to 20:55 – Day 1 Review (R)
19/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 2
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event until 14:00)
=> review at 17:00
19/02 – 20:25 to 21:25 – Day 2 Review (R)
20/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 3
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
20/02 – 20:05 to 21:05 – Day 3 Review (R)
21/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 4
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
21/02 – 20:05 to 21:05 – Day 4 Review (R)

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Mexico City (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 14:30 to 15:15 – Qualifying
16/02 – 19:45 to 20:45 – Race

Williams Film (BBC Two)
16/02 – 21:00 to 22:45

World Rally Championship – Sweden (All Live – BT Sport Extra 1)
Every stage also live via WRCPlus.com
14/02 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Shakedown
14/02 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Stage 1
15/02 – 06:45 to 17:15 – Stages 2 to 8
16/02 – 06:00 to 19:15 – Stages 9 to 16
17/02 – 05:30 to 12:45 – Stages 17 to 19

World Rally Championship – Sweden
14/02 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 1)
15/02 – 21:45 to 22:15 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 08:30 to 09:30 – Stage 11 (BT Sport 2)
16/02 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Stage 14 (BT Sport/ESPN)
16/02 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
17/02 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 19 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
17/02 – 20:00 to 20:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
18/02 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

As always, I will update this site as and when further details confirmed.

Update on February 15th – Two pieces of good news. WRC highlights will air on 5Spike on Monday, whilst Formula E makes it BBC radio debut on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Formula E has its own bespoke radio commentary, with Claire Cottingham, Tom Gaymor and Marc Priestley in the booth for Mexico.

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F1 to broadcast the first pre-season test live in 2019

Formula 1 will broadcast the first pre-season test of 2019 live, one of the championship’s main broadcasters has confirmed.

The test, which takes place from Monday 18th February to Thursday 21st February in Barcelona, will air live via F1 TV’s premium tier service in its entirety. For UK fans however, coverage will air exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, but only the afternoon element.

Across the four days, F1 TV Pro will cover the full test, with every second of on-track action covered. In comparison, Sky are airing twenty hours of coverage, with their broadcast running from 13:00 to 18:00 each afternoon. For the first four hours of Sky’s programme, on-track action will be the centre of attention, with special guests throughout the coverage.

Following the conclusion of each day an hour-long review show, Welcome to F1 2019, will air from 17:00 to 18:00 on both Sky F1 and F1 TV Pro. As of writing, it is unclear whether the on-air team will consist of purely Sky personnel, or whether the coverage will be a hybrid of Sky and FOM personnel. Sky’s newest recruit Karun Chandhok will be involved in coverage.

Given the different lengths, with Sky on-air much later than the World Feed, it is possible that Sky’s programme will be completely bespoke. Formula One Management (FOM) are providing a feed for the first test, however sources close to the situation say that this is a one-off move to inform future decision-making, hence why both Sky’s and FOM’s article contains no reference to the second Barcelona test.

Most extensive coverage of F1 testing ever
The foray back into the live testing scene means that the first Barcelona test will be the most extensive for a Formula 1 test ever. But it is not the first-time F1 testing has aired live.

In 2013, live coverage of the second Barcelona test aired on Sky Sports F1, although it was designed to promote Sky’s 3D offering, and was largely a Sky production. Nevertheless, the broadcaster provided two and a half hours of live action each day, half the amount that Sky are airing this year.

Back then, combined over the live airing and the repeat showing, audience figures peaked with just over 100,000 viewers, a good number for pre-season testing and on a similar ballpark to GP2 (as it was then), GP3 and IndyCar, although that excludes devices such as Sky Go. Numbers may suffer this time round, with no weekend action to draw fans in.

One of the great things about Sky’s live coverage in 2013 that I mentioned at the time was hearing from new voices from down within the pit lane, back then it was Marc Priestley getting some on-air screen time alongside Ted Kravitz.

Airing testing live gives Sky an opportunity to experiment, see what works and what does not, which should inform their main coverage this year. The same applies for FOM, testing may be an appropriate time to test a new graphic or camera angle to see what gets a good reaction on social media, and again what does not.

The main industry argument for not airing testing: it is dull. Airing eight hours of on-track action each day would make for terrible television, and I agree with that view-point. However, the ‘2013 model’ which Sky ran with, airing the last two hours live, interspersed with the best bits from earlier in the day, worked extremely well in my view.

Although I will be watching with interest what the ‘2019 model’ has to offer, my initial gut feeling is that five hours per day is a little too much. Three hours at a push maybe, but five hours may become repetitive fast, especially if rain hits any of the four days. But who knows, maybe five hours is the optimal amount, we shall see.

How much analysis FOM and Sky can get out of the product will be intriguing to see, considering how restrictive teams tend to be at each of the F1 tests.

MotoGP have covered testing live in some format for years, so this is not new for motor sport. The post-season test from Valencia has aired live for several years, with full World Feed treatment, helped by the fact that all their facilities are already on site from the final race weekend a few days earlier.

The championship gives the pre-season Sepang test coverage from their hub in Spain, with pre-recorded bike shots from the track interspersed within the studio chatter, purely on the grounds of cost. Clearly, they feel there is a small audience for it, but not enough to justify sending the full crew to Sepang for the test.

Inevitably, the whole testing argument boils down to cost. If the metrics simply do not add up, then there is little point continuing with the experiment, which will determine whether FOM push ahead with airing testing live again beyond 2019.

Update on January 23rd – I have modified portions of the article as F1 has today confirmed that the entirety of the first test will air live on F1 TV Pro, with Sky airing the afternoon element only.

Whilst F1 TV Pro is the most logical place for testing in full, I do think FOM would have been wiser to air some of the test for free via social media and YouTube, because I do not see subscriptions to F1 TV Pro spiking, just to watch testing. Relatively speaking though, it should be a hit with existing subscribers.

FOM’s release also covers those countries receiving F1 TV Pro for the first time in 2019, including Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.

Analysis: The decline of the F1 season review

The official 2018 Formula One Season Review, produced by Formula One Management might go down as one of the championship’s poorer productions. To casual observers, that statement might seem like an extreme exaggeration, but the 2018 review saw a major shift in the style of the review produced.

Formula One has produced an official season review dating back to the 1980s, then on VHS and more recently on DVD. FOM released the early reviews for the first time on DVD in recent weeks in the run up to the Christmas period.

Inevitably, one can draw comparisons between the quality of the historical reviews, and the 2018 offering. The official season review has gone through many different iterations in differing shapes and sizes.

In the early to mid-1990’s, the likes of Tony Jardine, Matt Lorenzo and even chat show host Jonathan Ross voiced the reviews. They were generally much more colourful than recent offerings, helped by a script that was willing to poke fun at the action every so often.

Since the early 2000’s, Ben Edwards has voiced most of the reviews. Despite his best efforts, the reviews have become formulaic and stale over the years, not helped by the wealth of footage already in the public arena.

The length of the reviews has increased drastically over the years, and whilst an extended edit is sometimes good, the review became a marathon that even the most dedicated fan found difficult to navigate through. Four and a half hours of Mercedes domination is not the best way to spend a Christmas…

For 2018, FOM opted to overhaul the official season review. On the front of it, that sounds like a good thing, with the possibility of a tighter edit and script making for a better programme that set the pulse racing.

However, instead of using a bespoke voiceover, FOM for the first time used live commentary from Sky Sports, with Tom Clarkson providing additional input between each race. Suffice to say that the result was a drastic cut back in the amount of action on offer.

Midfield action ignored
The narrative in 2018 was Lewis Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel in the Fight for Five, which is obvious throughout the review. By using Sky’s commentary combined with the World Feed pictures (including the full F1 graphics set), FOM omitted vast amounts of action further down the field.

FOM ignored mid-field incidents, such as the clash between Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly in Azerbaijan, as well as Fernando Alonso’s knock with Lance Stroll in America. There is no transition between shots within each race, as the review simply fails to tell the race-by-race story, and why X ended up in front of Y.

The worst edit though goes to the German Grand Prix, which transitioned from a dry to wet race. On any other season review, there would have been something new, an alternative angle, a new spin not captured on the World Feed output (such as Stroll’s excursion), or snippet of team radio that told viewers something revealing that may make the news wires over the festive period. Not here.

2018 German GP - season review edit.png
From one frame to another during FOM’s German Grand Prix edit in the season review. Multiple positions have changed according to the timing tower, but the review does not cover these. Plus, the second frame has a little bit of drizzle…

The Hockenheim circuit is bone dry in one shot, and in the next, the track is wet without any explanation. As a rule of thumb throughout the review, if FOM did not cover the incident on the main World Feed, chances are that it failed to make the official season review as well.

In a sport such as Formula 1, there is always something new to air, irrespective of how well the World Feed captured the action. As much as FOM have improved their offering with more footage now in the public domain, there is always a hidden gem that most fans have not previously seen before, only uncovered long after the event.

On an editorial level, other decisions taken for the season review, such as displaying the top ten grid order but only the top three finishing positions were baffling. It feels like FOM treated the 2018 review as an afterthought, possibly because they see other developments (such as F1 TV) as bigger revenue streams compared to the antiquated season reviews.

F1 2018 “Best Bits”
A season review is something that should cover the entire field, not just the first dozen cars. In my view, the 2018 season review is a “best bits” snapshot that fails to do 2018 justice.

One of the best reviews for me back in the day was 1995, which covered the pre-season driver market shake-up and the 17 races in reasonable detail. The review also covered the midfield action, highlighting the more amusing moments, such as the best spins and wet weather drives, in several fun (but cheesy) VT’s. Having never watched F1 back in 1995, the review did the job for me.

f1 season review lengths
A look at the length of the F1 season reviews. Left: the length of the main feature. Right: the length of the main feature divided by the number of races, to show the average length per race.

Taking Sky’s live commentary in 2018 meant that there were fewer break points for the editors to take, resulting in a poorer edit. The official 1993 season review clocked in at 95 minutes for 16 races.

The South African round that year, and the 2018 Australian race, had an edit of around 3 minutes and 40 seconds for the racing action (excluding qualifying). Yet, the tighter edit for South Africa 1993, combined with the distinctive voice over from Ross, allowed for eleven snippets of action, compared with just six for Australia 2018, including start and finish.

And 1993 was one of the shortest of reviews of its time, meaning that the comparison is a generous one. The statistics show that each 2018 weekend had six and a half minutes of action in the review, the shortest since 1996, and fourth shortest since 1990.

Although the length of the season review is like 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, the additional races in 2018 means that fans get fewer minutes per race than the late 1990’s. The bulky top 10 run down of qualifying and padding compared to the reviews of yesteryear means that 2018 is, in my view, at the back of the pack.

The fact that FOM opted to use Sky’s live commentary in their season review instead of another broadcaster is irrelevant, the criticism would have remained. Using live commentary in a season review situation does not work, and resulted in a much poorer product.

The season ending in late November probably does not help the season review’s cause, as FOM and Duke Video race to get the review out and on the shelves before Christmas. The main review is 136 minutes long, and would have benefited with an additional 45 minutes added to the main review, but the core problem remains the way that FOM have produced the season review.

I hope the style of the review changes again for 2019, because in my view the 2018 style has left Formula 1 fans, including myself, short-changed.

Maybe, we need to wait until February or March for the proper 2018 review. Enter, Netflix

Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict Revealed

Following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this site offered readers the chance to give their verdict on the 2018 motor racing broadcasting picture, to have their say on proceedings. Thanks to everyone who commented on the original post and gave their thoughts.

The 2018 Formula One season was the last of the original 2012 to 2018 UK television contract, originally signed between the BBC and Sky Sports in July 2011. Channel 4 took over the BBC element from 2016 onwards, and whilst they will remain part of the F1 broadcasting picture in 2019, their role has diminished, with just one race live and all the rest airing in highlights form.

For the third consecutive season readers, including George O’Donnell, praised Channel 4’s output. A long-term viewer of Formula 1, Noggins summarised their view point:

I have been watching F1 for over 50 years and have seen the world, the sport and coverage change enormously. But never has the sport had such wonderful, professional, entertaining coverage as it has had (on live weekends, especially) with Channel 4 / Whisper Films. The quality of the production is outstanding and the real passion of the entire team has been tremendous.

In particular, there was praise for presenter Steve Jones and lead commentator Ben Edwards. “Down to earth”, “chirpy presence on-screen” and “waxing lyrical about the sport” were some of the phrases used by the likes of Peter and Lesmo in relation to Jones.

Peter offered further insight on Karun Chandhok, showing exactly why Sky have picked his services up for 2019. Not everyone was happy with Channel 4’s output though. gwilym.t outlined Channel 4’s positives, but noted “the lack of technical coverage” during their broadcasts. Rhys Benjamin went a step further, and hopes their coverage is radically different next year:

The content itself is also looking very tired, given that they had known this was their final year. It doesn’t match up to a lot of the features that Sky do or the BBC (between 2009 and 2012; the BBC’s product went downhill rapidly from 2013-15) did. I still hope (and pray) that next year’s highlights are a Sky production and simply plonked on C4 (as they were for the 2013-14 Ashes series, albeit plonked on Pick). I can’t see C4 simply having any motivation next year.

A recurring theme of the past, Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle continue to whet the appetite for Sky’s Formula 1 audience. Peter says that Kravitz “remains the eminent pro”, whilst gwilym.t praised several members of their 2018 team:

Ted Kravitz continues to be a gem, charismatic and entertaining as hell, whilst still being insightful, Martin Brundle continues to be the class of the commentary field, though I do feel that his passion is just starting to wane a little bit. Paul Di Resta has come a long way this year, proving he can fill Martin’s shoes, and he’ll only get better with experience, and Anthony Davidson has been great in practice throughout the year.

Rhys Benjamin offers a different take on David Croft’s commentary puns, stating that they are turning into ‘Murrayisms’! Whilst there have been some positives for Sky in 2018, the quality of their overall product came under fire. Noggins says that Sky appear to be “going through the motions”, but others had a more damming assessment:

The features they put out were absolutely dire. There’s literally no point watching their tired Top Gear esque build up, as you’d get more insight by spending an hour reading the likes of Joe Saward or Autosport before the session gets going. – Lesmo

To summarise Sky’s year I’d say this, they’ve had season like McLaren and Williams, a few minor highlights, but now living off their past glories, they need change in all areas of they are too attract the sort of audience F1 needs, it’s evident in the fall in Sky’s viewing figures compared to 2012-13. Though I will say that the signing of Jenson Button for next year is great. – gwilym.t

Outside of the Channel 4 and Sky sphere, several readers commented on Formula One Management’s offering this season, with Tom Clarkson’s Beyond the Grid podcast quite rightly receiving recognition from George O’Donnell and Lesmo.

The highlight of the year for me is the ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast with Tom Clarkson. I think Tom is one of the more underrated journalists in the paddock. His interview questions really get the most out of his guests, and the podcasts are captivating listening. The one hour long form gets much more out of the guests than TV features and I’ve learned a lot which I haven’t learned from all the hours of features which BBC/Channel 4/Sky have produced over the past 10 years.

Readers were critical of other aspects in FOM’s control, with Rhys Benjamin criticising the “clunky” 2018 graphics set, whilst Andy believes Liberty Media are “dumbing down” the end product.

As always, the above is a snapshot of the conversation happening on the site, some of the posts cover a lot of ground that this article does not, and is very much worth a read as we head towards the start of another season.

Looking ahead to 2019

For most Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, 2019 will have a completely different feel to it, as the new television broadcasting contract kicks into gear.

Sky Sports have exclusive rights to all the action from 2019 to 2024, in a deal signed in March 2016 with Formula One Management, then under the control of Bernie Ecclestone. How will Formula 1’s UK viewing figures look under the first year of the new deal?

I am not expecting a tumble in the total audience figure, as Sky have sub-let the free-to-air element of their deal to Channel 4, for 2019 at least. The move means that fans still have a major free-to-air platform to view highlights of every race, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix. But, Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is only one year long.

Will Sky Sports let Channel 4’s coverage continue beyond 2019, or will they pull the plug? There are a ton of questions surrounding Channel 4’s 2019 coverage, the personnel involved, the commentary that they will take, and so on, plus whether there will be further jumps from Channel 4 to Sky. All will be revealed…

In its second season, expect Formula 1’s over-the-top service to grow significantly, something that we will be monitoring throughout the year as the service begins to mature. There were previous rumblings that UK fans could have access to F1 TV Pro, but this is unconfirmed. If confirmed, it provides another avenue for fans to view the action on.

Beyond Formula 1, MotoGP fans have stability, as the championship remains on BT Sport for the next three seasons. Formula E’s UK offering will be a focal point, the electric series choosing to go all guns blazing onto just about every platform possible. With the help of Auntie Beeb and YouTube, is 2019 the year that Formula E finally breaks into the mainstream in the UK and starts making significant movement?

For some, 2018 marked the end of an era, as 2019 marks the start of a new era. 2019 promises to be another fascinating year in the broadcasting landscape as each championship fights to remain in the limelight.

Who knows what the next twelve months may hold…