Under the new ownership of Liberty Media, Formula One was always going to evolve faster than it ever has before and that is never more evident than in its move into direct to fan broadcasting with their F1 TV app.
The app and subscription service was announced earlier in the year, with a web based version available in recent rounds – however this weekend for the Monza Grand Prix the actual F1 TV app has launched allowing a single app and sign in for F1 fans.
F1 TV is not for everyone, not that you don’t want it, but you can’t have it Aussies – sorry. Australia, like many other countries around the world have established broadcast partners – for us it’s Channel Ten and through them now Fox Sports – you can watch every single session and every single race live – so what’s to complain about. More on that later.
In reality the app is aimed at fans of F1 in countries like the United States where there is no live and consistent broadcast coverage.
It wasn’t easy to get a look at the app – but through a US account and some tricky VPN work, I’ve had a sneak peek at what is a dream way to watch F1.
At race time you can watch the live stream with a choice of English, French, German or Spanish commentary or just the live sound effects and no commentary.
The real power though comes though being able to add a second “camera” to the single screen, essentially a main view and secondary view. In my case, I’ve chosen the TV feed as the main view, and Daniel Ricciardo’s on-board camera – so as a fan I can simply watch at all times where Daniel is and how he’s going.
You can also choose two drivers, and watch them top and bottom of the screen.
In this mode you get a new audio option, which is team radio – “unedited” live team radio from the primary driver on your screen. I watched several laps on-board with Lewis Hamilton, with his engineer Bono chatting to him without any delay or filter.
Down the right hand side is a full lineup of drivers, with a gap to the driver in front – not a comprehensive timesheet like the F1 timing app.
There’s a long way to go though – it’s great, but not perfect.
If you change drivers, the whole feed has to refresh. If you want to switch the two views the feeds both stop and need to re-commence.
Likewise there’s no way to exit the app and retain the live stream in a window (which is possible on iOS).
I noticed the commentary (Sky Sports is the English language commentary in the app) drop out a few times, but effects are retained at that time.
The biggest potential issue that viewers will notice – and complain about – is delay. Its almost impossible to synchronise two live video feeds – watching onboard at the start the camera was delayed by 5 seconds.
Watching Hamilton and Raikkonen battle for the lead via pit stops and I thought Kimi had almost caught Lewis on track – but actually the feed from Lewis’ car was delayed somewhat. A picky but very important issue for F1 TV.
Bottom line – a more than impressive first cut. I can’t imagine we’ll see it in Australia within 4 years, but if I was Foxtel, I’d be working out a way to offer it as an add-on for subscribers – I for one would pay more.