The biggest innovation which we saw during testing did not come from the aero department, it wasn’t in the shape of a wheel and it didn’t even come from the brain of Adrian Newey. As a fan, the biggest difference we noticed was the massively relaxed media coverage rules.
We know testing isn’t being televised and with good reason; there are very few fans who could sit through the entire day of little to no track action, at least not without getting it in the neck from the boss. We’re used to getting the fifteen minute round-up at the end of the day and it fulfils our F1 fix.
This year though, we have been treated to so much more track action and pit-line access from the teams themselves. Twitter and Instagram have been awash with insight and videos which we would never have been allowed to witness in the Ecclestone era. The tide has started to shift and it seems that even the new people in charge didn’t really know how restrictive it used to be. Ross Brawn was interviewed by the legendary Ted Kravitz earlier in the week for Sky F1, in the interview Ted mentioned that the interview couldn’t have happened in Ross’ office before because it was ‘from an elevated position’. Ross had no idea this was even a rule. Yes, ok, he’s not the head of media for Liberty Media, but he has been around F1 for long enough that this might have trickled down.
Bernie had a cast iron fist on everything F1 and was notoriously controlling around the image and use of the F1 image. Now it appears that this new media friendly leadership team has a different take on the use of F1 and the media, we might be getting a bucket load of new angles and media streams.
What do we actually want though?
The testing was a great proving ground for the fact that us fans want to see in the inner sanctum of F1. We clamoured over the tweets being dished out. The teams must love the extra publicity and media opportunities afforded to them. It worked a treat for everyone involved. We, the fans, loved this, but what else could they offer?
Big dream, blue sky thinking says we could have 360° virtual reality live streaming to our headsets during the race. This would be a massive step, but just imagine being able to watch the parts or the whole race from the virtual crash helmet of your hero. Sit in Alonso’s car, with him, as he keeps his foot on the floor through Eau Rouge. Watch from Vettel’s eyes as he gets cut up by Verstappen and see two fingers appear in front of your face as he flicks the V’s whilst moaning to Charlie.
Smaller thinking, live overlay of the different lines cars are taking through the corners. Imagine being able to ride on board with Bottas as he goes for his first pole position and you can see the ghost car of Hamilton in front, showing exactly the line Hamilton took and letting you see the difference and why one of them is 0.004 seconds faster.
Get a helmet camera on the front right wheel man in any of the team’s pit stops. You would be able to see from tyre height, the car racing in, braking hard, wheel coming off, wheel going on, car disappearing into the distance. We have seen similar scenes from the pit crew at the edge of the car, but never from the wheel height angle.
Lewis spent a lot of time streaming during day 1 of the test and this is one of the reasons that he has such a large social media following. He lets fans into his life. He gives out as much as he thinks we want to see and even those who don’t like his style, can only admire his commitment to his fans. Could this be translated onto the teams and on race day? The grid walk is always one of the best bits of pre-race TV, so why not let the teams upload their own footage of the whole grid time. It would be 10 extra people on the grid pre-race, as all the teams have their media people there anyway, so what’s one more camera person.
We think that seeing the drivers with the fans is the biggest thing all of us fans. We were on a flight to Budapest one year for the race and Daniel Ricciardo, Daniel Abt, Johnny Herbert, Crofty and pretty much all of the Red Bull team and Williams team were on it. There we were among around 30 non-race personnel on the flight, the rest from race teams. Absolutely brilliant. We loved it and told everyone about it. “I sat behind Danny Ric on EasyJet!!” Pretty sure that he doesn’t fly EasyJet anymore, but it was great at the time.
So it was really nice, that during a down time in testing Red Bull sent Max Verstappen out into stands and he handed out some branded Red Bull goodies and autograph cards, posed for photos and was generally just hanging around with the fans. This was brilliant to see. The fans who have paid to sit around all day and watch testing got a real treat. Well played to Red Bull.
Could this level of access become the norm? We would love this to happen at every race. We’ve all queued up for an hour on a Thursday to get the driver’s signature, how good would it be if we didn’t have to and that access to the drivers was a pretty regular occurrence.
McLaren have a competition for their members whereby every race weekend, one member can win access to the team motorhome and the pits. Great thought and a great opportunity, this is what we fans want. More access to the legends of the sport, not even just the drivers, but the mechanics and team principles too.
If we’re completely honest, we would love to be Jenson Button’s best friend, but as we’re not into triathlons, it’s just not going to happen. What would you love to see or be involved in with F1? Let us know in the comments below.