Depressing return of Formula 1

Despite the media’s attempts to blow the ‘espionage’ side of F1’s 2007 season out of all proportion to maintain its high profile, the truth is probably that this was a non-event, nothing more than what has gone on between the teams for years, but without some fool leaving a trail of evidence (or someone motivated to spoil someone else’s season so they could gain an advantage by interfering with their focus).

It wasn’t particularly interesting, and the resulting trivial fine showed that F1 didn’t really have an interest in the supposed revelations either.

What would be interesting would be more detailed reporting of the rules and changes, together with a proper analysis of their effect on the cars’ performance and potential race results, instead of the 5 minute summaries we get thrown, if we’re lucky enough to be watching at the right time.

What’s depressing is the media and personality interest that has ruined the coverage of the racing since the BBC gave up its coverage of the event, and it has gone increasingly downhill and become nothing more than a media circus and feeding trough for advertisers.

Let’s be honest, and see that the drivers are nothing more that grossly overpaid spoilt children, allowed to indulge their fantasy thanks to being millionaires, some of whom are only in an F1 driving seat because they are able to buy it. The odd exceptional talent can make it (provided they know someone and can get an introduction), but even the much praised Lewis Hamilton wasted no time in grabbing the cash with both hands, and getting out of Britain and off to Switzerland the moment he could, and is now tiresome as he is featured in various articles and programmes telling us all about him ad infinitum. And do us a favour and don’t harp on about the skill and danger side – not too many years ago, there was real danger, drivers died or were horribly mutilated in even the mildest of crashes or track incidents, and the rewards were tiny by comparison with today’s ridiculous multi-million pound deals, yet those earlier drivers drove without that ‘incentive’.

The depression will set in fairly soon, as the pre-race programme spend more time describing the race locations and the private life of the drivers than they do on the qualifying.

Next will be the race coverage itself, which seems to start off with a repeat of the qualifying programme, featuring the location and driver gossip, then an update on same, eventually finding some time to squeeze in some coverage of events on the track. This is generally screwed up by some of the most inept directors that have ever been given control of cameras and shot choices, as even the gushing presenters, stuck for some gossip about the drivers or teams, struggle to cope with shots of cars that are not participating in what would be the most interesting action on the track, as the director chooses to watch cars touring away quietly on their own.

Then there’s the real killer, as the ad breaks destroy whatever continuity you might enjoy. While the BBC was able to let a race run from start to finish, ITV has to stop every few minutes. The real problem is that the programme controller just can’t master the art of picking a spot to place the obligatory breaks, and seems to try (very badly) to place them sympathetically. In reality, they’d be better placed if done at random or regular intervals. By trying to pick a ‘Good Spot, it seems that what we poor viewers end up with the worst of both worlds – the controller thinks there is something interesting developing on track, so holds off and delays the ad breaks in case something happens. When it doesn’t, they’re forced to start pushing the sponsor’s ad breaks in before they run out of time, so after a dearth of ads, we end uo with a load of them, all chained together with only a few minutes between each. The worst aspect of this is that thanks to the inept handling of the controller trying to follow the action, we actually see less ‘incidents’ in real time as they happen while we are watching the bulk of ads that have come all at once.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the BBC just covering the race, no build up, no driver promotion, just the qualifying period, and then the race – with no ads.

But, for those into worship at the Church of the Holy Celebrity, don’t worry – the sport is now driven entirely by publicity, celebrity, and the media cash it brings in, so it’s not going to move to an ad free medium in anybody’s lifetime.

That’s a shame, because when you do manage to pick up a crumb about the technical changes, they look as if they are going to begin to spread out the cars, and start to make the qualifying less driven by making interesting TV, and more about driver’s efforts.

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