What’s new in F1 TV coverage in 2023?

Some of the most significant changes to the way F1 is broadcast have taken place behind the scenes, particularly with the production facility at Biggin Hill in the UK being revamped this winter to bring it up to date.

But where F1 never stands still is in trying to improve what fans see at home, either when the Grands Prix are broadcast live from the circuit or in relation to other elements such as onboards and graphics.

With the 2023 season kicking off in Bahrain this weekend, F1 has spent the winter examining what improvements it can make to its reporting. This work is now complete and is expected to generate a multitude of new ideas – some using breakthrough technologies.

Here we take a look at what fans can expect this season.

Artificial intelligence in slow motion

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Photo: FOM

F1 has often deployed super slow motion cameras in locations where seeing action at a different speed provides additional insight – such as when cars are swerving at the barriers at the Monaco Grand Prix.

But with those cameras costing around £400,000 each, it’s not the sort of thing that can be rolled out for every corner at every circuit.

Because it’s hard to predict where spectacular moments will take place, this has often meant that playback of big events in slow motion can appear quite choppy – especially when viewed in 4K resolution.

F1 has been working to make such replays look better, testing a new artificial intelligence product at last year’s United States Grand Prix.

The system processes footage from the regular cameras and by skillfully filling in missing frames (technically called interpolation) ensures that playback is silky smooth.

The AI ​​was used when Fernando Alonso was thrown in the air and through barriers by Lance Stroll during the Austin event, making replays look much better.

F1 Director of Broadcasting and Media Dean Locke says the process will be used at all races from now on – which should mean some replays with better definition.

“It’s a very intelligent system,” he said. “We can all get our cameras moving and it’s just another level to do it live.”

The method can be used for any footage captured over a weekend, including pit lane cameras and onboards.

Improved audio

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Prototype Graphics

Photo: FOM

On the back of Netflix’s success Drive to survive Series, F1 works hard to ensure that the live show has just as much excitement and atmosphere around it.

While some of that comes from looks, sound is also a key element – with F1 targeting a small audio upgrade for 2023.

Locke says F1 wants the live broadcast to sound as exciting as the Netflix or other post-event show experience – so some tweaks are planned.

“People when they tune in to a traditional F1 show expect it to sound like Drive to Survive,” he said. “So we decided that we probably have to do what we have to do in terms of upgrades. We are examining how we can do that.”

Some of this will come from the repositioning of the trackside microphones – with some of them actually flipped to capture more of the atmosphere of the crowd.

Efforts are also being made to capture the sounds of the cars as well – whether that be by adding microphones to the roadside cameras or making better use of mixing the audio from the side of the track as cars pass by to enhance the effect.

Augmented reality graphics

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Photo: FOM

Last year F1 enhanced the in-flight camera footage to offer some augmented reality graphic overlays of cars being tracked – including speeds and a driver identity.

This proved a success and for this season the technology has been further developed to allow these additional elements to be overlaid on top of helicopter shots of the car.

Locke suggests this could be particularly useful in highlighting a closing gap as a driver pits.

“Maybe we can do a piece of rubber band, so a car comes into the pits and you chase the car that comes by,” he explained. “It can show the time passing between the two.”

New onboard angles

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Prototype Graphics

Photo: FOM

F1 fans already know that helmet cams are becoming the standard this year, which should give broadcasters more options.

Bandwidth limitations mean FOM will initially only use around 6-8 riders per race, whose footage will complement the normal onboard angles.

The gyro camera that Carlos Sainz ran at last year’s Dutch Grand Prix is ​​returning to places where it can better show off the curvature of the circuit – including this weekend’s race in Bahrain.

Additionally, F1 is looking to do more with small cameras in the cockpit – having brought back pedaling cameras last season.

Happy with the result, F1 plans to install more cameras in the cockpit, either looking at the driver from the waist or looking at his feet.

“We’re going to be moving around the cockpit a bit more, and some of the teams are really busy helping us out,” Locke said.

Further technological advances for this year should also help the F1 gain access to full onboard footage much more quickly than has previously been the case.

Previously it took until the Monday after the race for some footage of specific moments to be available when not being streamed live – but it should now be available almost the moment it is needed.

Graphic overhaul and the dilemma moment

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Photo: FOM

F1 undertook a full review of its graphics over the winter and will be introducing a much simpler system for 2023.

It was felt that some elements, such as the AWS data, were too complicated for viewers to understand when track actions took place. Now the graphics are much easier to understand – whether they are route alerts for incidents, new speed limits and whether or not DRS is activated.

A new graphic idea slated to debut later this year is Dilemma Moment – where FOM prepares a key question for commentators to debate and then possibly vote for by fans.

For example, this could revolve around whether a driver should make an extra stop for tires or choose a medium or hard compound at the final stop.

Locke explains, “We’re going to brief the commentators and give them a few seconds of warning.

“Then we can answer the question at the end of the race: If the driver had pitted, he would have made up four places, for example.”

But don’t expect the drones…

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Prototype Graphics

Photo: FOM

One innovation F1 tested last year was the use of drones to get better aerial shots.

While a first attempt at the Spanish Grand Prix didn’t produce great results, a more recent run at the US GP proved better. However, F1 feels that drone technology is still not well suited to the needs of covering a high-speed series like F1.

“Drones aren’t fast enough,” Locke explained. “They’re brilliant for other sports and sports that can’t afford a helicopter, but we’re just too ridiculously fast.

“I think the technology is going to get there pretty quickly now, but we’re stepping back for a while until we can do it well enough. We don’t want to make garbage. We’ll do more proof of concept in some races but we’re really waiting for really fast drones to catch up.”

Prototype Graphics

Prototype Graphics

Photo: FOM

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