What’s new for F1 TV coverage in 2023

Some of the most significant changes to the way F1 is broadcast have taken place behind the scenes, especially with its production facility at Biggin Hill in the UK undergoing a state-of-the-art refurbishment this winter.

But where F1 never stands still is in trying to improve what fans see at home, whether it’s when grand prix are broadcast live from the track, or in other elements such as fleets and graphics.

With the 2023 season kicking off in Bahrain this weekend, F1 has spent the winter looking at what improvements it can make to its coverage. This work is now complete and is set to develop a number of new ideas – some of which use ground-breaking technology.

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

Slow motion AI

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Photo by: FOM

F1 has often used super-slow-motion cameras in places where seeing the action at a different speed provides some added insight – such as when the cars pass the barriers at the Monaco Grand Prix.

But with these cameras costing around £400,000 each, it’s not something that can be used for every corner on every track.

As it’s hard to predict where spectacular moments will happen, this often meant that when we saw slow-motion replays of big incidents, they could look quite muddled – especially when viewed in 4K.

F1 has been working to make such replays look better and tested a new AI product at last year’s United States Grand Prix.

The system processes footage from regular cameras and, by intelligently filling in the missing frames (technically called interpolation), ensures that replays can be silky smooth.

The AI ​​was used when Fernando Alonso was launched into the air and into the barriers by Lance Stroll during the Austin event, so his replays look much better.

F1’s broadcast and media director Dean Locke says the process will be used at all races from now on – which will mean some better definition replays.

“It’s a very smart system,” he said. “We can do all of our cameras in high motion, and it’s just on another level to be able to do that live.”

The process can be used for any footage taken during a weekend, including pitlane cameras and boats.

Improved sound

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Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

On the back of Netflix’s success Drive to survive series, F1 is working hard to ensure that the live show has just as much buzz and atmosphere around it.

While part of this comes from the visuals, an important element is also the audio – with the F1 seeing a minor audio upgrade for 2023.

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

“People will expect when they tune into a traditional F1 broadcast that it sounds like Drive to Survive,” he said. “So we decided we should probably do what we can for the upgrades. We’re looking at how we can do that.”

Some of that will come from repositioning the trackside mics – with some of them being turned around to capture more of the crowd vibe.

An effort is also being made to capture car noise too – either adding microphones to the cameras on the pavement or making better use of trackside sound mixing as the cars pass by to enhance the effect.

Augmented reality graphics

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Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

Last year, F1 improved the onboard camera hardware to offer some graphical augmented reality overlays of the cars being chased – which included speeds and driver identity.

This proved to be a success and, for this season, the technology has advanced to include these extra elements in helicopter shots of the car.

Locke suggests this could be particularly useful when marking a gap that closes when a driver enters the pits.

“Maybe we can make a piece of rubber so you have a car that goes into the pits and you chase the car that’s coming,” he explained. “It may mark the time that is waning between the two.”

New integrated corners

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Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

F1 fans already know that helmet cameras are becoming standard this year, which should provide more options for broadcasters.

Bandwidth limits mean that currently FOM will only use around 6-8 drivers per race for this, whose footage will complement the normal on-board angles.

The gyro cam that Carlos Sainz ran at last year’s Dutch Grand Prix returns to venues where it will best showcase the circuit cockpit – including this weekend’s race in Bahrain.

Beyond that, F1 is looking at doing more with small cameras inside the cockpit – having brought back pedal cams last season.

F1 is pleased with the result and is now considering putting more cameras inside the cockpit – either looking up at the driver from the waist or down at his feet.

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

Further technological developments for this year will also help F1 access full on-board footage much quicker than has been the norm in the past.

Until now, it took until the Monday after the game for some footage of certain moments to be available if it wasn’t broadcast live – but now it should be available almost as soon as it’s needed.

Graphics refresh and the moment of dilemma

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Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

F1 carried out a complete overhaul of its graphics over the winter and will release a much more simplified system for 2023.

It was felt that some elements, such as the AWS data, were too complex for viewers to understand when action was taking place in the piece. Now, the graphics will be much simpler to understand – whether they include tracking alerts for incidents, new top speeds and whether or not DRS is on.

A new graphic concept to be released later this year is a moment of dilemma – where FOM will prepare a key question that can be debated by commentators and then voted on by fans.

This could, for example, revolve around whether a driver should make an extra stop for tires or go for a medium or hard compound at their last stop.

Locke explains: “We’ll let the commentators know and give them a few seconds’ warning.

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

But don’t wait for the drones…

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Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

One innovation that F1 tried last year was the use of drones as a means of better aerial shots.

While an initial test at the Spanish Grand Prix did not yield great results, a more recent run at the US GP proved better. However, F1 believes that drone technology is still not suitable for the coverage requirements of a high-speed series such as F1.

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

“I think the technology will get there pretty quickly now, but we’re taking a step back for a while until we can get it good enough. We don’t want to do anything that’s rubbish. We’ll be doing more proof of concepts in a few races, but we’re really looking forward to really fast drones coming our way.”

Original graphics

Original graphics

Photo by: FOM

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