Speaking at a roundtable event in collaboration with Tata Communications at F1 Live in Trafalgar Square, London; Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motor Sports at Formula One Group (FOG) discussed how the sport needs to use digital technologies to improve the fan experience.
He identified that F1 is an extremely data-rich environment and that as a sport it is unique in the level of technology and data that exists. This data, which is both historic and predictive, can be used to understand what makes a great race and Brawn already has a few ideas.
One that caught my attention as well as those in attendance was about how data can be better used to predict the outcome of the race and how this information is shared with fans. At the 2017 Baku Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas overtook Lance Stroll on the final corner of the race to create a dramatic last gasp finish.
As Brawn says: “we couldn’t predict that would happen, but we would be able to predict that it would get close. You could say to a fan that 20 laps before the end, all the numbers tell us those two cars will be next to each other and show them digitally why that is.” How these real-time updates, predictions and analyses are incorporated in the live broadcast and communicated to fans is a key question. Imagine the “will they, won’t they?” suspense this could cause as fans watch the race unfold.
To show how this kind of digital analysis has improved another sport, Brawn used the example of cricket. While the game of cricket is technologically fairly basic, nowadays it would be difficult to watch a cricket match without the extra information gathered by technology such as Hawkeye.
As the world’s most technologically advanced sport, the time is now to make better use of the data, information and new digital platforms that can bring racing fans closer to the sport. This includes ensuring that all the basics are in place such as ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity at Grand Prix locations as well enhancing the user experience on F1.com to create a global digital hub for all news, content and interactions with the sport. Both of these points were made my Brawn.
F1 and eSports
A natural evolution when talking about the digital experience of F1 is to think about the potential of eSports. Arguably, F1 has the potential to be one of the most popular eSports on Earth and Brawn made reference to this potential during the roundtable.
One of the ideas he discussed was creating an environment where there is live racing going on, and the fans are racing their own cars in events which happen in tandem. As well as creating ongoing entertainment to fill troughs in the action such as when the safety car comes on, the eRacing community could be used to test some of F1’s proposed rule changes. This is an extremely tangible way for them to participate more actively in the future of the sport.
From my perspective, it is extremely encouraging to see the likes of Brawn championing the role that new technologies can play in enhancing the user experience for F1 fans. These are the types of conversations which will pave the way for digital transformation and open F1 up to new ideas to better utilise the unprecedented amounts of technology and data at is disposal.
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