Thanks to our friends at Discover GP, Badger’s very own Emma Thomson got the chance to road test F1 Vision at the French Grand Prix.
How did our self-confessed technophobe get on? Her review is in and we think she just might be a convert.
Forgive me fellow F1 fans, but I’m not much of a gadget girl. That probably counts as a cardinal sin in F1 land.
Don’t get me wrong, I can marvel at the wonders of F1 innovation and technological excellence with the best of you. But in general, I find gadgets a tad annoying. Siri, Alexa (other irritating versions are available), supermarket self-scanners hold no interest. I read actual books on the train and look where I’m going when walking down the street (phone firmly in pocket, people!). And call me old-fashioned, but when I watch something, I like to do so without distraction, unencumbered by widgets, bells or whistles. ‘Ticker tape’ news running along the bottom of a TV screen drives me stark raving bonkers.
Naturally, I am perfectly capable of multi-tasking. I just choose not to, especially when watching my favourite sport on TV or trackside. And I may not be the most intuitive soul when it comes to fiddling with technology, but I’m not totally clueless either.
Which probably made me an ideal candidate for trying out F1 Vision at the French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard Circuit.
Did the handheld device enhance or hinder my viewing pleasure? Did I manage to get to grips with its buttons and features? Would I recommend it to those lucky enough to be attending a Grand Prix this year? You bet I would – and here’s why.
It’s super easy to use
Yep, even an idiot like me got to grips with it. Granted I was given some basic instructions by the helpful folk on the F1 Vision stand (located in the F1 Fanzone) and I didn’t feel the need to watch their video demonstration before heading off to my seat. The pick-up went smoothly, the staff were friendly and efficient (unlike the car parking attendants, but that’s another story) and they handily pre-set the device to the English language for me.
I was scared the handset might resemble a driver’s steering wheel but fortunately, it is much less complicated. There are only a few buttons to contend with and the touchscreen features are intuitive and easy to navigate. It’s very light and has a handy neck-strap and headphones keeping your hands free for applying sunscreen and drinking beer! The only slight downside (for the lazy of walking) was the Fanzone was a fair old trek from our grandstand – but they have to locate it somewhere, right?!
That said, you keep the handset for the whole weekend so there’s no need to trudge back and forth each day to return it. So far, so good.
You can choose how to watch and listen
Regular visitors to Grand Prix events will know the importance of being close to a big screen to follow the on-track action and hear the circuit commentary. The latter can be of dubious quality in some venues and of course, if it’s not in your own language you can feel a bit flummoxed.
Yes, the engines might be quieter these days but there are times when you simply can’t hear the trackside commentary. If you are nowhere near a screen (an issue for General Admission areas in particular), then you will miss out on seeing the race unfold around other parts of the track. Dodgy wi-fi is not unusual at circuits either so trying to follow on apps can be sporadic at best.
Enter F1 Vision. It runs on circuit transmitters so does not rely on a wifi connection. My handset sprung into life as soon as I hit the ‘home’ button and I never lost transmission at any point over the weekend. Much as I enjoyed listening to the French trackside commentator (my French neighbours informed me he clearly did not have the first clue about Formula 1!), I was delighted by the options available for viewing and listening. You can watch the international TV feed or Sky TV.
There’s a Pit Lane viewing option too which focuses on action in the garages, pit lane and pit wall plus split-screen views of the leading drivers. Other split-screen options show simultaneous in-car footage of four cars.
If none of that takes your fancy, you can stick to the international feed and listen to the commentary over the PA knowing that you will always hear it over the noise of the cars thanks to the handy headphones. Big tick for choice and functionality.
Driver Radio is awesome
For me, this was probably the most enjoyable aspect of F1 Vision. You can select your favourite drivers and follow all their radio transmissions throughout every session, including Free Practice.
I was told I could choose four drivers, but I think it can handle up to six. Four was enough for me though as there is a LOT of radio traffic.
TV always broadcasts the juicy ones of course, but I was fascinated by the sheer volume of messages going back and forth between pitwall and driver. Drivers are constantly being informed of positions of their rivals, gaps to cars ahead and behind, when they will be lapping cars, who is pitting when, lap times, other drivers’ lap times, weather reports, which buttons to push…it is a constant cacophony of voices and engine noise.
Top tip if you are tuning in to the radio is to disable any other commentary or your brain will explode!
What I really liked about this option was being able to watch the cars on track in front of me (or on the big screen) and not be distracted by looking at the handset screen. The beauty of the driver radio option is that it is absolutely live (how I miss those days) and 100% unfiltered. I was able to helpfully tell everyone around me when a driver was pitting way before the ‘box box box’ instruction was heard over the PA (I’m sure this didn’t annoy them one bit!).
I also had the pleasure of hearing the sweary rants, Danny Ric’s ‘this traffic is a total &*@$ing joke’ being my personal fave. When you add this to the live Race Control alerts (another terrific feature), you really feel on top of what is happening as the action unfolds. Driver radio – love it!
I went all nerdy over the live timing screen
Given what I said about liking minimal distraction from watching the race, I was surprised how much I pored over the Leaderboard timing screen.
Basically, this gives you all the live timings of every driver split by sector. I found myself strangely mesmerised by the individual sector times popping up and unnervingly fascinated by whether the sectors would be green or purple, faster or slower than the previous, their best or even the fastest lap of all.
This feature comes into its own if you want to analyse the gaps between drivers to see if they are gaining on the car ahead. Yes, you should be able to follow this on the big screen, but even with my specs on, I couldn’t always make out the numbers clearly. My little screen came up trumps there.
I got into the rhythm of watching the cars pass by on track, see where the driver battles were looking tasty, then refer to F1 Vision to confirm the gaps. Again I could give ‘helpful’ updates to my neighbours in the grandstand. Weird that they left early on race day!
Lots more features to enjoy
Having quickly found my favourite bits to play with, I feel I didn’t get time to enjoy everything F1 Vision had to offer.
Towards the end, I pushed all the buttons to see what else it could do. Everything from track layout, event schedule, driver info (including head to head performance stats) to championship standings are there should you need them.
Hiring a handset isn’t cheap but, on balance, it really can enhance the live experience for aficionados and newbies alike. I’d highly recommend giving it a bash, even if you don’t like gadgets! If it had been clever enough to get me out the car park in under 4 hours, I’d have bought shares!
Going to a race this year? Fancy trying F1 Vision? Book one through our friends at Discover GP who have the cheapest prices we’ve seen at £75 for a weekend. Enjoy!