Rob Smedley on broadcasting visual data in Formula One: “There was a lot of pushback.”

Formula One has evolved massively since 2018, both through the fan’s experience and the technological advances. What people don’t tend to talk about though, is a mixture of this, and the introduction of a more detailed fan experience when watching streams of the sport.


Now more than ever are viewers seeing the in-depth detail of races and what the teams are trying to achieve, whether it be predicted overtakes, the likelihood of every strategy’s success, and most commonly, the telemetry on the onboard camera.


Rob Smedley, previously of Jordan Grand Prix, Williams and Ferrari, and now the Director for Data Systems for Formula One Group, spoke at the Autosport Show about the fan experience when watching the races:

“When we first went out there and we did it (broadcasted data), there was a lot of pushback because we’re human and we’re adverse to change.

“When we started to put all the data on the screens, people freaked out a bit (but) I always said to both Amazon and to Formula One, just to wait.”


He then mentioned how it was the ‘life-cycle’ of Formula One, that fans, at first, aren’t comfortable with change but eventually change their minds and see the benefits of what Formula One is trying to achieve.

“When we started to introduce a load of data and sensors on the car, people pushed back against it and said we don’t need them (but) three years later, everybody said we do need all of that technology because it makes the car go faster.


“It’s exactly the same in broadcasting, when we started to feed out all of this data and give people a better understanding of what’s happening behind the scenes, the fans came back after a couple of years and said they wanted more of it.”


The data team are currently looking at ways of getting the fans a pit-wall experience in the future too, on a second and third screen, to continue to try and maximise the quality of the broadcasting.


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