Category Archives: F1 broadcasting in America

F1 Behind the Scenes: Meet Sean Kelly

 

Like many this week, you’re probably missing F1 again – so here’s a short quiz:

  • When’s the last time all three podium finishers were all of the same nationality?
  • When’s the last time four different constructors won the first four races of the season?
  • Where do you go for the right question to ask – and have the answer to – as an F1 record’s being broken live?

For the answer to the first two questions, keep reading below – and for the answer to the third, meet Sean Kelly – a man who’s written his own job description in Formula 1.

As a member of SPEED’s research team and F1 statistician, Sean specializes in compiling and studying the reams of F1 statistics and data leading up to a grand prix weekend, then looking for potentially record setting and statistically significant events that broadcasters can turn to as part of their programming.

 

Based in San Diego and Charlotte, Sean Kelly's service keeps F1 broadcasters around the world updated on race stats and facts for their audiences

 

I met with Sean just before the season opener in San Diego down at Henry’s Pub, a local F1 institution on Sunday mornings, and got a glimpse of exactly what goes into the work he produces at his firm, Virtual Statman, and how that shapes our experience of race broadcasts. It should be said that it helps having the ability to totally recall races, dates, winners and pole sitters for every GP, but a lot of thought has gone into the final product as well.

Before each race, Sean produces a pre-race report covering teams, venues, dates, drivers and cars in a detailed and indexed 18-20 page document that gives race announcers easy access to facts and stats. “It’s important not to overload announcers with too much information” Sean says, “statistics need to be put into a context that doesn’t bog down their broadcasts.”

Sean’s demonstrated his ability soon after we met, and he can put together a story of facts and stats just looking at a photograph or outline of a car, remembering testing locations, liveries, and drivers. And he’s only missed 2 races in the past 25 seasons – not bad for a guy in his early 30’s.

“My first race was in 1987, when I was 6, my brother turned on the Brazilian Grand Prix at home, I just sat and watched – and have been following ever since.” Starting in the early 2000s, he got the idea for this sort of service when he approached SPEED about an idea – one “that would forever change how the sport was covered” – he laughs now when recalling the shot he took by leaving a voicemail with SPEED’s F1 producer Frank Wilson.

But what started out as a project with the broadcasters at SPEED has now turned into a global audience, with 18 different media markets subscribing to the service, and there’s no signs of that slowing down: “The 2006 USGP at Indy was a tipping point for me, when I was introduced to the great Swiss journalist Agnes Carlier, and she really DOES know everyone in the pitlane, from Bernie right down to me. I explained to her what I did and she said ‘Oh, so it would help to meet all the other broadcasters too, no? Come on, I’ll introduce you.’ That day alone I doubled my client list, and that was when things really started to get big. After 3 1/2 years of scraping along, finally I was starting to make a proper living from F1.”

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When he's not in Charlotte covering F1 races with the SPEED team's live feed, Sean travels to the GP to keep his subscribers up to the minute on F1 stats and facts

 

Sean’s reports are now used by Sky, BBC, SPEED, RTL and several other television networks worldwide (19 in total at last count), so somewhere in the world during a race, he’s playing an important behind-the-scenes role in what’s said by the leading broadcasters in television:

“Sean is a terrific resource, and you can hear his input in much of what we present on the air on SPEED. To me, the important thing about his array of F1 background is that he can tailor it to the need, whether it’s the announcers, who work on the fly, or the production staff, who prepare broadcast elements in advance. We have several people on our team who have amazing recall when it comes to F1 minutae, and their discussions of a given race occasionally leave David, Steve and me in the dust.” – Bob Varsha, SPEED

So with all his knowledge and recall of the sport, I had to ask Sean – “Don’t you bet on F1?”

“No!” Says Sean – “But my dad is always looking for tips.”

When he’s not compiling the latest data, covering the sport at the F1 circuits or in Charlotte with the SPEED team, Sean’s supporting Liverpool FC or playing the drums – give him a shout out on twitter @virtualstatman and stay tuned for more of his insights next race with more stats and facts as the season heats up.

Quiz: When’s the last time all three podium finishers were all of the same nationality? 1983 When was the last season to have different winners in the first four races? 2003

 

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Filed under American F1 Fans, American F1 talent, F1 broadcasters, F1 broadcasting in America, F1 on SPEED

2012 Formula 1 US TV Schedule

Here’s a schedule and network listing for F1 in 2012 in the USA.  As usual, the majority of races will be on SPEED, with a few obligatory races this summer on FOX. All times listed are EST.  Races broadcast on FOX in the past have usually featured live practice and qualifying before each race on SPEED.

For more on F1 groups in America and their watch parties and events, visit our Google map posted here.

2012 F1 Season US Broadcast Schedule:

 

March 18
Australia
2:00am
SPEED
March 25
Malaysia
4:00am
SPEED
April 15
China
3:00am
SPEED
April 22
Bahrain
8:00am
SPEED
May 13
Spain
8:00am
SPEED
May 27
Monaco
8:00am
SPEED
June 10
Canada
1:00pm
FOX
June 24
Europe
8:00am
FOX
July 8
Great Britain
8:00am
FOX
July 22
Germany
8:00am
FOX
July 29
Hungary
8:00am
SPEED
September 2
Belgium
8:00am
SPEED
September 9
Italy
8:00am
SPEED
September 23
Singapore
8:00am
SPEED
October 7
Japan
2:00am
SPEED
October 14
Korea
2:00am
SPEED
October 28
India
5:30am
SPEED
November 4
Abu Dhabi
8:00am
SPEED
November 18
United States
2:00pm
SPEED
November 25
Brazil
11:00am
SPEED

 

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Filed under American F1 Events, F1 broadcasting in America

American F1 Sponsorship: An Interview with SunCore Solar

This year’s race at Circuit of The Americas will be a landmark event in the history of F1, and while the venue and fans will help form a new home for the sport, a significant part of what will ultimately drive the sport’s growth in America will come from the partners and sponsors that use F1’s global reach to brand and market their products and services.


Formula 1 is typically a closed shop, meaning the business of F1 isn’t usually open for discussion with outside parties, but it is important to hear some American corporate perspective and testimonial to the value F1 brings business. We rarely get a view of F1 from the companies whose investment creates the necessary finance for the sport, but recently I enjoyed an informative and enthusiastic interview with Jane Johnson, Director of Communications at SunCore Solar, a privately held mobile solar technology company, and a sponsor last season with Lotus Renault GP (now Team Lotus). Your thoughts and comments are appreciated below.

Special thanks to Jane Johnson and SunCore’s CEO and co-founder, Steve Brimmer, for their contributions to this interview.

I appreciate your time to answer a few questions for ‘F1 in America’. Can you tell us about SunCore and the goals it had in mind when choosing F1 as a marketing platform?

To our targeted audience Formula 1 easily represents the pinnacle in motorsport, the foremost of sports. It is understood F1 leads in the development of superior automotive science and technology, with a continuous advancement of high performance aerodynamics and material utilization which commands respect by fans and casual observers alike. By associating with a progressive F1 team, SunCore believed it would increase its own global visibility, brand credibility, marketing & business development opportunities.

Was there something unique about F1 that set it apart or were several other types of platforms (including motorsport) considered?

F1 is widely recognized as the most technologically advanced motorsport series in existence, in addition to it commanding the largest global broadcast and print media audience, thus it was the logical choice for us, given that we see ourselves as equally advanced in our technology development.

Could you describe SunCore’s involvement with Lotus Renault GP and F1 in 2011?

Our involvement was limited to five races due to budgetary restrictions although we had hoped for a much longer involvement. We found the team to be of the highest caliber in every aspect and we had a great experience with them before, during and after the races.

How did you rate and measure the benefit of SunCore’s participation given the large financial involvement F1 is known for requiring?

We learned that to fully benefit from F1 involvement, one needs to pre-plan a full season in advance, in order to fully derive the maximum available benefit. Once the season starts, things move very fast, so clarity of what each race can provide for exposure and hospitality benefit is absolutely necessary, before you arrive at the circuit. As such, we were honored to receive the exposure we did through our association with the team.

NovaCell™ SunCore's High-performance light-powered charger

Were there any intangible or latent benefits you weren’t expecting?

Yes, direct contact with race fans was a pleasant surprise. We received many emails from fans who sought us out, which we appreciated a great deal.

Do you feel there is anything Formula 1 as a whole could do to increase the value for American corporate sponsorship?

Television coverage in the U.S. market is still lacking. The Speed Channel F1 race coverage team do an excellent job of educating viewers about the sport and covering the races, but the fact is that the races are poorly promoted by the networks including FOX when they broadcast a select few races each season. SPEED Channel is 90% dedicated to NASCAR and thus F1 suffers from trying to squeeze in between the NASCAR events and daily feed of NASCAR promotions and sin-off programs. We were amazed at the high profile F1 has in global broadcasting including new markets such as Korea and India. U.S. viewership simply cannot mature until one of the networks make the commitment to carry and promote the series…much as did ABC in the 60’s and 70’s with its Wide World of Sports weekend series. Most of today’s baby-boomer generation knows F1 only as a result of ABC’s coverage in those decades.

I understand SunCore is taking a break from Formula 1 this year, but now that the sport is coming back to the US and with two races scheduled for 2013, how does that affect the company’s decision to reengage with F1? Keeping in mind that Austin has developed into a hub for green businesses and the New Jersey race next year has been billed as green-friendly with the exclusive use of public transportation to and from the track.

We intend to be back in F1 in 2013, not solely due to the Texas and NJ races, but because it is good for our brand and Company identity. Of course, the Texas race in particular provides us an excellent opportunity to maximize our benefit, as we have relationships with the Texas State Officials as well as with Rice University and we can resonate with renewable energy programs in Austin and elsewhere in the State of Texas. Having home Grands Prix is a bonus for a sponsor, but certainly not the singular motivation for being in the sport.

American Alexander Rossi is currently linked with SunCore on his website and appears to be headed for a drive in F1 in the near future. How do US companies like SunCore value American drivers competing in the sport?

We sponsored Alexander for the 2011 season in the World Series By Renault 3.5 where he finished 3rd. Our intention and motivation to becoming involved with Alexander was rooted in a desire to support an American driver who we see as having the skill set to attain a ride in FI. Of course, while we are presently team-centric in our F1 sponsorship plans, with Alexander it was purely him and independent of the team he was with, in this case Fortec. We realized a considerable amount of exposure with Alexander in 2011 per dollar invested, as the Series is vastly more economical than FI, we had a great experience overall. We would like to stay with Alexander as he migrates upward to F1 as we see him as an extraordinary talent.

Thanks again for your time to answer these questions, Jane. In an earlier conversation you mentioned that you’ve become a big F1 fan in the last year, what was the highlight for you last season?

Everything! Our team involvement led to many opportunities that the general fan cannot access. At each circuit the energy generated by all the F1 teams is nearly overwhelming, an immediate simulation of all your senses. Suddenly you’re welcomed as a team member enabling a very personal bond, even a link to other F1 team drivers. At home I continue to feel a personal association with our team, enough to make me stay-up all night. An extremely important component in the puzzle of becoming a true F1 fan is the ability to share the experience with others. For me it’s my brother. He’s the only person I knew that doesn’t mind a 3am phone call because he’s also up watching F1 qualifying or a race.

Lastly, Will you be going to the race in Austin in November?

Are you inviting?

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Filed under American companies in F1, American F1 drivers, Americans working in F1, brand strategy in F1, Circuit of the Americas, F1 and branding, F1 and business, F1 and technology, F1 broadcasting in America, United States Grand Prix in Austin