After a five-year absence, F1 fans are set to be offered FanVision consoles at all F1 events in 2018, providing trackside access to live commentary, television feeds, in-car camera views, team audio communications and live statistics.
An eagle-eyed Reddit user spotted a job advertisement on glassdoor that states: “FanVision and Formula One are working closely together to provide a best-in-class fan experience through FanVision’s return to the circuit during the 2018 season with a revolutionary new product. Deeply integrated with Formula One’s Broadcast Operations, the FanVision system will be set up and operated at each event on the Formula One calendar.”
FanVision consoles, which only work trackside, were last available to F1 fans during the 2012 season. They disappeared in 2013 when Racing Electronics, the company which supplies them, was unable to agree a new deal with then-F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management (FOM). Many F1 fans were sad to see FanVision go at the time, with one going as far as launching an online petition begging Bernie Ecclestone to bring them back! The consoles provided an unrivalled trackside experience, keeping fans up to date with the on-track action in a far superior way to big screen TVs and PA systems.
How the FanVision console looked like back in 2012. What improvements will the “revolutionary new product” offer in 2018?
A lot has changed in the five years since FanVision left Formula 1, of course. The sport is now under new American ownership for starters, so it is not surprising that Liberty Media have been in talks with the parent company of FanVision, also based in the US, about a return. In a further sign that a new deal is imminent, FanVision was made available to fans at Circuit of the Americas for last year’s United States Grand Prix.
The exact specs of the “revolutionary new product” from F1 and FanVision for 2018 remain to be seen, but today’s technologies do offer exciting possibilities. Formula 1 trialed free trackside WiFi at several events in 2017, whilst last year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation prize from Tata Communications and Formula 1 invited global talent “to help design an enhanced connected at-the-track race experience for fans through the application of embedded networks, Internet of Things and mobile technologies.”
The winning solution from Benjamin Lambert and Alexander Gibson envisaged that “from the moment fans arrive at the circuit until the end of the race weekend, they could use their mobile phone to connect to dozens of sensors at the circuit to access data and insights on their favorite team or driver, get a mixed reality view of driver lines and braking zones on the surface of the race track, or buy refreshments and souvenirs.”
Ross Brawn, a guest judge on the F1 Connectivity Innovation prize, had this to say when the winners were announced: “Formula 1 is the world’s most technologically advanced sport. Yet there’s a whole new dimension we could add to the Grand Prix experience by harnessing the power of Internet connectivity, mobile technologies, and real-time data. Solutions like the winning idea could transform the F1 racing experience for millions of fans at circuits all over the world, making the whole weekend more interactive, immersive and thrilling than ever before.”
It also remains to be seen whether FanVision will be integrated with the current Formula 1 access subscription offering (available on web, mobile and app) or be offered as a standalone product. FanVision is currently available for Nascar, IndyCar and NHRA Drag Racing events in the USA. Consoles can be purchased outright for $229.95, then activated with a per-event subscription, or rented trackside from $34.95 per race. A new “Legend” console, which combines FanVision with an analog race scanner, plus HD display, WiFi and Bluetooth, is also due to ship on April 9.