The Formula 1 television department is always looking for new angles and fresh shots. This year has seen the return of the camera on the pedals two decades after the last experiment, while at the Dutch Grand Prix they were able to try something different to give fans at home a better impression of just how banked the bikes are. Zandvoort curves.
The shot was only seen at certain times on Saturday and Sunday, and only in Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. However, the first test of a gyroscopic camera in Formula 1 was considered a complete success, as the shot tilted when the Spaniard went over the banks.
“You just have to look at this new camera that we are testing,” said series general manager Stefano Domenicali , who was in the Sky F1 commentary booth when the shot appeared in FP3. “I think it’s important for us to try to convey the feeling of speed, the feeling of what’s really on the track.”
The person in charge of the images that we see on television from the single-seaters, Steve Smith , who has been in that position for more than three decades, said: “Stefano [Domenicali] and Ross [Brawn] are very interested in introducing innovations, new things to demonstrate that we are not standing still and that we are moving forward”.
“And that’s why this year we’ve introduced the pedal jack,” he continued. “Eventually we want the 360 camera to be able to stream live from the car, but now it’s a stand-alone unit, recording and then uploading the footage to be used for social media.”
“Our ultimate wish is for it to be seen on international broadcast by complementing it with an iPad or phone to see the 360-degree camera,” added Smith.
Formula 1 is always open to the opinions of the fans, but it is not easy to please everyone: “I think what happens is that people see something and write why we do that to ourselves, and the biggest thing for us is the individual cameras.
“For example, Martin Brundle did a Sky report with a Ferrari at Fiorano a couple of years ago, he went out with the car and they shot with two GoPros. He did two laps, with three or four different shots, they brought him in and they took those shots to other side of the car and did another couple of turns,” he explained. “Then he went in and they took all the cameras off and they went around more so that no camera was showing, but it’s ten different shots, that doesn’t do us any favors, because then someone says why can’t we do things like that in a big reward”.
The clear inspiration for the gyroscopic camera that Formula 1 tested at Zandvoort was MotoGP: “Someone wrote and said it would be great if we could see what the banking is like, if you see the normal car it stays like the track.”
“It’s not like a motorcycle, which leans more than 68 degrees, and that’s impressive, what they do is great,” he said. “And we’ve found a camera that has done the job.”
The gyroscopic camera is the same one used in MotoGP and was in fact supplied by the category organizer Dorna . As is always the case with such innovations, the next job was to mount it on the single-seater.
“We tried to do it covertly so it wouldn’t upset people,” Smith said. “If you go to a team and tell them we’d love to try that, the first thing they tell you is how much it weighs, is there an aero penalty, are rivals using it, and if you say no, they’re not going to introduce it.
“Also what we find is that if we have special shots, the teams feel that they lose exposure, and since the onboard cameras are no longer in their infancy, they are used to do analysis of the drivers, there are many things that can be useful, ” Smith said. “So you use that unusual take and they like it for it.”
“However, we have the ability to do a double stream of cameras, so we can transmit two signals simultaneously. Now we don’t do it as much, but we have transmitted the pedal take and the normal one at the same time,” he insisted.
The new gyroscopic camera fits into a small gap in the nose , and there is no weight penalty, so Ferrari agreed to mount it on Sainz’s car at Zandvoort. After some experimentation on Friday, it was quietly introduced on Saturday and Sunday.
“To be honest, if we hadn’t tried it at Zandvoort, it would be like a pot of chocolate,” he said. “Because you can’t go to Monza and test it because it’s flat, and that’s why we’ve pushed like crazy.”
“If I am very honest, there were imperfections in the shot, but we talked about it and decided that it was our opportunity to do it, we felt that by sending it, the good outweighed the bad,” he acknowledged.
The new take was well received, with Smith getting some instant feedback: “As soon as it aired I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket, the messages just kept coming in. Wow, great!”
Detail of the gyroscopic camera in Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari
The question now is where else can the gyro camera be useful? It was tested a bit in free practice at Monza in Lando Norris’s McLaren, to see how it reacted to curbs and such, but the shots weren’t broadcast.
Circuits with more curves and slopes, such as Suzuka or Austin, could be interesting options, but at the moment, there are no firm plans. Meanwhile, Formula 1 continues to innovate, and the United States is expected to see a view of the Halo with the pedals above the front of the chassis like an X-ray image, showing the driver’s feet at work. The goal is always to offer something that fans can enjoy.
“I hate to say it, because I was the one who did it, but on Ayrton Senna’s pole position lap in Monaco in 1990, everyone wears it like an iconic piece,” said Smith. “But you’re not comparing the same thing, that’s the V10, with a manual gearbox, and that’s Ayrton Senna.”
“When you see that turn on YouTube, 50% of people take what are actually image breaks as vibration, because before we transmitted from the car to the helicopter, now the car is transmitted everywhere on the circuit,” he acknowledged.
“This gyro camera has the ability to reduce stabilization, and what we can do is experiment with it. I’ve spent 30 years of my life trying to make them stable, and now some people want them to be less stable,” Smith concluded.
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