A staple of modern Formula One is the fact that it’s split into two tiers: the top teams and the rest of the field. But there have been grumbles in the rest of the field for a while now, and those grumbles have been over how much television attention they’re getting—which is, to drivers like Sergio Perez, not enough.
Motorsport.com reports that Perez, who finished 10th of 20 drivers in the 2019 standings while driving for Racing Point, said television is “not doing a great job” when it comes to showing midfield action, even when the front of the field is stretched out. The story mentioned Perez’s pass on Lando Norris for 10th in the standings on the last lap of the season finale, which wasn’t shown live.
Here’s what Perez said via Motorsport.com, which commendably isn’t starring out the word “bullshit” like every other place does despite everyone knowing what’s behind the asterisks:
“When you see the racing in the midfield with the same tyres, with the same aero, with the same bullshit that we keep talking about every weekend, they get racing in the middle.
“It’s amazing. Yes. The problem is that they don’t show it on TV. I think that directors are not doing a great job. But the race in the midfield, it is unbelievable. [...]”
McLaren driver Carlos Sainz made similar points in September, when Autosport reported that he was in a four-car race for 11th on the last lap of the Singapore Grand Prix that wasn’t shown live because the television broadcast was on the front of the pack. Sainz had another big last-lap pass in the season finale for sixth in the championship, Motosport.com noted, which didn’t make the live showing either.
Here’s what Sainz said after Singapore, via Autosport:
“For sponsorship deals, if you are not on the live TV feed it’s not a good thing.
“Many midfield drivers have complained about it. It’s not only me.
“I was talking to a few of them the other day, we can clearly see a few battles they are missing.
“It’s something I’ve been very critical about and something I think every midfield driver has been critical about because we feel like the fans are missing out on a lot of battles in the midfield, many of them you don’t get at the front.”
Haas F1 boss Guenther Steiner had the same sentiments, telling Motorsport.com that the midfield “should be shown a little bit more, because at the front there is not a lot happening.”
The calls for more midfield coverage have been coming for a few months now, hence Sainz’s Singapore comments, but it’s evident that not much has changed. The answer also isn’t as easy as telling the midfield teams to drive faster, given that two-tier system we talked about earlier. The tiers are a common topic in F1, and they’re something many hope the 2021 regulations will change—which would solve the television problem without much change to the coverage.
The calls also make a good point: Sure, the midfielders aren’t racing for the win, but there are more stories in F1 than just the leaders. Netflix’s widely enjoyed documentary on the series, which didn’t include the powerhouse Mercedes or Ferrari teams in its first season, proved that. Few people will know those stories are back there if they’re not on TV, and stories are what make a sport.
But whether anything will change on television will be a question for next year, and we’re not quite there yet. After all, a close battle for sixth—even if not as prestigious—is more exciting than watching a leader sail to yet another victory without another challenger anywhere near the shot.