Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2015

Did FOM give Mercedes its ‘invisible treatment’ in Japan?

2015 Japanese Grand Prix

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The lack of coverage given to Mercedes during the Japanese Grand Prix prompted questions whether Formula One Management deliberately avoided showing them for political reasons.

Lewis Hamilton dominated proceedings while Nico Rosberg moved up from fourth on lap one to finish second. However the silver cars appeared to receive minimal coverage.

Bernie Ecclestone has described Mercedes’ domination of F1 as “wrong” and urged them to supply power units to Red Bull, who have threatened to quit if they do not receive competitive engines. However Mercedes intends to supply engines to Manor instead.

Mercedes’ non-executive chairman Niki Lauda agreed the coverage of the team’s cars had been limited, but suggested there might be an innocent explanation.

“I have to find out because it was really strange to me too,” Lauda told Sky. “Even the pit stop was missed, we just saw [Hamilton] going out of the pits.”

“Maybe the guy who’s running the show today was replaced by somebody else who never did a grand prix transmission, I don’t know. But this we have to find out. But it’s easy, I ask Bernie and he will give me for sure an answer.”

FOM has been accused of selectively ignoring certain teams for political reasons in the past. At Bahrain in 2012 the Force India team disappeared from qualifying coverage after they had declined to take part in second practice the previous day. The team had decided to leave the track early after following an incident the previous day in which some of its personnel were caught up in a petrol bomb attack in the strife-hit country.

2015 Japanese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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100 comments on “Did FOM give Mercedes its ‘invisible treatment’ in Japan?”

  1. Yes.

    See, that was easy.

    1. Naah. We didn’t see lots of other drivers either. Did you see Grosjean? Hulkenberg? But we saw plenty of Perez, so we know it is less likely to be a team thing. I didn’t see much of lots of other drivers either. But I remember plenty of Rosberg.

      1. I didnt see Mark Webber.

  2. It was very noticable in quali, not so much in the race. Why bother showing Hamilton, he’s 15 seconds in front of everyone else anyway.

    We did see Rosberg’s pass on Bottas, but we haven’t got a clear shot of what happened at the start I have to admit.

    1. The start was blatantly obvious. Hamilton and Rosberg were going side-by-side, but the race director decided to focus on a Force India in the background.

      1. Given the choice between two cars that might touch but might not, and one that’s definitely flying through a gravel trap, which would you pick?

        1. The leaders.

          1. And I should have known the first answer to my question is from someone who didn’t bother reading it properly.

        2. I get your point.

    2. I never realized it in quali or race and I felt no problem with not seeing Mercedes to be honest.

      1. I agree, what was there to see? We didn’t see much of Vettel or Raikkonen either. There just wasn’t happening a lot in front… Don’t see where the fuzz is about.

        1. They didn’t even show Hamilton or Rosberg’s onboard footage of the first corners when Hamilton took the lead. You think that’s fine?

    3. I have been suspecting this since yesterday in qualifying. And today in the race too. Though, it was less in the race. What made it more realizable was the fact that neither of the Mercedes drivers were shown during the starts replays. At least they showed the pit stops. However, there was not much focus on them during this race and it was less footage than the races before. Toto Wolff was asked after the race and it even gave more chance of a conspiracy and suspicion.

      1. One of the start replays was the view of the Mercs from Bottas’s car.

        And what’s more interesting to watch, a car lapping by itself 10 seconds ahead of the field, or two cars locked in several laps of side-by-side action?

        1. Definitely the second.

          1. Exactly.

            And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Mercedes didn’t get much screen time.

  3. Or maybe there wasn’t anything to show. Watching someone lean back to victory isn’t fun.

    1. I would agree that, if anything, it is more reflective of the perspective of those who wrote the articles – only a handful of races earlier, sections of the Italian media were complaining that Ferrari was being marginalised during coverage of the Hungarian GP, and now people are making the same claim about Mercedes.

  4. No. It’s just not much fun watching two cars who are a second a lap quicker than everyone else plodding around only a half second quicker to keep the tyres safe, just in case. All the action was behind them.

    1. Except at the start when the most critical part of the race, in terms of determining the result, was completely missed. After that there were none of the usual shots showing the race leader establishing their lead, or subsequently pitting (both times) or finishing the race, aside from passing the flag.

      Of course it was deliberate. FOM and Ecclestone treat F1 as their plaything, I seriously don’t know how corporations like Mercedes put up with it.

      1. I saw plenty of Hamilton-Rosberg. I dunno what people are talking about. Probably as much as Ferrari drivers. Definitely more than Williams or Ricciardo. I am not sure I saw Lotus drivers or Hulkenberg more than a couple of seconds.

  5. Would it really have improved the quality of the coverage if they had focussed more on the Mercedes duo?

    Hamilton had a very quiet race once he made it to the front – if FOM had focussed on him, then people would be complaining that we were missing out on the battles in the midfield, which is what the cameras were mostly focussed on. As for Rosberg, whilst the move on Bottas was worth showing, was there really much else from his race that was worth showing either?

    In fact, thinking about it, did we really get that much coverage of the top five cars during the race at all? There was some coverage of Bottas’s fight with Kimi, but otherwise I don’t think that Vettel, Raikkonen or Bottas received that much more coverage than Rosberg and Hamilton did – I would be interested to see if somebody could work out how much time those drivers were shown on screen during the race in comparison to the Mercedes drivers.

    1. Bottas was shown the least probably. They could have shown Vettel vs Rosberg in 2nd part as Vettel was almost within DRS at some point.

  6. ColdFly F1 - @coldfly (@)
    27th September 2015, 10:02

    I was just thinking about who my DOTW was; which will be a difficult decision in itself.
    When I reviewed what Hamilton did I could not remember seeing much more than his turn 1 overtake (plus replays) and his finish. I disliked the race so much that I decided to skip all the VL and post race crap as well.
    It really seemed to be a coverage-free event for Mercedes.

  7. What? Honestly I had no clue while watching the race. The race director was a bit poor today, but I don’t think that Mercedes was affected by this more than Ferrari or Williams.
    A similar thing happened in Hungary: some italian commentators were upset because FOM didn’t show the Ferraris as much as they would have liked. Some said that Arrivabene and Bernie weren’t getting along well in that period, but Arrivabene trashed this rumor. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal in the English press, but it was mentioned several times here in Italy.
    But in both cases I didn’t find anything wrong with it.

  8. Perhaps, but it was subtly hidden in the fact that Lewis blitzed the field. Last race in Singapore he was getting quite a bit of attention.

    Though I do remember the old days of Schumacher where we would be “treated” to a whole lap of Schumi streaking ahead of everyone through the roll bar cameras. That seems to happen a lot less nowadays.

    1. Though I do remember the old days of Schumacher where we would be “treated” to a whole lap of Schumi streaking ahead of everyone through the roll bar cameras. That seems to happen a lot less nowadays.

      That was down to the local host broadcasters who used to produce the coverage back then. They tended to stick more to the leaders & show less of the mid-field which was a big part of why they tended to miss a lot of the action.

      Going back to when we were handling the F1 Digital+ service from 1997-2002 FOM always had the philosophy are showing the best racing regardless of where in the field it was happening. They moved away from they a bit the past few years but I’ve noticed more recently they seem to be moving back towards that, Especially when the leader/s are out on there own.

  9. I seen plenty of the merc’s especially Rosberg. Lewis wasn’t shown because he was out on his own. When Lewis had to come through the field to lap other cars, the camera was on him at all times. I seen more of Lewis than I did of Vettel.

  10. OK, I got a perfect score in the predictions and should be celebrating the result, but I think Hamilton should at least have got a drive-through for forcing Rosberg off the road while overtaking him. The rules state that the overtaking car must give at least a car width to the overtakee and that was blatantly missing. Where were the stewards???

    1. In words of Nigel Mansel… Why id there is one set of rules for us and one for “him”?(pounting at Senna)

      Hamilton now has an aura of invincibility and criticism cancelation upon him. Little bit of driving teammate of the road? No problem.

      1. Jean-Christophe
        27th September 2015, 12:29

        I remember Rosberg doing the same in Hungary. He had the racing line

        1. +1 Yes, that’s what I immediately remembered too.
          Additional point: never heard Hamilton complaining.

          1. Not listening properly then :D He was quite vocal about it!

          2. Fair enough then! But I really don’t care – I want to see aggressive driving from all the drivers, as long as they don’t collide or send someone into a barrier.

    2. ColdFly F1 - @coldfly (@)
      27th September 2015, 19:34

      OK, I got a perfect score in the predictions

      congratulations @juan-fanger. You’ll probably miss out on the big price as your pole position time was a bit optimistic.
      But most of all (and again): congratulations and well done!

    3. ColdFly F1 - @coldfly (@)
      27th September 2015, 19:36

      OK, I got a perfect score in the predictions

      congratulations @juan-fanger.
      You’ll probably miss out on the big prize as your pole position time was a bit optimistic.
      But most of all (and again): congratulations, and well done!

      1. Thanks @coldfly@Scuderia29 had a much better pole time so gets the Lego! I’ll be very happy with a 2014 highlights DVD :)

  11. I thought Suzuka, like Monaco, didn’t have its feed controlled by the FOM?

    1. I thought this as well, but apparently Fuji Television hasn’t produced the feed since 2011, per Wikipedia.

      Monaco is the only race where the feed isn’t FOM now.

  12. Actually after yesterday I was paying attention to this today and I do think Mercedes got a bit less air time than usual. Normally when Hamilton drives off into the distance they occasionally show him, for instance when he sets fastest lap or during the pit stops. Hamilton kind of disappeared from the race until five laps from the end.

    Anyway, let’s assume FOM did purposefully ignore Mercedes, what would be the reason for that? I don’t believe it has to do with their domination, because what can Mercedes do about it? Deliberately turn the engine down? Can’t imagine FOM would be that silly to think Mercedes would do that just because they are so much quicker than everyone else, the championship is way more important to them. I don’t know, but my best guess would be it having to do with not giving Red Bull an engine next year.

    1. That’s what Martin Brundle on Sky said, it was punishment for not supplying engines to Red Bull.

      There should be no assumption, it’s a fact FOM ignored Mercedes in their coverage of qualifying and race. Not a single second in Q1 and Q2, 1 minute in Q3, but with no flying laps shown. Just compare it to previous qualifying sessions and it becomes crystal clear, the difference was enormous.

      And the start of the race, when Hamilton made decisive move on Rosberg, but camera was focus on cars behind them? Onboard footage from both Mercedes cars, which was available, but wasn’t shown during race and only broadcasted by TV stations in their post race analysis? Guilty as charged.

      1. The more i feel that Mercedes was put on the wrong tires aswel

    2. Mercedes will not turn anything down until they have secured the constructors’ title and locked in the resulting payments for the next 5 years (maybe at Sochi). Then we might see team orders used to ensure that both drivers stay ahead of Vettel in the drivers’ championship, and perhaps Lewis will not be allowed to get so far ahead.

  13. That thought never crossed my mind during the race and I highly doubt it was the case. I have always believed that the race director should focus more on the action at the back of the field if nothing happens at the front and this is exactly what we saw today. When Mercedes’ drivers were doing something interesting, we saw it (Rosberg’s pass on Bottas or how he managed to stay ahead of Vettel after the second pit stops). When Mercedes were simply managing their pace, then I did not miss them.

    Moreover, it would also not be too wise to start a war with Mercedes right now as F1 cannot really afford to lose it as a team and particularly as an engine supplier right now. The same applies to Ferrari, which was also not very visible today.

  14. I don’t see much of an issue with the reletive lack of Mercedes in this race to be perfectly honest. We saw them when we needed to (Pit stops, When Nico was racing with Bottas), But for the rest of the race they were largely on there own while there was a lot of very close, very good racing that was far more worthy of been shown. Going back to when I was at FOM working on the TV (From 1997-2007), The coverage philosophy was always to show the best racing regardless of where it was.

    If The Merc’s were racing closely and we were not seeing them then thats a different issue, But today apart from the times we did see them what was the point in showing them rather than the good racing that was been shown?

    Even when Vettel was closer to Nico late in the race it was still a 1-2 second gap & what was been shown at that time was Perez right on the back of Ericsson with a possible overtake far more likely so that was the correct battle to stick with. If Vettel had gotten closer & an overtake had looked likely then as was the case with Nico & Bottas early on they would have likely switched to it it.

  15. Speculation like this means the public no longer trust FOM especially Bernie. Take has taken him long enough, I think its time for him to go. Lets find a someone else. In the past year he has lost some of most meaningful race track, like france, German GP not to mention the complains we have from some other places. I dont think he is doing a good job at all. It take taken him X number of years to get the HD going, and now, FOM wasn’t even prepared to air it in 4K, and he probably doesn’t even know what web streaming means. He is outdated. Time to go.

    1. He is outdated. Time to go.

      He’s nearly 85, he’ll either retire soon or nature will take its course. He was briefly interviewed a couple of races ago when he walked past the BBC team (Perry and Coulthard, and possible EJ), anyway Bernie was barely coherent, makes you wonder if he’s even still in charge…. mind you with some of the crackpot developments in recent seasons it’s probably the evidence that he is.

  16. Even from Melbourne this season they’ve struggled for airtime, which is to some extent understandable if they are well out in front (like last year) and there’s not much racing going on between the teammates (not so much like last year).

    So I think if they’ve had that sort of coverage all year and we’re still picking out this one in particular (and I agree the coverage of them was a bare grudging minimum) it’s because there’s some political machinations afoot, yes.

  17. Vettel in the Red-Bull years didnt get that much airtime, neither did Schumi at Ferrari. There isn’t entertainment value in showing a car driving on its own when there are other battles taking place.

    That said, not following Rosberg & Hamilton at the start was odd!

  18. They were given less coverage but I wouldn’t call it deliberate, other than the fact that they were so out in front that there was no reason in showing them (even their internal dispute wasn’t that interesting). I remember Red Bull had a similar complaint during the 2011-13 seasons, that they were rarely covered and that sponsors were starting to view the team as a bad investment (why pay for a car that is never shown on tv?).

  19. Did anyone see Hulkenberg? Bottas? Massa? Ricciardo? Maldonado? Grosjean? etc etc

  20. I didn’t watch qualifying so can’t comment, but I didn’t notice anything untoward in the race coverage today. With the exception of the first couple of corners, Hamilton was barely near anyone all race, while Rosberg made a couple of moves (that we saw) but otherwise had a fairly quiet race. Meanwhile, there were cars running close to each other in the midfield, so naturally the director will focus on that rather than the Mercedes lapping largely on their own.

    Just seems like a complete non-story really.

  21. I think it could have been a new race director- there were a couple times during the race where we were left looking at nothing for maybe 15 seconds. Screamed of someone with a lack of experience.
    I’d be more inclined to say incompetence rather than conspiracy.

    1. +1 I felt the coverage today was poor overall. Here in the Caribbean we are stuck with NBC SN and they cut to commercials every 5 mins and between drivers battles. They didn’t show any of Nico’s pit and outlap in which he leapfrogged Vet, and only showed the end when Ros passed Vet at the end of the pit. I guess they really did just focus on the 12-15 pack most of the race where the ‘action’ was. Didn’t see hardly any of Hulk, Kimi, Bottas all of which has good but ‘quiet’ races.

  22. It was just enough! We saw racing instead of Mercedes drivers driving their perfect cars to another 1-2. Makes lots of sense really. Even their on-boards are less exciting to watch then another car with some ill-handling. Best 2 quali laps of this season and the only ones I remember has been Vettel’s wet Malaysia lap with that car all over the place and his Singapore lap with him pushing so close to the walls. And I’m not even a Vettel fan! Mercedes lapping around in race is generally even more boring then their quali laps.