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F1 turning to tech to thrill fans, millennials

Virtual and augmented reality, Internet-of-Things and AI being considered to get viewers closer to the action

Information should be made accessible and digestible for different types of fans, says new F1 chief Chase Carey


FORMULA 1 is planning to leverage more heavily on digital technologies to bring the sport closer to race fans as it strives to attract a broader and younger fan base.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet-of-Things and artifical intelligence are some of the areas that F1, working together with partners such as Tata, is focusing on to create a more immersive experience.

"What we want to do is continue to use capabilities that exist and technologies that go across those platforms to bring the fans as close to the sport as possible," said F1 chief Chase Carey, who took over from former head honcho Bernie Ecclestone early this year. He was speaking to the media on Sunday ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

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Aside from making the sport more accessible on different screens, F1 is keen to make it more engaging for viewers. This will include "new cameras, new sounds, new (microphones)" as well as new graphics on screen. The idea is to take viewers to the heart of the action, giving them the viewpoint of their favourite driver, pit crew or the team principal in real time.

Meanwhile, information should also be made accessible and digestible for different types of fans, Mr Carey stressed. "The millennials, who want to watch it on a (handheld) device, we've got to make sure we're presenting to them in a way that ... engages them," he added.

Where the millennial segment is concerned, F1 will look at how to better present content to them, whether in shorter bites or different platforms such as apps.

Television viewership has fallen over the years, from 600 million in 2008 to 400 million in 2016, but there is growing interest in F1 content online on social media, its website and app.

"F1 has moved the races to where there's been population growth, economic growth," said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Tata Communications, pointing to efforts to build up races in Asia. "New platforms will allow (F1) to bring new viewers into the ecosystem. Now with all these new thoughts, you'll have a younger generation fan base coming in, and they need to be enticed and engaged in different ways."

Under new management Liberty Media, F1 is also looking at other ways to boost interest in the sport, such as making it more competitive, adding new venues in Asia and the Americas, as well as creating a more carnival-like atmosphere at its races around the world.

Liberty Media, which has a portfolio that includes concert organiser Live Nation and Time Warner Inc, acquired the sport in January in a deal valued at US$8 billion.