F1 2010 Timing App for iPhone. The entire Formula 1 Circus in your Pocket

Formula 1 Timing App iPhone

F1 2010 Timing App – Championship Pass Rating: ★★★★½

I have to be honest. I am a complete petrol head! Not only that but I have been following Formula 1 since the days of Senna, Mansell and Prost. My Mother calls me Fangio if she ever hears of me driving too fast on the road. A nickname my wife has now irritatingly picked up on too. Motor Racing is something of a theme for our family. I have been motor racing myself since I was a kid. So being offered the opportunity to review an app like the “F1 2010 Timing App – Championship Pass” is something I could not be more excited about.
Formula 1 Timing App iPhone

When I was downloading the app I just hoped it would live up to the hype, and the price tag. It’s not your typical low budget iPhone app, even at it’s slightly reduced mid-season price of $24.99. This is only a guess, but having followed F1 intimately for most of my life, I expect a fair chunk of that fee is finding its way back into F1 Supremo, Bernie Ecclestone’s capacious pocket’s. Definitely for licensing and perhaps even for the F1 race data itself. And I would further guess that the majority of the rest of the app’s ticket price is mostly covering bandwidth fees for the developers. This app, after all is a service subscription you are buying for the entire year. So the developer’s job does not end when you download it. It is just starting at that point.

Yet another way to look at it is you are getting the digital equivalent of a backstage pass to all of the 2010 races.

In any case, I am one of those few reviewers who thinks that devs. should actually be charging more for iPhone apps. So that we ensure the products we are buying are made well, and feature packed. Let’s see if my theory holds true for the The F1 Timing App 2010…

Summing up The F1 Timing App for iPhone in a single paragraph, it is essentially Google Earth for the pinnacle event in the sport of motor racing. The google map style view is augmented with a kind of Twitter like commentary feed, and all the live practice, qualifying and race stats you can handle. All of this is either streamed live during an active F1 track session. Or can be downloaded as race data packs, post event. Live telemetry gives you second by second location information on all the cars as they circulate the track, or even sit frustratingly stationary in the pits. Whilst all of this is going on you have full control over pinch zooming the map, panning around, and tapping to focus on any car you choose as they all circulate the track.

Review

I got to test the app out on the way to the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend. And because of my travel schedule I was able to put it thorough its paces in airport lobbies in Bangkok and Dubai. Using it to watch the Formula 1 drivers out on track practising at Silverstone. I then got to use the app again track side on race day using a 3G connection in the UK. Finally, just prior to this weekend’s race in Hockenheim I tested the app out from home over WiFi. And will of course be using it to augment further practice sessions, qualifying on Saturday and the F1 race from the Hockenheim track, in Germany this Sunday.

So I have put the entire app through its paces fully before reporting back to you guys, and I’ll be using it again as you read this just to make sure it is as good as I think it is! It is hard work, but someone has to do it!

Sitting in the airport lounge in Bangkok I was using my iPhone 4 to watch the first qualifying session from Silverstone while I waited to fly there. I was actually stealing a WiFi feed for that bit, and it worked flawlessly. I was so excited that I actually tweeted the devs from the airport. The combination of the iPhone 4’s screen and this app is sublime to watch, and interact with. Holding this kind of demonstration of connectivity and power in your hand really brings home what amazing toys we have in smartphones these days. The software and hardware compliment each other perfectly in this case. And what better sport to showcase this flavour of grown up boys toy than the most technologically advanced racing series on the planet.

For me in the UK there was the occasional stutter with the 3G data. But this was most likely from interference locally to where I was using it. An F1 Paddock! Or perhaps simply my English cellular provider. Your mileage will vary depending on the networks you use.

For WiFi connections I had plenty of warnings from the app about ports not being open on routers I took a connection from. But it still kept the data streaming for me just fine. The nice thing is that the app gives you some things to try if you are not as lucky as me. I did try doing as the app asked on one occasion as it also advised me to fiddle with these ports on my home network. But the app seemed to work just fine both before and after the alterations.

Obviously the positioning information for the cars is averaged in some cases. So we are not talking millimetre positioning accuracy here. But it’s eerily good.

Watching a single car as the focus of the map view gives you a live fly through of the laps, similar to the kind of CG “Fastest Lap” videos that TV shows air just before any race, to give you an idea of the track layout. Except the CG on your iPhone’s screen is actually being driven by a real Formula 1 driver – and you can take your pick from over 20 of them!

In the picture below I am watching Vettel fighting with Webber on the first corner of the British GP at Silverstone this year. His race went from bad to worse during the first few corners, before he made a mad dash through the field in the latter stages of the Grand Prix to reduce the impact that a puncture had had on his race on that first lap. Being able to keep tabs on Vettel, and later on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who both had very unusual races that weekend – really brought the F1 Timing App into its own for me.

I felt that the blinkers had come off my view of F1 a little bit more, and I had an awareness of what was going on even on parts of the track I could not directly see. For someone who is admittedly a little fanatical about his motor racing, this is a good feeling. It’s a hard concept to get across. But if you think of your favourite sport and how disconnected you feel if they are not covering a point of interest for you in that event, then that is how you feel most of the time watching F1. The problem is simply the scale of the sport. From the number of cars to the size of the venues. And simply because there is so much going on that you can’t cover it all with one TV screen alone. What this app does wonderfully is that it lifts a lot of that fog for you.

At The British Grad Prix this year the grid of cars generally was hopelessly jumbled up after such a dramatic start. This caused there to be lots of very interesting battles going on up and down the field. So much so that no matter how good the F1 TV director was, or the live coverage at home, you would have missed out on some details of what was going on in other equally crucial parts of the track that did not get any air time.

With the F1 Timing App I had none of this problem at all.

For those of you that are not familiar with Formula 1. A brief primer: F1 is considered by many to be the pinnacle of motor-sport. The F1 Circus travels the globe from March to November, bouncing from dedicated specially constructed tracks in Asia and the Middle East, to street circuits from the 60’s elsewhere in the world, and on to sweeping tracks in Europe, Canada and thereabouts. It is coming to Korea for the first time this year, and India and the USA in the next few years. Each track has a unique character and history of its own. Adding to the aura and mystique of the sport. The Crown Jewel of the F1 calendar is the insane street race in Monaco. This is a race that every F1 driver wants to win once in their life. And a circuit that if men with clipboards and suits were ever asked to examine they would probably try to ban under modern health and safety laws.

Having said that, the safety in F1, and particularly the technology that drives that safety, is unparalleled in any sport, and many F1 developments filter through to your road car. So whether you are a fan or not, or have even heard of it, F1 has an impact on your life. ABS, Traction Control and other safety features for modern cars all benefited from racing development directly associated with F1. In the future expect to have brake inertia driven motors, and flywheels in your road car to convert power wasted when you brake, into power that can be used to drive your car forward again. This is a technology that F1 flirted with in 2009, and may or may not abandon, but still got to a level of maturity that means it will serve us in road cars.

F1 cars are lightweight, because they are made predominantly from Carbon Fibre and expensive alloys. They can accelerate from 0 to 140 miles per hour, and brake back down to standstill in a little over 4 or 5 seconds. The drivers are some of the fittest and most talented drivers from around the globe. So dedicated to their sport that they have spent their entire lives from childhood climbing the ranks of motor racing simply for a shot in Formula 1 eventually. Many of these drivers have families behind them, backing them, and in many cases mortgaging their houses simply to pay race fees in lower ranked events.

Often that “one shot” in F1 is a few races, or if they are lucky one entire season. A good percentage of the drivers who try out for Formula 1 don’t get to stick around much after that, because they simply are not good enough. One of the reasons I admire F1 drivers so much, is that apart from their unparalleled driving skill, and the stupid money they get paid, they do put their lives on the line for their sport each weekend. As well as spending many years struggling alongside their families financing themselves in motor racing just in the hopes of getting noticed once and making it into F1. So while they may live unimaginably glamourous lives when in F1, they unlike many other sportsmen I could think of, have earned the right to be where they are. And earn it again and again each racing weekend.

Another technology that F1 has helped refine is live telemetry. Whether that be the radio feeds from pit to driver, or from components in the race car’s engine to the pits. Or via GPS transponders showing race marshals the exact position of all cars on the track, and their speed. All of these various technologies have had to be made as small, efficient and as accurate as possible to handle the complexity of managing an event like F1. And this telemetry is where we now benefit again outside of F1, with live streamed race data coming to our iPhones and iPads.

As I have already said, when you have 20 or more teams on a race track that is several kilometres long, and only one TV screen to watch it is impossible to keep up with what is going on in F1 properly. Even more so when you are at the track, or listening on the radio because of travel / work or your own weekend commitments.

Because of this the Formula 1 Timing App 2010 for iPhone is what I think Smart Phone Applications are all about. I would bet that most of the apps you have on your Smart Phone you could live without. But there are some that you would actually buy a smart phone to have, and cannot conceive of not having with you now. Well for me it’s become The F1 Timing App. Because I can carry my sport’s interest in my pocket. It augments my ability to follow the sport when I go to races or watch on TV. And as a last resort I can get up to date info on practise sessions and even the race if I am unable to watch it because of pressing commitments.

Before this app my number one F1 app was TweetDeck! Because that was then best way to augment TV coverage and get other views of the sport from other journalists at different places around the track – and the globe.

The F1 Timing app is also Universal, which means it will work on your iPad / iPhone or iPod Touch. And it makes great use of the extra screen real estate on the iPad. So much so that you could almost lean your iPad against something on the coffee table when at home and use it as a second screen to watch the race drama unfold on.

But using the app in landscape on my iPhone is actually how I personally prefer the app. I can always prop it up on the coffee table too. And I actually plan to run a video cable out of my iPhone to a second screen in my living room on race days, so that I can use my iPhone to control the apps screen, but have the visuals in a position where everyone can see it.

What the app does with its real time positioning feed from the track is give you a 360 degree, birds eye view of the entire race, all of the time. So while the TV coverage is focussing on your least favourite driver, winning, unfairly yet again! You can keep in touch with your hero who is sitting stationary at the end of the start finish straight after a first corner incident. Alternatively you can keep track of the leader, while the director focusses on a maddeningly irrelevant battle for 7th and 8th place between some red and silver cars.

And all the time you have comprehensive lap timings as text data for the whole grid which you can refer to at the tap of a button.

Apologies if you have no idea what I am talking about if you don’t follow F1. But thanks for getting this far in the review. If you are here then perhaps you should start following F1?

When you fire up the app it is not backwards at coming forwards with tips. But it also gives you the option to turn them off. Keep those tips on. At least for a while. There are a lot of little features and options that you may not find straight away, and these tips do at least point to some of them!

The first thing that happens once the app is up and running is a demo playing through of a generic race. At this time the app is also checking for a network connection and seeing if there are any live practise, qualifying or race sessions going on. If there are it syncs with them and you’re off! It’s that simple and many people may simply only ever use this app that way. Firing it up just before a race, and letting it do its thing in landscape or portrait orientation on their iPhone or iPad! But there is quite a lot more to it, and it is worth experimenting with the app with a downloaded recording of a previous race’s telemetry data, or the demo to get the hang of it before race day!

For practice and during the actual race I found myself using the map view in the app a lot. This was primarily, as I mentioned before, because I could keep up with what was going on on areas of the track I could not see. In the UK, for example, it enabled me to see that Vettel was dropping behind the pack after the start of the actual race, and gauge if he would be able to limp to the pits… I could also track the positions of lower ranked teams later in the race, which the coverage tends to forget.

It is also possible to focus on a single driver by simply tapping on them on the timing details to the left of the screen, or by tapping their icon on the map. Which cars are on fast laps, personal bests, or stopped are all marked by colour detail that is familiar to F1 fans. The general state of the track is marked by a flag in the bottom left of the screen, and tapping just left of that switches to a full text timing screen instead of the map. It is just as easy to toggle back.

It’s like you have your own little F1 ant farm going on in your hand for the entirety of any F1 session, and plenty of control over how you view the “ants” antics.

During Qualifying I found myself switching rapidly between the map view and the straight timing screen on the app. And in either landscape or portrait the app does this instantly. You can also tap on just about any column header of the timing information to adjust the data you are seeing.

If there was one conceptual design problem with the app it would be that it probably takes you a few races to figure out the best way to use it, and how many features it has. You really can mix and match your data, and your way of viewing it around in a multitude of ways.

But there is nothing like the last 5 minutes of qualifying when it is augmented by the F1 Timing App. That part of the F1 weekend can sometimes be so fast and furious that even the best TV coverage has to cherry pick what to show, and the presenters always need to do their best keeping track of their own live feeds, and splicing their commentary together to what the director choses to show as pictures. And in that confusion you can lose track of the real flow of the final part of qualifying.

With the F1 Timing app you can see up and down the field which cars are on which part of the track, and overview several as they pass split time points and push for Pole Position. Great stuff!

Although the map is a great feature, and panning and zooming around the race track is awesome, during the final stages of qualifying I think I will mostly find myself using the timing screen more than the map. It is still the best way to get that much data into your brain.

However, during the race checking out what is going on with cars that the TV coverage is not following. Particularly to investigate why a driver may have suddenly slowed, or dropped out of the race. Well that’s a killer feature of this app.

I have already said that the F1 Timing App is of great use if you have to travel and perhaps miss a race. It is equally important to getting the full picture when watching the race on even the best live coverage that the BBC provide.

And another fact that a lot of people in Asia might consider is that now that it is increasingly difficult to get an F1 TV feed without adverts here, this is the ultimate way to not miss out on action while Star Sports and others TV providers are trying to sell you razor blades or tyres!

Everything is not perfect with the concept though… As good as it is. I had problems with the feed in the app getting ahead of my TV feed at one point, and have noticed that a lot of people have commented on this in the app reviews in the iTunes App Store. If you look hard you can actually find a strip just opposite the lap countdown, where you can pause, rewind, and advance to re-sync your data with what you are watching. (It is the blue and grey iPhone slider you can see in the pair of the shots just above.)

That is fine for watching the race delayed. But unfortunately does not work if the actual feed coming to your app is live. So it is inevitable that you will get out of sync to some degree with live events which are streamed via satellite. In practise though, it can also be fun, as you are invariably slightly ahead in the App and can appear to be quite prescient until your friends suss out what you are doing!

The bottom line is this is not the apps fault really, but that of the TV networks. The app is more likely to be able to solve this problem than we are going to be likely to be able to change broadcasting anomalies world-wide!

All that aside you learn to work with it. It is not a major issue. Though if the developers wanted to focus on one usability aspect of the live streaming, that should be it.

So, the very few things I’d love to see in the next update to this app show just how much the authors of the F1 Timing App have got covered.

1. I’d like a configurable audible alarm to alert me to incidents on track. Stopped cars. Yellow Flags etc. When the app feed is slightly ahead of the TV feed that would be a very useful heads up that an incident is about happen. And it would be nice, if the data is available, to have the section of the track “under yellow” marked as such.

2. The ability to pause, rewind live race telemetry as it comes in.

3. The option to overlay corner numbers on the map.

The F1 Timing App has a lot more to it than just the live feed functionality. There is a full set of information on this years venues, track layouts, and statistics, as well as similar information on each driver and team. WIth each race venue you can check the results for this year at that event (if it has passed), and also get the times of all the various race sessions in local time there, or at a time local to you. I now use it more often than I use the Official F1 website, simply because the information is better laid out in my opinion than even the mobile F1 website.

There is also a full Driver Standings screen coupled with Constructors Leader board. All of this information is updated as the events progress. It’s a no brainer to have it in the app. But it is well presented, just as the rest of the app is, and makes it complete.

You can also pull up stats and information for each F1 driver racing this year, in the app. All of this is updated as the season progresses. Yet more polish from the makers of the app here. It would have been easy just to slap in last years info, and leave it at that. This is one of the features that lets you know that the guys working on this understand what F1 is about, and wrote this app for themselves as well as us.

On top of that there is a news feed for breaking Formula 1 news stories, as well as a summary of the last race live text commentary feed that the app developers piped to you during the race.

I don’t know who does the live text feed from the F1 races, but so far I have found the information to be concise. And that is a good thing. We are all being bombarded with information from commentators, TV graphics and so forth during the race. But this feed tends to give out pertinent information like changes in weather, or full course incidents, and just every now and then something that the TV commentators have missed.

This may be a subjective experience on my part, but this weekend they were the only source that confirmed for me on what tyres certain drivers were trying out during practice. Do bear in mind that this same feed, shown below in a this other part of the app, is a summary of the live feed that floats over your live timing and map view.

You can also download any telemetry pack for any previous race and replay it. In fact any race, or practise session that you have watched on the device is available there to review, rewind and analyse endlessly. I know. I’ve done it. And there are the beginnings of the kinds of options I touched in in my wish list for 2011 in the picture below. Options are there for having tips on and off, as well as ways of displaying cars that have broken down. We just need a few more to make this app perfect.

Summary

If you are into F1 and don’t have this app then you are missing out. Unless you are lucky enough to live in the UK you are probably paying good money, over and above any government TV license, to view your F1. And if you have ever travelled to an F1 race you have probably thrown even more money at this sport.

Watching F1 without some kind of live data feed is in my opinion like watching Avatar in 2D. It’s still a great movie, but if you really want to get into the thing you need the full 3D perspective.

If you actually get out of the house at the weekends, and go racing – like me – then you are probably familiar with weighing up which hotel you can stay in to catch the live feed for your particular sport, or what times it is going to be shown again at overnight, and how you can avoid catching the result via Twitter, before you watch it recorded.

With the F1 Live Timing App for iPhone and iPad you have all the information you need in your pocket – live – anywhere. You can still have the telemetry data on hand if you want to watch the TV feed as a recording later.

You can keep track of the race during the adverts if your TV feed is that bad, or even when you go to the loo if you are level 1 F1 Fanatic!

You also have that much more perspective than most other people watching the race. You can see drivers starting to slow as their tyres go off. See why a certain pit stop may have been chosen at a certain time, by looking at the way the traffic is laid out / flowing on the track. And to a great degree there you have more information to make your own race predictions on strategy looking forward through the race.

If you’re not into F1, then this app might be something that you could use to learn about the sport more quickly, and get into it in a way you did not think was possible before.

But if I had to choose between a McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull cap as my F1 fan purchase this year. Or the F1Timing App.
I’d choose the app every time.

Pros

  • Ability to follow individual cars around the track.
  • Landscape and Portrait modes.
  • Intuitive user interface that allows to switch between stats and map view very quickly.
  • Ability to playback races from data on your device, or download race packs after events to watch.
  • Little touches, like being able to scroll the timing leader-board up and down even on the map view.
  • Wealth of F1 data which updates as the year progresses.

Cons

  • Live app feed and TV feed can get out of sync. Unless I am mistaken you cannot adjust your viewing position in a live feed.
  • Need more detail on the track showing the areas that are covered by yellow flags, and perhaps corner numbers.

I am giving this app a 4.5 out of 5 simply because its not perfect yet. But it is absolutely great at what it does.
There are a couple of updates that I think would push the app into a solid 5. The ability to re-sync data when your feed is live, and more positional info for yellow flags – and this would have a 5. It’s that good.

Hopefully next year it will surpass that and we’ll need to go to a scale of 6!

I’ll leave you with a shot of the first lap at Silverstone, and one of the great views you can contrive with The F1 Timing App 2010, and how clearly is shows the field spreading out down one of the first big straights after the start.

Price: $24.99 (App Store)
Category: Sports
Updated: Jun 23, 2010
Reviewed Version: 2.6
Size: 10.5 MB
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Seller: Soft Pauer Limited
© Soft Pauer Limited 2010
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.

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Stephen NorthcottF1 2010 Timing App for iPhone. The entire Formula 1 Circus in your Pocket