Virtual reality tipped to shake up Formula 1 coverage

Virtual reality has been tipped by Formula 1 board member Sir Martin Sorrell to transform coverage of the championship and provide a potential added revenue stream

Williams has experimented with the technology this year, developing VR short films using cameras bolted onto its F1 cars that provide a 360-degree experience of riding onboard, or walking around a garage.

F1 viewing figures are falling, with the total audience dropping by 25million to 400million last year, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract new sponsors.

Sorrell, who is a CEO of multi-national advertising and public relations firm WPP as well as a long-time board member of F1 shareholder CVC Capital Partners, believes VR is the future.

"Virtual reality for Formula 1 could be fantastic - driving the car," he said in an interview with Formula 1 official website. "In the Ridley Scott film 'The Martian' you can do that.

"I have lifted off in the spacecraft from the surface of Mars, walked in space and looked down into deep space and got terrified, with the headphones and the goggles.

"The technology is already incredible and will improve massively in the next few years. Think about what you could do.

"And there are some - Bernie and others - who are embracing new technologies.

"I believe that virtual reality will hit it big time. I know that some of my colleagues disagree, but I believe in it.

"Vodafone is building a digital stadium in Istanbul. It is really worth going to see that. The whole experience will change with the possibilities viewers will have.

"Technology will have moved on to an unimaginable level in 10 years."

Sorrell said a flat fee for broadcasting rights is not the long-term solution, as the way people consume F1 is changing, but there are alternative ways to leverage their interest to bring in revenue.

"When Sky UK started to broadcast there was an argument that audience would come down because it is pay TV," he said.

"But the actual quality of the production and the use of technology and the engagement of the viewer is much better than it ever was. The product is simply better.

"You have to start to think about other models and how they can generate interest - what it can do for a brand in the future - and about the fact that revenue can also be generated in many other ways.

"Just look at the one and a half million people at the free Rolling Stones concert in Cuba.

"So just use your imagination as to what kind of revenue can be made.

"The world is changing. And a lot of people in Formula 1 are starting to understand this."

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