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F1.TV Pro: Initial Impressions

F1.TV Pro Screenshot, May 12, 2018

At the beginning of the year, it was announced that Liberty Media would be launching an enhanced F1 streaming service, and it went live this race weekend, five races into the season at the Spanish Grand Prix.

My initial impression is that the service is just OK, it’s comparable in quality to that of ESPN on PlayStation VUE. I’m hoping that the service gets better over time, they have a year before I have to pay again for the service. If it does not improve by the time my year-long subscription expires, I will not be renewing.

Down to the nitty-gritty, the video streaming quality is sub-par in this day and age, although I can’t say for sure as there is no indication of quality on the stream, I would estimate that video quality is around 720p. I would have expected at least 1080p for the money. And it’s definitely not an internet connection issue, I have a 1Gbps symmetrical fiber Internet connection, which could handle multiple 4K streams with ease.

Sound, although high enough quality has issues with sync with video; from what I could see and hear, the audio is 2 – 3 second behind the video. The English commentary team was abruptly cut off mid-sentence on a number of occasions with 5 – 10 seconds of silence before resuming commentary. The sync issues were apparent as drivers crossed the line to set their time, with the commentators reacting seconds later.

There were more issues with the audio feed between the qualifying sessions. Ant Davidson could be heard at the Sky Pad, while the world feed continued on, showing video unrelated to the audio. Liberty Media needs to either cut the commentary feed during these breaks or do some sort of deal to show the video accompanying the audio that is being streamed, instead of the current disjointed presentation.

The option to view a selectable driver onboard camera does not have audio, except for the team radio communications. Frankly, it feels weird watching an F1 car racing around the track in silence, the car camera feeds need to have the audio from the car to make it feel like you are riding with the driver.

A couple of other niggly things, the timeline/scrubbing overlay remains onscreen at all times, sometimes obscuring graphics. The other player controls disappear, but the timeline remains, which I find distracting. I understand that this is a brand new service, but some of these issues seem like rookie mistakes, other streaming services don’t have these issues. F1.TV need to make improvements quickly.

Finally, it would be nice to have more payment options, currently F1.TV Pro only accepts VISA, Mastercard, and Maestro (UK) cards. I would have preferred to use my Discover over my VISA, and I don’t have a Mastercard. A PayPal option would solve this as PayPal accepts all major credit cards.

Full disclosure: I am watching the qualifying replay using Microsoft’s Edge browser, which I find to be the best browser for streaming. I’m running a Ryzen 1800X with 32GB of DDR4 3000mhz and all solid-state storage with a symmetrical 1Gbit Internet connection. I have not, as yet, tested the Android or Apple apps for F1.TV, I prefer to watch F1 on a larger screen, 5 to 10-inch phones and tablets just don’t cut it for me.

Update [May, 17 2018, 16:09]: Since I wrote my initial impression of F1.TV Pro last Saturday, improvements have been made, the archives have filled out considerably and the commentary/FX on archives and on car cameras are now selectable, at least in Chrome, still not working in Edge as I write this. Also, the scrubbing/timeline bar now disappears on Chrome, but remain in Edge. So improvements are being made, but it still seems your experience depends on which browser you elect to use.

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