The 2016 Formula One season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, Australia in what promises to be an interesting season. Mercedes has dominated F1 the last couple of years but all eyes are on Ferrari as they look potent in pre-season testing while Williams, Force India and Red Bull scrap to stay in the hunt each weekend. And don’t forget that in 2016 there is a new F1 team from America: HaaS F1. Whether you are an old fan like me or new to the sport, the Official F1 app for Android is a must-have app. Regardless if you use the free version of the app or get the extra benefits of the premium monthly service, there is a wealth of information about the teams, drivers, and news from around the paddock with the premium service bringing some great live action and radio at each race. Overall it is a solid app but there are a few things that could stand a bit of improvement. Here is my review.
If you read my review of the IndyCar series app a few weeks ago, you are going to find a lot of similarities between it and the F1 app. They are setup on the same principle which is to provide you news and videos, calendars of upcoming events, results and standings, and live audio and telemetry during events if you have the premium service, F1 Access. If you use the IndyCar app, the F1 app is going to be very straightforward for you to learn.
First is the News and Video section where you can read the latest news from around the sport, the teams and drivers. This is also where you can get an update on all of the rule changes for the 2016 season to understand how they will impact your favorite team or driver. The new qualifying rules are particularly interesting (or painful depending on your perspective) so getting up-to-
speed (pardon the pun) will be important before this weekend’s race in Melbourne. This section of the app is updated daily and many of the articles will have embedded videos for you to watch. Of course there are also video-only stories that, as you would expect, are in excellent 1080p playback. At the bottom of the section, if you only want text or only want video stories, you can filter only on those media types.
The News and Video section brings me to the first point of contention with the app. All of the articles are pulled from Formula1.com online. They are not cached locally and basically the app becomes a web wrapper at this point. This all fine and good if you are on Wi-Fi but pulling down a rich web page each time you want to read it on LTE or worse, 3G, is a bit slow. It would be good to see these articles get cached in the app either via a background update or when you first open the app. Further, if it must remain online, FOM (Formula One Management) would do good to update the app to pull AMP pages for much faster loading times. Right now the app does not support AMP.
Next up is the Results and Standings section of the Official F1 app. This part of the app is pretty self explanatory but there are some good tidbits of information here, particularly on race weekends. During a race weekend, you can see the results for each of the race sessions: Free Practice 1, 2 and 3, Qualifying and the race itself. This is handy if the time of the race doesn’t work out well for your location so you can catch up on the results when you get up in the morning. Scrolling through this section of the app will also give you the calendar for the 2016 season so it can serve as two purposes but the dedicated calendar section will give you times for sessions each weekend. More on that later.
As you would expect, there are the Driver and Constructors Championship standings in this part of the app and new for 2016, you can see the DHL sponsored fastest laps for the season and the test result from the pre-season testing that just concluded a couple of weeks ago in Barcelona. Again, not a lot of mystery on what is in this part of the app but there is a good quantity of
information that easy to access.
Some of the best content about those who battle within F1 can be found in the Teams and Drivers section of the Official F1 app. Here you can find out historical information about the teams and drivers such as a year-by-year breakdown of how they have done in the championships, the number of championships they have won and for both, you get a biographical information to learn more about them. For me, Williams is my favorite team with Valtteri Bottas as my favorite driver along with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (yes, both are Finns and yes I was a Mika Hakkinen fan before he retired. So yeah, I have a thing for Finnish drivers). This part of the app is great because I can go back year after year to see how Williams has performed. Likewise for Bottas and Raikkonen. If you are new to the sport and really want to understand who’s who, this is the part of the app that will certainly be the most valuable to you early on.
The real heart of the Official F1 app is the Live Timing section. This is where you will get real time telemetry from the cars as they race in each of the various sessions on
race weekends. The great thing about this part of the app is that you can chose how you want to see the information. You can select the traditional timing and scoring screen which tells you the driver, the type of tire they are running, the gap to the leader and the gap to the car behind (F1, for you who are new to the sport, is all about gaps). But if you prefer, you can have a split screen view of the circuit and the timing and scoring sheet. This way you can see the order of the cars running but can also see them virtually circulating around the circuit.
That virtual map of the circuit is customizable so you can zoom in and out, turn the map how you want to view it and have a top down view or a more 3D view of the circuit. If you want, you can tap on your favorite driver and you can follow them along the circuit and can zoom in to just their position if you choose. Further, you will notice there are small camera icons in certain parts of the circuit. Tap one of these and you zoom into just that turn. This gives you the RPMs and speed of the car as they come through the turn.
Many of the features I’ve outlined in the Live Timing section require the F1 Annual Pass but you can get some data for free. The real power of this part of the app comes with a subscription which is $2.99 per month or $26.99 for the season. In addition to a lot more detail around tires, lap and sector times, you also get live audio during the events along with team radio. The audio is the official F1 broadcast each race so you can watch the race and listen to this audio if you want or if you can’t watch, you can still keep up with all the on track action. The broadcast is in English and in the local language of the event if it is available.
I’ll conclude with briefly covering the calendar section of the app. Here you can see the calendar of event throughout the season as well as the current race. The times for the sessions can be show
to you in the local time zone or in your time zone so you can plan your watching activities accordingly. Even better, the app will allow you to add these events to your Google calendar so you will never forget if this weekend is a race weekend or an off weekend.
If you are a Formula 1 fan, the Official F1 app is a great app to have not only on race weekends but really throughout the season. It gives you great access to the sport but also provides a wealth of information about the drivers, teams and the events. The good news is that the app provides a lot of this news and information for free and really, the only need to pay for F1 Access is if you want all the live timing information and audio broadcast of the race on your phone or tablet. In my case, it is well worth the $2.99 per month as I’m a huge fan and if you want to try it, you can always cancel your subscription if you do the monthly subscription. The app isn’t perfect – I would like to see offline caching of news happen – but it is solid and a great companion app for this great racing series.