Following the Grand Prix Season with an iPhone: Formula 1 Timing, by Soft-Pauer

By Graham K. Rogers


F1 timing app I am a long-time follower of Grand Prix racing and can remember as far back as the 1950s, although it was not until the 1970s that I saw a Formula 1 race at a circuit.

I visited several races then, but nowadays have to make do with televised transmissions along with whatever news I find online.

Last August I added to my enjoyment when I downloaded the Formula One Timing app, developed by Soft-Pauer.

At that time it was $16.99 for about half the season and I wondered in my online report if I was really able to justify the cost.

With the experience of several races, I could not wait to download the 2010 version of this app, which is currently $32.99 for the whole of the season (1123 baht).

After the opening screen, we see a 4-section panel:

  • Car and driver list, which can be scrolled down;
  • A ticker tape of news, with a control for full time-screen display;
  • A circuit diagram which displays cars in motion; and
  • The app sections (Race, Info, News and Setup)

In landscape mode we may see either a full screen circuit or the timing screen.

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The info and news sections are similar to those provided by other apps (such as the free Formula 1 Live Racing, by Genera) or by online sources such as the BBC. None of the other apps appears to provide live data in the same delivery format as this.

The Race panel is the core of this app. It displays live data, fed from Formula One Administration which holds the rights to the data. This is part of the reason for the higher cost of the app and a clear marker for the way that content is what makes some apps valuable.

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Specific output is selected in the setup panel starting with the race, then session (e.g. qualifying) and the time: current or session. Other settings may also be changed here, including the "Overlay commentary" panel: a new feature this year. News updates appear for a few seconds in a panel on the map as well as in the ticker-tape section. This obscuring of the map was inconvenient, especially as the data was being duplicated, so I deactivated it.

When the app is started, data is downloaded from the last session, so on Sunday morning, the qualifying session was available to me and I am able to run this again if I want in the Race panel.

With the race panel active, we can view live data as the session or race is run. The map shows track position of cars, while the timing screen gives the split times as the cars go round. Data is received from transponders on the cars as they pass over loops in the track. The same system sends critical data back to the teams.

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While the eye-candy of the map is certainly attractive, I find the timing charts more useful allowing me to see progress, and improvements, as each lap takes place. Color coding of times accentuates this: for example, green indicates a personal best time; purple shows fastest car for a sector.

Split-timing is displayed in seconds and tenths, while lap times and gaps between drivers are to three decimal places. The data feed [itself delayed by 2 - 4 secs] is in advance of the TV pictures, so I was able to read new lap times up to 5 seconds before the information was televised. The gap was less last year, so this may be better data flow to the device or delay in TV transmissions.

I followed some of the Friday practice without a wifi link and was surprised to find the DTAC EDGE connection effective. I viewed the Sunday race on my iPod touch via wifi and used EDGE on the iPhone: data flow was identical. This shows how DTAC has improved its connection recently, something I had noticed in the last month or so. Many other apps that had only worked with wifi before are now usable with EDGE.

There was a disappointment with the Bahrain race displays as Sector 2 times were not given (S3 was shown in the S2 column). This had been fine during practice and qualifying and for 2009 races. This was from the main feed and was the same for WiFi or EDGE (and post-race download). One hopes this was a one-race glitch. [As I suspected, this was a problem from FOM who had changed settings without letting others know -- Soft-Pauer were not at fault and informed users this will be addressed for the next race.]

On rare occasions, data would not load. I found last year that the app should be restarted; or the iPhone. If these failed, restarting the router should work.

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For someone like me, instant access to streamed data is valuable, although minor problems need attention. There are 19 races this year, so this app costs about 60 baht per race. Perhaps a subscription service, with a cheaper initial outlay (the Gillette Principal) might be preferred by some users.

[Additional Note: Apart from the problem with timing (above) which has apparently been addressed and was not the developer's fault, there was an update to this app some four days after the Bahrain race. I also now see that the developers have a Twitter feed (f1timingapp) which will help if there are problems during future races.]



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