F1 recorded ‘angry mood’ amongst fans before Austrian GP with new analysis tool

Thomas Maher
Flares being let off in Austrian Grand Prix grandstands. F1 Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Flares being let off in the Austrian Grand Prix grandstands. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds has revealed how analytical software showed fans were in “an angry mood” before the Austrian Grand Prix.

Symonds has revealed that F1 uses an “interesting new tool” in order to evaluate fan response to developments within the sport, using the tool to corroborate existing findings using statistics.

With Formula 1 going through a tumultuous period of change in 2022 as the sport rolled out revolutionary new technical regulations, as well as tinkering with sporting rule changes such as the introduction of Sprint Qualifying races in ’21, Symonds detailed how the software is used, and the interesting findings its use can lead to.

“We compare our statistical values with our fan analysis. They have to like it, not us,” Symonds, F1’s chief technical officer, told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

“And there we have really positive feedback, even compared to last year, although we didn’t have some of our analysis tools then. In the races where there was less overtaking, there were still more duels. Originally, we tried to read out from the body language of the spectators what they liked and didn’t like. Because that’s an honest statement. But it’s not so easy to get reliable results. That’s why we came up with an interesting new tool.

“We evaluate the mood on social media channels. Here’s how it works: our software evaluates fans’ comments and derives a sentiment from them. It works really excellently when you want to find out if people are excited, bored or angry. Previously, we approached the task from the other side. We picked a duel and analysed the comments on it. Now we read a mood from the comments and then look at which scene in the race they match.

“I’ll give you an example: We registered a kind of angry mood before the start of the Austrian GP and wondered what in heaven might have happened there. After all, the race hadn’t even started yet. Upon analysis, we found that people were upset about flares!”

With the benefit of a year’s data to pore over after racing under the new regulations, Symonds was asked whether he feels the sport is now in a better place than it was in recent seasons.

“I think so,” he said.

“We do a lot of analysis to figure that out. During the race, we measure how well drivers can follow another car in a 200-metre area, and we look at how good the chance of an overtaking manoeuvre was.

“We break that down into different classes. A 25 % chance or a 75% chance. That has improved significantly. It’s not so much about the pure overtaking figures, which were actually lower than last year on some tracks. It’s about the phase before that. The duel is the battle that carries the spectator along. The overtaking manoeuvre is just the end of the battle.”

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