Why Do F1 Cars Look Slow On TV? (Simple Explanation)

Formula 1 cars are extremely fast in real life, but when you see them on TV, they look somewhat slower than they actually are. This is especially true when you compare them to previous generations of the cars, which leaves many wondering why F1 cars look so slow on TV.

F1 cars look slow on TV because of the angles and the distances between the cameras and the cars. Zooming and panning to keep the cars centered on the screen also makes them appear slower than they are. F1 cars also look slower on TV because of advancements in filming and image quality.

The process of filming Formula 1 for a live TV audience is extremely complex. The sport has come a long way in this sense, and it’s one of the reasons older Formula 1 cars look so much faster despite actually being slower. In the article below, we’ll discuss why F1 cars look slow on TV.

How F1 Is Filmed

The process of filming Formula 1 races is not simple at all. It takes hundreds of different cameras, microphones, and crew members to broadcast a successful Formula 1 race. There’s a lot going on out on track, and the TV can’t afford to miss any of the action.

The gear alone is enough to fill up two cargo planes, and Formula 1 takes this equipment to every single race. From onboard cameras to static cameras on the side of the track, Formula 1 uses the latest and greatest technology on the market to capture this incredible racing spectacle.

Formula 1 also brings a mobile broadcasting center to each race. An entire team is needed to monitor each camera feed and team radio to ensure they manage to catch as much of the race as possible and streamline it for the world feed in an instant.

There are also microphones placed right next to the exhaust of the car in order to enhance the sound of the onboard cameras. In addition, there are highly sensitive microphones placed on the sides of the circuit to capture the sound of the cars for the external shots.

Why Do Modern TV Cameras Make F1 Look Slow?

Modern TV cameras make F1 look slow for a few reasons. Ultimately it comes down to the technology that has been developed, and the expensive equipment that Formula 1 uses to film the sport. The image quality, camera angles, and the size of the track all contribute to the cars looking slow on TV.

If you’ve been to a Formula 1 race, you’ll know just how fast these cars are. They look much faster in real life than they do when they’re on TV. It’s frustrating to know that the cars are much faster than they seem to actually be on TV as a fan watching the race at home.

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, with the fastest cars in the world. Even when watching the highlight reels or fan footage, the cars often look much faster than they do when they’re live on TV. It’s therefore difficult to get a true sense of the incredible speeds that these cars can go.

Image Quality

The first reason F1 cars look so much slower on TV is because of the advancements in image quality. The cameras that Formula 1 uses to film the races are incredibly advanced and they have incredibly high picture quality. While this allows us to get more detail and a better sense of the colors on screen, it also makes the cars look slower.

The image quality makes the video much smoother and thus the cars look much slower as they are easier to track with your eyes. It’s difficult to get a true sense of speed with the incredible quality of the cameras that Formula 1 uses these days and it’s because of the advancements in video technology. But this isn’t the main reason F1 cars look so slow.

Camera Angles

Another factor that makes Formula 1 cars look slow is the camera angles that they use to show the cars during a race. Many of the cameras are positioned far away from the cars and the camera operators pan across the circuits to follow the car, making it look slower.

Because F1 wants to give audiences full views of races, with minimal cuts between footage, the cameras are positioned in a way that allows them to capture a decent section of the track each. This means one camera nowadays might be able to follow the cars all the way down a long straight or through a series of corners that in the past required multiple cameras.

These cameras are also fairly large bits of equipment, so they need a good bit of space to operate. This usually means they need to be a little further away from the circuit. As they’re so expensive as well, it means F1 would rather operate fewer cameras further away, than more cameras up close, even if it does mean the sense of speed suffers in the process.

Close Up vs Far Away

A side effect of this is that the cars look slower than they are. Imagine you’re driving along the highway or motorway at 70 mph. The scenery around you likely doesn’t appear to be moving too fast. But if you were to do that same speed on a country road with trees either side (we don’t recommend this of course) they’re likely blasting past you.

This is because of the way our eyes perceive movement speed depending on the distance of objects from our eyes. Things that are closer to us – like the trees beside the country road – seem to move away much faster than, for example, the mountains in the distance. This same phenomenon is largely why F1 cars look slower on TV.

Formula 1 has recently started using some closer camera angles, such as the cameras they put on the kerbs, and these make the cars look much faster. However, for the most part, Formula 1 uses wide angles far away from the cars, which makes them look slower.

The only exception to this is Monaco, which is not filmed by Formula 1, but rather by Monaco’s national television. Despite being the slowest circuit on the calendar in terms of average speed and top speed, the cars often look much faster at Monaco since the cameras are placed directly next to the circuit. However, they’re still further away than they used to be.

Zoomed-In Shots

Sponsors play a big role in Formula 1, and for them it’s all about TV time. If a sponsor can be guaranteed TV time in Formula 1, then they are much more likely to pay a lot more money, which is good for both the sport and for the teams. As with any sport, money is vital for their success.

Formula 1 camera operators will zoom in on the cars as much as possible in order to show off their sponsors on live TV. While zoomed in, the camera will pan across the circuit, following the car to keep it in frame. This technique makes the cars look slower since the camera is tracking them and the things in the background.

When the background is also changing along with the car, it’s harder for your eyes to understand the speed of the moving object. If you imagine a stationary camera at the side of a racetrack, looking at one point on the circuit, the cars going past are going to look much faster simply because your frame of reference – the background – is stationary, while they are racing past.

F1 camera operators will often also use wide-angle shots, and this makes cars look slower as well. Wide angle shots mean there are more things on the screen that your eyes perceive as ‘further away,’ which means the cars don’t seem to be moving as quickly either. It’s like being in your car and seeing the far away trees appear to move slower than the ones closer to the road.

Size Of The Tracks

Formula 1 circuits are state of the art, and they are massive. When you think about Spa and Jeddah for example, it’s easy to see how big Formula 1 circuits can be. This might look great, and it might be much safer, but it also makes the cars look slower on TV.

Formula 1 cars are actually quite narrow when compared to the track they’re driving on – some sections of track see 3 cars going wheel to wheel with room on either side. When the cars are driving on circuits that look much bigger than the car, it naturally makes the car look slower than it really is. Basically, it’s an optical illusion.

Monaco is once again a great example of where this is not the case. The tightest and narrowest circuit on the calendar looks fast because the cars are now almost too big for the circuit itself. The tight spaces make the cars look incredibly fast even though they are going slower than on any other circuit.

No Comparison

It’s difficult to see just how fast a Formula 1 car is when you’re comparing it to other Formula 1 cars. However, if there are other cars on the track, or if a car passes another car that’s stopped off track, then it’s easy to see how incredibly quick these machines truly are.

Why Do Old F1 Cars Look Faster?

Old F1 cars look faster when you watch archive footage because the cameras used back then had poorer quality when using zoomed lenses than what is achievable now. This meant more cameras were needed and they were closer to the circuit, meaning the cars looked faster than they do now.

It was also much more common to see the drivers wrestling the car and using much more aggressive steering techniques, which also makes the cars look faster as they’re far more stable now. Smoother driving looks slower, but it’s actually faster. This is even more relevant to modern Formula 1 cars that require a smoother driving style.

However, the main contributing factor is once again the distance the cameras were from the circuit and the angles at which they filmed. If you filmed an old F1 car now with the modern F1 filming setup, it wouldn’t look any faster than the current generation of cars.

Final Thoughts

Formula 1 cars look slow on TV because of the advanced cameras that Formula 1 uses. The image quality is smooth and clear, and the camera operators use wide angles, panning their cameras to track the movement of the cars, making them look much slower than they really are.