Onboard camera equipment on Formula 1 race cars has been around nearly as long as Formula 1 racing itself, believe it or not. In 1950, Giuseppe Farina of Alfa Romeo won the first World Drivers Championship with his Alfa Romeo.
On European racing circuits, the first primitive onboard cameras were being tested around the middle of the decade. Prior to the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans, British driver Mike Hawthorne took a lap around the Circuit de la Sarthe with six onboard cameras mounted to his Jaguar.
Those early cameras were, of course, large and boxy in appearance. They couldn’t possibly be used in conjunction with a sleek Formula 1 car on race day. It just wasn’t feasible. However, the process had begun, and today’s race fans may enjoy it. It’s a good bet that in today’s Formula 1 racing, not a single moment of the action will be missed. Every car in the event is equipped with six camera mounts, and each event includes two FOM cameras that provide viewers with viewpoints that make them feel like they’re in the race.
History of Fangio Records
By 1957, F1 racing icon Juan Manuel Fangio was filming his Maserati 250F during test sessions at the Modena Autodrome with an onboard camera, marking the first time an onboard camera and an F1 race car worked together. Two important films from the 1960s utilised onboard footage shot from moving Formula One race cars.
The first was the West German documentary Mediterranean Holiday, which featured onboard footage from the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix practise sessions. Four years later, video shot with onboard cameras from a car driven by Phil Hill during practise runs at the Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix was used in the Hollywood film Grand Prix, starring James Garner.
In the 1970s, Boon was a boon.
In the early 1970s, advances in onboard camera technology allowed for more footage to be shot during F1 testing and practise sessions. In 1970, while touring the famed Circuit de Monaco, Graham Hill provided narration. In 1973, Swedish racer Ronnie Peterson filmed a segment in which he provided commentary while driving a lap around Monza.
The RaceCam system was developed by Channel Seven, an Australian television network, in the late 1970s. It included car-mounted cameras, microwave radio transmitters, and a live audio connection between the driver and the TV commentary team, all of which worked in a relay system with helicopters. The RaceCam system was adopted by NASCAR and IndyCar as the first major racing circuits.
Lights, Camera, Action
In the mid-1980s, onboard camera technology made its debut in Formula One racing. During the 1985 German Grand Prix, an onboard camera was put on a car for the first time in an F1 race.
Francois Hesnault’s Renault, which had qualified 23rd for the race, carried the lone camera. He was forced to retire on Lap 8 due to clutch problems. In the early stages of the race, though, the newfangled technology was able to film Hesnault’s pass of Zakspeed’s Jonathan Palmer. The technology was so primitive at this point that the camera lens was wrapped in cling wrap to protect it from the elements.
Ground-based receivers have mostly superseded the helicopter relay system by the 1990s. The images exhibited were more stable thanks to anti-vibration mounts.Every F1 car has had three onboard cameras since 1998, including a mandated T-mount positioning on the air box directly behind the driver’s head. The second camera’s location is decided after agreement with the racing team, each driver, and FIA officials.
Technology of Today
Since 2016, all images from onboard cameras in Formula One races have been in high definition. Every car’s nose cone was fitted with 360-degree cameras three years ago. Six camera mounts are installed on each car, albeit not all of them are used in every race.
The race is covered from every angle by these onboard cameras. Viewers may now virtually sit in the driver’s seat of an F1 racing car and drive alongside Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen. Every pass, every accident, and every close call is recorded and archived.