By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
ESPN has issued an apology after a variety of technical issues plagued its debut as the chief provider of Formula 1 broadcast coverage in the United States.
The problems began with the “On the Grid” prerace show on ESPN2 as the video feed from coverage partner Sky Sports came through without audio. The network then cutaway to another show as the incident persisted before returning with that particular problem resolved 10 minutes prior to lights out.
“We deeply apologize to Formula 1 fans for the technical issues that caused them to miss the first 20 minutes of the pre-race show for the Australian Grand Prix,” ESPN said, via a released statement.
“We are sorry that our first F1 telecast did not go as smoothly as we would have liked but we are taking steps to prevent those same issues from occurring in the future. We thank the fans for watching and for their incredible passion for Formula 1.”
Additionally, the network cutaway to commercial during key moments of the Australian Grand Prix, including a critical mid-race restart following the retirements of both Haas F1 Team cars. Similar problems came up when audio was being broadcast, which left many U.S. fans in the cold on what was taking place with that particular driver/team and turning to social media for insight.
The race also featured the rise of a new driver: “Lastname.” No doubt part of the graphics issue, it became part for many to either complain or mock.
— Giedo van der Garde (@GvanderGarde) March 25, 2018
Ultimately, this was the first race with a network that is set to host all 21 Formula 1 events for 2018. The estimated 125-plus hours of coverage is programmed to spread across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, which includes practice sessions, qualifying and the races.