Watching Formula 1 is my absolute favorite pastime. As a wheel addict for about two years and a Formula 1 fan since childhood, I’m always looking for ways to brighten and enhance my viewing experience of motorsport races. This is especially the case given the data-saturated, timing-intensive, graphical cacophony of sectors, lap times, radio messages, tyre data, and more which is the world of Formula 1.
You can imagine my thrill, then, when I discovered MultiViewer for F1, an unofficial desktop client for F1TV Access and F1TV Pro that is transforming the way motorsport fans watch races. MultiViewer for F1 is hands-down the best Formula 1 viewing experience that you can get your hands on. Available as an app for macOS, Windows, and Linux, the desktop software harnesses all of the data from F1TV Pro. That includes lap times, onboard footage, and more to create a perfectly synced up and fully-customizable viewing experience unrivaled by any major broadcaster in the F1 space.
(Image credit: @McCabeAlex)
MultiViewer for F1 has become something of a viral hit in recent months, and its creator tells me that more than 40,000 people tuned in via its client to watch Max Verstappen take victory in the first round of the season in Bahrain. That’s a pretty hefty jump from the 10-15,000 users it was seeing last year. “It spreads like crazy,” MultiViewer’s creator told iMore in an interview.
A Europe-based CTO at a tech startup by trade, MultiViewer’s founding father told us he wished to remain anonymous, in part because his app sits in a “grey area” of F1TV Pro’s own Terms of Service. “It’s against the terms to develop it,” he told me, “but it’s not providing access to anything you wouldn’t otherwise have access to with your legally acquired subscription. So you can see it as a specialized browser.” F1, at least according to its guidelines, is more relaxed about “fan-built” projects of this nature.
And he’s right, no content on the app can be accessed without a subscription to F1TV Access or F1TV Pro, the latter the power behind those wild multi-screen setups of race day on-boards you might have seen pop up on social media recently.
He’s unsure about the future of the app, as it’s all up to Formula 1 to decide if they want to continue allowing it, or if they shut it down. The developer told me that he “would be open to working with them to port it to other platforms” in the future and that he hopes they continue to allow the app to exist.
(Image credit: @Bozzi)
MultiViewer for F1’s users, however, remain very much in the clear. As noted, you can’t access any of the content without a paid subscription to either F1TV Access or F1TV Pro, and the software doesn’t let you access anything that isn’t available through that service otherwise. It’s really just a browser, plenty of examples of which have existed in the past, just as f1viewer, Race Control, and VROOM. MultiViewer’s Reddit and Discord chats also don’t allow any talk of using VPNs or other tools to circumvent geo-based broadcasting restrictions.
The story of how MultiViewer for F1 came about “isn’t as good of a story as you’d like,” he tells me. “Because I’m not coding as much as before, I wanted to pick it back up,” he says. A software engineer for over half his life, he too used the aforementioned f1viewer with his F1TV subscription, before new DRM protections rendered that app and many others defunct. “There were no other alternatives out there, so I thought, how hard can it be?” Unsatisfied with F1TV’s own lack of multi-stream playback options, he got the initial version working in just two days. The biggest undertaking was syncing up all of the data and feeds to ensure all the information was delivered in sync and at the right time. In a world where every millisecond counts, timing is everything in Formula 1 as much for the viewer as it is for the teams and the drivers.
With no initial intention to go public, the app wasn’t released until June 9th last year, work having only started at the end of April 2022.
(Image credit: @jeroenvisser101)
The first design was a little more rudimentary than it is now, but even so, it was far more enticing than anything Sky Sports or other broadcasters have to offer, “basically just taking what they [F1TV] offer but in a single package.”
Now the app offers lap times, splits, mini sectors, DRS, telemetry, and more. “Honestly, it was a surprise to me,” he says of the app’s new-found popularity. “I didn’t expect so many people to like it, I thought maybe at most a few hundred people would use it.”
Some of the setups in MultiViewer for F1’s showcase are absolutely wild, including the hero image for this article. There are a plethora of different configurations, with onboards (a camera feed directly from the car), timings, track maps, and more all at a user’s disposal to be customized in any way you can imagine. And there’s more to come.
“MultiViewer offers an API and it’s used by many hobby developers, some who built great integrations,” he tells me. “I’d like to make it even easier (and safer) to install third-party extensions (similar to Chrome/browser extensions) and offer some sort of “app store” with all the integrations there, with one-click installs.”
(Image credit: F1 MultiViewer)
As long as FOM doesn’t blow it out of the water, we could soon see new API integrations, such as this awesome Stream Deck integration that lets you be your very own race director, and my personal favorite, an app that integrates your Philips Hue smart lights to reflect racing flag colors. The possibilities are endless. He’s also working on improvements to the layout engine, with the promise of more options to save windows, and making it easier to drag and drop items through a template to make it easier to get started with a new layout and to share them. “I’d also like to add a “remote”, where you can use other devices on the same network to do things with,” he says, as well as an AutoDirector feature that can detect moments of interest on track and display the appropriate broadcast, such as using live timings to broadcast overtakes when cars are in close proximity through the relevant driver’s PiP.
In fact, this developer with some free time might have just unlocked the future of viewing motorsport in your home. “I do think that “personalized broadcasts” should be the future.” he says, “but I don’t think F1 will be the ones to pioneer it.” He cites MotoGP and Japan’s SuperFormula as more advanced viewing offerings already out there. The app has gained so much traction on social media that even Formula 1’s TikTok admin responded to a viral post simply stating “this is the way.” One TikTok video of the app got more than 8 million views and this ESPN tweet which received more than 1.4 million impressions. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, at least one Formula One team employee has reached out to confirm (off the record of course) that they have used it for post-race analysis. “I think there’s actually even more teams”, he told me, “people in the pit lane follow me but haven’t said anything to me.”
MultiViewer for F1 also benefits from a thriving Discord community with thousands of members who can share their love of racing, as well as tips and troubleshooting, making it a unique community experience.
This guy is ready for the first race of the season (via simenoyen/TikTok) pic.twitter.com/BneVTSHbkVMarch 5, 2023
There are even accessibility features in the pipeline such as transcriptions for team radio snippets, and it already has color customizations so people who are color blind can customize their viewing to better understand the color-coding of sectors and lap times, which are key to the viewing experience of Formula One.
Another new feature in early-access right now is watch parties, which lets streamers host watchalongs without rights issues of historic races, synced up with all the viewers just like Apple’s SharePlay for iPhone. It’s really just a way to allow groups to watch archive races that come as part of their subscriptions in sync, rather than have one person illegally broadcast a race to a whole bunch of followers and viewers.
Rest assured, I’ll be spending every Formula 1 race glued to MultiViewer for F1 for as long as I’m able, or until Formula 1 snaps up its creator and integrates the app into its own offering, hopefully giving our man a hefty chunk of cash in the process. MultiViewer for F1 is available free on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and requires an F1TV Pro subscription to enjoy in full. F1TV Pro is unfortunately only available in some countries. In the UK, for example, Sky has the exclusive rights to broadcast F1, so there are no legal ways to access the service and watch it. However, it does work in the U.S. and plenty of other European countries. You can see the full list here (opens in new tab).
Download MultiViewer for F1 on Mac (opens in new tab)