Formula 1 is close to giving the final green light for High Definition television coverage of the sport to begin with the first race of the 2011 season.
With the HD switch topping the wish list of fans in recent surveys, there has been much interest in how soon Bernie Ecclestone will approve the move – with the F1 commercial manager making it clear several times that he wanted to be sure that before he approved it, there were enough viewers capable of watching it and that broadcast channels were ready to distribute it.
Although he suggested in the middle of this year that the switch was unlikely before 2012, in recent weeks he has changed that stance, hinting that there was a chance it could happen next year. In September, Ecclestone told Britain's BBC: "I think we'll be moving to High Definition, probably next year."
AUTOSPORT reports those chances have moved a major step closer in recent weeks as big efforts have been made behind the scenes to see what is possible for the start of next season. It is believed that the plans are at a sufficiently advanced stage for orders to have been placed for the equipment that F1 bosses will need for the sport to be broadcast in HD.
There has been no official confirmation yet from Ecclestone about the broadcast plans, however, and such a declaration is unlikely to be made until he is 100 percent sure that the suppliers can deliver what F1 needs.
F1 global partner LG, which has a commercial interest in the sport switching to HD, pioneered test footage of HD at the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix, and more recently tried out 3D cameras at this year's Canadian Grand Prix. LG's vice president of marketing and global sponsorship, Andrew Barrett, said that he is confident F1 would be broadcast in HD next year.
"Not wanting to speak for Bernie, but we all know that the sooner the better," he told AUTOSPORT. "The consumers have bought the panels, we've all seen the HD footage and it is demonstrably better than standard definition. The fan will understand that in a moment, and every fan can have it – as they almost all have the HD televisions in their house. It cannot come fast enough and I hope it is next year – and I am hopeful that it is next year."
Although LG demonstrated at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the first 3D F1 footage it had captured, Barrett reckoned it was still going to be a while before the sport could contemplate that technology as standard.
"3D though is a long way off," he said. "If it were my decision, I would not put it in 3D until there were enough televisions and enough consumers out there watching it to warrant the investment and the change. But HD, we all need now."
• For an extended interview with Andrew Barrett on the future of F1 television. CLICK HERE.