A warm, settled spell of weather in the UK, along with the continuing World Cup coverage, hurt Formula 1’s return to Austria, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.
The race coverage across BBC Two and Sky Sports F1 had the lowest combined average of the season. Live coverage on Sky Sports F1 averaged 721k (9.6%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Highlights on BBC Two at 19:30 brought a further 2.45m (12.2%). BBC’s highlights peaked with 2.90m (14.4%) at 20:15. The combined average of 3.17m is the lowest since the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
It should consolidate to about 3.3m or 3.4m which will put it in line with the ratings for Austria recorded between 1997 and 2003, although I admit that you probably shouldn’t be making a comparison like that considering the many changes in Formula 1 and television since then. Preceding the race on Sky Sports F1, the Track Parade from 11:30 averaged 144k (2.3%), whilst post-race interviews and analysis during Paddock Live averaged 173k (2.0%).
The Qualifying programme, screened live on Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 14:35, averaged 442k (6.9%), a solid figure all considering for the channel. It was the highlights on BBC One that struggled, albeit thanks to the very early airtime. On air from 16:45 to 18:00, the coverage mustered 1.53m (13.6%). The share is the telling point here, there were viewers around however, they were watching the live World Cup coverage on ITV instead of the Formula 1.
A combined audience of 1.97m means that this is the third lowest figure of the season, only ahead of Australia and China. I think the main thing to take out of here is that the decision (or however the picks went) to have Austria as a highlights race was always going to work against the BBC as it meant that the highlights would go opposite a World Cup game. Why they didn’t put the Qualifying and Race highlights both at 19:00 on BBC Two, I don’t know.
Practice, GP2 and GP3 Series
Practice coverage over the weekend on Sky Sports F1 struggled, Saturday’s practice session averaged 70k (1.2%) from 09:45. Friday’s practice sessions were both under 50k, practice two averaging 43k (0.8%). It shows really that those that watch practice on BBC Two during their live weekends are not Sky Sports F1 viewers, the latter does not see any boost whatsoever for practice when they have exclusive coverage. GP2 and GP3 did not fare any better. GP2’s feature race on Saturday afternoon was the highlight, averaging 41k (0.6%). GP3’s highest rating was on Sunday morning for their second race, averaging 21k (0.4%).
The headline figures are not great for the F1. I do wonder if this should have been a BBC live race, thus guaranteeing no World Cup clash and probably half a million more viewers for both Qualifying and the Race. However, given that Canada and Britain were either side of Austria, they were left with little choice than to take Austria as a highlights race.