Scheduling: The 2016 Australian Grand Prix

Just over three months ago, Nico Rosberg won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to finish the 2015 Formula One season. Meanwhile, in the pit lane both BBC and Sky Sports went off the air to conclude another year of racing. Unbeknown to the viewing public at the time, that race would also mark the end of BBC’s television coverage.

Fast-forward to March, and in just a few days, a new era of Formula 1 broadcasting begins in the United Kingdom. Enter Channel 4. A mix of new and old will greet viewers when their first programme hits the air on Saturday 19th March. Whilst commentary will continue to be provided by David Coulthard and Ben Edwards, Steve Jones is the new face at the front of Channel 4’s coverage.

Karun Chandhok and Lee McKenzie will be patrolling the pit lane. Both of them will be in Melbourne, the latter finishing her Six Nations Rugby commitments with the BBC this weekend. Coulthard, Edwards, Jones and Chandhok will be part of Channel 4’s team for round one, alongside (presumably) one or two of the pundits that the corporation have announced. Who that will be out of Channel 4’s range of analysts, we don’t yet know.

Their qualifying highlights programme is 105 minutes long, with the race programme a whopping two and a half hours long. The main reason for the extended length is commercial breaks. As I’ve discussed before, Channel 4 will be taking breaks as usual meaning that the length of the highlights programming will be longer than their predecessor. Based on previous years, the highlights edit will consist of around 65 to 70 minutes of action. Factor in adverts, and this increases to around 85 to 91 minutes of air-time (of which 20 minutes is adverts), which is the length of your typical Formula 1 race.

In other words, this will feel like an ITV F1 programme from back in 2008. The slot length for the race indicates that the race edit will start at exactly 14:00 and finish around 15:25/15:30. In my opinion, the only edits Channel 4 will make are to trim 5 minutes of action every time they wish to take an ad-break, giving an ‘as live’ feel to it. Qualifying is different: there will have to be edits within the individual sessions that will be noticeable to the viewer. Qualifying has three natural commercial break points and it makes little sense to force an ad-break in half way through a session. So, expect the qualifying session itself to be a bit more ‘sliced’ than the race edit…. which in itself may be a tricky task under the new format.

“It’ll make it that little bit harder to make sure that drivers and teams optimise the performance of their cars to get the best lap time out of it. The good thing about it is that the grid we’re going to get left with won’t be quite as refined and that means we’re going to have a few of the better drivers further back and there will be more action in the race as they gradually carve their way to the front.” – Jonathan Palmer, commenting on the then-new format during the 1996 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying session for BBC TV. Some things don’t change…

In terms of supplementary programme, Channel 4 have a special with Guy Martin as well as an extended 5-minute preview entitled Fast and Furious. Over on Sky, there are several significant changes to their portfolio. The F1 Show during each race weekend has been reduced to 30-minutes and I believe those episodes will no longer be live. Furthermore, the studio editions of The F1 Show have been axed, with the F1 Midweek Report being renamed to the F1 Report. The F1 Report will be airing on a weekly basis, with Natalie Pinkham presenting and Marc Priestley featuring as a regular guest. For Australia at least, every session will be simulcast on Sky Sports 1, continuing a trend that started last season.

Sky’s F1 team is similar to previous years. Simon Lazenby presents all the action alongside pundits including Damon Hill, Anthony Davidson and Johnny Herbert. Martin Brundle and David Croft will be commentating on all 21 races, with Ted Kravitz roaming the pit lane. Rachel Brookes and Craig Slater are primarily covering the action for Sky Sports News, but expect the former to turn up frequently on the channel during 2016 whilst Pinkham is on maternity leave. The only difference for Sky is that Bruno Senna, who was part of their team, has moved over to Channel 4. I don’t think Sky are bringing in anyone else, but I imagine the likes of Paul di Resta will appear in their programming as the year progresses.

For the first time since 2002, we have three broadcasters covering Formula 1 in the UK. Back then, it was Sky (through F1 Digital+), ITV and BBC. Now, it is Sky, Channel 4 and the BBC. Yes, the BBC are still covering Formula 1, but from 2016 through radio only. Independent of BBC dropping Formula 1 from television, the corporation also decided to replace James Allen with Jack Nicholls as lead commentator for their radio coverage. Nicholls will commentate on 20 of the 21 rounds, the exception being Austria, which clashes with the London ePrix II. Nicholls will be joined on commentary throughout the season by Allan McNish and Mark Gallagher, with Tom Clarkson and Jennie Gow down in pit lane.

Even if the on-track action does not live up to the hype, it promises to be a fascinating year off-track as Channel 4 embed themselves within the paddock and try to challenge the opposition. The thrills and spills start in Australia, and as usual the full schedule can be found below.

Channel 4
19/03 – 12:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying Highlights
20/03 – 13:30 to 16:00 – Race Highlights

Supplementary Programming
17/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Speed with Guy Martin
18/03 – 21:00 to 21:05 – Fast and Furious

Sky Sports F1
18/03 – 01:00 to 03:20 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
18/03 – 05:15 to 07:30 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports 1)
19/03 – 02:45 to 04:15 – Practice 3 (also Sky Sports 1)
19/03 – 05:00 to 07:45 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
20/03 – 03:30 to 08:15 – Race
=> 03:30 – Track Parade (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 04:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 04:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 07:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
16/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Report: Australia Preview
17/03 – 04:00 to 04:30 – Driver Press Conference
17/03 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut: Australia
18/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – Team Press Conference
18/03 – 08:00 to 08:30 – The F1 Show
23/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Report: Australia Review

BBC Radio F1
17/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
18/03 – 01:25 to 03:05 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18/03 – 05:25 to 07:05 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
19/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
19/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
20/03 – 04:00 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

As always, if anything changes, I will update this post. Given the size of the above text, MotoGP’s schedule for Qatar will follow early next week.

Update on March 16th – Mark Webber is part of Channel 4’s team for the Australian Grand Prix.

Update on March 18th at 08:10 – Correction to the main body, The F1 Show is indeed live.


23 thoughts on “Scheduling: The 2016 Australian Grand Prix

  1. I think the first couple of minutes will be cut in Q1 and Q2, with Q3 shown in full. With the race, if it isn’t shown in full, Channel 4 are making a major mistake. Even a 2 Hour race will fit easily into this timeslot, they just need to add an extra advert, over a shorter race. As stated in the text, most races will only be about 95 minutes long and in my opinion must be shown in full. Your suggestion means it will be like ITV’s MotoGP Highlights shows – which are delayed-as-live, including adverts and slight cuts in slightly longer races. I hope Channel 4 show them delayed-as-live.

    1. I’m not suggesting that Channel 4 will be showing the whole race. See my edit in brackets:

      “Based on previous years, the highlights edit will consist of around 65 to 70 minutes of action. Factor in adverts, and this increases to around 85 to 91 minutes of air-time (of which 20 minutes is adverts), which is the length of your typical Formula 1 race.”

      1. Badly written but I mean that ITV show about 35 minutes of a 45 minute MotoGP race, after adverts, so I mean it will run like that. I am writing from 2 perspectives at the same time. I mean every race will seem delayed-as-live. Hold my hands up – badly written comment.

  2. Looking at the scheduling for Channel 4, it seems very interesting and at least we’ll see the whole race. Do however question if it will be the same throughout the year. As said on a previous post, adverts account for highlights so it will be the whole race shown (same as ITV). Also, Sky F1’s replay show is show is shorter, showing Channel 4 have gained rights to show Australia (at least) as it happened.

    Hope Channel 4 show the full 2 hours of Monaco and Singapore if the scheduling is similar throughout the year. This would just require a shortened build-up compared with most and an extra ad-break, cutting it to around 95 minutes. If race shows are cut down, 2 hours are viable, with at least 100 minutes of action, with 4/5 adverts throughout.

    Looking at Qualifying, I think it can be shown in full, but most of the session will be busy, with the new elimination style system. Maybe cutting a visible minute from each session will account for highlights.

    Sky cutting coverage could suggest it will axe F1 in 2018. This puts BT in the frame, but hopefully by then Ecclestone will be gone and Channel 4 will gain full coverage, some could argue that they won’t make a profit showing 21 races advert free, but it is a non-profit organisation. This would be great for all F1 fans and more casual motorsport fans.

    1. I’m not suggesting that Channel 4 will be showing the whole race. See my edit in brackets:

      “Based on previous years, the highlights edit will consist of around 65 to 70 minutes of action. Factor in adverts, and this increases to around 85 to 91 minutes of air-time (of which 20 minutes is adverts), which is the length of your typical Formula 1 race.”

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong but C4 is taking over BBCtv’s contract so C4F1 will have to show approximately the same percentage of the race as BBCF1 did, same with qualifying so they can’t show the races in full however much they want to. Now if they can play with the commercial breaks so that each edit is disguised, so it looks like ITVF1 live races that would be a great achievement.

    Saying that itv1 was showing a “full re-run” of an early morning race (I can’t remember which race) (Border, STV & Grampian had it start at 11.30) in a 2 hour slot but due to safety cars the race from Parade Lap to chequered flag lasted about 2h 5m so they edited out the entire first safety car period including the drama which was referred to by Martin Brundle later in the race!

  4. I think that C4 are doing a fab job so far, and thir coverage backs me up. to have a 105 minute programme is superb, and makes me think that All of qualifying will be shown, and if they do take some out, i will literally be 30 seconds. as for the race, that will have to be edited down. i can see probably 80-85 mins of action with about 15 mins either side for build up and analysis. But So far so good from C4, a cracking job. Also, any idea who will replace Lee doing the interviews from the pen for Channel 4 in Oz?

    1. This is the most logical timing, I just said a similar thing but in reverse. A race can be 2 hours long, but taking 7/8 ad-breaks cut it to around 90mins of visible track action. GREAT SHOUT!!!!!!

  5. With the return of the “scheduling” post for F1 (which was what brought me to the blog in the first place), we are now fully in racing mood.

    I hope you’re right, David, about Channel 4 doing an ITV-style “full” race. Would you be able to do a detailed “post-race analysis” of this theory for Melbourne?

  6. With the return of the “scheduling” post for F1 (which was what brought me to the blog in the first place), we are now fully in racing mood.

    I hope you’re right, David, about Channel 4 doing an ITV-style “full” race. Would you be able to do a detailed “post-race analysis” of this theory for Melbourne?

  7. Worth noting that C4 have been experimenting with an extra ad break in some popular shows lately, so the “standard” 3-4 per hour may be higher than first expected. I’ve noticed this myself, though I haven’t seen it reported anywhere specifically.

  8. Will channel 4 be showing 2-3 mins of highlights of practice sessions on weekends they don’t have live races like bbc did? It was handy watching these clips on the bbc website i wonder if channel 4 will do the same on a f1 website?

  9. I think that Channel 4 will trim between 3-6 minutes ate wach ad-break, however, in a BBC, 2 Hour highlights show, 95mins of action was shown. I agree with your format, but would like them to be delayed-as-live. Unsure if the contract states highlights but as Caine2013 said, adverts account for highlights.

    In a 2 hour race, 7 adverts cut the race from 2 hours to 95mins of visible track action, this being similar to a 2 hour BBC highlight show. I think this is possible. This would mean about 10mins build-up, 95mins of race action and 28 mins of adverts throughout and around 15mins analysis.

    In terms of Australia, I think that being around 95mins, they would just take 5 × 4min ad-breaks and at 2 of them stay static and 2 jump the natural 4 minutes. This would allow for about 20mins build-up and 30mins analysis.

    Finally, has any other coverage details been announced, as in, will all races be this long or is it a one-off (really hope not)?

  10. I think Channel 4 will show a few short clips of Practice during Qualifying (Practice Report). I hope these races fall in an ITV F1 style but don’t understand why it is 150 minutes long for highlights. Extended coverage was the term used by Channel 4. Hopefully, cutaways are taken during adverts – if they aren’t visible, fans can’t complain. Hopefully, coverage is delayed-as-live but can’t see it happening, however, I remember 2 races from 2012 on BBC, which were called highlights but shown in full (Japan and India). If the BBC could do this, C4 can do this, hidden with adverts. Other cuts that can be factored in are Safety Cars. I believe they will be broadcast like ITV’s re-runs, 5-6 ad-breaks (4mins each) and Safety Car periods cut out.

  11. Lost the plot, sorry with all this advert and time stuff, not sure why it matters. Will be no ads in their live races and most will just zoom through the highlight ones.

    Oh no, is that the Jack Nichols that does the formula e, will he not be doing that then?
    What a step down, to end up on the radio.
    He has been excellent commentating on formula e and with dario they make one of the best comms teams ive heard for a long time, mind i read that dario will not be there for this weekends race it will be scott speed instead. Who will be replacing Jack then?

    1. Nicholls will continue to commentate on FE this season, but there are doubts whether he will do Long beach or the double header….

  12. Simon announced on the “Merc talk to Sky” feature on demand, that Paul Di Resta would be joining them for large parts of the season

  13. 70 minutes of this Grand Prix were broadcast, with 4 × 4min ad-breaks. Total of this is 86 minutes of race. I was annoyed at all the visible cut-aways, which were about 12mins. Must admit you called it spot on. However, really disappointed with visible cut outs and am mostly annoyed with the lack of coverage. More should have been broadcast in that time slot. Even with 36mins of ad-breaks of the 150min show, with no visible cut-aways, an extensive build-up and analysis could have been broadcast.

    It should have been (excluding ad-breaks):
    13min – Build-up
    82min – Unedited Race
    23min – Analysis/Reaction.

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