A reduced television audience in the United Kingdom looks set to greet the French Grand Prix when it returns to the calendar next year, because of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The draw for the tournament, which takes place in Russia, has placed England in Group G. As a result, England will face Panama on Sunday 24th June 2018 at 13:00 UK time. Historically, games held on the same day have ‘swapped’ time slots to suit television audiences in various territories, so England’s game could move to later in the day, with Japan versus Senegal or Poland versus Columbia taking the earlier slot.
It is rare for an England game to directly clash with an F1 race, although there have been two near misses. In 2006, England’s World Cup knock out game with Ecuador clashed with build-up for the Canadian Grand Prix, whilst their knock out game with Germany in 2010 resulted in the European Grand Prix moving to BBC Two.
Although England’s World Cup games have been less of a draw in recent times than historically, the games are still a huge event nationally, and would put a significant dent into the French Grand Prix audience. In the era of free-to-air highlights though, I expect Sky to broadcast the race exclusively live to a reduced audience if the race stays in its current 13:00 time slot.
To avoid the situation, the French round might find itself moved to either 11:00 UK time (12:00 local) or 15:00 UK time (14:00 local). Elsewhere, the French Grand Prix qualifying session clashes with Belgium versus Tunisia, both teams in the same group as England.