Viewers watching Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2020 will receive more of the action than last year, Motorsport Broadcasting can exclusively reveal.
As part of a new arrangement with Sky Sports, Channel 4 aired Formula 1 in highlights form in 2019, with the British Grand Prix also airing live. Both parties agreed to extend the partnership last Autumn, taking the agreement through to the end of 2022.
The highlights deal allowed Channel 4 to cover 50 percent of the race during their edit, a decrease on the amount stipulated in the 2012 to 2018 broadcasting contract between Formula 1, Sky, and their free-to-air partner at that time.
However, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that Channel 4 and Sky have loosened at least two elements of the free-to-air contract for 2020.
This season, fans watching via Channel 4 will now see 70 percent of the racing action, increasing the race edit from 45 minutes to around 60 minutes (depending on race). The change brings Channel 4’s 2020 agreement closer to the 2012 to 2018 contract – at least in terms of the race edit.
The extension means that Channel 4’s race day show, produced by Whisper, will be 150 minutes in length for 2020 instead of 120 minutes, a similar amount compared with 2016 to 2018 for Channel 4 (including commercials).
In addition, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that both qualifying and the race day show can now begin two and a half hours after the chequered flag has fallen instead of three hours. Highlights for most European races will therefore air from 18:30 to 21:00, instead of 19:00 to 21:00 as they did last year.
The one race likely to prove troublesome this year is the United States Grand Prix, which F1 announced recently will begin an hour later than in 2019. Highlights aired from 23:00 to 01:00 last year, which is likely to change to 23:30 to 02:00 this season, unless Sky gives Channel 4 any additional leeway on this front.
As of writing, there is no confirmation on the status of the additional restrictions that Sky imposed on Channel 4 prior to the 2019 season, such as the restriction of Channel 4 personnel on the grid or within the interview pen.
Overall, this is good news for fans watching Formula 1 via free-to-air television, and another sign that the relationship between Sky and Channel 4 is strong.
Both broadcasters expected to retain current line-ups
Although neither broadcaster has yet to confirm their on-air team, Motorsport Broadcasting expects both to field a similar line-up, with no upheaval like last year.
Ben Edwards is expected to return as Channel 4’s lead commentator, joined by personalities such as David Coulthard and Billy Monger throughout the course of the season.
Barring a change of direction, Sky are retaining Ted Kravitz for 2020, although the number of races Kravitz will be with Sky for is unclear. The likes of David Croft, Martin Brundle and Simon Lazenby are staying part of Sky’s line-up.
Meanwhile, newly announced W Series lead commentator Alex Jacques returns as commentator for Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula 1’s Pit Lane Channel this year.
Testing begins on Wednesday 19th February, with the season itself getting underway in Melbourne on Sunday 15th March, both of which are airing live on Sky Sports.