This weekend’s Formula 1 championship decider will air live on free-to-air television in the UK after Channel 4 struck a deal with Sky Sports, Motorsport Broadcasting has learnt.
Live coverage of the season finale from Abu Dhabi was set to air exclusively live on Sky Sports, however, the move to air the race on Channel 4 means that millions more fans in the UK will see Max Verstappen go head-to-head with Lewis Hamilton.
Channel 4’s usual Formula 1 partner Whisper will produce wrap-around content, while race commentary will be provided by Sky Sports F1’s David Croft and Martin Brundle.
The move to allow Channel 4 to air some of their own bespoke pre and post-race content, whilst taking Sky commentary is a sensible compromise between the two broadcasters, off the heels of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
A formal press release has yet to be issued by Channel 4, Sky or F1 themselves.
This is not the first time that Channel 4 and Sky have collaborated on bringing sporting events to a wider audience.
In 2019, the free-to-air broadcaster shared live coverage of the Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand with Sky, airing a simulcast of Sky’s broadcast.
Earlier this year, Channel 4 also aired coverage of Emma Raducanu’s victory in the US Open final after striking a late deal with Amazon Prime. Both events peaked with an excess of 8 million viewers.
The last time F1 reached such highs was in 2014, when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix aired live across BBC One and Sky Sports.
Back then, a peak of 7.9 million viewers, or a 50% audience share, watched Lewis Hamilton win his second championship, fending off competition from Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg. F1 will be looking to repeat such highs this weekend.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Ziggo have announced that their coverage will be available on a free-to-view basis for the whole weekend.
It means that Formula 1 has a chance of attracting new fans from across the UK and Netherlands with the title showdown this Sunday.
Update on December 9th at 10:25 – Sky Sports and Channel 4 have confirmed yesterday’s news. From 12:00 to 12:15, and from around 15:30, the Whisper team of Steve Jones, David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Lee McKenzie will provide some analysis.
Sky’s coverage will be simulcast on Channel 4 from 12:15 until after the podium, with a full Channel 4 highlights package airing at 17:30. In addition, Sky will air qualifying and the race via their Sky Showcase channel.
Motorsport Broadcasting understands that Channel 4’s coverage of the race itself will be ad-free.
Channel 4’s Chief Executive Alex Mahon said “We are delighted that the whole nation will be able to watch what is set to be one of the most thrilling finales to an F1 season in living memory as Lewis strives to become the most crowned World Champion of all time.”
“After bringing Test cricket to free to air television for the first time in more than a decade, and enabling millions to share the joy of Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph, we are so pleased to be partnering with Sky to enable the widest possible audience to share this historic sporting moment.”
Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO UK & Europe Sky said: “Sunday’s Grand Prix is one of the biggest sporting events in the last decade, and could be an historic moment for British sport.”
“We’ve chosen to gift the race to the whole country at Christmas through our partnership with Channel 4, so everyone can be part of a huge national moment as Lewis Hamilton goes for a historic eighth World Championship title.”
“The brilliant Sky Sports Formula 1 team will give viewers on Channel 4 and Sky Sports the best insight, commentary and analysis of every twist and turn of this most eagerly anticipated final race of the season.”
“Additionally all Sky TV customers will have live coverage of the important qualifying session on Saturday, and the race on Sunday – which we will also show live on Sky Showcase.”
Formula 1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali added “We are excited that Sky will make the Grand Prix on Sunday available to Channel 4 viewers so everyone can tune in live for the thrilling finale to this epic season.”
“Sky’s passion for Formula 1 is incredible and this generous gesture shows their love of the sport and the millions of fans in the UK. We are all looking forward to Sunday and hope all the fans will be glued to their screens.”
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