Scheduling: The 2022 London E-Prix

Formula E returns to the ExCeL in London as the 2021-22 season speeds towards its conclusion!

With four races to go, Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne holds an 11-point lead over Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara. Can Mortara close in on the Belgian, or will Vandoorne extend his lead before the double header season finale in Seoul?

As was the case last year, both races air live on Channel 4, the free-to-air broadcaster taking the World Feed output produced by Formula E.

While airing live on free-to-air should give Formula E an advantage over its competition, the bad news is that this weekend’s schedule is congested across the board.

Over on BBC One at the same time is live coverage of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which will undoubtedly take column inches and airtime away from the electric series in the build-up.

On the motor sport front, both Formula E races inexplicably clash directly with round 13 of the Formula 1 season from Hungary, as well as live British Touring Cars action on ITV.

The London races start at 15:00 UK time, while the F1 qualifying session starts at 15:00 on Saturday, with the race beginning at 14:00 on Sunday.

The Saturday clash could be avoided by moving the first race back to 16:00 local time, with the second race on Sunday moving to 13:00 local time.

The second race could start at 16:00 on Sunday, well inside the 18:30 curfew set by the local council. However, the race would then clash with the Euro 2022 football final which airs live on BBC One.

Whichever way you look at it, the situation is far from ideal for the electric series hoping to increase its UK fanbase after a turbulent time during the pandemic.

Channel 4’s scheduling – at a glance

10 races live on TV:

  • 1 in January (Diriyah R2)
  • 2 in April (Rome R2, Monaco)
  • 1 in May (Berlin R1)
  • 1 in June (Jakarta)
  • 3 in July (Marrakesh, London R1, London R2)
  • 2 in August (Seoul R1, Seoul R2)

6 races live on YouTube:

  • 1 in January (Diriyah R1)
  • 1 in February (Mexico City)
  • 1 in April (Rome R1)
  • 1 in May (Berlin R2)
  • 2 in July (New York City R1, New York City R2)

The good news is that Formula E’s Channel 4 future is secure, the two parties having agreed a “multi-year” deal covering the end of Gen2 and the start of Gen3 which begins in 2023.

Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti lead Formula E’s commentary line-up, with Nicki Shields and Vernon Kay also expected to feature.

Friday 29th July
17:10 to 17:55 – Practice 1 (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)

Saturday 30th July
08:55 to 09:40 – Practice 2 (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
10:30 to 12:15 – Qualifying (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
14:30 to 16:30 – Race 1 (Channel 4)
=> also on Eurosport 2 from 15:00 to 16:35

Sunday 31st July
08:25 to 09:10 – Practice 3 (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
10:30 to 12:15 – Qualifying (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
14:30 to 16:30 – Race 2 (Channel 4)
=> also on Eurosport 2 from 15:00 to 16:35

Full scheduling details for the 2022 London E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 26th July and are subject to change.

The FE/F1 clash means that Harry Benjamin steps into the 5 Live F1 commentary box, while Chris McCarthy steps up to the Formula 3 lead commentator role, substituting for Benjamin for the weekend.

The congested weekend does not stop there: as well as Formula 2 and Formula 3, the W Series also forms part of the F1 feeder card out in Hungary.

Live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship extends across ITV and ITV4 as part of a new agreement between series organisers and ITV for several events this season. David Addison steps back from the commentary box for this weekend, with Jonny Palmer stepping into the booth.

IndyCar is another victim to the scheduling clashes, with its race from Indianapolis playing out behind Sky Sports F1’s Red Button, however a full-length tape-delay airs later on Saturday evening.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website
Thursday 28th July
14:00 to 15:00 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 29th July
08:30 to 09:20 – F3: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
09:40 to 10:30 – F2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
12:30 to 14:25 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)

14:25 to 15:05 – F3: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
15:45 to 17:25 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)

=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 15:55 to 17:05
17:25 to 18:15 – F2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:15 – IndyCar: Qualifying (Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports F1’s Red Button)
=> airs on tape-delay on Sky Sports F1 at 20:00
18:15 to 19:00 – W Series: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
19:00 to 20:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)

21:30 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Saturday 30th July
09:55 to 10:50 – F3: Sprint Race (Sky Sports F1)
11:45 to 13:20 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
13:20 to 14:30 – W Series: Race (Sky Sports F1)
14:30 to 16:55 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)

=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 14:55 to 16:05
16:55 to 18:00 – F2: Sprint Race (Sky Sports F1)

17:00 to 20:00 – IndyCar: Race (Sky Sports Sky Sports F1’s Red Button)
=> airs on tape-delay on Sky Sports F1 at 21:00
18:00 to 18:30 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
19:30 to 21:00 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday 31st July
05:30 to 06:00 – F1: Qualifying Wrap-Up (BBC Radio 5 Live)

09:00 to 10:00 – F3: Feature Race (Sky Sports F1)
10:25 to 11:45 – F2: Feature Race (Sky Sports F1)
12:00 to 15:00 – BTCC: Races 1 and 2 (ITV)
12:30 to 17:30 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 13:55 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live from 14:00 to 16:00
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Ted’s Notebook

14:55 to 18:30 – BTCC: Race 3 (ITV4)
18:30 to 21:00 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 26th July and are subject to change.

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British Grand Prix surges to highest UK audience in seven years

Live coverage of the British Grand Prix jumped to its highest UK audience since 2015, audience data shows.

As-is now tradition, coverage of the F1 race weekend aired live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, with both channels reaping the rewards of an enthralling Grand Prix.

The consolidated data accounts for viewers who watched within seven days of the original transmission.

According to industry website Thinkbox, which publishes BARB consolidated data, an audience of 2.39 million viewers watched Channel 4’s main race broadcast on Sunday 3rd July from 14:35 to 17:53, a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 2.34 million viewers over a smaller time slot.

Coverage of the race on Sky Sports F1 averaged 1.21 million viewers from 14:52 to 17:52, an identical figure to last year for the F1 channel.

However, including the 309,000 viewers who watched via Sky Sports Main Event lifts Sky’s overall total to 1.52 million viewers, their highest ever audience for the Silverstone round.

Sky’s figures in both years exclude Sky Showcase, which is likely to account for an additional 100,000 viewers.

Sources indicate to this site that the Grand Prix recorded its highest audience in seven years, with around 5 million viewers (a 50% share of the audience) tuning in at its peak to see Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz win his first Grand Prix.

A dive underneath the headline numbers

As well as publishing headline data, Thinkbox also publishes demographic data, allowing us to see how well Channel 4, Sky Sports F1, and Formula 1 as a collective, performed on race day at Silverstone.

The data points below exclude Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase, as the figures were too small to make Thinkbox’s top 50 charts.

Nevertheless, the data gives us greater insight into who watched Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1’s race day offering.

Exactly two-thirds of adults who watched the Grand Prix were male, with one-third female. 2.28 million men tuned in, with 1.14 million women watching.

The skew towards men was slightly higher on Sky Sports F1 than Channel 4, with Sky’s audience split 69:31 in favour of men compared with a 66:34 split on the free-to-air station.

This is a consistent theme across the ABC1 demographics as well, with Channel 4’s coverage attracting a slightly higher proportion of women compared to Sky.

Both Channel 4 and Sky’s coverage skewed towards the more affluent viewer, as both outlets under-indexed in the C2DE demographic groups.

Channel 4’s coverage attracted 1.27 million ABC1 adults, compared with 1.03 million viewers in the C2DE demographic, a 55:45 split.

In comparison, Sky’s coverage brought in 590,000 viewers in the ABC1 adults’ category, versus 535,000 viewers in the C2DE bracket, a 52:48 split.

The raw audience shares were significantly higher in the ABC1 category than the C2DE category, showing that F1 has work to do to bring in audiences from lower demographic groups.

> “A weekend like no other” – reviewing the 2022 British Grand Prix

16% of the Silverstone audience were aged between 16 and 34, across Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1, however Sky skewed much younger than their free-to-air partner.

A quarter of Sky Sports F1’s audience fitted within this demographic, compared to just 12% on Channel 4. In raw volume this meant that, despite having a lower overall audience, Sky beat Channel 4 head-to-head in the 16 to 34 demographic.

282,000 viewers aged between 16 and 34 watched the race on Channel 4, with over 300,000 viewers watching via Sky.

More impressively for Formula 1, this meant that over 600,000 people aged between 16 and 34 watched the British Grand Prix, a figure only bettered that week by ITV2’s smash hit Love Island, showing how well F1 is performing in an era of shrinking television audiences.

The positive showing in the younger demographics is likely a direct result of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, with newer, younger fans wanting to get their hands on the live offering all year around and bypassing Channel 4’s live programming.

Channel 4’s offering brought in the longer-term viewers of F1 as opposed to the newer fans: 84% of its audience were aged 35 or over, compared with 68% over on Sky Sports F1.

Formula E fails to retain F1 lead-in

Channel 4 ran a wall-to-wall motor sport line-up on Saturday 2nd July, but saw some of their key audiences decrease year-on-year.

The day started well, with an average of 530,000 viewers tuning in to watch the third F1 practice session from 11:44 to 13:05.

However, the W Series audience decreased for Channel 4 year-on-year, dropping from 533,000 viewers last year to 399,000 viewers this year.

Last year the series aired exclusively live on Channel 4, whereas this year’s offering airs live across Channel 4 and Sky.

When taking both outlets into account, the W Series audience increased to an average of over 700,000 viewers, peaking with over 1 million viewers, both figures a record high for the championship.

F1 qualifying aired afterwards from 14:12 to 16:27, averaging 1.12 million viewers on Channel 4, only marginally higher than last year’s Friday qualifying session and down by around 200,000 viewers on Channel 4’s Sprint coverage.

Formula E wrapped up the day on Channel 4, airing from 16:30 to 18:30. The electric series brought in less than half of W Series’ live audience, despite both championships having an F1 sized lead-in.

The Marrakesh E-Prix failed to make Channel 4’s top 50 for the week on Thinkbox, averaging fewer than 342,000 viewers.

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“A weekend like no other” – reviewing the 2022 British Grand Prix

Attending a Formula 1 race is the thing on everyone’s bucket list. To soak in the atmosphere, to take it all in. To live and breathe every second, to shout and scream as the action unfolds in front of your eyes.

Last weekend, I did just that, attending the 2022 British Grand Prix to celebrate my 30th birthday, which coincided with Friday’s first practice session.

And suffice to say, the weekend exceeded my wildest expectations.

Ticket prices – how do they compare to other events?

I purchased tickets to the Grand Prix at the end of January. £465.00 for the main ticket, and £75.00 for parking close to the circuit.

For one adult, the £465.00 gave me a seat at The View (turn 1) for Sunday, and the ability to roam around the circuit (including grandstands, subject to availability) on Friday and Saturday.

In addition, the ticket gives you access to the extras that Silverstone put on for fans through the weekend: no added fees to see the likes of Example, Sam Ryder and Mabel perform, nor to see The F1 Show on Thursday, or the F1 drivers on the main stage.

However, £465.00 did not give me access to the inner section of the circuit, or the F1 paddock. I would say the ticket is medium range on the premium tier: does not give you access to everything, but enough to enjoy the whole weekend’s entertainment.

Comparisons with other sports are apple and oranges.

In the Premier League, a Manchester City season ticket to see their 19 home games during the 22/23 season will cost an adult anywhere between £445.00 and £1,450.00, which per game is between £23.42 and £76.32, much cheaper than the Silverstone F1 tickets.

For me, this argument depends on how you view your ticket. If you view it as just watching a 90-minute Grand Prix, you are going to feel that the price is extortionate.

But, if you view it as a whole weekend of entertainment from Thursday through to Sunday, for nearly 12 hours each day, then you may feel that the price is reasonable. As way of comparison, tickets for this year’s Glastonbury music festival cost £280.00 across the board.

Silverstone would argue that, if the demand is there, which it very clearly is, then there is no need to consider reducing ticket prices to make it more affordable, because fans are prepared to pay the higher prices.

Amplifying the F1 brand

Before I even stepped foot through Silverstone’s gates on Thursday, what was abundantly clear was that the F1 brand was very ‘in your face’. Everywhere you looked, the F1 logo was there.

F1 Experiences, F1 Paddock Club, F1 Fanatics, F1 Manager, F1 Caps, F1 Store, F1 Fan Zone, the list goes on and on.

Some of the F1 Store branding, featuring Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton.

The branding was present around the track, whether we are talking front and centre by the main stage, or the other end of the circuit at the Club. Even behind Copse, there were mini pop-up F1 Fanatics stores trying to sell the latest F1 team gear.

Across the different pillars, the brand was uniform, as one. 5 years on, the old F1 logo, which some fans still had on their merchandise, looks terribly outdated. The logo and branding, which Liberty Media unveiled at the end of 2017, fits in, and feels right.

Each team did not have their own bespoke merchandise store, that I saw at least. Instead, F1 presented this all under one umbrella. Wanted to buy a McLaren t-shirt or a Red Bull hat? All done through the F1 Fanatics branding.

It highlighted to me the power of the F1 brand: 10 teams, 20 racers, under one roof. It also highlighted why Andretti coming in as an 11th outfit is unlikely, because in F1’s view, a new outfit is unlikely to add new value to the sport.

There were other little things going on around the track which made the event special: a mural created by MurWalls celebrated the life of Sir Frank Williams.

Also present in the F1 Fan Zone was a MotoGP store, promoting the MotoGP ’22 video game. Having attended MotoGP at Silverstone in media capacity for 5 of the past 6 seasons, Silverstone this past weekend was on another level.

No one is suggesting that MotoGP will attract 140,000 fans to Silverstone. But the brand needs a reset as it is feeling tired compared to F1, and the launch of their (now seemingly axed) Amazon Prime series has not gone according to plan.

The weekend schedule worked

One aspect MotoGP could look to modernise is the weekend scheduling. Instead of wrapping up the European action at 15:00 local home, why not extend the action into the early evening?

Sitting at home, I have previously criticised the F1 scheduling for not being tight enough, whereas attending at the circuit, you want the weekend to breathe, with ample time to move between sessions.

Friday breathed fine, with a nice gap for lunch between 11:30 and 13:00 local time. The on-action began at 08:40 and finished at 20:05, continuing to 22:00 for the music (admittedly the long shifts are relentless for those working the event, though).

Saturday was tighter, and this is where views on the W Series differ. From a broadcasting perspective, the timing is W Series’ dream slot. Placed between F1 practice and F1 qualifying on Saturday, the series attracted a record UK audience across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, giving those on the armchair no reason to move from their sofa.

At the circuit, the story was different. Starting 25 minutes after F1 practice and finishing an hour before F1 qualifying, it was the only time during the weekend that the fans around me in the grandstand (in this case, at Becketts) looked disinterested.

Sam Rynder performing Space-Man during the British Grand Prix post-race concert.

There was a lot of grandstand movement during the race as people wanted to move around to get the best vantage point before F1 qualifying, take a comfort break or grab some food.

The takeaway from my perspective is that a perfect weekend schedule simply does not exist: instead, it is balancing the needs of the circuit, the championship, and the broadcasters and trying to come up with a solution that satisfies all parties.

Seeing the Porsche Supercup cars on Sunday morning was a nice change from having seen single-seaters all weekend up until that point and a nice breather before the Grand Prix.

The gap between the end of the support series and the F1 race was long, but went by incredibly quickly. Probably helped that I spent what felt like an eternity queuing for a comfort break…

Motor sport is dangerous. The ticket does not lie.

Since 2014, I have been to Silverstone more times than I can count at this point for both MotoGP and the World Endurance Championship, so knew where best to go to see the single-seaters at full pelt.

Sadly, the vantage point on the entry of Becketts was non existent for the F1, instead covered by advertising hoardings, a real shame. Nevertheless, I did see the F1 cars fly through Copse at terrifyingly fast speeds that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I took advantage of the roaming grandstands as well, sitting in most of the covered grandstands. Unfortunately, and one of the other frustrations of the weekend, the stands on the start-finish straight were ‘full’ half an hour before qualifying.

By ‘full’, the Race Makers refused to let anyone else in, even though there were empty seats because fans had reserved them in advance. I understand why, but in the moment, it was frustrating, as rain lashed down towards the start of qualifying.

Earlier in the weekend, I spotted an F1 camera lurking nearby, and made a note of the specs. The cost of one camera set up alone is more than £50,000.

Not cheap, and once you add up all the cameras and associated materials, you quickly realise how expensive an F1 broadcast costs to produce an air. An article for another day, I suspect…

As well as watching The F1 Show on Thursday (itself generating a packed grandstand on the start-finish straight!), I eyed up my turn 1 seat at The View, imagining all the scenarios that may unfold three days later. Will I see Charles and Max side-by-side? Will Lewis get in on any of the action?

A still frame of the first corner accident, moments before Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu hits the catch fence.

I did not imagine the scenario that unfolded: Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu heading towards the fencing with little sign of slowing down. Zhou’s car connected with the catch fencing, which in turn caused the grandstand to shake for a split second given the forces involved.

Stones and rubble flew up into the grandstand, as high as me on row M and beyond. Everyone around me, including myself, were visibly shook up, all checking on each other in the immediate aftermath.

From my vantage point, we could not see the car and it was unclear exactly where Zhou’s car had landed. Race Makers and other officials in the grandstand were holding up “Sit Down” signs while the medical team worked on Zhou on. To hear that Zhou was okay was a major relief.

The restart, and the rest of the race was awesome. The action was superb, and the atmosphere was second to none. After this weekend, I am of the firm view that there is nothing better than being there in person.

The big screen from my seat was not great, as the text was too small. If anything, the screen needed to be more bespoke, rotating the positions in sequences of 5 potentially instead of focusing on the entire order (others around me had binoculars, a lesson for next time).

As for the lack of Sprint? I did not miss it. The weekend naturally reached a crescendo, and the Sprint in my view would have diluted from that aspect of it.

“I’m up in Space…”

I mentioned earlier that the added extras are free, and I took full advantage on Thursday and Sunday. The F1 Show was brilliant from the main grandstand on Thursday, but the highlight was undoubtedly Sunday.

A friend recommended Alfie Templeman to me, and Alfie looked like he enjoyed every moment on the Main Stage.

Afterwards, it was Eurovision sensation Sam Ryder, who was out of this world, beyond my wildest expectations. If my voice was going after the sensational Leclerc-Perez-Hamilton battle in the closing stages, it had totally gone after hearing Space Man live!

A brief break followed, before Lewis Hamilton and Roscoe took to the main stage in what was an all-round cool moment, which wrapped up the Silverstone weekend – and my 30th birthday celebrations – for me.

Will I be back next year? Absolutely. My thinking is to go for the Inner Track option. Media accreditation is tricky with F1 unfortunately, but I am always hopeful things can change.

The British Grand Prix would not be possible if it was not full the wonderful volunteers, Race Makers, marshals, and everyone else involved who put this show on the road. The overall organisation throughout the weekend was faultless from my vantage point.

It would be amiss not to thank those who have been relentless on their pursuit of safety in motor sport over the decades: the advances saved two lives, and potentially countless more, yesterday. To all those involved: thank you.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.