How the BBC / Sky deal changed F1 broadcasting in the UK

Sebastian Vettel dominated the 2011 Formula One season, clinching his second Drivers’ Championship with four races to spare in Japan.

Although dominant up front, the 2011 season was competitive behind Vettel. One of the major talking points on-track was the frequent clashes between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, in what would turn out to be Hamilton’s penultimate season with McLaren.

Off-track, as the teams headed into the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend before the summer break, storm clouds began to emerge.

Hamilton may have topped a mundane first practice session in Hungary, but closer to home, a bombshell press release that landed just hours earlier sent shockwaves through the paddock and F1’s UK fanbase…

Here, Motorsport Broadcasting looks at the events that have unfolded since, and whether F1 is in a better place in the UK than what it was a decade ago.

The split

Ten years ago today, the BBC and Sky Sports confirmed that, from 2012, Formula 1 would air across both free-to-air and pay television as part of a new agreement between two of the biggest broadcasters in the UK.

2011 was the last season covered exclusively live, free-to-air by the BBC, the season becoming the highest watched in the UK on television.

BBC TV and Sky Sports have been awarded the live rights to Formula 1 ™ between 2012 and 2018.

The move will bring increased choice, innovation, and breadth of coverage to UK and Irish motor racing fans.

Press Release: BBC and Sky partner for live Formula 1 rights – Friday 29th July 2011

Since 2012, Sky Sports has aired every race live. The BBC’s programming supplemented Sky’s comprehensive offer, the free-to-air broadcaster airing half the races live and the other half in highlights form.

The previous Autumn, in October 2010, the government confirmed a licence fee freeze for six years which, in real terms, was a 16% cut to the BBC’s budget.

Cutbacks were necessary in some areas, and F1 was in the firing line.

The BBC’s original contract was set to expire at the end of 2013 and, writing at the time on the BBC website, their Head of F1 Ben Gallop said that the deal with Sky “extends the BBC’s commitment to F1 by a further five years.”

“Given the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, we believe this new deal offers the best outcome for licence-fee payers,” Gallop said.

Some of the headlines following the announcement of the BBC and Sky Sports F1 deal in 2011. Headlines from The Guardian, BBC, RaceFans.net, Crash.net, Adam Cooper’s blog, Motorsport.com and Autosport.

At the time, the deal generated a lot of response from fans. The likes of Autosport described the deal as ‘controversial’ on their magazine cover, and it is easy to see why considering the magnitude of the change.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to look at the 2011 deal through a different lens.

What has happened since?

The BBC’s commitment to F1, which was meant to last until the end of the 2018 season, was short lived.

Another round of cuts was to come, and this time, BBC’s television coverage of Formula 1 was to disappear altogether.

Channel 4 succeeded the BBC as Sky’s free-to-air partner, retaining largely the same team both in front and behind the camera, as their coverage began in 2016.

We are absolutely delighted that F1 will remain on the BBC. The sport has never been more popular with TV audiences at a 10-year high and the BBC has always stated its commitment to the big national sporting moments. With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence fee payers.

Barbara Slater, BBC’s Director of Sport, speaking in 2011

If the 2011 bombshell was not big enough, a further bombshell was to follow.

Just one race into Channel 4’s new Formula 1 deal, Sky announced that they had secured the rights to air F1 exclusively live from 2019 to 2024 in a six-year deal.

Channel 4 would later secure free-to-air highlights, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix from Sky.

By securing the pay-TV rights early, Sky fended off potential competition from rivals BT Sport, who were rumoured to be interested in F1 at the time.

The current Sky deal, mooted to be around £1 billion across the duration of the contract, or around £160 million per season, is significantly higher than what any free-to-air broadcaster could bid for the rights.

Let us rewind back to the 2011 deal and think about alternative scenarios. Had the BBC pulled out altogether, F1 may have moved on a full-time basis to Channel 4 or ITV.

With Sky lurking in the background though, it is difficult to imagine how many years such a deal would have lasted without Sky intervention.

The only alternative that could have had a material impact, even today, would be a joint BBC and ITV deal, like the current Six Nations rugby arrangements. On a 22-race basis, the BBC could air 7 races live, with ITV airing the remaining 15 races.

The two free-to-air broadcasters pay around £100 million per year for the Six Nations. The rugby tournament is a more attractive proposition to broadcasters than F1, with higher viewing figures and a higher proportion of action in primetime.

Any combined bid therefore would likely be under £100 million, even if you swap the BBC with Channel 4.

While it is a nice idea, the finances do not stack up when compared with the amount of money Sky have invested in F1.

The first BBC F1 forum at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. Jake Humphrey (l), Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie (top r), David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan and Martin Brundle (bottom r).
The first BBC F1 forum at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. Jake Humphrey (l), Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie (top r), David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan, and Martin Brundle (bottom r).

Did Sky walk through an open door when the BBC approached them in 2011? Absolutely. But the destination, and where we are currently in 2021, was always going to be the same irrespective of the journey taken.

The BBC’s deal with Sky in 2011 delayed the inevitable. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when.

The transfer of rights from free-to-air to pay in the UK has been gradual, in stark contrast to Germany where audiences have slumped by around 70% because of the ‘big bang’ rights change imposed on audiences.

The pros and cons of the UK F1 broadcasting arrangement

On and off-air, the UK F1 broadcasting arrangements over the past decade have helped talent step into the motor sport arena, who may never have had a chance had F1 remained solely on BBC television.

The likes of Rachel Brookes, Jack Nicholls, and Steve Jones to name a few have benefited over the past decade.

Brookes joined Sky’s F1 setup when their coverage started, while both Nicholls and Jones joined the F1 paddock on a permanent basis later.

Nicholls became BBC’s lead radio commentator in 2016, a role once held by David Croft; while Jones became Channel 4’s F1 presenter having never presented an F1 race!

This is fantastic news for F1 fans and Sky Sports will be the only place to follow every race live and in HD. We will give F1 the full Sky Sports treatment with a commitment to each race never seen before on UK television. As well as unrivalled build up to each race on Sky Sports News, we will broadcast in-depth live coverage of every session. Sky customers with Sky Sports will also be able to enjoy F1 across multiple platforms and devices, including Sky Go.

Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, speaking in 2011

Having several broadcasters in the mix presenting their own bespoke output not only gives emerging talent more opportunities to break into the sport, but it gives viewers access to a broader roster of pundits.

From the BBC’s Jolyon Palmer, through to Channel 4’s Mark Webber and onto Sky’s Anthony Davidson, there should be something for everyone across the talent pool, across live and highlights.

The broadcasting arrangements since 2012 have resulted in every F1 session airing live, as well as the vast majority of Formula Two and Formula Three sessions.

Having multiple broadcasters air live F1 from 2012 to 2018 meant that the two could push each other to produce better content, with the fans watching at home benefiting overall.

I think it is important to emphasis at this point that Sky have an excellent team: Davidson, Jenson Button, Martin Brundle and Karun Chandhok to name a few, a rotating talent set helping to keep their coverage fresh race-by-race.

While Sky do produce excellent features (and I suspect the upcoming feature with Mick Schumacher in the Jordan 191 will fit into this category), including high-quality Sky Pad analysis, these sometimes feel isolated in amongst their lengthy pre-shows.

George Russell and Fernando Alonso analyse their practice laps from the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix with Anthony Davidson on the Sky Pad.

COVID has restricted what Sky can do, as Brookes outlined to this writer earlier this year. That combined with the number of races on the calendar now, dilutes the quality of programming on offer to the viewer.

Broadcasters want more races, as races attract viewers, but it means that their supplementary programming takes a hit.

Formula Two and Formula Three feel like an afterthought (not helped by the changes beyond Sky’s control), while Sky have failed to replicate the attraction of BBC’s post-race show, F1 Forum, in my view, where the team used to perch themselves in a motor home.

Despite the criticism, since Sky moved to the podium set up in the paddock, their post-race shows have improved, and is heading in the right direction.

Worryingly for Channel 4, their free-to-air highlights audience has slumped over the past two years, to the point where Sky is moving into a position whereby it has the lion’s share of the F1 audience, an unthinkable statement even two years ago.

The good news in totality for F1 is that Sky’s audiences are increasing rapidly, and are at their highest level yet (more to follow on this front over the forthcoming weeks).

Yes, television audiences have decreased compared with a decade ago, but fans have a much wider range of viewing options now.

Back in 2011, F1 did not upload highlights to YouTube, podcasts did not exist, and the F1 social media community was insignificant. Oh, and that thing called Drive to Survive was still eight years away.

Sky may have Bernie to thank for the initial deal signed in 2016, but they absolutely have Liberty Media to thank for maximising F1’s potential across the digital platforms.

If F1 is going to continue to sign exclusive pay TV deals, then they need an action plan on how they aim to reach fans that do not have pay TV. Otherwise, F1 will haemorrhage fans.

A Formula 1 only accessible behind a pay wall is not a fruitful Formula 1.

A Formula 1 that exploits social media, is available to fans at a reasonable price, and finds new, innovative ways to harness their audience, is a fruitful Formula 1.

Motorsport Broadcasting, writing in 2016 [pleasingly I think F1 currently aligns more into the second category. Not fully, but the second category resonates more with me].

A survey by The Race Media, which operates both The Race and WTF1, shows that most fans on both platforms watch F1 via pay-TV, with less than a quarter watching via free-to-air television.

It is plausible that F1 in the UK has lost older viewers over the past decade (‘lapsed fans’), thanks to the move away from the BBC, but gained some younger fans through the likes of Drive to Survive, thanks to Netflix and Liberty Media. It may still result in a net loss, but the picture is not as black and white as the headline suggests.

A major gripe for UK fans is that fans do not have access to F1’s premium tier over-the-top service, meaning that the only way fans can watch live F1 is through Sky Sports.

How open Sky are to this position changing is unclear. Suggestions last summer that Sky would offer F1 TV Pro through their TV platform have yet to come to fruition.

Nevertheless, for everything that has changed over the past decade, F1 remains king and is by far the leading series when it comes to motor sport in the UK, with no other form of motor sport eroding its dominant market position.

What is next?

While Hamilton may retire in 2024, the prospects of both Lando Norris and George Russell look bright, which should keep interest in the sport high, which is great news for Sky Sports moving forward.

We can reminisce about every F1 race airing live on free-to-air television all we want, but the chances of F1 returning to that position in the UK after 2024, when Sky’s current deal expires, is close to zero.

In a sense this partnership with Sky is another example of how the landscape of sports broadcasting has been transformed in recent years. There was a time when the BBC and other public service broadcasters could expect to televise all the big sports themselves. Now though we have a ‘mixed economy’, with some events on satellite while others are on terrestrial.

Ben Gallop, BBC’s Head of Formula 1, speaking in 2011

In my view, I expect Sky to renew beyond 2024, with confirmation to come within the next 12 to 18 months.

Such a renewal may seem far too early, but remember that Sky sealed the 2019 deal three years in advance. F1 is Sky’s second biggest sport, only behind football, and the earlier they can renew on a like-to-like basis, the better for them.

Furthermore, the economic climate post-COVID means that F1 is unlikely to see an increase in rights fees from the UK market. As thus, extending the current agreement with Sky may be in F1’s best interests too. Stability is in the interests of both parties.

When I outlined the above to someone close to the situation recently, what was their response? “I think you’re on the money, Dave…”

How have your viewing habits of Formula 1 changed in the past decade? Have your say in the comments below.

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.

Scheduling: The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Formula 1 returns to the streets of Monte Carlo for round five of the 2021 season, the Monaco Grand Prix!

So far in 2021, Lewis Hamilton has claimed three victories, with Max Verstappen winning a dramatic Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Can Verstappen close the gap on Hamilton around the principality?

The upcoming week is set to be a bumper one for Sky Sports, with over 48 hours of live motor sport airing on Sky’s F1 channel.

F1 – the coverage

Live coverage of the blue riband event airs exclusively on Sky Sports, with most of the action simulcast across Sky’s F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event.

Free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race follow a few hours later on Channel 4, whilst the BBC also covers every session live via BBC Radio 5 Live.

Joining Steve Jones out in Monaco for Channel 4’s trackside offering are David Coulthard and Mark Webber, whilst Alex Jacques joins Coulthard in the commentary booth. In addition, Eddie Jordan is with the team, the first time Jordan has joined them since 2019.

Meanwhile over on Sky, Ted Kravitz returns to the team having missed the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

As is tradition in Monaco, all the Friday action moves to Thursday, with only the first Formula 2 sprint race taking place on Friday morning.

The timing of the second Formula 2 sprint race on Saturday morning leaves fans wanting to watch it live with a slightly early alarm call: the race beginning at 07:20 UK time…

F1 – over-the-top

Fans watching via Formula 1’s over-the-top platform outside the UK will hear a different voice to usual on the Pit Lane Channel.

Tom Gaymor, who is a regular voice over on Eurosport, steps into the hot seat for the first time on F1 TV. Alex Brundle and Sam Collins join Gaymor in commentary, with Rosanna Tennant reporting from on-site.

Also new this weekend is the Porsche Supercup commentary line-up, as Harry Benjamin and Shaun Hollamby commentate on the series for the first time.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website

Wednesday 19th May
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:30 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Thursday 20th May
08:40 to 09:35 – F2: Practice (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
10:00 to 11:45 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 10:25 to 11:35
12:15 to 13:05 – F2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
13:45 to 15:30 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:55 to 15:05

Friday 21st May
10:35 to 11:40 – F2: Sprint Race 1 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)

Saturday 22nd May
07:10 to 08:15 – F2: Sprint Race 2 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
10:45 to 12:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 10:55 to 12:05
13:00 to 15:30 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:55 to 15:05
16:05 to 17:25 – F2: Feature Race (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:00 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
20:00 to 21:30 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday 23rd May
09:30 to 10:15 – Porsche Supercup: Race (Eurosport, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
12:30 to 17:30 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:55 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:50 to 16:00
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Ted’s Notebook
18:30 to 21:00 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Thursday 13th May and are subject to change.

Why, and how, are Sky Sports airing so much motor sport over the next week? The answer is the Indianapolis 500…

Indianapolis 500 build-up – the key details

UK fans will be able to see most of the Indianapolis 500 build-up, practice and qualifying exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.

There are exceptions, but this is where coverage overlaps with Sky’s Monaco Grand Prix offering, which understandably takes priority.

Normally pre-pandemic, the 500 immediately follows the Monaco race, but this year the two are on different weekends, the first time this has happened since 2010.

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that practice will come with limited commercials on Sky, but that qualifying and the race will run ad-free for UK fans.

Sky will take NBC’s coverage (NBC’s network channel, NBC Sports Network or Peacock) throughout the build-up, with Leigh Diffey leading proceedings.

Full coverage details for Sky’s race day offering are yet to be confirmed.

Tuesday 18th May
15:00 to 19:00 – Practice
20:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Wednesday 19th May
20:30 to 23:00 – Practice
=> session begins at 17:00

Thursday 20th May
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Friday 21st May
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Saturday 22nd May
18:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying
=> session begins at 17:00

Sunday 23rd May
18:00 to 21:30 – Qualifying
=> 18:00 – Last Chance
=> 19:30 – Fast Nine

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 build-up. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 14th May and are subject to change.

The week is jam packed for motor sport fans, as one of the most exciting periods of the motor sport year begins…

Last updated on Thursday 20th May.

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Scheduling: The 2021 F1 and MotoGP season openers

After a shorter than usual winter break, both Formula 1 and MotoGP are back!

Coverage of Formula 1, along with feeder series Formula 2 and Formula 3, airs live on Sky Sports in 2021, the broadcaster now entering their tenth season of covering the sport.

In addition, highlights of every race will air on Channel 4, with the free-to-air broadcaster also airing live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend.

F1 – the personnel

The big change from a personnel perspective is the departure of Ben Edwards from Channel 4’s line-up, Edwards deciding to step down from his position at the end of last season.

Replacing Edwards in the box is Alex Jacques, who will commentate on Channel 4’s coverage alongside his existing Formula 2 and Formula 3 commitments.

Joining Jacques in the Channel 4 box is David Coulthard, whilst Mark Webber and presenter Steve Jones also remain part of Channel 4’s line-up. The crew will be out in Bahrain presenting coverage, as opposed to remotely in the UK.

Over on Sky, Simon Lazenby continues to front their coverage, with David Croft and Martin Brundle remaining in the commentary box.

Ted Kravitz and his Notebook return in an increased capacity. ‘Ted’s Notebook’, as it was affectionally known, returns after being absent from the 2019 and 2020 schedules during Scott Young’s previous tenure as Sky’s Director of F1.

Ted’s Notebook as a programme will not only be present post-race, but will also return to cover qualifying as well during 2021.

Elsewhere on Sky’s presentation line-up, expect the likes of Anthony Davidson, Karun Chandhok, Johnny Herbert, Natalie Pinkham, Paul di Resta and Rachel Brookes to feature as the season progresses.

Over on the radio airwaves, Jack Nicholls, Jennie Gow and Jolyon Palmer return to BBC Radio 5’s offering to talk listeners through the 23-race season.

F1 – the coverage

The championship reverts to a weekend structure last seen 15 years ago, with the two Friday practice sessions reduced to 60 minutes, a throwback to the 2006 season.

Furthermore, races will now start on the hour instead of ten past the hour, again a throwback to yesteryear.

The structure of Formula 2 and Formula 3 changes radically for 2021: less weekends, more races, intended to reduce costs.

Each race weekend will now feature 3 races, the two series alternating their way through 2021.

As well as adapting to the above, Sky have moved The F1 Show to a Thursday evening time slot, with both Welcome to the Weekend and The Story so Far dropped from their schedules.

Plans for a Sunday Social show preceding the main build-up on Sunday’s have not materialised after being in Sky’s pre-COVID plans for 2020.

Channel 4’s scheduling remains identical to 2020, with a 90-minute show for qualifying and a 150-minute show for the race itself, both including ad-breaks.

F1 – over-the-top

The only way to watch F1 live legally in the UK is via Sky Sports F1 in some form.

Fans cannot access the premium tier of F1’s over-the-top service, despite F1 and Sky exploring this openly last year.

For those outside of the UK watching via F1 TV Pro, access to on-board angles from every car is available, as well as the Pit Lane Channel.

With no Jacques on the Pit Lane Channel this season, F1 says that Alex Brundle, Sam Collins, Rosanna Tennant, Matt Gallagher, and Jordan King will provide commentary this year.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website

Friday 19th March
19:30 to 21:30 – The F1 Show: Season Launch (Sky Sports F1)
All Day – Drive to Survive: Season 3 (Netflix)

Tuesday 23rd March
21:00 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Thursday 25th March
13:00 to 16:35 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)

Friday 26th March
10:00 to 11:00 – F2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
11:00 to 12:45 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
– also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 11:25 to 12:35
13:45 to 14:25 – F2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
14:45 to 16:30 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
– also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 14:55 to 16:05

Saturday 27th March
10:15 to 11:20 – F2: Sprint Race 1 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
11:45 to 13:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
14:00 to 16:30 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
– also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 14:55 to 16:10
16:30 to 17:35 – F2: Sprint Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
18:30 to 20:00 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)
21:00 to 21:30 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)

Sunday 28th March
11:40 to 13:00 – F2: Feature Race (Sky Sports F1)
14:30 to 19:30 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 15:55 – Race
– also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 16:00 to 18:00
=> 18:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 19:00 – Ted’s Notebook
20:30 to 23:00 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 26th March and are subject to change.

Live coverage of MotoGP remains on BT Sport for 2021, the pay-TV broadcaster having recently extended their deal with MotoGP to continue airing the sport until 2024.

MotoGP – the key details

In a similar vein to Edwards on the F1 front, BT’s lead commentator Keith Huewen also decided to step away from the day-to-day commentary role at the end of 2020.

Huewen cited the “unexpected positive effect of the pandemic” as to the reason for his departure. Gavin Emmett succeeds Huewen as lead commentator, with Natalie Quirk stepping into Emmett’s previous role as reporter.

For fans not wanting to subscribe to BT, coverage is also available via MotoGP’s over-the-top VideoPass service.

Available to fans for €199.99 (£171.73) across the season, the service gives fans the ability to watch from multiple angles, as well as access to MotoGP’s rich archive from 1992 onwards.

On the free-to-air highlights front, coverage will return to ITV4 this season after negotiations between Dorna and prospective broadcasters went to the eleventh hour.

Highlights will again air on Monday evenings, moving from Quest where it has aired for the past two seasons, but with limited success.

Friday 26th March
10:45 to 18:00 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 10:50 – Moto3: Practice 1
=> 11:45 – Moto2: Practice 1
=> 12:40 – MotoGP: Practice 1
=> 15:10 – Moto3: Practice 2
=> 16:05 – Moto2: Practice 2
=> 17:00 – MotoGP: Practice 2

Saturday 27th March
10:15 to 13:15 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 10:25 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 11:20 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 12:15 – MotoGP: Practice 3
14:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 14:30 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 15:25 – Moto2: Qualifying
=> 16:20 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 17:00 – MotoGP: Qualifying

Sunday 28th March
11:45 to 19:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 11:45 – Asia Talent Cup
=> 12:30 – Warm Ups
=> 14:15 – Moto3: Race
=> 16:00 – Moto2: Race
=> 17:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 19:00 – Chequered Flag

Monday 29th March
20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Qatar MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 26th March and are subject to change.

As I announced in my piece last month, I will not be publishing scheduling articles for every single F1 and MotoGP race weekend this season.

Instead, this site will publish schedules for key events in the motor racing calendar throughout the year, such as the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Indianapolis 500, and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Last updated on Friday 26th March.

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.

Murray Walker, 1923-2021

The voice of Formula 1, Murray Walker has died at the age of 97, the BRDC has confirmed.

Walker commentated on motor sport for decades, from his first Grand Prix race in 1949 all the way through until retiring from his Formula 1 commentary role at the end of 2001, for both the BBC and ITV.

In a statement, the BRDC said “It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker OBE.”

“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nations favourite commentator and a contagious smile. Murray will be sadly missed; his mark and voice will live on in motorsport and our hearts forever.”

“We thank Murray for all he has done for our community.”

Writing on Twitter, Martin Brundle, who commentated with Walker full-time from 1997 to 2001 said “Rest in Peace Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend.”

Silverstone’s Managing Director Stuart Pringle said “It is with great sadness that I have to inform Silverstone’s fans that Murray Walker died earlier today. He was to so many of us fans of F1, the voice that epitomised the sport we love.”

“Knowledgeable beyond words and with a passion that occasionally got the better of him in commentary, he brought the sport and some of its greatest moments to life in a way that ensured they remained seared in our memories for ever.”

“Much will be written about the impact that Murray had on the sport and we will make a more fulsome tribute in due course, but for the time being rest in peace Murray and thank you.”

A legend who has inspired generations

When people think of F1, past or present, they think of a handful of names. Senna. Schumacher. Fangio. Prost. Hamilton. Bernie. And Murray.

The first F1 race I watched was the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix. Two things got me addicted to F1 that year and into the 2000s: Michael Schumacher in the iconic Ferrari, with Murray Walker and Martin Brundle providing the sound track. Without Murray, I doubt this site would exist.

Although Walker did step aside at the 2001 US Grand Prix, the joys of the internet means that his commentary lives forever, and is easy to find on any F1 archive clip from the 1970s to the 1990s.

I cannot mention Walker without mentioning James Hunt, two opposites, but joined together in the commentary box discussing the one thing they loved most: motor sport.

During Walker’s tenure, F1’s popularity in the UK boomed, thanks in part to Nigel Mansell’s and Damon Hill’s on-track successes, but also due to Walker’s commentary, Walker communicating the intricates of the sport to the masses.

Lines such as “And I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat!” are forever etched in F1 history, and will always will be.

I had the pleasure of meeting Murray twice. The first was at a signing for his ‘Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken’ book in late 2002. What I remember about the evening most was not the actual signing, but the long queue of hundreds of people, which stretched far outside the Waterstones.

From kids, like me, through to the grandparents, everyone wanted Murray to sign a copy of the book. And that was a sign of just how much people connected with Murray at home. Murray was special, and he brought our wonderful sport to life.

Fast forward 16 years, and to the second meeting of me and Murray, this time at Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch.

Murray was on stage with the rest of the Channel 4 team, before joining the rest of the team in roundtable discussions with media afterwards. Even at the age of 92, Murray was in fine form.

Sadly, there will not be a third meeting.

The motor racing paddock is filled with young talent: racers, mechanics, hospitality, and on the broadcasting side, producers, commentators, presenters and so on.

All of them have a connecting bond: they grew up listening to Murray’s infectious commentary. Without Murray, the motor racing paddock today would be a worse place. There will never be another Murray Walker.

Murray, you inspired generations, not one generation, but multiple. Legend is bandied around far too much, but you were a legend, and simply the best.

We’ll miss you.

Scheduling: The 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

After Lewis Hamilton made history last weekend in the Algarve, F1 heads east to Italy for the return of Imola to the calendar!

Because of the 24 hour distance between the two locations by car, unusually the F1 weekend is only two days long, with a 90-minute practice session taking place on Saturday morning, followed by qualifying later.

The race itself starts at 12:10 UK time, primarily because of the early sunset. If you think that is earlier than usual, brace yourselves for the Turkish Grand Prix, which begins at 10:10 UK time a fortnight later.

Elsewhere, there is little to report with the World Touring Car Cup heading to Aragon for the penultimate event of its heavily truncated season.

Channel 4 F1
31/10 – 17:15 to 18:45 – Qualifying Highlights
01/11 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
31/10 – 08:30 to 10:45
=> 08:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 09:00 – Practice
31/10 – 12:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying
01/11 – 10:30 to 15:30 – Race
=> 10:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 12:05 – Race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 15:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
04/11 – 19:30 to 21:00 – F1 Pro Series Race 4 and 5
04/11 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief
05/11 – 19:30 to 21:00 – F1 Pro Series Race 6

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
29/10 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
31/10 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/10 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/11 – 12:00 to 14:15 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

World Touring Car Cup – Spain (Eurosport 2)
31/10 – 12:15 to 13:15 – Qualifying
01/11 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Race 1
01/11 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 2
01/11 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 3

If any details change, this article will be updated.