After almost 40 hours of practice and 7 days of on-track action, it comes down to this. Welcome, to the 2021 Indianapolis 500!
Scott Dixon is on pole for the race from the brickyard, can he convert pole to victory to win his second 500?
Joining Dixon on the front row are Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay, both young chargers looking to win their first Indianapolis 500.
There are five ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid, led by Alexander Rossi in 10th place.
Indianapolis 500 – the coverage
Live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 airs exclusively on Sky Sports F1, with the broadcaster’s offering coming live from McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking.
Natalie Pinkham presents Sky’s broadcast, with Tom Gaymor and McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris joining her.
Sky’s coverage will serve as a wrap around to the main US offering, meaning that UK fans will not miss a second of NBC’s US coverage. Sky will build-up to the US coverage from 15:45, before handing over to NBC at 16:00.
From 16:00 onwards, UK fans will hear Sky’s line-up during the frequent US ad-breaks over the hours that follow.
Leigh Diffey leads the commentary line-up for the third year running, with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy joining Diffey.
Down in pit lane, Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee will keep fans abreast of developments as the race progresses.
Meanwhile, Mike Tirico, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, and Steve Letarte will provide additional views from NBC’s on-site studio, whilst Rutledge Wood will be out around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Friday 28th May 16:00 to 18:00 – Carb Day
Sunday 30th May 15:45 to 21:00 – 105th Indianapolis 500 => race starts at 17:45
Full UK scheduling details for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 24th May and are subject to change.
Elsewhere, MotoGP heads to Mugello for round six of the 2021 season. Ducati’s Jack Miller will be looking to win three races in a row after winning a changeable French Grand Prix last time out.
MotoGP – the coverage
After airing live on ITV4 for Le Mans, coverage airs this weekend exclusively on BT Sport, with ITV returning to the frame later this year for the British Grand Prix.
For BT, the weekend marks a big milestone on the return to normality, as the broadcaster begins a phased return to the MotoGP paddock.
While BT’s main presentation and commentary will remain at the BT Tower for now, a small crew led by Natalie Quirk, will be present on-site interviewing the stars of the show. Joining Quirk on-site is 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli who will be part of the team for the remainder of the season.
ITV4’s highlights airs later than usual at 23:00 due to live coverage of French Open tennis.
Friday 28th May 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2) => 08:00 – Moto3 => 08:55 – MotoGP => 09:55 – Moto2 12:15 to 15:00 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2) => 12:15 – Moto3 => 13:10 – MotoGP => 14:10 – Moto2
Saturday 29th May 08:00 to 16:15 – Practice and Qualifying (BT Sport 2) => 08:00 – Moto3: Practice 3 => 08:55 – MotoGP: Practice 3 => 09:55 – Moto2: Practice 3 => 11:35 – Moto3: Qualifying => 12:30 – MotoGP: Practice 4 => 13:10 – MotoGP: Qualifying => 14:10 – Moto2: Qualifying => 15:15 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 1
Sunday 30th May 07:30 to 14:30 – Races (BT Sport 2) => 07:30 – Warm Ups => 09:15 – Moto3: Race => 11:00 – Moto2: Race => 12:30 – MotoGP: Race => 14:00 – Chequered Flag 14:30 to 15:30 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
Monday 31st May 23:00 to 00:00 – Highlights (ITV4)
Full scheduling details for the 2021 Italian MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 25th May and are subject to change.
It promises to be an exciting weekend of action on both two wheels and four wheels, with plenty to whet the appetite over the Bank Holiday for UK readers.
Motorsport Broadcasting understands that Neil Hodgson will join Emmett for the main MotoGP series, with Michael Laverty joining him for Moto2. Hodgson and Laverty will then rotate on a race-by-race alongside Emmett to cover the Moto3 class.
As a result of Emmett’s promotion, BT have brought Natalie Quirk into the MotoGP fold. Quirk will serve as MotoGP reporter, also presenting some segments of the programme in a similar vein to Emmett previously.
Quirk has been part of BT Sport’s wider programming since 2014, as both presenter and reporter. In recent years, Quirk has led BT’s speedway offering, both domestically and internationally.
Currently, Quirk serves as one of BT’s regular football presenters, presenting coverage of the UEFA Europa League and The National League, amongst others.
The rest of BT’s line-up remains the same, with Suzi Perry continuing to present the broadcaster’s main MotoGP offering.
Last month, BT and MotoGP confirmed that the pay-TV channel will continue to broadcast the series until the end of the 2024 season, extending their current rights deal by an additional three seasons.
BT to remain in UK for the first 5 rounds
The pay-TV broadcaster will remain in the UK for at least the first 5 rounds this season, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.
BT began 2020 covering MotoGP from Triumph’s UK headquarters in Hinckley, before relocating to the BT Tower in London from September onwards.
I understand that BT’s presentation will continue from the BT Tower as the 2021 season gets underway due to the ongoing international travel restrictions.
The UK government hopes to ease international travel restrictions on May 17th. On that basis, BT intends to present their Mugello offering on-site over the weekend of May 28th to May 30th, but this is subject to change.
BT cannot realistically present their coverage on-site before then, as all their UK based talent would need to quarantine upon arrival back in the UK.
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.
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.
MotoGP fans worldwide will remember 2020 for many reasons, and not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On track, the action was thrilling, with Juan Mir stepping out into the limelight to secure his first championship in the premier class, and Suzuki’s first since 2000.
The pandemic resulted in changes across the board: a truncated MotoGP season of just 14 races started in July, culminating on November 22nd in Portugal. Some broadcasters stayed away from the paddock, including UK broadcaster BT Sport, who recently extended their deal to cover MotoGP until the end of the 2024 season.
BT based themselves to begin with at Triumph’s UK headquarters in Hinckley, before moving to the iconic BT Tower in London from September. For the personnel involved, 2020 meant a season closer to their loved ones, for the first time in years.
During the Czech Republic weekend, I mused around BT’s temporary Triumph base to see how they were adapting to the ever-changing pandemic, chatting to the stars in front of the camera, including lead commentator Keith Huewen.
But little did I, or perhaps he, know at the time, 2020 would be Huewen’s last with the BT Sport team. Following the season finale, Huewen announced that he was stepping down as BT’s lead commentator.
Here, we look back at Huewen’s broadcasting career…
The early days
Before stepping into the broadcasting arena, Huewen raced across the UK and overseas, like many before and after him, including at Mallory Park, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Triumph building where we recollect about the past.
Huewen raced into his early 30s in the 1980s, when injury forced him onto the side-lines at a “relatively early” age. “I won my last British championship when I was 30, and retired when I was 31,” he tells me.
“The fact is, at a certain age, you know as a rider, that the time is right [to retire]. Some go through denial; others are forced out through injury. For me, it was a bit of both. I had shoulder injuries that were hampering me, and it felt like the time was right to move on.”
It was during his racing days that Huewen met journalist Julian Ryder, a friendship now almost 40 years in the making, and one that has evolved over the years through various commentary stints with multiple broadcasters.
The two began their partnership with Eurosport, before moving to Sky, in an era where satellite TV was just coming to the forefront, and the sports television boom on pay-TV was beginning.
“It was pioneering back in those days,” Huewen recalls. “I always remember my mates at the BBC and elsewhere laughing their socks off when they knew I was going satellite.”
“But, of course, within two or three years, all the sports departments you had at Anglia Television and Look South had gone. A lot of the people I worked with at, say, Anglia are now working with different production companies all over the country.”
“Satellite television really took sport on and improved it in my view. There’s a lot of people that baulked at the idea that sport would cost people money to watch on TV but the fact is sport pretty much lives off the television nowadays.”
Whilst pioneering, there were fewer people involved in front of the screen compared to today, with the likes of Huewen ‘doubling up’ as both presenter and commentator.
Huewen not only presented Sky’s World Superbikes offering from Chiswick in the mid-1990s, but would then join Ryder in the commentary box straight after. Whilst “quite good fun,” Huewen does look back on certain aspects of their commentary slightly differently, and not with rose-tinted glasses either.
“TV commentary has moved on hugely since the ’90s. I listen to some of our old commentaries and cringe slightly. I’m sure if you spoke to Jules, he’d be exactly the same!”
“The professionalism involved in our television broadcast now is hugely better than it was back then, in both the production standards, and I hope in commentary standards,” Huewen believes.
As with many commentators, Huewen has bounced around various places, on both two wheels and four. See if you recognise the commentator in the clip above, published to F1’s YouTube channel, featuring Lewis Hamilton climbing from back to front during his karting days in 1998…
The second coming
With Sky moving away from World Superbikes however as the 1990s ended, the Huewen and Ryder pairing ended, for now at least.
Huewen spent the 2000s presenting Sky’s motor sport portfolio, from A1 Grand Prix to IndyCar, and whilst he admits he “could have ticked over at Sky forever,” presenting motor sport in a studio when other broadcasters were evolving their offering around him, was not where he wanted to be.
In addition, the emergence of Sky F1 at the beginning of 2012 meant that Sky’s existing motor sport rights became even less of a priority.
For Huewen, MotoGP’s move from the BBC and Eurosport to BT Sport ready for the start of 2014 season, presented new opportunities, and more importantly, a potential return to what he loved doing.
“The point here is that I really, really, really felt the loss of not being at the track covering World Superbikes or MotoGP and when BT took MotoGP on, I wanted to be there.”
The jigsaw fell into place for the Northampton-based commentator. Internal support from the powers that be at BT Sport sealed the deal for Huewen, whilst Huewen himself made it clear to Dorna, MotoGP’s Commercial Rights Holder, that he wanted to be back in the paddock.
“I’d made sure that the right people had known that we [Huewen and Ryder] were available to the point where I’d even gone out to Le Mans in 2013 to meet with [CEO] Carmelo Ezpeleta at Dorna to make sure that he knew so that if anybody from BT asked the boss at Dorna his opinion regarding commentators, he would know that I was in the marketplace,” Huewen recalls.
“Grant Best [BT’s Executive Director of Talent, Creative and Programming] at the time decided that he wanted Jules [Ryder] and I back together again. That meant that the likes of Steve Parrish and Toby Moody both very capable commentators, lost out.”
“But they lost out on the BT deal because it was decided that Jules and I were going to get back together again, and the rest is history as they say.”
Huewen is full of praise for the BT team that he leaves behind.
“The team that’s on BT is a well-oiled machine, everybody works well together. We’re very fortunate in that everybody shares information, which you don’t get in broadcasting that often. It’s an unusual situation.”
“Going back to the racing analogy, it’d be like sharing your notes as far as your data is concerned, with somebody that’s outside of your team, it’s rare.”
Commentating with Ryder and Hodgson
Contrary to what some on social media may believe, Huewen and Ryder are genuine friends, even if they sometimes did “aggravate each other” in the commentary box!
“People often ask ‘do you actually like each other.’ And we really do, we are good mates. We’re opposites in many of our viewpoints, but we always end up properly agreeing.”
“Our arguments have always been whoever can argue the most reasonably wins. If you’ve got the most reasonable argument over the other person, you win, eventually.”
“He’s never hit me. Although I think he probably wanted to.”
Hopefully not in commentary…
“It’s been close! I’ve had to stand up in front of the screen so I can get a go sometimes.”
Joking or not (reader, I will let you decide), Huewen’s and Ryder’s friendship goes beyond the commentary box, and the two still speak regularly about the action on track.
“Yeah, we still speak every week about what’s going on. We’re all connected in our field, journalists, riders, mechanics. We’ve known each other for decades.”
“Motorcycling is your life, and the fact you’re broadcasting now, even though it is a job in comparison, you’re still just as enthusiastic about it as you were then. I’ve spent nights lying in bed, looking through time sheets. Some people think that’s bloody ridiculous,” Huewen laughs.
“And it’s not because I have to, it’s because I want to!”
More recently, Neil Hodgson has succeeded Ryder in the commentary box alongside Huewen, a pairing that in Huewen’s eyes has worked “really well.”
“He’s got personality and he knows what he’s talking about at the end of the day. He’s like me, man and boy came up through the paddock. I knew his Mum and Dad for a long time, and I of course commentated on a lot of stuff Hodgy had done.”
“We have a very similar sense of humour, which always helps. We’re like brothers from a different mother, and that works really well.”
Citing the “unexpected positive effect of the pandemic,” Huewen stepped aside from BT’s offering following the conclusion of the 2020 season, but is also keen to emphasise that, like Ryder a few years earlier, he is not retiring.
What next then for both Huewen, and BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage? Who will succeed Huewen in the BT box? That is the next chapter to follow…
BT Sport is to remain home of MotoGP until the end of the 2024 season, after agreeing a new three-year deal with the series, the two parties announced today.
The pay-TV broadcaster has held exclusive live rights to the championship, including the feeder series Moto2 and Moto3 since the 2014 season, taking over from the BBC and Eurosport.
Their latest deal with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna was set to expire following the 2021 season.
Now, both parties have confirmed that their relationship will stretch an additional three seasons, taking their partnership through year nine to eleven.
BT will continue to screen live and exclusive coverage of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, as well as the electric MotoE series.
Fans unwilling to pay for BT can purchase a Video Pass directly from MotoGP, at a cost of €199.99 (£176.58) covering the whole season.
BT’s MotoGP viewing figures rise
The news of a new three-year deal comes off the back of a positive year for BT.
Analysis conducted by Motorsport Broadcasting on consolidated audience data released by BARB shows that an average audience of 186,000 viewers watched MotoGP action on BT Sport during 2020, an increase of 15 percent on the equivalent 2019 figure of 161,000 viewers.
The good news for BT spreads to all three categories, with Moto2 and Moto3’s audiences rising by 49 percent and 80 percent respectively, mirroring similar increases to that of Formula Two and Formula Three.
An average of 111,000 viewers watched Moto2 action in 2020, compared with 74,000 viewers in 2019, while Moto3’s average rose from 53,000 viewers in 2019 to 96,000 viewers last season.
The Styrian Grand Prix was BT’s high point during 2020, as an average of 254,000 viewers watched their MotoGP race broadcast on August 23rd. The feeder races that day averaged 107,000 viewers and 128,000 viewers respectively.
Not only did MotoGP benefit from viewers staying at home during the pandemic, the rise comes in the face of many clashes with Formula 1: 9 of the 14 races clashed with F1 in some way last season.
The news of BT’s renewed commitment to MotoGP will be great for those that enjoy BT’s offering, but disappointing for those that were hoping that MotoGP would return to free-to-air television.
Whilst BT does offer excellent coverage, their figures are lower than those achieved when the championship aired on the BBC, when an average of around one million viewers watched each MotoGP race.
As The Race outlines, pay television broadcasters have considerable sway in the paddock due to the money they invest in the championship, and without that money, some teams or riders would simply be unable to race.
If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic means that pay-TV money becomes even more important for championships such as MotoGP.
What they say
In a statement, Simon Green, Managing Director at BT Sport, said “We are extremely proud to continue as the home of MotoGP in the UK and Ireland.”
“BT Sport has the best presentation team delivering the most comprehensive MotoGP coverage that UK fans have ever enjoyed, with every single practice, qualifying and race broadcast in full.”
“I would also like to congratulate Dorna on safely and successfully completing the 2020 season, one of the most exciting we have seen, and thank them for collaborating with us to bring some great new programming to our audiences during last year’s lockdown,” Green added.
Manel Arroyo, Managing Director at Dorna Sports, said “BT Sport are one of our most important partners and we are delighted to see MotoGP remain with them until at least 2024, securing top quality coverage for the sport in one of our most important markets. Fans in the UK and Ireland couldn’t ask for more.”
“After a thrilling but challenging 2020 season, we are proud to see this partnership confirmed to continue and mark a decade of collaboration.”
“We would also like to thank BT Sport for their support in 2020 and look forward to at least another four seasons working together,” Arroyo concluded.
The 2021 season is currently set to begin with a double header in Qatar on March 28th and April 4th.
BT will begin the new season with a new lead commentator following Keith Huewen’s decision to step down from his role. The identity of the new lead is currently unconfirmed.