Scheduling: The 2019 Australian Grand Prix

A new year, a new era.

Formula 1 roars back into life, with the championship starting down under in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix!

For UK fans, the action airs exclusively live on Sky, with highlights on Channel 4. If you are not yet accustomed to hearing that sentence yet, you will soon, as that sentence applies for 20 of the 21 races this season, and (partially) applies until the end of 2024.

Change at Sky…
A lot has happened since both broadcasters went off the air at the end of 2018. Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button have joined Sky for the upcoming season, adding depth to their line-up.

The rest of Sky’s line-up remains the same as last year, 2019 marking their eighth season covering the sport. Simon Lazenby will continue to front their coverage, with David Croft and Martin Brundle on commentary.

Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Anthony Davidson, Johnny Herbert, and Damon Hill will provide analysis throughout the season, with Natalie Pinkham and Rachel Brookes also contributing to Sky’s coverage.

However, Sky have reduced Ted Kravitz’s contribution for 2019, after u-turning on an earlier decision to axe him from their coverage. Kravitz is with Sky for 14 races this season, whilst his Notebook output is no more based on current schedules. Kravitz is presenting a midweek show called Midweek Debrief, but this is an F1 production as opposed to an in-house Sky production.

On the programming front, Sky have extended their Thursday preview show, added a 30-minute wrap-up show on Friday, and kept The F1 Show on Saturday’s after qualifying. On race day, Sky have also extended Paddock Live to an hour, but it also starts half an hour earlier, meaning that Sky will head off-air earlier on Sunday’s than previously.

Sky are simulcasting their programming throughout the weekend across Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. On Sunday, they are replaying the race five times in full across the F1 channel, Sky One and Main Event before Channel 4’s highlights programme has even started!

…and at Channel 4…
With Chandhok moving over to Sky, Channel 4 have added Billy Monger and Stefano Domenicali to their line-up. Both of them join Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Mark Webber in Melbourne, with Ben Edwards continuing to commentate alongside Coulthard. The broadcaster has retained Lee McKenzie, despite McKenzie previously intending to move onto pastures new this season.

As expected, Channel 4’s highlights programme is shorter than last year, with decreases of 20 minutes (18%) and 45 minutes (27%) for qualifying and the race respectively. The decreases are bigger than expected, as Australia received a generous edit from Channel 4 historically compared to races later in the season.

Decreases aside, fans will notice change from the very first second of Channel 4’s programme. Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is no more. In its place I understand is a new, modern theme to kick-start Channel 4’s 2019 coverage.

…and at the Beeb
For those of you without Sky, the BBC’s 5 Live coverage of Formula 1 remains. The broadcaster has not officially confirmed their radio line-up, although expect no changes on the personnel side. IMG are producing their coverage this season after winning the contract from USP Content last October.

Elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, the World Endurance Championship returns to action in Sebring, whilst Supercars plays its part on the F1 support bill, which UK viewers will have access to for the first time.

Channel 4 F1
16/03 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Qualifying Highlights
17/03 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
15/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 02:45 to 04:30 – Practice 3
=> 02:45 – Practice 3
=> 04:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/03 – 05:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 05:00 – Pre-Show
=> 05:55 – Qualifying
17/03 – 03:30 to 08:00 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 03:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 04:30 – On the Grid
=> 05:05 – Race
=> 07:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
13/03 – 06:00 to 07:00 – Melbourne F1 Launch Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
14/03 – 05:00 to 06:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/03 – 07:00 to 08:00 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 07:00 to 07:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/03 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
14/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Asia Talent Cup – Thailand (BT Sport 3)
16/03 – 07:15 to 08:15 – Race 1
17/03 – 04:30 to 05:30 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Melbourne (BT Sport 2)
15/03 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
16/03 – 01:15 to 02:30 – Race 2
16/03 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 3
17/03 – 02:15 to 03:45 – Race 4

World Endurance Championship – 1000 Miles of Sebring
15/03 – 19:30 to 04:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
15/03 – 19:45 to 04:30 – Race (Eurosport)

World Superbikes – Thailand
16/03 – 05:30 to 10:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
17/03 – 05:30 to 10:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
21/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Update on March 12th – Added Ted Kravitz’s new show with F1 TV (also airing on Sky), plus updated the Supercars schedule.

Update on March 15th – Added Stefano Domenicali to Channel 4’s line-up. Also, Supercars has disappeared from BT Sport’s schedules. Historically, there were restrictions around what broadcasters could air from Supercars in Melbourne as it falls under the F1 support package, restrictions which still apply. The only place for UK fans to see the action is via SuperView,.


Scheduling: The 2018 Ad Diriyah E-Prix / Christmas reviews

A bass riff may not accompany Formula E, nor may it be airing on one of the BBC’s traditional television outlets, but nevertheless, the electric series takes a major step into the future as season five begins, with live coverage across the BBC’s digital platforms.

The start of the 2018-19 season takes the championship to a new, perhaps controversial, location as the series descends on Saudi Arabia for the Ad Diriyah E-Prix.

For UK fans, as well as the BBC and incumbents Eurosport, the actions airs live on BT Sport and YouTube for the first time. The BBC’s coverage is of the race itself, from the five-minute sting to after the chequered flag, excluding the pre-race festivities.

In a departure from last season, Eurosport are taking the World Feed commentary with Bob Varsha, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti, a surprise considering Eurosport usually provide their own commentary feed for motor racing events.

However, BT Sport is the only UK television station that will air every Formula E session live, including the Shakedown on Friday afternoons, as well as practice on Saturday mornings. For non-BT Sport fans, the good news is that every session airs live via YouTube. Additionally, highlights air on Discovery-owned channel Quest following their Football League highlights show on Saturday, with a repeat on Sunday morning.

Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields complete the World Feed line-up. Kay stays in the Formula E paddock after impressing as Channel 5’s presenter last season. Last year, North One Television produced Channel 5 output, North One also forming part of Formula E’s worldwide output alongside Aurora.

Laurence McKenna hosts the tailored YouTube race programme, called ‘Voltage’, with Becky Evans alongside him. Neither are names regular readers will recognise, but both are young and active in the car scene on social media, and are exactly the right people to grow Formula E’s presence amongst the younger generation.

Red Bull profiled Evans here, whilst McKenna has presented a variety of social media output and podcasts in the past few years. KSI and Zerkaa, who form part of the Sidemen (a group of YouTube personalities), join McKenna and Evans in the YouTube London hub.

Elsewhere, December is packed with season reviews. BT Sport are going the extra mile with their MotoGP review show airing live from The Bike Shed in London. Suzi Perry presents as usual, with special guests including Bradley Smith, Sam Lowes, and triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Sky’s F1 review show premieres on Christmas Eve, whilst Channel 4 are not airing a formal Christmas show following their short review during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

Formula E – Ad Diriyah
All sessions air live via YouTube and the following UK channels…
14/12 – 11:45 to 12:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
15/12 – 04:00 to 04:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 06:00 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 07:30 to 09:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
15/12 – 11:00 to 13:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms from 12:00
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2
15/12 – 11:30 to 13:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
15/12 – 22:30 to 23:30 – Highlights (Quest)

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Ad Diriyah (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 04:45 to 05:30 – Qualifying
15/12 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Race

MotoGP (BT Sport 2)
09/12 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Season Review

BBC Radio F1
TBC – Season Review

Sky Sports F1
24/12 – 19:00 to 21:00
=> 19:00 – Alonso / Johnson Car Swap
=> 19:30 – Jean Todt Exclusive: Future of F1
=> 20:00 – Season Review

In the run-up to Christmas, keep an eye on this post in the event of any changes to the review programming over the festive period.

Tracking BBC’s and Channel 4’s Formula 1 picks from 2012 to 2018

Over the past seven years, the BBC and Channel 4 have negotiated with Sky on a yearly basis to decide which races they would like to broadcast live, and which races they will air in highlights form.

The picking process is complex, and required compromise, strategic thinking, and scheduling discussion with other departments to avoid significant clashes. For example, a live Formula 1 race on free-to-air television clashing with an England World Cup game would not be in anyone’s interests.

With seven years of data, we have enough information to work with to pick out some trends. Which races were popular with free-to-air broadcasters, and which races failed to scratch the surface? In addition, is there any correlation between a driver winning, and the race airing live on free-to-air television in the UK? The second part is not entirely serious, the analysis was more out of intrigue rather than trying to seriously suggest there was a genuine pattern.

For readers unfamiliar, the pick process worked as follows:

  • BBC / Channel 4 make three live picks
  • Sky make three exclusively live picks
  • BBC / Channel 4 make one live pick
  • Sky make one exclusively live pick
  • BBC / Channel 4 makes one live pick
  • Sky make one exclusively live pick

The process continues until there are no more races to select. The free-to-air broadcaster cannot air three races live consecutively, and similarly Sky cannot air three races exclusively live in a row. In the end, there should be a balance of races live on free-to-air television, with no skew towards one way or the other.

Both sides have their priorities, and restrictions because of the rules around the process. 139 races have taken place across the seven seasons, 25 distinct races, whilst 15 races have kept their place on the Formula 1 calendar between 2012 and 2018.

There are some obvious skews to this data, in that the free-to-air broadcaster aired the British Grand Prix as well as the final race of the season live every year as part of the agreement.

Hamilton and Mercedes more likely to win when F1 airs exclusively live on pay-TV
If you are hoping for a competitive 2019 when F1 moves primarily onto pay television, look away now. Since 2012, 68 races aired live on free-to-air television, with the other 71 airing in highlights form.

Of the races that aired in highlights on free-to-air, Mercedes have won 61 percent of them, compared to 51 percent when F1 airs live on free-to-air. In 2016, Mercedes were victorious in all the races that Channel 4 aired as highlights, with the only two non-Mercedes victories (by Red Bull in Spain and Malaysia) airing live on Channel 4.

UK F1 - wins between 2012 and 2018

Overall, the chances of Red Bull and Ferrari winning increases by 7 and 5 percentage points respectively when F1 airs live on free-to-air compared to in highlights form. This season, Mercedes won eleven races, of which seven aired exclusively live on Sky. Four of Ferrari’s victories aired live on Channel 4, with their other two (Australia and Canada) covered exclusively live by Sky.

In a parallel universe where only races that aired live on free-to-air television in the UK counted towards the F1 championship, Sebastian Vettel comes within a whisker of winning the championship, losing out to Lewis Hamilton by just eight points.

Unfortunately for Vettel, it is not quite as simple as that, as in the ‘Sky exclusive’ championship, Hamilton waltzes away with an 80-point lead, Vettel finishing the season in a four-way scrap for second, also involving Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, separated by just six points!

It does, however, highlight the absurdness of the 2012 to 2018 deal. Imagine choosing to only watching the races that aired on free-to-air television live, you would be bemused as to how Hamilton won the 2018 championship relatively comfortably in the end.

Although Vettel did not have it all his own way in 2018, the balance of wins for him between free-to-air and pay-TV is similar at 15 and 16 wins respectively over the course of the seven year period. Both Hamilton, and ex-Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s win ratios skew towards pay-TV, whilst Daniel Ricciardo skews in the opposite direction.

Of course, races such as Austria, China and Italy have traditionally been pay-TV strangleholds, as well as Mercedes’ playground, explaining some of the skews in play here.

UK F1 - 2018 points

Australia left out in the cold
Since 2012, there have been 31 early morning races, 77 afternoon races and 30 prime time races for UK fans.

If you liked your early morning doses of Formula 1, the 2012 to 2018 contract did not live up to expectation, with only 12 of the 31 races (or 39 percent) of them airing live on free-to-air television.

Despite being the season opener on all seven occasions, the Australian Grand Prix had a raw deal from the BBC and Channel 4, the race has now not aired live on free-to-air since 2011.

More recently, the Chinese round did not receive good treatment, only airing live in 2012 and 2013. Despite a similar timeslot to China, the Japanese Grand Prix received a much better bite of the cherry, airing live in four out of the 7 seasons.

13 of the 30 prime time races aired live on either the BBC or Channel 4, whilst 55 percent of all afternoon races between 2012 and 2018 (42 out of 77 races) aired live on free-to-air television.

Airing the early morning races as highlights made little difference to the fan at home, but airing the prime-time evening races in highlights form several hours later meant a very late night for UK fans without Sky.

Aside from Britain (a compulsory pick), the Belgian Grand Prix aired live on all seven occasions, possibly a result of following directly after the Summer break. Abu Dhabi aired live on six occasions thanks to its season ending time slot, but there was no obvious trend for the other races, this depending on their exact placement on the calendar.

During their time covering Formula 1, the BBC avoided picking either the USA or Mexican rounds live, Sky picking these races as part of their opening set of picks. The pendulum swung their way in the Channel 4 years, but at the expense of both the Canadian and Brazilian rounds, neither of which aired live on Channel 4.

The joys of the system meant that Sky had two or three prime time races locked in from the outset, making it difficult for the free-to-air broadcaster to get a look in.

If you believe statistics can predict the future, then expect Hamilton to dominate the 2019 Formula One season, with around 14 victories to his name. Joking aside, it is fascinating how your interpretation of a given season can differ depending on where, or rather who in the case of F1’s broadcasters, you watched the show with.

Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

The 2018 Formula One season has ended, and with it, brings down the curtain on the motor racing year.

On-track, it has been a year of generally good racing wherever you look. Whilst neither the F1 or MotoGP seasons went down the wire, the racing in both has been worth watching on many occasions this year.

Off the track, there have been many developments on the broadcasting front. Traditionally, the end of season verdict has stuck to the UK F1 view point, but we live in a motor sport world far greater than both the UK and F1, and with that in mind it makes sense to expand the scope of the verdict to encompass all elements of broadcasting.

Whether it has been the launch of F1 TV, or World Rally Championship’s All Live service, there has been plenty of movement in the online arena. Liberty Media have made their mark on Formula 1’s graphics set, whilst closer to home, 2018 was the last year of Channel 4’s current F1 contract, the broadcaster remaining in a reduced capacity, for 2019 at least.

Now, we want your opinion. Has something irritated you with this year’s motor sport coverage? Have I missed a revolution that this site should be covering? And what would you like to be different about the motor sport broadcasting scene in 2019? Are you planning to watch a new series next season?

As always, the best thoughts and views will form a new article closer to the festive period.

Scheduling: The 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

It is the end of the 2018 Formula One season this weekend, and with it marks the end of one broadcasting era for fans in the United Kingdom.

Outside of the British Grand Prix, this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi is the last F1 race live on free-to-air television for UK fans until at least 2025. From 2019, Sky Sports will air every race exclusively live, the exception being Britain which, for 2019 at least, will also air live on Channel 4.

Channel 4 will air highlights of the remaining races in 2019, but their future beyond next season is currently unknown. With only one race live next year, this weekend is likely the last covering Formula 1 for several of their team.

Lee McKenzie is one name who definitely will not be part of Channel 4’s F1 team in 2019, having covered Formula 1 for ten seasons, McKenzie having initially joined the BBC at the start of the 2009 season. The rest of Channel 4’s team, and Sky’s for that matter, for 2019 will no doubt become clear over the coming weeks.

Channel 4 F1
23/11 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1
23/11 – 12:55 to 15:00 – Practice 2
24/11 – 09:55 to 11:25 – Practice 3
24/11 – 11:55 to 14:45 – Qualifying
25/11 – 12:00 to 16:35 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build-Up
=> 12:45 – Race
=> 15:25 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
24/11 – 11:25 to 11:55 – Hamilton vs Vettel: The Fight for Five

Sky Sports F1
23/11 – 08:45 to 10:50 – Practice 1
23/11 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
24/11 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
24/11 – 12:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
25/11 – 11:30 to 17:10 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky One)
=> 12:30 – On the Grid (also Sky One)
=> 13:05 – Race (also Sky One)
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
22/11 – 11:00 to 11:30 – Driver Press Conference
22/11 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
24/11 – 15:30 to 16:05 – The F1 Show

BBC Radio F1
22/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23/11 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/11 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/11 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/11 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula Two – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
23/11 – 07:25 to 08:15 – Practice
23/11 – 14:55 to 15:35 – Qualifying
24/11 – 14:30 to 15:30 – Race 1
25/11 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
23/11 – 11:05 to 11:45 – Qualifying
24/11 – 08:25 to 09:15 – Race 1
25/11 – 08:05 to 08:50 – Race 2

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.