In conversation with Rachel Brookes

Rachel Brookes has been an integral part of Sky’s Formula 1 coverage since 2013.

Now in her ninth season with the team, Brookes presents coverage of Formula Two and Formula Three, as well as Sky’s magazine programme The F1 Show on Thursday evenings.

New for 2021, Brookes also commentates on the first Friday practice session alongside the likes of Karun Chandhok and Paul di Resta in the booth.

Ahead of the 2021 season, Motorsport Broadcasting caught up with Brookes to discuss her broadcasting career to date, how COVID has impacted broadcasting, amongst other topics.

We start off by talking about how Brookes ended up part of Sky’s F1 team…

When I joined Sky Sports News, I was just reporting on anything and everything, and one day an editor came into the edit suite I was in and asked whether I know anything about cricket. I said ‘yes, I know a little bit,’ and he said ‘we need you to cover a cricket match tomorrow!’

I turned up and started reporting on cricket from the boundary edge. Sky seemed to like it and then they kept sending me to cricket after that. I loved cricket as a sport but I would never have imagined essentially commentating on it from the side of the pitch! I really enjoyed it, though.

And then when we bought the rights to Formula 1 [in 2011], I was a pain in the neck to the bosses saying ‘I want to work on it!’ They put the job out there, and Craig [Slater] and I both applied.

We went through an interview process, I had to put a presentation together like anyone else would, sit there and tell the why. Luckily, I got the job on Sky Sports News, and then moved over to Sky Sports F1 full-time in 2016, but I started working on F1 in 2013.

What sparked your interest in motor sport, is it something you’ve wanted to be involved in from an early age?

My Dad did endurance records before I was born. 24 Hours of Le Mans was nothing, he did 7 days and nights and that record still stands today, I don’t think anyone else has been crazy enough to beat it.

In our living room at home there was a picture of him during one of his record runs, I would always see that as a kid and ask questions about it. I used to watch it with my brothers, because they were older and they were the cooler ones!

Then one of my brothers started racing in the Polo Super Coupe Cup, followed by both my brothers doing some Radical Racing together, so I used to follow them around. I’ve been around motor sport since I was young and it was always something that intrigued me.

When I went to the races my brother did, there was always such a lovely family atmosphere in the paddock that I knew it was a sport I’d enjoy if I got into it in the end. You’ve still got that same atmosphere in F1 that we had at the races at Brands Hatch or Cadwell Park.

We heard recently about the passing of Murray Walker. Do you have any memories of meeting or interviewing Murray?

I never got to interview him, but I did get to meet him, funnily enough when I worked at the Power FM radio station on the south coast [between 2000 and 2005]. Murray was quite local and he used to come into the radio station to do his voiceover work, so I met him on a couple of occasions then.

He was such an idol in my eyes that I was too nervous to speak to him properly. I met him to say hello and to say that I loved watching Formula 1, and that was it, and I really regret actually not stopping and having a really good conversation with him.

He’s the sound in my ears when I think of watching Formula 1 as a kid, I hear Murray, I think most of us do. He really brought the sport alive for so many people. I think he’ll always be the voice of F1 and so he should be.

People call it a childlike enthusiasm, but it was just his genuine passion for the sport and doing what he loved that was awesome, and I think all of us can learn from that.

This year is Sky’s tenth season of broadcasting F1, and your ninth with the team. Do you have any standout features that you remember?

The Sergio Perez trip to Mexico, to see him at home, is always something that sticks out in my mind, probably because it took nine months to set up.

It’s not easy to persuade a driver and their family to let you into their house with cameras and film them and their family. It’s also because of the environment, he was really open, saying that he’d given up on his Ferrari dream and all this sort of thing. That was one that really sticks out, that I really enjoyed.

I’ve got a couple of people at the moment who are tentative yeses. One solid yes, but COVID has just put pay to doing it, which is a real shame. If the solid yes comes off, it’ll be amazing, I’m keeping everything crossed that it happens.

I really enjoy those just because getting them out of the racing environment makes such a difference and seeing what makes them tick when they’re not at a race track is something I enjoy finding out.

The stuff away from the track we really miss, so the sooner that comes back, the better.

From an interviewing perspective, how has COVID changed the interview dynamic? Have you found yourself adapting your questions a lot more than previously?

It’s really hard because so much of the interview is the connection between you and the person you’re interviewing and that face mask is a physical barrier, and that’s a real shame because you lose quite a bit of that connection.

On a practical side, doing interviews in the pen being 2 meters away, and wearing masks, you can’t hear what they are saying at all, so for the first couple of rounds of interviews, I was thinking ‘this is crazy, I need to find a way around this.’

In the end, I plug headphones into the camera next to me and I hear it through the camera in one ear and then try and hear other stuff in person through the other ear and listen to what’s going on.

I didn’t realise how much of a difference it made until I did an interview [before Bahrain] with Lewis, where we didn’t wear face masks.

We sat probably more than two meters away to be fair, but we could do it on the track, and without face masks, and it completely changes the interview. It’s much more relaxed without masks.

It feels like yesterday since the F1 channel started, its already like I said the tenth season. The plan this year is for 23 races, which is a lot.

It’s going to be a very long, very tough season.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t do every race, Natalie [Pinkham] and I share the role, so for me it’s not as tough, but for those going to every race and for the teams, I can’t imagine how difficult it’s going to be. That’s a very long time for people to be away from home, away from their families and kids.

In 2020 there was always something different every race we went to, there would always be a new story.

I really, really enjoyed last year, seeing different drivers on the podium, having different race winners really helped in what was quite a tough year to carry out on the ground in terms of all the restrictions. It was a great year, and it looks like this year might be even better.

Formula 1 as a sport last year did so well to make sure we managed to complete the season and Sky as a team didn’t have any on-site positive tests.

We [Sky] probably played it safer more than anyone else, none of us went to restaurants, we sat in our hotel in a conference room to have dinner and things just to keep us all safe. Formula 1 saw that it worked and we managed to keep on the road last season when other sports couldn’t.

Moving onto a different topic, there’s been a lot of good work done to get more women into motor sport, and the W Series being on the F1 calendar this year should only help in that regard.

Absolutely. I’ve always said that you can’t be what you can’t see, and a perfect example was my niece who went to a Dare to be Different day.

She came along and we all assumed that she’d get in the go kart and love it. Actually, it was the STEM engineering that she loved. They made a hovercraft and made it fly, and for her, she hadn’t done any of that at school, and she was like ‘I love this, I want to do this.’ 

I think the big message we need to get out there is it’s open to everyone, absolutely everyone, and the more we can showcase all of the different people that work in the paddock, that work in motor sport, the better.

We’ve got some fantastic women working in Formula 1 right now, we had Claire [Williams] as a deputy team principal, but we’ve got strategists, we’ve got aerodynamicists, we’ve got people working in the pit stops that you don’t see because they’ve got helmets on, but let’s showcase these people more, and show what they can do.

W Series is another brilliant example, and just this morning there was a tweet from Top Gear with an interview with Chris Harris and Jess Hawkins who’s a stunt driver. Let’s publicise these people, let’s really put them on a platform and say ‘you can do anything.’

It doesn’t just apply to women, it applies across the board, let’s make sure that everyone is given a fair opportunity to show what you can do and what’s open to you, and then hopefully kids growing up will think ‘I can do anything’ which is exactly what they should be able to think.

It’s not soundbite, it’s action that is needed.

My thanks go to Rachel Brookes for spending the time with me on the above piece.

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Scheduling: The 2021 Indianapolis 500

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.

Since the start of the pandemic, BT’s MotoGP team has based themselves in the UK, firstly in Hinckley at Triumph’s headquarters, before moving to the BT Tower in London.

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.

Last updated on Tuesday 25th May.

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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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5 key stories from the opening 2021 F1 and MotoGP weekend

The 2021 Formula One and MotoGP seasons started in fine fashion in Bahrain and Qatar respectively, with Lewis Hamilton, Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo coming out winners.

Off-track, there were plenty of broadcasting stories making the rounds, as all sides had a gem or two hidden up their sleeve.

Here are some of the key headlines from the opening leg of the 2021 season…

Filming begins on MotoGP’s new documentary series

Filming has begun on MotoGP’s new Amazon documentary series, under the working title Life at Speed.

MotoGP organisers Dorna will be hoping that the series can emulate the success of F1’s Drive to Survive series on Netflix.

As reported by The Race, Spanish production company Mediapro are behind the series, whilst Alessandro Di Renzo, who previously worked for Dorna, is directing the series for Mediapro.

Speaking to The Race, MotoGP’s head of media and content Manel Arroyo confirmed plans for the Amazon series.

“We want to create something similar to what Formula 1 have with Netflix and we are already shooting with the thought that we can have something ready in the next months,” Arroyo said.

“We can prepare something for next season. It is a new way, because audiences today are consuming sport in a new way.”

“People want to see highlights, they want to see behind the scenes, and we are trying to cover many angles. With documentaries, it takes us to new audiences.”

Over on four-wheels, filming for season 4 of Drive to Survive is well underway, the crew filming the action throughout testing and the Bahrain weekend with the likes of Mercedes.

New faces, new places

Alex Jacques was not the only new face in Channel 4’s Formula 1 line-up over the Bahrain weekend, with Lawrence Barretto also joining the team for the first time.

Barretto has increasingly appeared in front of the camera in recent years through F1’s in-house digital output, having previously worked for the BBC and Autosport’s online platforms as website writer.

Now, Barretto will share his existing F1 duties with his new Channel 4 role as on-site reporter.

Writing on Twitter, Barretto said “So excited to work with such a talented team at Channel 4 this year alongside my role F1. Appreciate the efforts from so many people to make this happen.”

As well as retaining Barretto, F1 have bolstered their digital line-up, with an array of new faces joining the team.

David Alorka joins both Barretto and Will Buxton in the paddock for 2021.

Alorka has previously produced content for Heineken as part of their relationship with F1, and has also worked with the likes of NFL, the UEFA Champions League and UFC to create engaging content.

Also joining F1 for the new season are renowned technical experts Albert Fabrega and Craig Scarborough, both of whom will be working alongside Sam Collins on F1 TV’s Tech Talk programming.

Sky F1 shakes up commentary team for practice

Fans watching Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the first practice session from Bahrain were treated to an unusual commentary line-up.

Natalie Pinkham led the commentary team, with Jenson Button and Karun Chandhok joining her.

Pinkham made history from a broadcasting perspective, as it was the first time ever that a female had led an F1 commentary line-up for a UK TV broadcaster.

The main take away for me from the commentary itself was that it felt more like a radio commentary, but for practice, that is no bad thing.

Credit as well should go to Sky for trying something different – this was an experiment that I personally would like to see repeated throughout the season.

The feedback on social media was broadly positive to the change. Writing on Twitter immediately following the session, Pinkham said “THANK YOU for all the support and lovely feedback on my debut in the comms box. Still buzzing!”

“Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button were (as ever) the perfect teammates. Normal service resumes with Crofty back in the hot seat for the rest of the weekend.”

Over on F1 TV, Rosanna Tennant led their line-up for the F1 sessions, comprising of Alex Brundle and Matt Gallagher, Tennant succeeding Jacques in the role following Jacques’ move over to Channel 4.

F1 makes significant progress towards sustainability targets

Formula 1 has made significant progress towards their sustainability targets, in part an indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series had a long-term objective to move to a remote operation, as part of their wider Strategic Plan, to ‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race’.

Speaking on Formula 1’s YouTube channel, Formula 1’s Director of Broadcast and Media Dean Locke noted that F1 executed the “multi-year project in just over 7 weeks under lockdown conditions, something we’re very proud of.”

“Going remote has allowed F1 to reduce its travelling freight by 34%. The number of travelling staff has also reduced by 37%, and we now transfer over 160 terabytes of data to Biggin Hill during each race weekend.”

F1’s Biggin Hill base now plays host to the Remote Technical Centre, which was previously transported worldwide for each race weekend.

“Acquisition of the data and media is still done at the track, but curation of those products is now done here at the Remote Technical Centre,” he says. “We have 53 operational positions, over 400 screens, thousands of computers to drive this system.”

“Formula 1 prides itself on innovation, and we feel F1’s move into remote operation is a really good example of that,” Locke added.

Channel 4 production team member tests positive for COVID-19

In the lead up to the Bahrain weekend, a member of the Channel 4 production team tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test, first reported publicly on the Press Association’s news wires, forced the production team to go into quarantine, with new staff flown out to the Sakhir circuit as a result.

As thus, Alex Jacques made his Channel 4 commentary debut from Ealing alongside Billy Monger, with David Coulthard on location in Bahrain.

Jacques also commentated on Formula Two remotely from Ealing, with Alex Brundle alongside him, but a 75-minute drive away at F1’s Biggin Hill headquarters.

Spot anything else during the weekend worth noticing? Have your say in the comments below.

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Sky’s UK F1 audience jumps to record high as 2021 begins

Sky’s Formula 1 figures in the UK soared to a record high to begin the 2021 season, overnight audience data from the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend shows.

F1 reaches highest ever pay-TV audience in the UK…

Live coverage of the race itself, which aired across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, averaged 1.98 million viewers from lights out to chequered flag, according to a press release issued by Sky.

The race peaked with an excellent 2.23 million viewers as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled it out at the head of the field, the first time that Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 has peaked with over 2 million viewers, making it F1’s highest ever pay-TV audience in the UK.

Sky says that their audience for Bahrain jumped year-on-year by 42%, whilst the season opener increased by 31% on last year’s opener in Austria, a remarkable rise considering how strong 2020 was for Sky F1.

Their live programming comfortably beat Channel 4’s highlights programme on Sunday evening. The Whisper produced show peaked with 1.8 million viewers, meaning that a combined peak audience of over 4 million viewers watched F1 in the UK last Sunday.

For Sky, these are superb viewing figures, and a long time in the making, their F1 programming finally breaking the elusive ‘2 million barrier’ that Motorsport Broadcasting has referenced for years.

However, whilst we should recognise Sky’s strong audiences, we must also remember the bigger picture, in that F1’s audience figures in the UK are down on a decade ago, when the sport aired live on free-to-air television.

Although there was no domestic football action on Sunday, the Grand Prix still faced tough competition.

Sky’s live F1 programme faced live coverage from both England cricket (also on Sky) and England football (airing live on ITV). Later, Channel 4’s package faced competition from BBC One’s smash hit Line of Duty.

The audience figures exclude those viewers who watched on platforms such as Now, Sky Go and All 4, as well as those who listened to the BBC’s radio coverage of the Grand Prix.

Qualifying on Saturday saw similar record highs, with an average of 1.14 million viewers watching the 60-minute session on Sky, peaking with 1.34 million viewers.

In addition, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that all three Formula 2 races last weekend peaked with over 250,000 viewers – a fantastic set of figures for a series that struggled to hit 50,000 viewers on the same channel a few years ago.

…and in the Netherlands, but Germany feels the pay-TV crunch

Viewing figures also rose in the Netherlands, hitting record highs thanks to Verstappen’s challenge at the front, according to ratings agency SKO.

An average of 2.51 million viewers (54.3% audience share) watched the race on Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Select from 16:55 to 18:40 local time.

The race peaked with a massive 3.08 million viewers. At its peak, 18% of the Netherlands population were watching the Grand Prix, an extraordinary number for the sport.

If the Hamilton and Verstappen battle turns into a championship contest, F1 has a year of strong audience figures ahead of them in both the UK and Netherlands.

Unusually, more people watched the Grand Prix in the Netherlands than in Germany on Sunday, as the sport moved to pay-TV in Germany and away from free-to-air television.

An audience of 1.12 million viewers (5.8% audience share) watched via Sky Sport F1 according to DWDL.de, an increase for Sky year-on-year, but a sharp drop of almost 75% on what F1 achieved last year in Germany, when it regularly achieved between 4 and 5 million viewers across RTL and Sky.

The difference between the UK and Germany is that, when F1 began to move to pay-TV in the UK in 2012, it happened gradually over time, giving the audience time to adapt and follow the sport, whereas German audiences have had a ‘big bang’ approach imposed.

Whilst F1’s audiences in the UK have unquestionably dropped, the drop over the past decade has been between 30% and 40%. Some of that is natural turnover, some of it is fans migrating to other platforms to view the sport which makes it difficult to quantify what the ‘true’ fall is.

But, at no time did F1 see a 75% slump in the UK, which makes Germany’s viewing figures far more concerning. Sadly though, this was also wholly predictable given the deal F1 agreed with Sky in Germany.

As if to show F1 what it was missing, Germany’s football World Cup qualifier on RTL (the station that aired F1 last year) peaked with nearly 7 million viewers.

The championship moves to Italy next for the second round of the season in Imola, which takes place on Sunday 18th April.

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