BBC F1 is great but motor sport coverage in Britain is getting worse

Few motor sports are covered anything like as well as F1

Few motor sports are covered anything like as well as F1

BBC F1 are doing a marvellous job in their first year back as F1’s broadcasters in Britain. That much is clear on the live blogs whenever fans outside Britain get a glimpse of BBC’s work and comment on how good it is.

But although it’s great to finally see some improvement in Formula 1 broadcasting, it’s getting harder to watch other quality racing series in Britain.


Before 2009, GP2 spent three years on mainstream satellite channel Eurosport and one year on major British broadcaster ITV.

However BBC elected not to pick up the GP2 broadcast rights, which were instead acquired by subscription service Setanta.

Setanta’s subscription costs are steep, and they aren’t committed to showing all the races live.

But that pales into insignificance given that the company is now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. If that happens, will anyone sweep in to pick it up? Or will the most popular feeder series for F1 be without a broadcaster?

Indy Racing League

Sky Sports’ commitment to its Indy Car contract has noticeably waned since it started broadcasting NASCAR.

Fewer races are now broadcast live, and those which are shown are often missing replays and other video elements, making following the races much more difficult. This was even the case for the Indianapolis 500.

Given how many British drivers are in Indy Car this year, and how much closer the sport is much to European-style racing than NASCAR, I think Sky have their priorities wrong.


The German Touring Car Championship, home of some of Britain’s most promising up-and-coming talent like Paul di Resta and Oliver Jarvis, is also lost in the GP2 wasteland.

It was poached off Motors TV, which had a great community following for its slightly eccentric style of coverage.

Formula Three

Motors TV’s loss of the DTM to Setanta has also led to the disappearance of the Formula Three Euro Series from our screens.

This has sent many drivers in the direction of F1, including Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil.

Britain’s F3 championship has not been broadcast live in a long time, though bizarrely I managed to stumble across an old race from 2006 being broadcast on Channel 4 a few weeks ago.

World Series by Renault

Renault’s major single-seater championship, which promoted the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, was on Setanta last year.

It has now moved to Eurosport where it may be exposed to a bigger audience, but there’s little point if they aren’t showing the all races live.

What’s next?

Britain is not completely bereft of motor racing coverage beyond Formula 1. ITV’s comprehensive British Touring Car Championship coverage is very good, and Sky do a much better job with A1 Grand Prix than they do with the IRL.

Eurosport are broadcasting all of the increasingly turgid World Touring Car Championship live. More interestingly they’ve also picked up the rights to the nascent Formula 2 championship, which is definitely worth keeping an eye on. And we will be able to see much of the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend.

But if it weren’t for BBC’s exemplary F1 broadcasts, British motor sport fans would be much worse off in 2009 than 2008. If these championships want their races to be seen by British viewers, they need to start broadcasting them live online.

Is motor racing coverage any better where you are? What other motor sports besides F1 do you follow?

Read more

Advert | Go Ad-free


53 comments on BBC F1 is great but motor sport coverage in Britain is getting worse

  1. saab said on 10th June 2009, 9:24

    The situation in Sweden is totally screwed up from this year.

    F1 – moved from a free-for-all channel to a pay-channel not available in the terrestrial network. Quali and a one hour show about the event (shown a few hours afterwards) is on a free-for-all channel,

    MotoGP – moved from the free Eurosport to a pay-channel not available in the terrestrial network.

    Nascar – only on a pay-channel not available in the terrestrial network.

    IRL – only on a pay-channel not available in the terrestrial network.

    GP2 – sometimes shown on Eurosport.

    World Series by Renault – shown on Eurosport.

    WTCC – shown on Eurosport.

    STCC – moved from a free-for-all channel to a pay-channel not available in the terrestrial network. A show about the event is free on public TV some days afterward.

    DTM/BTCC – not sure if it’s on any Swedish channel.

    With all F1, MotoGP, STCC, Nascar and IRL on the *same* channel, they will sometimes have to prioritize on what to show live. And as I stated, this channel is not even available as a pay-channel in the digital terrestrial network. It’s only available in some cable-networks and from satellite. The fee for me to get it through the cable network is about $40 per month if I subscribe for 24 months or more – which is a bad idea since many major housing companies put this service up for grab every two year, thus making a subscription and the digital box useless if the operator is changed. And, of course, I have to subscribe to about 40 useless channels just to get to that one motorsport channel with F1. I just refuse to do that.

    So, all in all, both FOM and Dorna made a pretty good job in trying to kill most of the interest in Sweden for motorsport.

  2. Robert McKay said on 10th June 2009, 9:25

    Sky show the F3 Euro Series now, although it’s not live.

    I think you’re harsh on Eurosport’s WsBR coverage, too, as we’ve gained live races there. They are showing most of them live, which might not match Setanta but noone has it anyway, so that’s a net gain for most people. I think there’s a couple races around their excellent Le Mans 24 hour coverage this weekend.

    Eurosport do a very good job and indeed it’s very difficult to watch everything broadcast sometimes. I think there was a recent weekend they had live Porsche Supercup, live Formula Master, live Formula 2 and live WTCC. They also show a ridiculous amount of motorbike racing and some weekends they don’t actually have enough room even with 2 channels, if there are car and bike racing clashes.

    But on the negative side Motors lost live ALMS and are now only doing it delayed a week later, I think. Obviously the loss of GP2 to Setanta is the biggest blow, and Sky’s IRL coverage is pretty poor now.

  3. Sam said on 10th June 2009, 9:30

    Just wait til Abu Dhabi (hopefully) and next season when BBC will be able to broadcast the races in HD! Woohoo!

    I think the idea of a BBC Sports channel will gain momentum over the coming years and that’ll be great… but they will need to be able to compete against the big players in the market for broadcasting rights… admittedly, that’ll only be Sky in the near future, but it would be great to have a bit more live sport of all kinds on the BBC as well.

    As for the F1 coverage… so far it has been superb from the Beeb. I’m not that keen on Jonathan Legard, I have to admit, but Brundle’s still top quality. It should so be David Croft in the commentary box though.

  4. ajokay said on 10th June 2009, 10:10

    I’d love to follow more motor racing series if I could, but I refuse to pay for subscription TV, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I give any money to BSkyB. Pricey subscription fees AND THEN near-American levels of advert breaks? I don’t think so…

    I watch as much of the F1 broadcassts as I can every other weekend, and try to catch ITV4’s coverage of the BTCC weekends, what with them showing 6 hours-or-so of action with all the support races.

    I sometimes catch the odd motorsports catch up shows that get shown in the small hours or at weekends on the ITV and Channel 4 networks. They usually have snippets from the WTCC and various single seater and GT championships, but they are just that, snippets.

    I would be watching Eurosport this weekend for the Le Mans 24 hours if I was still living at my parent’s, as they still recieve it free through their old Astra satellite service.

    I’d love to watch more series, but they’re just not out there, and rarely do any find their way onto torrent sites for download. might give them a search later, see what I can find.

  5. Zindon said on 10th June 2009, 10:29

    I think it’s worth mentioning HD again here, A1GP in on HD on Sky, and the WTCC is on HD on Eurosport HD (which oddly is part of the Sky HD package even if you don’t have the sports package and hence can’t get standard Eurosport). I’m sure the BBC would be all over F1 in HD if Bernie would pull his finger out and get it sorted. When reading that interview with Bernie that Keith linked to the other day, I was struck by the mention of watching the GP with Bernie on his 60 inch TV. Surely even Bernie can see it looks crap at that size in SD?

  6. Luke said on 10th June 2009, 10:36

    Hey, yea last year I watched a few rounds of the british formula renault and it was very gd, just a shame I can no longer get it on freeview. I think it was actully more interesting to watch than F1. I know that Dave does a very good coverage of the WRC which I follow allthough I do feel that if the WRC want to become bigger and more popular then they should think of moving to a more main stream broadcaster like BBC or ITV.

    I know aswell that ITV does some coverage of smaller races like the ginetta championship, but they put it on at like 12.00 in the night. ITV4 also had the TT on the other day which was good coverage although the TT is only a one off event so its not quite the same thing.

    I wish there would be more motorspot coverage in the UK and on Freeview, and on sensible times, that all I ask.

    • ajokay said on 10th June 2009, 10:41

      You can see the Ginetta Championship as well as the Juniors, Porsches and some form of single seaters (I forget which) live on ITV4 during their BTCC coverage. It’s a really good afternoon’s worth of racing, especially now as they show it consistantly and live, unlike previous years.

      Thats the beauty of having more channels at their disposal, I guess.

  7. Nirupam said on 10th June 2009, 11:27

    I think we already had some discussion on racing coverage in India :( will not go details here!
    1. ESPN/Star sports broadcast F1 quali and race day live with lots of addverts (even in between 10 min time of Q3, they show adds :( ). No further comments on that.
    2. Zee Sports shows WRC, though not live.
    3. Ten Sports (sometimes Star Sports as well) shows MotoGP live
    No other racing is available in India, I can see most of you guys are being able to follow a lots of them! :(

  8. Ninad said on 10th June 2009, 11:31

    Here in Asia, GP2 and Formula 1 coverage is very good. Also WRC and Moto coverage is full.

    But other than that they focus more on Asian racing series (GT3 Asia, etc).
    DTM, Formula 3, World Series by Renault are not shown live but all results are mentioned with just the highlights.

    Also we get highlights of Le Mans Series and Indy Series, not full races.

  9. CRM said on 10th June 2009, 11:47

    The FIA GT Championship was good on Motors TV last year, but they have lost the rights to Setanta now. I think you can see very limited highlights on Channel 4 or watch it streamed live from the website, but I think a series such as this has the potential to be popular and deserves a bigger profile.

    Looks like Setanta is in big trouble now so who will pick up all ofthe motorsport it has the rights to?

  10. GST said on 10th June 2009, 12:03

    We in the UK do get a good bit of motorsport on TV, such as GT’s and Motorsport UK covering the BTCC support races, but why do British broadcasters always put it on at three o’clock in the morning? Some of those are the best domestic series support races in the world, and they put it on when no-one is watching it. They should put it on instead of some rubbish repeat of something they have already shown earlier in the week. Or if it’s Channel 4, it’s normally on Saturday morning at about 6.30 or 7.00am. Surely it would be better to broadcast these at a reasonable time instead of repeated programmes these times.

    Even the BTCC highlights are on at about 2am. And if you don’t have Freeview television – your screwed! People on the main terrestrial channels should have more access to motorsport in the UK.

  11. I believe the biggest downgrade in coverage we’ve had from 2008 to 2009 is the move of GP2 to Setanta. As much as the BBC must be praised for their superb coverage of Formula One, they are also responsible for the loss of GP2. What’s more, if they had at least elected to show highlights (the minimum standard of GP2 coverage offered by ITV) then live coverage would likely have ended up on Eurosport, who – unlike Setanta – didn’t require exclusivity.

    If Setanta do enter administration, then the best hope for decent GP2 coverage would be for a general entertainment channel (such as Virgin 1 or Dave) to pick-up the rights. The problem with a dedicated sports channel is that at this late stage they would likely have a number of clashing scheduling commitments.

    On a more positive note, the IRC hasn’t been mentioned yet but coverage of the series this year has been revolutionary. Further information can be found here and here.

  12. …interesting you mention Dave – they evidently have an interest in broadcasting motorsport, as their coverage of the WRC has shown. Its better than when C4 had it IMO.

    Maybe we should petition Dave to up the ante and try to get some of the lesser open wheel formulae on there too!

  13. 159Tom said on 10th June 2009, 12:51

    Formula 2 races are live on the F2 web site if you don’t have Eurosport.

    The BBC could still make more use of their Red Button. The bikes coverage (Moto GP, NW200 and TT) is great but not publicised much, you kind of stumble across it.

    It’s crying out for the GP2 races – the radio commentary and banter in F1 practice is great, but nothing much happens; I’d rather see a race.

  14. Jonatas said on 10th June 2009, 12:54

    Can’t be as bad as we have it here in the US. When I search for “motorsports” on my channel guide, I’m flooded with NASCAR and the odd Monster Truck show.

    I have to say that Speed Tv does do a decent job of covering F1, with the exception of the races that are broadcast on tape delay on the Fox channel. GP2 races are shown tape delayed and usually at 5:00am on Sunday mornings before the F1 race. Thankfully I have a dvr.

    Indy Car is now on a new channel called Versus. They signed a 10 year multi-million dollar deal for the broadcasting rights and I have to say that they’re doing an incredible job of it. The downside is that the channel is only available in a limited number of markets, so indycar is getting very little tv exposure.
    They do broadcast the Indy Lights (Their equivalent of GP2) on tape delay on Mondays after the races, which I enjoy.

    Speed TV will be broadcasting 18 hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The other 6 hours will surely be NASCAR crap.

    We also get some races of the ALMS (American Le Mans Series) and the Rolex Grand-Am Daytona Protoype series.

    No WTCC, no WRC, no F3, no V8 Supercar, none of the great racing that’s out there around the world.

    • Rikadyn said on 10th June 2009, 18:04

      V8s and DTM are usually shown off season in the winter on SPEED.

      Speed, since being bought out by Fox, has gone down hill. Used to show every racing series under the sun, and then shows relating to them. Now, it’s just 22hr a day of NASCAR, Reality programing, and infomercials, with the last 2hrs being actual racing.

  15. persempre said on 10th June 2009, 12:55

    BBC is a vast improvement on ITV but, in truth, it couldn`t have got much worse.
    However, there`s still too much time spent on speculation & opinion & not enough on real fact & explanation, IMO.
    The national press are pretty appalling. Their interest seldom gets beyond scandal & bitching.
    For those that can also read/watch coverage in non-English speaking countries it really pays to do so. Things which we never get to hear about through our own media get reported there.

    Bernievision looked promising but, probably for many reasons, was never exploited to the full.
    As Bernie holds all the footage rights there should have been some way to use that as the basis of a dedicated F1/motorsport channel for those willing to pay.
    I suppose there just aren`t enough of us willing to cough up.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.