Scheduling: The 2018 Australian Grand Prix

New television graphics, new cockpit protection, a new logo, and a new over-the-top service. Formula 1 heads into the 2018 season with major changes which viewers worldwide will notice.

2018 is the last year of the current Sky Sports and Channel 4 contract, with Sky acquiring exclusive rights from 2019 onwards. Despite the wider changes for 2018, both Sky and Channel 4 field broadly similar line-ups, with the only change that Pat Symonds appears to not be returning to Sky’s talent portfolio.

The bigger changes are for the BBC’s radio team, where Allan McNish, Mark Gallagher, and Tom Clarkson all leave the fray. Clarkson is expected to be part of Formula 1’s in-house team. In comes former Renault driver Jolyon Palmer, who will commentate on every race this season, alongside lead commentator Jack Nicholls. As always, audio coverage of every session is available on the BBC Sport website.

As noted in the past few weeks, Sky’s schedule is changing for 2018, with The F1 Show moving to a post-qualifying slot on Saturday’s. However, the race day timings remain the same, meaning that there is an extra ten-minutes of build-up, and ten fewer minutes of analysis following the race. The titles of the pre-race segments are changing, with Pit Lane Live an hour in duration, and a new On the Grid segment covering the period directly before lights out.

For those wondering, there is no sign of Virgin Australia Supercars from Melbourne appearing in’s schedules, even though the round is now part of the Supercars season moving forward. Elsewhere, Channel 4 are screening highlights of the Race of Champions event for the second year running.

NOTE: Clocks go forward one hour on Sunday 25th March, with the change from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time. The times listed are for GMT on Saturday and before; BST for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4
24/03 – 13:00 to 14:50 – Qualifying Highlights
25/03 – 14:30 to 17:15 – Race Highlights

Supplementary Programming
25/03 – 08:25 to 09:30 – Race of Champions

Sky Sports F1
23/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2
24/03 – 02:45 to 04:10 – Practice 3
24/03 – 05:00 to 07:40 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 05:00 – Pre-Show
=> 05:55 – Qualifying
25/03 – 04:30 to 09:10 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 04:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 05:30 – On the Grid
=> 06:05 – Race
=> 08:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
21/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Australia Preview (also Sky Sports Mix)
22/03 – 04:00 to 05:00 – Driver Press Conference (also Sky Sports Mix)
22/03 – 18:00 to 18:15 – Paddock Uncut: Australia
23/03 – 06:45 to 07:45 – Team Press Conference
24/03 – 07:40 to 08:10 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Australia Review

22/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
25/03 – 05:30 to 08:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

World Superbikes – Thailand
24/03 – 06:00 to 10:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
25/03 – 08:00 to 11:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
27/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If the schedule above does change, I will update this post.


Scheduling: The 2018 Qatar MotoGP / Punta del Este E-Prix

The excitement, anticipation and tension has reached fever pitch on the eve of the new MotoGP season, which begins in Qatar!

Whether you are listening to the MotoGP app, or to BT Sport’s television coverage, the soundtrack to your weekend will be different, following the retirements of Nick Harris and Julian Ryder from the paddock at the end of 2017.

Simon Crafar, who raced in MotoGP and World Superbikes in the 1990s, partners Steve Day on the MotoGP World Feed, whilst Neil Hodgson will commentate on the 19 MotoGP races alongside Keith Huewen for BT Sport.

Ex-MotoGP rider Michael Laverty joins BT’s team for six races in 2018, with more an emphasis on the analytical side of things from BT this year. BT have overhauled their Friday offering, with a full presentation team now covering the action on practice day, and a 15-minute wrap-up show in the evening.

Suzi Perry continues to present BT’s coverage, covering 14 rounds, with Craig Doyle hosting the remainder.

MotoGP highlights programme remains on Channel 5 for 2018, however highlights from Qatar do not air until Wednesday evening, which seems like a waste on Channel 5’s behalf given that there are diminishing returns the further away from live you air.

Elsewhere, Punta del Este is the next stop on the Formula E calendar, replacing Sao Paolo which was meant to fill this slot. Live action returns to Channel 5 for the first time since Marrakesh in January.

MotoGP – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
16/03 – 09:30 to 17:15 – Practice 1 and 2
17/03 – 09:30 to 12:30 – Practice 3
17/03 – 13:00 to 17:30 – Qualifying
18/03 – 10:30 to 18:00
=> 10:30 – Warm Ups
=> 12:15 – Moto3
=> 14:00 – Moto2
=> 15:30 – MotoGP
=> 17:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Qatar (Channel 5)
21/03 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Punta del Este (online via YouTube)
17/03 – 10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 1
17/03 – 13:25 to 14:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Punta del Este
17/03 – 14:45 to 16:15 – Qualifying (5Spike)
17/03 – 17:30 to 20:10 (Eurosport 2)
=> 17:30 – Preview
=> 18:05 – Qualifying
=> 19:00 – Race
17/03 – 18:30 to 20:10 – Race (Channel 5)

Asia Talent Cup – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
17/03 – 17:30 to 18:30 – Race 1
18/03 – 09:45 to 10:30 – Race 2

As always, the above will be updated if anything changes.

Sky’s F1 magazine show moves to Saturday’s for 2018

Sky Sports F1’s magazine programme The F1 Show is to move to Saturday’s for the 2018 season, provisional schedules show, whilst Classic F1 races again form part of the channel’s output this year.

The show started life on Friday nights when Sky F1 launched in 2012, with Georgie Ainslie and Ted Kravitz at the helm. Outside of race weekends, the show aired from Sky’s London studios. At the start of 2014, Sky brought in a live studio audience for the London element having experimented with it the previous season. However, this format also lasted just two seasons.

Now in its efficiency saving phase, The F1 Show’s London-based shows disappeared for 2016, and the programme length was reduced, only airing during race weekends following practice. Now, Sky’s production team, led by new Head of F1 Scott Young, have opted to move the 30-minute show to Saturday’s following their main qualifying programme.

The description provided by Sky indicates a transition back to the 2012 to 2015 race-weekend format. “The F1 Show will be a celebration of the glitz and glamour of motorsport, taking fans into the heart of each of the season’s exotic locations and capturing the eclectic personalities that surround each grand prix,” Sky said.

“Broadcast live after qualification, the show will be an opportunity for viewers to experience life backstage at a Formula 1 race, with a lighter format that is not exclusively focused on events on the track. Figures from around the sport will join the Sky Sports F1 team for discussions, challenges and more, giving a fresh insight into what goes on away from the paddock.”

From Sky’s perspective, you can see the logic in moving The F1 Show to Saturday’s, and into the heart of the weekend. Whilst the change in 2016 was welcome, the show turned into a glorified practice round-up, with viewing figures remaining lower than live coverage of practice. It is currently unknown if the show will air directly after qualifying in the European season, as Formula Two would typically fill that slot.

Elsewhere in Sky’s output, The F1 Report and Classic F1 both return to the channel in forthcoming weeks. Classic F1 returns the weekend before the Australian Grand Prix, with the focus firmly on McLaren’s heyday.

Update on March 8th  – Further updates to Sky’s provisional schedules show that their race day output is undergoing a structural change as well for 2018. An example for the European races is as follows:

2017 structure
2018 structure
11:30 – Track Parade 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
12:00 – Pit Lane Live 13:30 – On The Grid
12:30 – Race 14:05 – Race
15:30 – Paddock Live 16:30 – Paddock Live

Instead of Sky’s race element starting 30-minutes before the race, from 2018 the element is billed at starting five-minutes before the race, for the benefit of those viewers who only want to watch the race and nothing else. The Track Parade segment has disappeared, morphing into Pit Lane Live, whilst Martin Brundle’s grid walk gets its own EPG billing under the title of On The Grid.

The qualifying programme is split into two for 2018, the build-up covering the first 55 minutes, and the qualifying session itself after that. For viewing figures purposes, this site will continue to use the full qualifying show, and the three and a half hours from 13:00 to 16:30 (was 12:00 to 15:30), or equivalent, as a basis.


Sky Sports unveils 2018 F1 pre-season trailer

Sky Sports have unveiled their 2018 Formula 1 pre-season trailer that will air in forthcoming weeks across their platforms.

Unlike in 2015 or 2016, this trailer is specific to the UK audience, with viewers in Italy seeing a separate trailer.

The 60-second trailer, called The Race Starts Here, initially shows the start of last season’s Australian Grand Prix. After the initial sequence, the trailer displays several clips in reverse, from cars exiting pit lane all the way back to the cars in the factory back at base.

The last portion of the trailer focusses on three drivers, with brief glimpses McLaren drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso preparing for the new season. However, it is Red Bull driver Max Verstappen who features heavily at the end, with the caption ‘The Race Starts Here’ flashing over the screen.

Sky Creative commissioned the trailer, with production company HLA, led by Simon Ratigan, taking the reins.

Formula E highlights on BBC’s platforms “a one-off” – for now

Eagle eyed readers and followers of this site will have spotted that highlights from the Mexico City E-Prix appeared across the BBC’s platforms after the Formula E race last weekend.

The short-form content appeared on the BBC Sport website, as well as their social media channels, prompting speculation that the two sides had agreed some sort of deal. However, this site can confirm that there is no formal agreement yet between the BBC and Formula E, yet.

Speaking to this site, a BBC spokesperson said “The video was used as a one-off, rather than as part of a longer-term rights deal.”

The one-off video appearance was likely brokered by marketing firm CSM, whose partnership with Formula E has resulted in Formula E content appearing on a variety of UK-based news websites, including The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror.

On the television front, Channel 5’s free-to-air contract with Formula E expires at the end of the current season in July, with no word yet on the series’ destination from season five.

Mexico City E-Prix shows why Formula E needs free-to-air
The E-Prix itself, won by Daniel Abt, peaked with just under 150,000 viewers on Saturday evening according to overnight viewing figures.

Live coverage of the race aired on 5Spike from 21:30 to 23:20, averaging 63k (0.4%). Eurosport 2’s coverage added a further 26k (0.16%), bringing the combined audience for the live race showing to 89,000 viewers.

At its peak, 103k (0.7%) watched the race on 5Spike, with 45k (0.3%) on Eurosport 2. Both 5Spike and Eurosport 2’s viewing shares were in the same ballpark to 1.d.p. between Santiago and Mexico City, even though the latter E-Prix was aired in highlights form on Channel 5 the following morning.

For Santiago, Channel 5 did not air a highlights show on its main channel, whereas for Mexico they opted to do so. Channel 5’s Mexico City E-Prix highlights programme averaged 202k (2.6%) on Sunday morning from 10:45 to 11:50, peaking with 254k (3.2%), marginally above the slot average.

The numbers suggest that the highlights programme attracted ‘new’ viewers, who were unaware that the race aired live on 5Spike the previous evening, showing why Formula E needs prominence on free-to-air television, otherwise races fly under the radar. Three races have aired on 5Spike, and all have peaked with fewer than 200,000 viewers.

If Formula E wants to become mainstream in the UK, it needs to look closely at turning deals with the likes of the BBC permanent, even if it is not necessarily a television deal with the broadcaster. By giving Formula E a ‘shop window’, the exposure of the series increases, hopefully boosting television viewing figures in the medium to long term.