Predicting the 2018 calendar pick order

Since The F1 Broadcasting Blog first appeared online in April 2012, a yearly piece during the Summer has been to ‘predict’ the calendar picks for both the UK free-to-air broadcaster and Sky Sports, with predictions made around which races the free-to-air channel will air live and which races will air in highlights form. The series of posts ends with the 2018 version, as from 2019 onwards Formula 1 will air exclusively live on Sky Sports.

The provisional calendar for the 2018 Formula One season, unveiled in June, features 21 races. The French Grand Prix is back on the calendar for the first time since 2008 as part of a triple-header of races. The German race makes its biannual return, whilst the calendar sadly does not feature the Malaysian Grand Prix. Of note also is that the Chinese and Singapore rounds of the championship are provisional and may disappear (now, that does not appear likely).

The calendar currently is as follows:

F1 2018 calendar

France takes the slot previously held by Baku, with Baku in turn sending Russia to fill the gap left by Malaysia. The rest of the calendar is again fairly static, with no sign of a shake up from Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media yet.

For the final time, the pick process goes as follows:

– Channel 4 pick three races (pick 1, 2 and 3)
– Sky pick three races (pick 4, 5 and 6)
– Channel 4 pick one race (pick 7)
– Sky pick one race (pick 8)

This continues until there are no races remaining. There are 21 races on the calendar, so Channel 4 will screen ten races live with Sky screening eleven races exclusively live. If a race disappears from the calendar, the picks do not change retrospectively. Germany was dropped from the 2015 calendar after BBC’s and Sky’s plans were publicly confirmed, but the picks stayed the same, meaning BBC were able to broadcast three races in a row live.

As with all even-numbered years, the summer of sport means a popular football competition, and in 2018 it is the turn of the World Cup. There are two dates to be aware of: the group stages with the French Grand Prix, and the round of 16 a week later with the Austrian Grand Prix. As usual, there are a few weekends where MotoGP and Formula 1 clash, the British round of the MotoGP season again falls on a Formula 1 weekend. The new Thailand MotoGP round will also clash with the Japanese Grand Prix, although there should not be a direct clash.

Channel 4 pick Britain, Abu Dhabi, and USA (pick 1 to 3). In the two years that Channel 4 have aired Formula 1, Canada has not been one of their races, with the broadcaster choosing Mexico in 2016 and USA in 2017. I thought Mexico in 2016 was a bit awkward for Channel 4, as the race finished just before 21:00, and they ended up rushing off-air, whereas USA blocks out all of primetime, meaning that there is more breathing room afterwards. Britain and Abu Dhabi as usual are the first two live picks for Channel 4, the former not clashing with either Wimbledon or the World Cup final. A slight aside to this: if the Wimbledon final does go beyond three sets, it will clash with the World Cup final on July 15th. The Wimbledon Men’s final usually starts at 14:00, with the football World Cup final starting at 16:00. I imagine the former will begin earlier, but it is astonishing that the planning so far has not prevented that from happening.

On the back of this, expect Sky to pick Canada, Mexico, and Brazil (pick 4 to 6). By picking USA, Channel 4 have essentially goaded Sky into picking Mexico and Brazil at an early stage. Failing to pick one or the other would result in Channel 4 having two big prime time races at the end of the season. Sky’s third pick would be Canada, which takes place the weekend before the World Cup begins so is in a good position on the calendar. Following the first six picks, the picks alternate for the remainder of the process. I would love to see Channel 4 pick Australia (pick 7), even I think it is highly unlikely. Australia has not aired live on free-to-air television since 2011, and arguably it may not make commercial sense for Channel 4 to air the race live as a higher proportion of viewers will be watching later in the day, depleting the number of viewers who will watch the adverts in full. So, this is more a ‘like to see’ pick more than anything.

With Monaco and Singapore both on the table, expect Sky to pick Singapore (pick 8) here. Singapore when live can rate higher than Monaco, in 2017, Singapore averaged half a million more viewers than Monte Carlo. Nevertheless, Monaco is still a race that can draw casual viewers. 2017 saw hot weather on Monaco race day which depleted viewership, but it can still rate highly on a good day, so I would expect Channel 4 to pick Monaco (pick 9).

We are left in this position:

March 25th – Australia (Melbourne) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
April 8th – China (Shanghai)
April 15th – Bahrain (Sakhir)
April 29th – Azerbaijan (Baku)
May 13th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 27th – Monaco (Monaco) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
June 10th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky (pick 4)
June 24th – France (Paul Ricard)
July 1st – Austria (Red Bull Ring)
July 8th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 22nd – Germany (Hockenheim)
July 29th – Hungary (Budapest)
August 26th – Belgium (Spa)
September 2nd – Italy (Monza)
September 16th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
September 30th – Russia (Sochi)
October 7th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 21st – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
October 28th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky (pick 5)
November 11th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 6)
November 25th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

Bahrain is the best timeslot left, so expect Sky to pick Bahrain (pick 10), although there is the small matter of qualifying potentially overlapping with the Grand National. With Germany back in the picture, I would expect Channel 4 to pick Hungary (pick 11), meaning that the free-to-air broadcaster heads into the Summer break with a live race. Because of Channel 4 picking both Britain and Hungary, it means that Sky automatically get Germany (pick 21) to avoid Channel 4 airing three races in a row live. Sky picking Belgium (pick 12) follows with Channel 4 automatically getting Italy (pick 19).

2018 sees the French Grand Prix return to the calendar, and the free-to-air broadcaster has history of airing the first race at a new circuit live (Russia 2014 and Baku 2016 were both live on free-to-air). However, the return of the French round will directly clash with two games from the World Cup group stage in Group G. Two games in Group G kick off on the 23rd and 24th June at 13:00 BST / 15:00 MSK. I would therefore expect Channel 4 to pick Austria (pick 13), which in turn means that Sky automatically get France (pick 20). Channel 4 certainly do not want an F1 race that may end up clashing with an England game.

The schedule therefore looks like this:

March 25th – Australia (Melbourne) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
April 8th – China (Shanghai)
April 15th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky (pick 10)
April 29th – Azerbaijan (Baku)
May 13th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 27th – Monaco (Monaco) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
June 10th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky (pick 4)
June 24th – France (Paul Ricard) – Sky (pick 20 – automatic)
July 1st – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Channel 4 (pick 13)
July 8th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 22nd – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky (pick 21 – automatic)
July 29th – Hungary (Budapest) – Channel 4 (pick 11)
August 26th – Belgium (Spa) – Sky (pick 12)
September 2nd – Italy (Monza) – Channel 4 (pick 19 – automatic)
September 16th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
September 30th – Russia (Sochi)
October 7th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 21st – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
October 28th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky (pick 5)
November 11th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 6)
November 25th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

Logically at this point, Sky may pick Azerbaijan. However, with Sky having already lost out on Australia, picking Azerbaijan means that they cannot pick China and Spain, leaving Channel 4 with a strong start to the season. So, a secondary domino effect starts here. Sky picking Spain (pick 14)Channel 4 automatically getting Azerbaijan (pick 17).

With only one lunch time race left, the logical option is for Channel 4 to pick Russia (pick 15), resulting in Sky automatically getting Japan (pick 18). The last race, China, as a result goes to Sky (pick 16).

Which leaves us with a final calendar of:

March 25th – Australia (Melbourne) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
April 8th – China (Shanghai) – Sky (pick 16)
April 15th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky (pick 10)
April 29th – Azerbaijan (Baku) – Channel 4 (pick 17 – automatic)
May 13th – Spain (Barcelona) – Sky (pick 14)
May 27th – Monaco (Monaco) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
June 10th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky (pick 4)
June 24th – France (Paul Ricard) – Sky (pick 20 – automatic)
July 1st – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Channel 4 (pick 13)
July 8th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 22nd – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky (pick 21 – automatic)
July 29th – Hungary (Budapest) – Channel 4 (pick 11)
August 26th – Belgium (Spa) – Sky (pick 12)
September 2nd – Italy (Monza) – Channel 4 (pick 19 – automatic)
September 16th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
September 30th – Russia (Sochi) – Channel 4 (pick 15)
October 7th – Japan (Suzuka) – Sky (pick 18 – automatic)
October 21st – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
October 28th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky (pick 5)
November 11th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 6)
November 25th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

If there are any calendar changes, I will update this post as and when, otherwise we should find out the confirmed Channel 4 and Sky F1 picks close to Christmas or in early 2018, for the final time.

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8 thoughts on “Predicting the 2018 calendar pick order

  1. Great post as ever. Genuinely gutted that Live FTA F1 will be almost gone by this time next year. I honestly don’t think Sky will see an increase in viewership but I will be interested to see what the FTA highlights package is like.

  2. As much as I’d love to see Australia live on C4, I can’t see it happening. Due to the World Cup I think they’ll want a strong start and end with Sky dominating the middle part of the season so my prediction would be:

    Australia Sky
    China Sky
    Bahrain C4
    Azerbaijan C4
    Spain Sky
    Monaco C4
    Canada C4
    France Sky
    Austria Sky
    Britain C4
    Germany Sky
    Hungary Sky
    Belgium C4
    Italy Sky
    Singapore C4
    Russia Sky
    Japan Sky
    USA C4
    Mexico Sky
    Brazil C4
    Abu Dhabi C4

  3. The 10 best races in the calendar should be live on Channel 4, the rest on Sky F1. The reason is to make it fun for the viewers.

    Australia: Highlights
    China: Highlights
    Bahrain: Live
    Azerbaijan: Live
    Spain: Highlights
    Monaco: Live
    Canada: Highlights
    France: Live
    Austria: Highlights
    Britain: Live
    Germany: Highlights
    Hungary: Highlights
    Belgium: Live
    Italy: Highlights
    Singapore: Live
    Russia: Highlights
    Japan: Highlights
    USA: Live
    Mexico: Live
    Brazil: Highlights
    Abu Dhabi: Live

    • Great choice but I would switch Mexico with Brazil and would prefer to watch the Spanish GP over the Monaco GP.

  4. Looking at the current Calendar, this is how I believe the Pick Order will form:

    Australian GP (06.00) – Sky F1
    Bahrain GP (16.00) – Channel 4
    Chinese GP (07.00) – Sky F1
    Azerbaijan GP (14.00) – Sky F1
    Spanish GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Monaco GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Canadian GP (19.00) – Sky F1
    French GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Austrian GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    British GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    German GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Hungarian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Belgian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Italian GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Singapore GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Russian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Japanese GP (06.00) – Sky F1
    US GP (20.00) – Sky F1
    Mexican GP (19.00) – Channel 4
    Brazilian GP (16.00) – Sky F1
    UAE GP (13.00) – Channel 4

    I completely get your point of rushing off-air in Mexico, but after the risk of this year, I belive 2 of the Final 3 races Live is best for Free-to-air TV and contractually Brazil can be broadcast at 8pm, so if the Championship was won there, they just have to get straight to the F1 at 8pm.

    I also would have liked to follow a system used in Italy’s contract, which meant most Primetime Races were Broadcast Live FTA (not ALL but MOST), whereas we have had just 7.

  5. Looking at the current Calendar, this is how I believe the Pick Order will form:

    Australian GP (06.00) – Sky F1
    Bahrain GP (16.00) – Channel 4
    Chinese GP (07.00) – Sky F1
    Azerbaijan GP (14.00) – Sky F1
    Spanish GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Monaco GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Canadian GP (19.00) – Sky F1
    French GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Austrian GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    British GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    German GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Hungarian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Belgian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Italian GP (13.00) – Sky F1
    Singapore GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Russian GP (13.00) – Channel 4
    Japanese GP (06.00) – Sky F1
    US GP (20.00) – Sky F1
    Mexican GP (19.00) – Channel 4
    Brazilian GP (16.00) – Sky F1
    UAE GP (13.00) – Channel 4

    I completely get your point of rushing off-air in Mexico, but after the risk of this year, I belive 2 of the Final 3 races Live is best for Free-to-air TV and contractually Brazil can be broadcast at 8pm, so if the Championship was won there, they just have to get straight to the F1 at 8pm.

    I also would have liked to follow a system used in Italy’s contract, which meant most Primetime Races were Broadcast Live FTA (not ALL but MOST), whereas we have had just 7.

  6. Looking at the 2018 Calendar, my pick would be this:
    Aus – Sky
    Chn – Sky
    Bah – C4
    AZB – Sky
    ESP – C4
    Mon – Sky
    Can – C4
    Fra – C4
    Aut – Sky
    GB – C4
    DEU – Sky
    Hun – Sky
    Bel – C4
    Ita – C4
    Sin – Sky
    Rus – C4
    Jap – Sky
    USA – C4
    Mex – Sky
    Bra – Sky
    UAE – C4

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