BBC F1 plans announced today (updated: full details below)

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Melbourne will be the first BBC F1 broadcast for 13 years

The details of BBC’s F1 coverage this year are due to be announced in a press conference today.

We already know a lot about their TV plans for 2009. Today I expect some big announcements about their online coverage.

What we already know


Jonathan Legard (former BBC F1 radio commentator) will be joined by former ITV man Martin Brundle in the commentary booth. Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie will supply added commentary from the pits.

Keep an eye on McKenzie’s Twitter profile as she’s planning to drop some early hints about the coverage on there this morning.

Studio coverage will be presented by Jake Humphrey with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan.


The early race coverage details seen last week indicate that not only will the races and qualifying be shown live, but the practice sessions as well. However it’s not clear if the Saturday practice will be shown (ITV missed it last year) and if it will just be confined to ‘red button’ coverage.

They also promise "interactive forums" during the race which are likely to take the same form as those used during football matches, where BBC’s live text reports include comments from people watching the game.

So why the press conference?

People usually call press conferences when they’ve got something to announce. But we already know a lot about what the BBC’s got planned for next year, which leads me to suspect they’ve got something big up their sleeves. What could it be?

We’ve had signals in recent weeks that the powers-that-be in Formula 1 have finally woken up to the existence of the internet. Max Mosley wants F1’s online coverage to improve, and FOTA will discuss it in their future F1 plans press conference next week.

Bernie Ecclestone, whose suspicion and hostility towards the internet (the ‘ether’, as he calls it) is well known, recently said it was the responsibility of television companies to cater for internet broadcasting.

The BBC has at least 19 years’ worth of archived "Grand Prix" programmes, covering most of the races from 1978 to 1996. Many F1 fans would love to be able to watch this material online legally – just look how popular such material is on Youtube and torrent sites.

At the moment the BBC can’t make use of that material because FOCA owns the copyright on it. Has Ecclestone lifted that restriction to allow BBC to use the material on their websites? Perhaps – a few months ago a video from the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington Park appeared on BBC Sport.

Three years ago Ashley Highfield, then the head of BBC’s Future Media and Technology Division, indicated this was a strategy BBC wished to pursue:

We’ve got one of the world’s largest archives, if not the largest archive. And yet, because we’ve got so few channels – routes to our audience – inevitably 99.9% of that content stays on the shelves. We ought to liberate it and make it available, how, when and where our audience would like to consumer it.

I expect much of tomorrow’s announcement to focus on how the BBC will cover F1 online.

And they might mention something about a certain song from Fleetwood Mac’s record-selling album, “Rumours”.

Share your thoughts on what the BBC is going to announce and post updates from the press conference below.

More on BBC’s 2009 F1 coverage

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “BBC F1 plans announced today (updated: full details below)”

  1. The issue remains the same as last year for me. Like ITV which allowed only U.K fans to watch F1 online,is it going to be same with BBC?
    It is possible for a person to watch F1 online on BBC who is not in UK?
    any idea?

    1. It is possible if you can access via a UK based proxy server so the beeb or whoever see you as being uk based.

      I can’t offer such a service to you but it is possible.

      Jeez, Keith – writing articles saying ‘today’ and it’s barely gone midnight….dedication indeed.

    2. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      24th February 2009, 13:31

      Hope not, kaushal. When you pay a licence fee, like me,then you’re more than welcome to watch ‘our’ feed. Until then……..

  2. Never going to happen unfortunately, kaushal, the BBC only have rights to ‘broadcast’ within the UK. I remember there was a previous post last year about how to use/where to find a proxy to access UK only content (not that anyone using this site would ever use such techniques for illegal purposes).

    Getting goose bumps already… dummm… dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum. duum dum… (think The Chain by Fleetwood Mac).

  3. @Adam, if Kieth is dedicated, what does that make us??

    1. ….errr nothing but very eager for F1 2009 to get started!

  4. As a non brit, this red button thing i’ve heard about, what is it? something satellite/pay per view type of thing?

    1. It’s an interactive option available free on the BBC’s digital output – literally, a red button you press on the remote control to get an extra menu of services. All you need to get it is a relatively cheap set-top box or suitably-adapted TV – no additional payments required.

      We never pay directly for BBC services thanks to the licence fee (which I strongly support, I think I get my money’s worth several times over) of about £140 a year.

      However this is very, very heavily enforced, to the extent that if they don’t have you on record as paying it they will come round your house and check for televisions before taking you to court for non-payment. You can also cannot buy TV equipment without submitting an address that then goes into the database…

      Despite this heavy-handed nonsense, which stirs up an awful lot of resentment (as you may imagine) I think our public service broadcasting is something to be really proud of. The BBC contributes hugely to this country’s image and standing abroad and its TV and radio programming is more than worth the few pounds a month I am asked to contribute.

      (Dons tin hat and retreats behind sandbags)

    2. The other thing you need for a red button service is enough digital signal to receive it. Which is why I can’t access it through the set-top box I have :(

    3. Surely they’ll have to sort that out before switch-over? Not much consolation at the moment, I agree…

    4. LJH

      Well said mate !

      The BBC is fantastic & by far the best value for money broadcaster available.

      I’m so glad to have F1 back where it belongs & without adverts.

  5. Whewbacca the Cookie
    24th February 2009, 6:52

    It’s sort of an interactive TV. There is a button (red) on the remote. If you are watching BBC on Sky, Virgin or Freeview a menu pops up. You then select to read news, check scores etc. And during some special broadcasts you can select different instances (like a parallel game) or focus on a select player on the field.

    Hope that helps a bit.

    1. However if you’re watching on an older, non-digital tv, you might find it turns the TV off!!

      (Sorry old joke, but couldn’t resist)

    2. oops… or rather:

      (no edit links again, so I’m re-posting)

  6. There’s plenty of information that seems to be common knowledge but has yet to be announced officially, so I’d have thought a lot of information today will be confirmation of those details.

    I’ll be honest – I’m not so much into watching F1 online. The quality just won’t be good enough. I’m not saying I support this general direction, but it would be preferable for me if they just replayed old races (or the highlights of them) over race weekends when there’s nothing else happening on track (between GP2 and the race on a Sunday morning for example).

    1. What I’d love to see would be BBC using both freview “BBCi” channels (300 and 301 IIRC) for alternate views of the race (one solely devoted to onboards and perhaps the 2nd for an uninterrupted pit lane so we can see what teams are getting ready).

  7. Woohoo…LeeMck twitter feed confirms that “every time an F1 car is on a track you’ll be able to see it, either via red button or the BBC sport website”.

    1. Just seen that now (here) – excellent stuff and very exciting. Wow we’re going to be busy on the live blogs this year with that!

  8. Off topic…sorry.
    Did anybody hear about effects of new aerodynamics on cars following another one? During the test it should have happened that someone followed another car, and experienced the changes of stramline effects due to the new rules. Any positive effect reported? Did any driver confirm that with the new rules it is easier to follow another car and try to overtake?

  9. Thanks Keith.

  10. I’d quite happily take red button live practise coverage over no practice coverage at all.

    Seems like my race weekends this year are going to be completely taken up with F1, rather than just a couple of hours on saturday, and 3 on sunday.

  11. Going back to why any non UK residents cannot watch F1 online, because we have to pay TV licences the BBC would get bombarded with complaints if it offered it free to other countries. Rubbish I know but it is all the same as watching other sports owned by other TV channels, eg Sky or Setanta!

    1. Or they can let people from abroad pay? I’d pay a subscription fee to watch those online feeds.

  12. Lee’s twitter: Every time an F1 car is on track, you will be able to watch it on the BBC whether it be through the Red Button or on BBC Sport website.

    I think she just means that BBC will be showing the world feed of every practice, qual, and race session, either online or red button. Not that you will be able to specifically watch the onboard from any car you like.

    1. WOOOOW!!!!!!!!!! (No sarcasm!)

      Roll on Melbourne!

  13. I think Brendan’s interpretation is correct: Lee’s Twitter means only that the BBC will cover each session by some means or another. I don’t think you’ll be able to select which car to watch.

  14. I suspect they will show a video of the opening and closing sequences they expect to use for the program. I hope they will put up some old race archive material online with a history of F1 timeline. I hope they announce all the practice sessions will be online although I’d like them to be recordable off the television for fans who are at work, and not just the red button. As for the interactivity I’ll just wait and see, as sometimes this is a little more than token ‘accessibility’ masqueraded as interactivity.

    I just hope the beeb sets the bar high and leads the way as they have generally shown themselves to be keen on new technologies. Now lets just wait and see…


    Every race and qualifying session will be shown live on BBC One, with the exception of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix on 17 October, which will be shown on BBC Two.

    All races and qualifying sessions that finish before 1000 will have a full repeat on either BBC One or Two later that day.

    There will be a one-hour evening highlights programme at 1900 UK time on BBC Three for all races except Brazil.

    Full schedule of BBC TV F1 coverage.


    The BBC’s red button interactive TV service will broadcast live coverage of all on-track sessions – Friday and Saturday practice, qualifying and race.

    There will be an additional interactive analysis programme following on from the end of the BBC One coverage of each race.

    On race day, viewers will be able to choose from three different video streams.

    These will be: the main network feed with a choice of commentary from BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live; a split screen comprising the main network feed; an in-car camera feed and leaderboard; rolling highlights.


    Radio 5 Live will again be providing extensive coverage and live commentary of all on-track action – on 5 Live on 909 and 693MW and 5 Live Sports extra on digital radio.

    David Croft will be the commentator, with former F1 driver Anthony Davidson as the expert analyst and Holly Samos as pit-lane reporter.

    The station will continue with its half-hour 5 Live Formula One show on Friday evenings during race weekends.

    It also has the Chequered Flag Podcast which is available after every race and features interviews with all the main players and in-depth analysis.


    The BBC Sport website will carry live all BBC One, BBC Two and red button coverage of F1.

    There will be multiple live video streaming, which will mirror what is available on the red button.

    For the first time, video will be available in high quality, enabling viewers to watch on the internet near-television quality video.

    In addition to the live text commentary and news and analysis which was already a feature of the website, there will be a number of new features for 2009.

    These will include: extensive post-race video highlights; video race reviews by Murray Walker; interactive circuit guides several blogs, including a diary-type F1 mole; columns; and comprehensive results and statistics.

  16. Sounds absolutely awesome, to put it frankly.

  17. All sounds very, VERY good, but no mention of The Chain….!!

  18. Yep good Tues news! And the cherry on top? No Steve Rider, Mark “Yes-man” Blundell nor James Allen! Ted Kravitz shall provide a strong reminder to all the above blunderers though no doubt lol

  19. I’m glad they’re revamping the BBC F1 website, because at the moment, it’s very poorly designed compaired to ITV’s.

  20. Brilliant!!! There are some bonuses to live in the UK!!!

  21. Probably the only thng I would add to the BBC’s curret line up is a classic race boadcast in the week leading upto the Grand Prix. I realise they probably can’t do this for rights issues though.

    Looks like I will have to finally get a set-top box so I can get digital TV and use the red button.

  22. Thx for red button clarification, lol at old red button included :D
    I wonder if the radio feed is UK only as well, if it isn’t and assuming no lag i could mute my tv and get some decent commentary that way

  23. Great stuff! If you ignore Jake Humphrey this is pretty much perfect.

    1. Brundle has just confirmed this via BBC radio 5. He said “it would be insaine not to use it, it means F1 to everyone”

    2. so. friggin. pumped.

      best news i’ve heard in weeks…

  24. Good news all round. I think Jake will do ok, I stayed up late and watched the Superbowl which Jake fronted and ahe seems to have a good level of comprehension of technical sports.

    Great news that ALL the practice sessions will be broadcasted, I hope we can tune in to the Radion 5 Live commentary while these are on, because they do disscuss a lot of good information during these sessions.

    I am not sure if anyone experienced SKY’s attempt at pay per view F1 back in 2002 but I found that initially while the option of watching multi screen footage all at one go seemed like it would revolutionise the way I watch F1, I actually found it disconnected me from the rytheme of the race, I spent too much time switching between camera feeds trying to make sure I don’t miss anything. In the end I just went for the main feed and then watched the re runs of the session from different angles.

    I feel the only thing that could get on my nerves is Eddie Jordan – I have rarely shared the same opinion as the man and feel sometimes he just says the opposite to create a reaction, but we will see.

    Still rather importantly – was there any mention of GP2???

  25. Here is the BBC Press Pack on the announcement today:

    It seems there will be only 3 feeds for the race:

    1 – Main network source with choice of Audio
    2 – An Onboard Channel – Does not say if it stays with a designated driver from the start of the session / race or if we have a choice of switching, or it a BBC director will switch on board camera to where the action / Battles are
    3 – Live feeds.

    For me personally, the only new addition here will be the onboard source – perhaps I can set up 3 TV’s – One with each source :)

  26. Lee Mckenzie has said on Twitter that The Chain is back as the F1 music!!

    I’m glad the BBC have got this right. :)

  27. Just read the comments above saying the same thing, but from a different source, so I guess its just 100% confirmed now

  28. Can’t wait!!!

  29. Here are the proposed TV start times – Looks like we are not going to have much sleep for the first two race weekends if we are going to take advantage of the practice sessions:

    * Practice: Friday 27 March, Red Button and BBC Sport website, 0125-0305 & 0525-0705
    * Practice: Saturday 28 March, Red Button and BBC Sport website, 0255-0405
    * Qualifying: Saturday 28 March, BBC One, 0500-0715
    * Qualifying (re-run): Saturday 28 March, BBC One, 1300-1415
    * Race: Sunday 29 March, BBC One, 0600-0900 (0700 race start)
    * Interactive forum: Sunday 29 March, Red Button, 0900-1000
    * Race (re-run): Sunday 29 March, BBC One, 1300-1500
    * Highlights: Sunday 29 March, BBC Three, 1900-2000

    Malaysian GP

    * Practice: Friday 3 April, Red Button and BBC Sport website, 0255-0435 & 0655-0835
    * Practice: Saturday 4 April, Red Button and BBC Sport website, 0655-0805
    * Qualifying:, BBC One, 0900-1115
    * Race: Sunday 5 April, BBC One, 0900-1200 (1000 race start)
    * Interactive forum: Sunday 5 April, Red Button, 1200-1300
    * Highlights: Sunday 5 April, BBC Three, 1900-2000

  30. I’m so excited!
    I agree with Scott about the in-car feed though. As good as it’ll be I’ll probably spend the entire race flicking between the cars so I don’t miss the action….and as a result will miss all the action haha.

    Need GP2 news though.

  31. I’m really quite excited about F1 this year, the BBC and their coverage plans are just making me look forward to it even more. And the news that ‘The Chain’ is going to be back is brilliant! I’d have only been watching F1 about two years before it moved to ITV, yet I still associate ‘The Chain’ with the opening titles, such was its influence!

    I agree with a couple of others though concerning the GP2, I’d quite like to hear something about that. Eurosports coverage for GP2 Asia was quite good, but not live, it was delayed by half hour – hour I think and whilst the delay wasnt really that long, its still better watching live. Plus Hulkenberg is in it this year, so I am extra excited about GP2 2009!

  32. THE CHAIN IS BACK!! (theoretically) Thats all that matters surely, we all know the beeb will do a splendid job.

  33. Well…this things dont help us in Australia. They show F1 allways about 3-4 hours later than real race time and because time different, its normally very late in the evening…sigh.

    I only hope and cross my fingers that BBC commentators understand that not all people who watch F1 are Lewis Hamilton fans… It really did start irrotate when they said Lewis about 100 times during race lol.

  34. I deliberately listened to “The Chain” and I don’t understand why (almost) everybody thinks it’s so great.

    BUT – How much will it gat played?

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