McLaren team principal and Formula 1 Teams’ Association president Martin Whitmarsh has said F1 coverage must remain on free-to-air television channels.
Whitmarsh said: “Formula 1 insiders have been surprised by the recent newspaper reports, since they contain significant statistical inaccuracies.
“The reality is that the Formula 1 viewing figures in the UK are high and getting higher.
“In terms of average viewership, peak viewership and average share of viewership – the three key indices for TV executives – more people are watching Formula 1 this year than last year or indeed than in recent previous years.
“For example, the average share of viewership for the BBC’s coverage of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, which Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won, was more than 50%.
“In other words, as many people were watching Formula 1 in the UK that Sunday morning as were watching every other channel combined – including all terrestrial channels and all satellite channels – a staggeringly impressive statistic. And the TV viewing figures for other recent Grands Prix have been massively impressive too.
“It’s crucial to the commercial model of Formula 1 that TV coverage should remain free-to-air, and therefore universally accessible, and therefore widely consumed and enjoyed by large numbers of viewers – and the BBC delivers that in the UK”.
Whitmarsh praised the BBC’s coverage of F1, saying:
“Moreover, besides the quantity of viewership, the quality of the BBC’s coverage is consistently high too – which is just as important. Also important is the demographic data – which shows that F1 is now attracting an increasing number of younger and female viewers, which is also very positive.
“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport – always has been, always will be. As such, it’s appropriate that the BBC should continue to cover it.
“I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axing it, and that’s why I don’t believe for a moment that they’d seriously consider doing such a thing.”
Image © McLaren