Start, Silverstone, 2019

F1 ‘to return to our screens shortly’ – UK government

2020 F1 season

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The British government has given the clearest indication yet it will ensure Formula 1’s planned races at Silverstone will go ahead.

Formula 1’s plans to hold two races behind closed doors at the home of the British Grand Prix were thrown into doubt when the government announced it will impose a two-week quarantine on arrivals from foreign countries after June 8th.

However reports have indicated the government is planning to grant an exception for sports including Formula 1.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced today sports will be able to resume behind closed doors from Monday. “Football, tennis, horse racing, Formula 1, cricket, golf, rugby, snooker and others are all set to return to our screens shortly,” he said.

The reference to television broadcasts is thought to be significant. RaceFans understands the government wishes to ensure both races held at Silverstone will be broadcast live on free-to-air television. Ordinarily F1’s UK free-to-air broadcaster, Channel 4, can only show one race live per year, which is always the British Grand Prix.

Other sports, such as Premier League football, are also being shown on free-to-air channels.

Formula 1 is an important industry for Britain, with seven out of the 10 teams basing part or all of their operations in the country.

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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...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 30 comments on “F1 ‘to return to our screens shortly’ – UK government”

    1. 2 races randomly going free-to-air in one market is everything else but significant.

    2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      30th May 2020, 17:34

      Even though I’d love to see F1 back I can’t help but feel this is all far too early.

      1. I think it is just grandstanding, and logic will rule the day.

    3. Silverstone will not be until August so that is still a long way off. Austria is much further ahead of UK with Covid 19 so F1 should be fine. I can’t wait.

    4. Maybe Sky will broadcast the other one on their “Pick” freeview channel. I was thinking of tweeting them and asking at the very least to broadcast it on Sky Sports Mix/Sky One so those who can’t afford the sports package can at least watch both British races live.

      Obviously in an ideal world we’d get both on C4 with the (in my opinion) superior broadcast team but I’d put up with Croft and Lazenby for one race!!!

      1. @modtl I’m sure you tweeting them will convince them to do it

        1. If a few do it then maybe!!!! I’ve heard Sky are quite responsive on social media to fans and by “opening up” their coverage they could get subs (not us as I only like F1 sports wise so can’t afford sports package for just F1) as they offer a fantastic service with great analysts (Karun, Brundle, JB, the legend that is Ted).

          1. @modtl, if you’re a Sky subscriber, you can take just F1 as a sports channel. You’re no longer obliged to takes the entire pack. Appreciate its more expansive than free-to-air, but the option is there.

            1. How much is that? Definitely interested in taking that option.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        31st May 2020, 10:11

        Sky One and sports mix is not part of freeview is it though? So it is not “free to air” I thought these are channels you pay for from Sky or have as part of a deal if you happen to have broadband with them. To get these as well as freeview, you would have to have a cable box and buy a package including them just like getting Sky sports F1.

      3. I’m pretty sure Sky will be making a lot of content available. They’re gonna run out of channels to physically broadcast on! BBC are even showing a Premier league game!

        In general, the Sky Sports facilities are gonna be pushed to the limits now that everything is set to be coming back all at once. They’re doing a lot of stuff in house (remotely) that would normally be done by OB trucks at the venue.

        Thete will be 5 premier league games per sat / sun between now and August (should just be done in time for Silverstone, but not Austria).

    5. The British government has handled coronavirus so badly up to now, a few more more poor decisions can’t hurt, right?

      1. Surely you should be Red Flag.

        1. Let’s go green only when the safety car is in the pit lane with its lights off. Nowhere near that yet.

          1. There are purple flags to obey…

            1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
              31st May 2020, 7:19

              We’ve been obeying the black flags shown to us by the Govt.
              Still in lockdown last time I checked.

              So, how is the situation with, say… dentists? Not as essential as F1?

            2. @magnusrubensson officially, dentists in the UK should be resuming normal service from the 8th June.

    6. If the govt’s intending to allow we mere long-suffering fans 2 free-to-air races, then they’re way smarter than the fools running F1, whose embrace of Pay TV means shrunken audiences but way more money for themselves. Looks like the much-maligned govt’s figured out that the health of F1 depends upon having an audience to receive the commercials, without which sponsors won’t support the sport. If FOM had any brains at all, they’d make any & all 2020 races free-to-air, in hopes of luring back the casual audience who’s already partially lost, thanks to nothing on TV, not even any historic
      F1 footage to maintain interest.

      1. Totally agree on the short sighted money grab, ignoring the long game & failing to nourish the latent interest out there for our beloved Formula..

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          31st May 2020, 10:36

          @g-macz

          Sky are as desperate as possible to get the money from you for formula 1 it seems. Just a week or two before the very uncertain start of the Australian grand prix, they gave uk customers a “great offer” of “just” £199 for 9 months for sky sports that covers the season. 2 years ago, this was £150. Shooting it up like this for an incredibly uncertain year was a very poor thing to do.

          I will also add that it makes it even more poor value given that nowtv is only 720p. Come on! We had 1080i/1080p on freeview over a decade ago on some freeview channels. It is a joke that nowtv is this bad for the price now. I even find the picture quality varies during the races and buffers – probably related to the amount of people using it as it online streaming. But my network is getting on for the fastest you can get in the country.

          Sky and Nowtv charge far too much anyway, especially given how poor the quality of their footage is and that freeview HD looks and runs much better.

          The viewers in the UK will keep falling if Sky charge a lot for the rest of this year.

          If anything, once more races are confirmed, they should just charge a very small price for something to open their sports channels for the rest of the year and not demand more money for what “may” be races that don’t happen. Or just for this year, make it free for all.

          I will also add that cancelling the year deal on F1 is the most painful process i have experienced with any sort of TV package. If you don’t cancel it, they will keep charging you monthly. During the cancelling process, they prompt you with more deals and ask if you are sure if you are want to cancel it about 4 times…. The cancel buttons are quite well hidden and will be very easy to end up buying a long and expensive deal you don’t want. The buttons you want to find are much more discrete and are not the ones highlighted. When you eventually get round to cancelling it, they send you and email telling you how you can undo that and get the package back again, not just confirmation of it being cancelled. Then they continue sending emails trying to get you to get other deals.

          Now TV are the only affordable option i have for F1, but their interface when buying and cancelling packages is shockingly bad. They don’t care about the customer and just want to fool them to accidentally by a package that can’t be cancelled. All they care about clearly is cash.

          1. Right over the target you are Ben. That stuff infuriates me, cheap marketing psychology at it’s worst, looking to trap any sucker they can get in their web.
            If only some provider or indeed most commercial entities or web based company would be straight up I would give them my loyalty. Amazon is a “prime” perpetrator (c wot I dun there lol).
            It reminds me of a dream I have of some politician that will simply talk honestly who I would then take seriously…

            1. Btw interestingly I simply called Sky as soon as my son told me they were suspending Sky F1 subscription charges until the season actually started. I got a brilliant guy who sorted it out immediateley with a nice bit of banter.
              Afd thanks for the reminder, I must get back in touch to switch it on again or I’ll be high and dry in front of Austria in 5 weeks time (Yay!).

              Go Lewis.

    7. I take way more issue with schools being forced to reopen and people being made to return to work with the impractical suggestion of avoiding public transport than F1 wanting an exception made to get back going.

      Let’s face it the risk of a behind doors event are negligible. They’ll be testing people, avoiding exposure for anyone at risk who should be shielding that works in F1, and ultimately not exactly be out there spreading anything far and wide.

      There’s considerably more ability to control exposure and reduce risk for the people involved in F1 than the poor saps who’ve been working our supermarkets and sorting our Amazon orders during all of this.

      1. My workplace are forcing us all to return to the office even though we’ve been successfully remote working since day 1 without any problems. How nuts is that.

        Feels to me like there’s been a memo sent around the biggest businesses telling them that the new strategy is to try and normalise people contracting (and dying) from coronavirus so basically send everyone back to the office and pretend everything’s ok.

    8. Who is handling the British government’s F1 decisions? Claire Williams?

      1. When he pays attention, Boris Johnson. But that’s hit and miss, by the look of it.

    9. ..Even Claire Williams would be an improvement on this motly crew of “leaders”.

      Let’s face it, much of the message around this self induced situation is being ignored by a significant part of the public. Country parks I go to are mobbed in some cases, family picnics are commonly observed with 3 generations apparent; surely they don’t all live in the same gaff. It’s all a bit of a pantomime and typically British, bless us.

      Besides, if anyone cares to look at the actual facts or a reasonable commentators analysis/summary of GOVERNMENT PUBLISHED data then it peaked on 8th April, way before this future wrecking lockdown error could have had an effect and the mortality rates are the same as other recent virus outbreaks that barely reached the news, for example SARS. In a surreal moment, CMO Chris Whitty even virtually said so in the 11/5 daily news conference but it wasn’t quoted in the media that most people mistakenly absorb as factual or rounded. Our hospitals have been empty since early April, I checked on a few personally, young staff were playing football out front at one example on 14 the April, ghost towns almost.

      I’m concerned for my sport as there is a real risk that this non-season in F1 could de-stabalise the fragile financial model that the whole sport is based upon unless the big players are prepared to support the less robust teams or elements of the infrastructure, tracks, suppliers etc.
      They don’t have any track record (soz) of that kind of generosity or vision.

    10. Knowing this (UK) government, there will be a gigantic balls up. They seem completely unable to get anything right at all. But hey, how about some bread and circuses?

      Britain still has about 2,000 people dying a week from coronavirus, and the worst rate of death in the world.

      1. @rsp123

        “Britain still has about 2,000 people dying a week from coronavirus, and the worst rate of death in the world.”

        If you listened carefully, the mainstream media switched for “died from” to “died with” this flu around 2 weeks or so ago. 2000 people die a week all the time, the PCP test picks up at least 6 other coronaviruses. Doctors are pr certainly were being leaned on to include it on death certificates.
        These aren’t theories, it is in plain sight if one looks beyond the main delivery media.

    11. Sorry Dieter, but you only get three free passes a year to use the cliche, “only time will tell.” This is your first offense for 2020—you have two free passes left. Use them carefully.

      Might it be more insightful to talk about the effect of time on the Williams situation? The “double downward” spiral of poor cars resulting in less prize money resulting in more poor cars has to be shortening the window of time to make a final saving move by the Williams family and investors.

      Perhaps the Williams family reaching this Rubicon during the Coronavirus pandemic is a perverse blessing, putting much of full bore F1 competition into status quo rules, shrinking budgets, and financial aid for all from Liberty Media.

      Maybe Williams board had breathing room now, but only for this year. And after this year the screws of time will tighten again, and this next time there won’t be time to consider offers.

      But time will tell, as it often does.

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