BBC announces plans for 2009 F1 coverage

Today the BBC has announced further details of its F1 coverage, which will start in just a month’s time. We already knew who would be presenting the BBC’s F1 coverage, but today we have found out more about just what the BBC will be offering the viewers this season.

Television coverage

The BBC have released full details of the television schedule for the whole season. All of the races and qualifying sessions will be broadcast on BBC One, with the exception of Brazilian qualifying which will be broadcast on BBC Two (as it will clash with Final Score). Races at unsociable hours will be repeated in full later in the day, just as ITV did.


What is interesting is that the hour long highlights package will be broadcast on BBC Three. But it will be much earlier than ITV’s offering. While ITV begrudgingly broadcast their highlights as late on Sunday night as they could possibly get away with, the BBC promise to broadcast highlights at 1900 on the day of the race, with the exception of Brazil of course when it will be broadcast at 2300.

Practice sessions

In addition, all practice sessions will be covered on BBC Red Button. This is fantastic news. In 2008 ITV provided live coverage of Friday Practice — but not Saturday Practice. Moreover, ITV only showed it on the internet, meaning that it was a poor quality offering. The BBC will now give fans the opportunity to watch practice sessions at television-standard quality for the first time in the UK.

Red Button

There will also be a number of interactive offerings. On race day, viewers will have a choice of three streams:

  • The FOM World Feed (what we’re used to getting), with the option to choose between BBC One or Radio 5 Live commentary.
  • Rolling highlights
  • A split-screen offering, with the FOM World Feed, on-board action and a leaderboard (the FIA timing screens?)

After the race has finished, there will be an hour-long interactive analysis programme with Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan.


All sessions will be broadcast over the internet on the BBC’s website. Users will have the ability to choose from a number of different streams — everything that you can get on television, and perhaps more? Moreover, at least one feed will be offered in “extra-high quality”, which the BBC say will be “near-televisual quality video”. There will also be live text coverage, and visitors will be offered the opportunity to vote and discuss the big talking points of the race.

All coverage will be available to watch again on the BBC iPlayer. Users will be able to download videos within 7 days of broadcast, though downloads will self-destruct in a plume of smoke after 30 days.


The BBC are promising that a much-needed relaunch of their F1 website will take place before the season begins. We are promised blogs from Jonathan Legard, Andrew Benson and Jake Humphrey as well as one from an “F1 mole” (hmm, that rings a bell…). Murray Walker’s video review of each race has already been well publicised, but we are now also promised videos and text columns from Martin Brundle and Mark Webber.

If the BBC get this right, it could turn out to be one of the very best F1 websites around. It sounds very promising.

Radio coverage

There is a separate press release concerning radio coverage. It had already been confirmed than Anthony Davidson will be the co-commentator on Radio 5 Live, alongside David Croft. This is mixed news for a number of reasons.

First of all, it should be pointed out that the BBC has pulled off a major coup by signing Anthony Davidson for the entire season. The driver still clings on to hopes that he will get a race drive. But with empty seats in short supply, it looks like Davidson has chosen to develop his career as a commentator.

Davidson has had a few stints as a commentator, on ITV as well as on BBC Radio. He is very good at the job in my opinion. He seems almost as natural behind the mic as Martin Brundle. He effortlessly explains to the listener what a driver is going through, and his technical knowledge of the current cars will almost certainly be second to none among commentators throughout the world.

Sadly, this means that Maurice Hamilton will no longer be a regular commentator on Radio 5 Live. This is unfortunate as I enjoy listening to his comments and opinions. I am sure we haven’t heard the last of him though. I hope he stays involved with some of the podcasts he has worked on in the past — particularly The Inside Line, which I have praised a number of times here.

Otherwise, though, the Radio 5 Live team remains the same. David Croft is perhaps not the best commentator around, but he is a likeable presence with a great enthusiasm for the sport. I’m particularly looking forward this year to watching practice sessions on BBC Red Button, where the commentary will be provided by the Radio 5 Live team. Practice has always been an enjoyable listen, in a Test Match Special sort of way.

There is also good news on Radio 5 Live’s Friday night preview show, 5 Live Formula One. Martin Brundle and David Coulthard will make regular appearances discussing the latest issues in F1. I can’t wait to hear what the pair will come up with. Both are colourful analysts of the sport, and they have worked with each other for many years, so the chemistry will no doubt be super.

What’s missing?

Rumours on message boards had suggested that there may be the option to watch highlights of each Grand Prix all day after the race. But there is no mention of that in the press release.

It looks as though there will be no HD coverage after all. This is a major disappointment. The BBC have hinted in the past that they would jump at the chance to broadcast F1 in HD, so this looks like it’s Bernie’s doing.

And where is the information on the support races? This is what I was most looking forward to learning about today, but looking at the BBC’s press release you wouldn’t know they even existed. I would be gutted if GP2 didn’t end up on terrestrial television, after the races were shown live on ITV4 last year. I am hoping that red button coverage will be announced at a later date.


  1. Looks like you’ll be able to watch the grand prix via the iPlayer, I’d imagine they might put the highlights show up there too.

    However, the biggest question still remains… will The Chain return? 😉

  2. Sounds to me as though the Beeb is going to do an excellent job. In my humble opinion, SpeedTV in America provided a better service to F1 fans than ITV did until now and it is only fitting that the balance should be re-adjusted in the favour of the Brits at last – it has been the home of F1 for a long time now.

    The official announcement of USF1 today does highlight American plans for increased accessibility to the fans, however, and SpeedTV will not be far behind, I can assure you!

  3. “as well as one from an “F1 mole” (hmm, that rings a bell…).”

    Ok, I admit it. I AM THE MOLE !
    I’m getting a T shirt made up tomorrow 😉

    Here’s hoping that all, or at least some, of these wondrous BBC initiatives make it downunder to Channel 10…