F1 coverage returns to BBC


In a shock move, Formula One Administration (FOA) has announced that it has done deal which will see F1 return to BBC in a five-year deal which begins next year.

Announcing the deal ahead of this weekend's Malaysia GP, Bernie Ecclestone said: "I am delighted to conclude this new deal with the BBC. I wish to thank ITV for their commitment to Formula One and the high quality of their coverage. It is an exciting time in Formula One and the BBC has some innovative new ideas to consolidate and expand our UK fan base."

The deal comes totally out of the blue, in much the same way as when Ecclestone did an equally secret deal with ITV twelve years ago. At that time, commentator, Murray Walker, then with the BBC F1 team, only learned of the deal on the radio news.

Even more surprising - given the fact that the ITV F1 team had recently used the services of Ecclestone's daughter, Tamara, is the fact that with the arrival of Lewis Hamilton there is renewed interest in F1 in the UK. And how.

Dominic Coles, BBC Sport director of sport rights, said: "The biggest motorsporting event in the world is returning home after 12 years. We were delighted when Bernie Ecclestone approached us about the return of F1 to the BBC.

"F1 is a crown jewel of sports broadcasting," he added, "so to bring the rights back to their traditional home from 2009 is tremendously exciting. "Fans will be able to enjoy uninterrupted, state of the art and innovative coverage from BBC Sport, across all of our TV, radio and new media platforms, for the first time since 1996."

ITV still has two-years of its current deal to run, which suggests that a behind-the-scenes deal has been done whereby ITV will get part of the Champions League (football) in return.

According to Pitpass sources, David Croft, currently Radio Five Live commentator and said to be a "shoo-in for the James Allen job", was being given a semi-audition for ITV by North One (who do the production for ITV) a year early by doing the GP2 commentary live on TV this year.

We understand that Mark Sharman, head of ITV Sport, is heading out to Sepang to explain to his crew why they've lost their jobs.

Word on the street is that Jonathan Ledgard is a possibility for commentator, of course, with Martin Brundle expected to be the only one retained from current commentary line-up.

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Published: 20/03/2008
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