This weekend’s Monaco GP is one of the the 10 races for which you can choose to watch on Sky or the BBC, not surprising for the biggest weekend in the F1 calendar.
Full-throttle Formula One addicts will already be hocked up to Sky to watch every practice session of the weekend live, as well as the qualifying sessions and the races themselves.
Sky, of course, controversially snapped up the F1 rights from 2012 to 2015, leaving the BBC with live rights to just half the races and qualifying sessions.
It looks like Sky will present some of the most all-encompassing coverage we’ve every seen, and the Sky Sports F1 iPad app looks stunning, but can Sky’s pundits rival the charm of BBC dream team Jake Humphreys, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard?
And most importantly, what’s it going to cost to keep up with the on-track action for F1 2012?
How to watch F1 for free
If you don’t want to pay for F1, the BBC has full live radio coverage rights for Radio Five Live, including practice sessions. Good to know if you’re unavoidably away from the TV during the action.
BBC One’s coverage starts tomorrow (Saturday May 26) at 12.10pm with qualifying around the twisty, glitzy streets, and continues on Sunday (May 27) at 12.05pm for the full race, continuing on the Red Button on Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin at 3.15pm.
The highlights programmes will be shown in prominent slots in the television schedules and the F1 Forum will continue after the race whenever the BBC has a live race weekend.
As the season continues, highlights of races that take place early in the morning in the UK will be shown in the early afternoon on Sunday. Those that are in the European time zone – including Bahrain – will be shown in prime-time on Sunday evening at around 5.30pm.
If you’re really brave and want full coverage, you could listen to Radio Five Live while watching free coverage from another country via satellite TV. We recommend Germany’s RTL, which is on the Astra 1 satellite group. It’s free, but it’s not HD.
To watch this, you’ll need a 50cm satellite dish (a Sky dish will do in most of the UK) and a free-to-air digital satellite receiver (a Freesat box will do), but it will have to be re-aligned on the new satellite location. The Confederation of Aerial Industries can find you a local installer who should be full of good advice.
If you want to watch the races through live timing feeds, head over to F1.com, where you can find free live timing data.
How to get F1 on Sky and Virgin
Sky Sports F1 HD will be the petrolhead’s channel of choice for the 2012 Formula One season, and Sky’s promising to make it a completist’s dream.
Coverage on channel 408 (channel 516 on Virgin Media) started at Monaco on Thursday with first and second practice, hosted by Anthony Davidson, and The F1 Show with Georgie Thompson and Ted Kravitz.
Saturday starts with practice three at 9.45am and qualifying from 12 noon, and Sunday’s Grand Prix starts at 11.30am. Practice, qualifying and the race itself are regularly repeated over the weekend, and beyond.
Commentary will be delivered by David Croft and Martin Brundle, who will also be doing his legendary grid walk before the race, while Ted Kravitz will be in the pits.
Red button multi-screen feeds are now in HD, with up to nine live and highlights feeds including on-board cameras, pits, alternative views, driver trackers and timing data.
There are also magazine features, classic races, team and driver interviews and more throughout the long, boring days between race weekends.
Sky Sports F1 HD comes with both the HD package (£10.25 extra on any Sky subscription) and with Sky Sports 1 and 2 (in standard definition if you don’t have HD).
The cheapest subscription is the Sky TV entertainment pack with HD, at £30.25/month, followed by Sky Sports 1 & 2 with the Entertainment pack, at £40/month.
Virgin Media viewers will need to take the Sky Sports Collection alongside their TV subscription, but Virgin doesn’t have the HD version. It costs £28.00 a month with TV Size M, and £22.50 a month with TV Size M+, L & XL.
F1 on your tablet and phone
Sky Sports F1 for iPad has been touted as a way to watch on the move, and it’s free to all Sky HD or Sky Sports 1 and 2 subscribers, whether that’s on TV or through Sky Go.
It’s also emerged as a cheaper way to watch the 2012 F1 season, costing £4.99/month for non-Sky subscribers. This works out as a fairly-modest £40 over the entire eight-month Grand Prix season.
The F1 app is part of the Sky Sports iPad app on iTunes (no Android version, sadly), and features the same choice of up to nine live and highlights feeds, which will be upgraded later this year to show multiple live feeds together on the same screen. It also offers championship standings, and a live Twitter feed that’s curated to give the best of industry voices, expert commentators and fan tweets, plus video news, interviews and galleries.
Formula One still has its official app with timing data, but this year the free edition is just a demo with old data, and to see live data there’s a £20 fee for the premium version on iTunes and Android.