As British Formula One fans wake from their winter slumber to a new season of motor racing from this weekend’s Australian GP, there’s one question to answer before the engines start: Sky or the BBC?
The 2013 season is the last for screaming V8 engines, before smaller turbocharged engines take over in 2014. It looks to be as dramatic as ever, with Lewis Hamilton stepping into Michael Schumacher’s shoes at Mercedes, and Sergio Perez alongside Jenson Button at McLaren, all chasing Sebastian Vettell and Red Bull for the titles.
The BBC has nine live Grands Prix races, practices and qualifying sessions from the 19-race season. It’s also got highlights from every weekend and live radio coverage.
Sky has live TV coverage of every practice, qualifying and race session, as well as enough interviews, behind-the-scenes docs, repeats an and highlights to make Jeremy Clarkson yearn for a quiet bicycle ride in the countryside.
So how do free and pay line up for following the 11 teams and 22 drivers over the next nine months?
BBC: Formula One for free
With Jake Humphrey off to BT Sport, former Gadget Show presenter Suzi Perry will anchor the BBC’s TV coverage alongside cheeky chief analyst Eddie Jordan.
Ben Edwards and David Coulthard will commentate for TV, with Lee McKenzie and Tom Clarkson covering the pits. Gary Anderson will be the multimedia technical analyst across TV, radio and online.
Bernie’s gamble on a New Jersey-based Grand Prix in 2013 didn’t pay off, so the Beeb has only nine live races this year unless there’s a dramatic last-minute deal with a European circuit.
BBC One and BBC One HD will host the live races, while BBC Two (+HD) will carry live practice and qualifying sessions, adding up to 40 hours of live TV across the year, plus highlights on Sundays.
The F1 Forum will appear on the Red Button after every live Grand Prix, and Lee McKenzie will present Inside F1 on BBC News every Friday and Saturday with extra news and interviews.
Non-live Grand Prix weekends will see extended highlights on BBC One (+HD).
The BBC’s live F1 weekends in 2013 are:
- China, Shanghai, April 12-14
- Spain, Barcelona, May 10-12
- Canada, Montreal, June 7-9
- Britain, Silverstone, June 28-30
- Belgium, Spa, August 23-25
- Italy, Monza, September 6-8
- Japan, Suzuka, October 11-13
- India, New Delhi, October 25-27
- Brazil, Interlagos, November 22-24
BBC Radio 5 Live completes the BBC’s live coverage of the F1 season, with coverage of every race weekend starting on Thursday night with a preview show featuring live guests and interviews. Every practice, race and qualifying session will be broadcast live.
James Allen leads the radio team as chief correspondent and commentator, with Jennie Gow reporting from the pit lane. Former F1 driver Allan McNish will appear as an expert analyst for at least six Grands Prix.
Online users at BBC Sport will have a choice of live TV simulcast for the BBC’s live weekends, plus ‘driver-tracker’, on-board cameras and a pit lane stream.
Andrew Benson heads an online reporting team bringing live text coverage of every race, as well as news, interviews and stories.
Formula One legend Murray Walker returns to BBC Online with Murray’s Memories, archive-based videos of his personal recollections of some of the greatest moments in the history of F1.
The BBC Sport app
The BBC Sport app for iPhone and Android will show both live and on-demand coverage of F1 as it’s available on TV and iPlayer, along with news, features and stats.
Sky Sports F1 HD: the complete Formula One TV season
Sky Sports F1 has already started its 2013 campaign with a world first: the one-off trial of live 3D coverage from the Barcelona test session.
This year’s coverage will follow last year’s very successful template: live coverage of every practice, qualifying and race event, in high definition, plus the Sky Sports F1 iPad app and round-the clock features, interviews and archive F1 documentaries.
For UK viewers, the 2013 season begins at 1am on Friday, March 15, with coverage of first practice hosted by Anthony Davidson, but it’s on Saturday that expert analyst Martin Brundle leads out his full team for qualifying: David Croft (commentator), Damon Hill (expert analyst), Ted Kravitz (reporter), Simon Lazenby (presenter), Natalie Pinkham (reporter), Steve Rider (presenter), Craig Slater and Rachel Brookes (Sky Sports News reporters), and Johnny Herbert (expert analyst).
With Georgie Thompson out of the team, Natalie Pinkham will also be hosting weekly F1 magazine programme The F1 Show alongside Ted Kravitz.
How much does Sky Sports F1 cost?
If you want to get Sky Sports F1 HD without subscribing to Sky Sports, you’ll need to do it before April – although Sky won’t give us an exact date.
If you have any Sky package, the HD upgrade of £10.25/month will give you Sky Sports F1 HD indefinitely. It’s currently discounted to £5/month for six months, and you upgrade to a Sky+HD box for free. Cheapest monthly cost (without discount): £31.75
In April, Sky will launch its Entertainment Extra+ package, and you’ll need both Sky Sports and HD to get Sky Sports F1 HD. Cheapest monthly cost (without discount): £52.75
Sky Sports F1 app
The Sky Sports for iPad app becomes the Sky Sports F1 app every race weekend, offering subscribers a split screen with a choice of live race feeds with multiple camera angles, timing data and highlights, video interviews and features, leaderboards and a curated Twitter feed.
Non-Sky subscribers can also watch Sky Sports F1 (and Sky Sports 1-4) on the iPhone and iPod Touch with the Sky Sports TV app, for £4.99/month.
Sky Sports F1 on Virgin Media and TalkTalk
Sky Sports F1 is also available on Virgin Media and TalkTalk – these are the basic prices but as ever, deals are available.
However, non-Sky customers cannot access the Sky Sports for iPad app as part of their subscription.
Virgin Media viewers will need to take the Sky Sports Collection alongside their TV subscription, or packaged with broadband.
It costs £25.75 a month with the TV Size M+ package (from £14/month), L & XL – making a cheapest option of £39.75/month.
The cheapest option with broadband and phone is the Classic Collection, at £18/month plus £14.99/month line rental, plus Sky Sports for £31.25/month – totalling £64.24/month.
The Sky HD channels cost an extra £7/month with all Virgin Media TV packages.
TalkTalk TV – YouView for TalkTalk broadband subscribers – is one of the most flexible ways to get Sky Sports F1. You’ll need TalkTalk Plus broadband, costing a minimum of £15.50/month plus £14.95/month line rental, and the Sky Sports package for £30/month.
That’s a hefty £60.45/month – but you can switch the Sky Sports package on and off month-by-month. There’s no HD option.
The official F1 timing app
Hardcore F1 fans can get complete live timing data, plus a live news feed and leaderboards in the very slick Official F1 Timing app.
It costs £20 for the year – just over £1 per race – and displays all the official timing data F1 teams have on the pit wall, plus a driver tracker so you can watch the whole pack circle the track, or just follow a single driver’s progress.
Free European satellite TV
Sky’s namesakes and other pay-TV broadcasters around Europe have been busy gobbling up F1 TV rights, but the sport remains mostly free to watch in Germany. Combined with Radio 5 live, you can have the entire season for free if you’re willing to put in the effort.
The Friday practice sessions are live on Sport 1 (except for the Asian and Australian races), while qualifying and the race itself are live on RTL. Both channels will appear in your listing after performing an auto-tune.
Both channels can be found with a digital satellite receiver attached to a 50cm satellite dish aimed at the Astra 1 satellites at 19.2 degrees East. You can use a Freesat box and a repositioned Sky dish in most of the UK. The Confederation of Aerial Industries can find you a local installer who should be full of good advice.