The news that the UK broadcasting of Formula 1 from 2012 onwards will be split by the BBC and Sky has sent shockwaves through the paddock and the general Formula 1 community. I'm a frequent tweeter and the first reactions of many have been of anger, frustration and disappointment that the BBC will broadcast 10 full race weekends instead of the full 2012 season, with Sky taking over the reins. And this isn't just a trial run - the sharing deal lasts until 2018, forcing fans to pay up for a Sky Sports subscription or be left with less access. It sets a stark contrast to when the BBC took the rights back from ITV in 2009, with uninterrupted coverage of practice, qualifying and races (and all the little bits before and after) free of charge.
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With piles of money larger than Eddie Jordan's pile of unfashionable clothes, Sky never appeared off of the radar when the rumours started circulating over the future of BBC F1 coverage. Takeover rumours were quickly hushed down but Sky taking the rights to future F1 seasons always remained. Channel 4 and Channel 5 were suggested, but evidently nothing has materialised. The arguments against F1 going to Sky, coming from concerned Team Principals such as McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, was that the fanbase was never going to be as large if Formula 1 was on pay TV, which would make sponsors unhappy resulting in more teams pulling out with financial difficulties. On the plus side, FOM and the teams have got a massive financial boost as Sky allegedly have paid more for the full rights than the BBC ever did. And with the BBC offering non-pay TV viewers a taster of what Formula 1 is like, fans will be queueing up to buy subscriptions to watch the full season. It's a win-win situation for Sky, who have access to every single race weekend from 2012 onwards. The BBC, however, have had to compromise severely, instead offering full radio coverage across every weekend as well as a highlights shows at the end of every Grand Prix.
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What will be interesting, however, is the direct comparison in viewing figures between the BBC and Sky when both broadcasters show the same Grand Prix. The BBC's impartial coverage has been fantastic over the past two seasons and free-to-view figures are traditionally a lot higher than subscription channels, as demonstrated by WRC coverage in recent years, but will the lure of live coverage be too much for non-Sky customers come 2012? Only time will tell.
Vettel given food for thought
Despite the calls that it was a matter of not "if" but "when" the rain would fall at the German Grand Prix, a significant downpour failed to threaten the racing and a fantastic spectacle. However, dark clouds will still be hanging over the Red Bull camp, as their dominance over the rest of the field becomes ever closer to being non-existent. Sebastian Vettel in particular, whose calm and measured approach to 2011 has been taken with that of an experienced Champion despite being only 24, could be forgiven for thinking he can afford a mistake or two and play a conservative game. The action in Germany confirmed that this would not be the case, as Vettel made a costly mistake early on and had his Championship lead slashed by resurgent drives from Hamilton, Alonso and team-mate Webber.
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