The art of the ringmaster is to run the show, but yesterday Bernie Ecclestone indulged in a little of the magician's sleight of hand as well when news broke at the Hungaroring that from next season until 2018 the television coverage of Formula One will be split between the BBC and Sky Sports. It drew a vitriolic reaction from fans, angry at having to pay to watch their sport despite his recent protestations it would always be on free-to-air TV.
The news completely overshadowed Lewis Hamilton's domination of the practice laps for the Hungarian GP.
The BBC made it clear they wanted to end the expense – "north of £45m annually," say insiders – of broadcasting F1 until 2013, while Sky are keen to add it to their sporting portfolio.
According to a BBC statement, the unusual and unexpected partnership entails "all races, qualifying and practice sessions being shown live on Sky Sports across TV, online and mobile and tablet devices, while half the races and qualifying sessions will remain live on BBC TV, online and mobile, including key races such as the British Grand Prix, Monaco Grand Prix and the final race of the season".
Thus, under a deal that only Ecclestone could have engineered, Sky have effectively become the rights holder for the next seven years, but the BBC will continue to transmit coverage at the same time, thus fulfilling the free-to-air requirement for half the events.
Out on the track, Hamilton headed both sessions, raising hopes that McLaren's winning form last weekend was no flash in the pan. "It's a great feeling to start the weekend on a high," Hamilton said. "The car looks reasonably competitive ... It's important not to read too much into Fridays, though. Having said that, I think we've got about the same pace as we had in Germany, which is encouraging."Reuse content