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Channel Four speed in as BBC axe F1 deal

By David Clough

Published 22/12/2015

Off air: BBC F1 presenters Suzi Perry and David Coulthard
Off air: BBC F1 presenters Suzi Perry and David Coulthard

Channel Four will lead Formula One's terrestrial television coverage for the next three years after the BBC surrendered their broadcasting rights.

The BBC, who announced a £35million cut in their sports budget, revealed yesterday that they had withdrawn from the deal which was shared with Sky Sports.

Lewis Hamilton will begin his quest to become the first British driver to win four championships in 2016, but it will be Channel Four rather than the BBC - who recently dropped their coverage of golf's Open Championship one year earlier than planned - who will cover his historic bid.

Hamilton claimed his second consecutive title in Austin in October and his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June attracted 5.6million viewers on the BBC. But their coverage is said to have cost £20million each year.

With the loss of F1 and the Open Championship, the BBC's portfolio of live annual sporting events has been reduced to the FA Cup, rugby league's Challenge Cup and Wimbledon. They will also share the broadcasting rights with ITV for the RBS Six Nations from next year.

Reflecting on the BBC's announcement, pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie tweeted: "Good luck to @Channel4 with their #F1 coverage. Loved being part of #BBCF1 team. Some great times."

Suzi Perry, the BBC's F1 presenter since 2013, tweeted a picture, in which she is embraced with her colleagues Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, with the caption: "Love this gang..."

The BBC regained the exclusive broadcasting rights to Formula One in 2009 before agreeing a seven-year deal to share the rights with Sky Sports in 2012.

BBC Director of Sport, Barbara Slater, said: "Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport is taken reluctantly."

Channel Four will take over with immediate effect and show 10 races live - without breaks - and extensive highlights of the remaining 11 races in 2016.

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's chief executive, added: "I am confident that Channel Four will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past but also with a new approach as the world and Formula One have moved on.''

Belfast Telegraph

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