F1 coverage is moving back to the BBC from next year after Bernie Ecclestone approached the broadcaster to negotiate a new five-year deal.
The deal runs from 2009, when the BBC will take over from the current rights holder, ITV, which has apparently been persuaded to give up the remaining two years of its rights over the sport.
The BBC and Formula One Administration Ltd today announced a contract which will see live video broadcasts on the BBC Sport website, as well as coverage on TV, radio and mobile devices.
The deal, made for an undisclosed fee, marks F1’s return to BBC screens 12 years after it switched to ITV.
Ecclestone said “I am delighted to conclude this new deal with the BBC. I wish to thank ITV for their commitment to Formula One and the high quality of their coverage.
“It is an exciting time in Formula One and the BBC has some innovative new ideas to consolidate and expand our UK fan base.”
Quoted in a BBC story, he stressed that he had no complaints about the way ITV had handled the coverage but felt that the BBC would have more time and resources to dedicate to it.
Dominic Coles, the BBC’s director of sporting rights, said: “We were delighted when Bernie Ecclestone approached us about the return of F1 to the BBC.
“F1 is a crown jewel of sports broadcasting, so to bring the rights back to their traditional home from 2009 is tremendously exciting.”
An ITV spokesman said: “ITV plc today confirmed that it has decided to exit Formula One at the end of this season.
“This was a straightforward commercial decision for ITV and we’re pleased in that Formula One will continue to broadcast free-to-air.”
A far more interesting take on the subject came from veteran commentator Murray Walker: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted – I was lying in bed listening to the news this morning and I almost fell out of bed when I heard it. (Not a joke at his age – ed)
“It’s an amazing development because I think ITV did and do a superb job, and I think there is more to this than meets the eye.”
The BBC lost the rights to Formula One coverage at the end of the 1996 season, after which ITV took over. Presenters have included Steve Rider and Jim Rosenthal.