ESPN announced it has entered into a multi-year agreement to broadcast Formula One in the U.S. beginning next year.
No doubt a shock to many US fans, the agreement is a return to form for the network. ABC broadcast the Monaco Grand Prix on its “Wide World of Sports” program way back in 1962. Select races continued to broadcast on the network until 1988.
Meanwhile, ESPN also began televising F1 events beginning in 1984 with a 10-race deal. The deal expanded to 14 for the following four seasons, and 15 from 1989-1993. The number of televised races grew until the network’s final year of coverage in 1997.
The new agreement replaces coverage from NBC Sports, which opted to not renew its contract. Starting with the Australian Grand Prix in March, every race will air live on either ESPN, ESPN 2 or ABC. This includes every practice and qualifying session, totalling more than 125 hours across the first season.
Burke Magnus, ESPN’s Executive VP of Programming and Scheduline, weighs in:
“ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula One is a crown jewel in the sport. There are many passionate Formula One fans in the U.S. and we look forward to bringing the pageantry, spectacle and excitement of F1 to viewers across the ESPN platform.”
NBC Sports began its coverage of the sport in 2013 and has done so every year since to a positive reaction. The network took over for Speed Channel, which many fans criticized for having too many commercials. That’s to say nothing of Speed Channel owner FOX looking to turn the then all-car channel into FOX Sports One.
Naturally this raises many questions for U.S. fans. Will ESPN continue pre and post-race coverage? What happens to the current commentary team? Unfortunately, the latter will see a noticeable change next year. David Hobbs announced on Twitter he won’t be making the move over. Leigh Diffey also took to Twitter to reveal he’ll remain with NBC Sports for future events. The only two uncertainties are Steve Matchett and Will Buxton.
The full broadcast schedule for the 2018 F1 season on ESPN is as follows.
- March 25 12:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Australian Grand Prix
- April 8 1:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Chinese Grand Prix
- April 15 10:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Bahrain Grand Prix
- April 29 8:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- May 13 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Spanish Grand Prix
- May 27 7:55 a.m. ESPN – Monaco Grand Prix
- 3:30 p.m. ABC – Monaco Grand Prix (re-aired)
- June 10 1:55 p.m. ESPN – Canadian Grand Prix
- June 24 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – French Grand Prix
- July 1 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Austrian Grand Prix
- July 8 7:55 a.m. ESPN – British Grand Prix
- July 22 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – German Grand Prix
- July 29 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Hungarian Grand Prix
- Aug. 26 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Belgian Grand Prix
- Sept. 2 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Italian Grand Prix
- Sept. 16 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Singapore Grand Prix
- Sept. 30 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Russian Grand Prix
- Oct. 7 12:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Japanese Grand Prix
- Oct. 21 2:55 p.m. ABC – United States Grand Prix
- Oct. 28 2:55 p.m. ABC – Mexican Grand Prix
- Nov. 11 10:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Brazilian Grand Prix
- Nov. 25 7:55 a.m. ESPN2 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix