BBC’s dropping of F1 would be ‘sad, unwise’ – Whitmarsh

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has reacted strongly to speculation that the BBC may drop its F1 coverage by saying such a move would be ‘sad’ and ‘unwise’.

Whitmarsh’s comments came after a report in yesterday’s Sunday Times which suggested that in the ongoing climate of austerity and cost-cutting, the corporation might not choose to renew its contract on the coverage which expires after the 2012 season.

But Whitmarsh pointed to the importance and success so far of the BBC’s involvement.

“It’s crucial to the commercial model of Formula 1 that TV coverage should remain free-to-air, and therefore universally accessible, and therefore widely consumed and enjoyed by large numbers of viewers – and the BBC delivers that in the UK,” said the McLaren man.

“Moreover, besides the quantity of viewership, the quality of the BBC’s coverage is consistently high too – which is just as important. Also important is the demographic data – which shows that F1 is now attracting an increasing number of younger and female viewers, which is also very positive.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport – always has been, always will be. As such, it’s appropriate that the BBC should continue to cover it.

“I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axeing it, and that’s why I don’t believe for a moment that they’d seriously consider doing such a thing.”

Whitmarsh’s views are thought to be common up and down the paddock, with a large swell of support for the job that the F1 team led by Jake Humphrey have done.