Whitmarsh: BBC must keep F1

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh thinks the BBC would be 'unwise' not to renew its Formula 1 contract when the time comes to sort out a fresh deal, amid speculation that its grand prix coverage could get dropped from 2013

Whitmarsh: BBC must keep F1

The BBC's current five-year deal to cover F1 comes to end after next season, and a report in suggested that there were no plans to renew the contract because the corporation felt that the money spent on F1 would be put to better use elsewhere.

That report has caused surprise among many in the sport, because the BBC's coverage has not only been welcomed in F1 but it has been a huge success in terms of driving a bigger audience towards grand prix racing.

Reacting to the speculation about the BBC plans, Whitmarsh claimed that it was vital F1 remained on free-to-air television - and he saw no reason why the corporation would not opt to carry on.

"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 Whitmarsh on Monday.

"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."

The BBC has enjoyed record-breaking viewing figures this year, which have been boosted by the closer racing that has been witnessed in 2011.

As well as every race enjoying higher audiences than last year's races, the recent Monaco Grand Prix recorded a 15-minute peak of 6.1 million viewers - which was the highest figure witnessed for 10 years.

AUTOSPORT recently revealed that as well as attracting a bigger audience in 2011, the behaviour of television viewers had changed to make the sport more attractive commercially.

Rather than people tuning in for just the start and the end of the race, audiences were staying for the whole of the race distance - and the grands prix were actually attracting more and more fans over their duration.

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