Just like in 2020, the F1 calendar in 2021 keeps on changing. The Australian grand prix, originally moved from the start of the year to November has now been cancelled due to rising coronavirus cases, but F1 boss Stefano Domenicali is confident that a 23-race season is still possible.
Exactly how is unclear at this point: other races could be in jeopardy for the same reasons, with grands prix in Japan, Mexico and Brazil potential problems.
It’s been great to have fans back at races and this weekend will see a 140,000-strong crowd at the British Grand Prix. It will also be the first weekend to feature the new sprint qualifying format which will take place at 4.30pm on Saturday 17 July, so set a reminder so you don’t miss that. Regular qualifying will be on Friday at 6pm if you want to catch that as well.
If you can’t get to Silverstone this Sunday, here’s everything you need to know about watching the British Grand Prix on TV and online in the UK. It’s the only race of the year which Channel 4 is allowed to broadcast live, which means you can watch for free.
When does the British Grand Prix start in the UK?
Round 10: Silverstone, UK
Date: Sunday 18 July
Race start time (BST): 3pm, Sky Sports F1 & Channel 4
Race highlights: Channel 4, 11pm
Practice & qualifying times (BST)
Friday 16 July Practice 1: Sky Sports F1, 2pm, Channel 4, 2.10pm
Friday 16 July Qualifying: Sky Sports F1, 5.25pm, Channel 4, 5pm
Saturday 17 July Practice 2: Sky Sports F1, 11.30pm, Channel 4, 11.45am
Saturday 17 July Sprint Qualifying: Sky Sports F1, 3.40pm, Channel 4, 3.45pm
Sunday 18 July Race Coverage begins at 1.30pm on Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4.
Race start time: 3pm. Channel 4 is also broadcasting the race live (the only live race of the season).
If you’re unable to get to a TV or record broadcasts, you can watch them later on Sky / Now and Channel 4’s catch-up services. Highlights can take a long while to appear on All 4 so it’s well worth setting your DVR to record the broadcast if you can’t watch ‘live’.
What is Sprint Qualifying in F1?
For the first time, there’s a new weekend format for three rounds in 2021.
Normal qualifying (with Q1, Q2 and Q3 sessions) will be run on Friday instead of Saturday. This will determine the grid order for Sprint Qualifying, which will take place on Saturday afternoon. It’s not officially called a race, but it is one.
This is up to one-third the length of the Grand Prix itself (100km) and last about 25-30 minutes – it’s 17 laps of Silverstone this weekend. The finishing order of this race will set the grid for Sunday, which means drivers will have to be especially careful not to get caught up in any first lap incidents.
Points will be awarded to the top three finishers, with three for first place, two for second and one for third. There’s no podium ceremony, but the winner will get a trophy in parc ferme.
Adding to this, tyre choice will be restricted to make it more difficult for teams and, of course, there’s the risk of damage to cars in the sprint that could put them out of the running for Sunday’s main race.
It’ll be the first time ever that the Sunday Grand Prix won’t be the only Formula 1 race on a weekend and it will be fascinating to see how it works.
The other two races to feature sprint qualifying are still unconfirmed but appear to be Monza on 11-12 September and potentially Brazil on 6-7 November.
2021 F1 calendar
The schedule for this year has changed a couple of times already, but below you’ll find the final current list of dates and venues.
With Australia cancelled, there’s currently 22 rounds, but 23 are planned.
Le Castellet, France
Spielberg, Austria (Styrian GP)
Round 10 – Sprint Qualifying
Round 14 – Sprint Qualifying (TBC)
Mexico City, Mexico
Round 20 – Sprint Qualifying (TBC)
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Melbourne, Australia Cancelled
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
How to watch every F1 race for free in the UK
Sky showing live races
Extended qualifying, plus highlights on Channel 4 shown 2.5 hours after live race ends
Just when we were worried that F1 was about to become exclusively a pay-to-watch sport, a reprieve meant fans can still watch – albeit highlights only and not live – on Channel 4 in the UK.
Sky still has the exclusive rights to show live races in the UK (as well as Italy and now Germany), meaning the only coverage on free-to-air TV in the UK will be available on Channel 4.
This arrangement runs until 2024 and until the end of the 2022 season, extended highlights of both qualifying and races can be shown on Channel 4 only two and a half hours after the race ends, instead of the three-hour delay in 2019.
This doesn’t mean all broadcasts will be shown this soon, and many were frustrated last year that highlights didn’t appear on Channel 4’s streaming service – All4 – for hours after the TV broadcast.
The highlights show lasts 2.5 hours and is allowed to cover 70 percent of the action.
You can watch Channel 4 on your TV, of course, but you can also watch using the All4 app on your phone or tablet (but not live), or in a web browser via Channel 4’s website.
In 2020 the British Grand Prix was shown live on Channel 4, and as part of the current deal, that’s also the case in 2021 and 2022.
How to watch F1 races on Sky and Now
If you’re happy to pay a subscription fee so you can watch entire races live, then Sky is the only option in the UK. While Liberty operates an online streaming service – F1 TV Pro – you can’t watch it in the UK because of Sky’s exclusive deal.
You can get Sky Sports F1 for £18 per month (or £10 per month for 18 months if you’re a new customer) on top of your normal Sky package, or Complete Sports (all the sports channels) for £25 per month, again for an 18-month contract.
If you’d rather not sign up to Sky TV because you only want F1 then there is an alternative: you can subscribe via Sky’s streaming service, Now (formerly Now TV). That’s available on your phone, tablet, games consoles, via a web browser and also via a Now TV streaming stick.
It isn’t much cheaper though: it’s £33.99 per month for the Sky Sports Pass, although there is currently an offer which gets you the first three months for £25 per month.
Can you get F1 TV Pro in the UK?
Annoyingly, no, you can’t. In case you didn’t know, F1 TV Pro is the official streaming service of Forumla 1 but you can’t get it in the UK because of Sky’s exclusive deal for live races.
F1 TV Pro is only available the US where it costs $79.99 per year. You can also buy it in a few other countries including the Netherlands where it is €7.99 per month.
In the UK, all you can access is the live timing service which costs £2.29 per month. We don’t advise using a VPN to buy the service from the US or Netherlands: it’s likely your VPN will be detected and Liberty Media, which runs F1, says your subscription will be terminated with no refund.
Can I watch F1 online in 2021?
Indeed you can. Coverage is available using the following apps:
Note that you cannot watch live on the All 4 app. Unlike BBC iPlayer, you can’t join a live broadcast and you may have to wait hours for the race highlights to appear in the app. That was certainly the case last year, with the programme appearing over four hours after broadcast on some occasions.
To watch races on Sky you need to subscribe to its TV service. Sky will be broadcasting practice, qualifying and races in Ultra HD, but they’re also in HD depending upon your subscription. You can find out more on Sky’s website.
Use the Sky Go app to watch online.
As we said above, you can still watch Sky Sports F1 without being a Sky customer as the channel is also available on Now (formerly Now TV).
This is sky’s streaming service, which you can watch via the Now app on a laptop, PC, Mac, phone or tablet. The Now app is also on Amazon Fire TV Stick, LG TVs, Samsung TV, YouView boxes (not early ones), Apple TV, Sony TVs, Google Chromecast, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X.
You’ll need the Now Sports Month (or Now Sports Day) membership which costs £33.99 per month or £9.98 per day. So it’s not exactly cost effective if you just want to watch F1.
Is there a way to watch F1 races live for free?
Officially, no. But there is a way. From 2021 to 2023, F1 will be shown on free-to-air channels ServusTV and ORF in Austria, plus on Match TV in Russia.
You’ll need a VPN (see below) to watch these channels outside of those countries, so connect to the appropriate country – Austria or Russia – and then head to their respective websites and figure out how to navigate to the right channel and you’ll be ale to watch the live stream.
Obviously unless you speak those languages the commentary won’t be at all useful, but the good news is that you can listen to English commentary by tuning into Radio 5 Live. You don’t need an actual radio of course: you can also listen via the BBC Sounds app, or on the BBC website.
Here are the website links:
If you fancy watching on the big screen rather than your laptop, then here’s how to hook up your laptop to a TV. You could also cast from Android, if you’re using a VPN and web browser on your phone or tablet. Similarly, those with iPhones or iPads can mirror their screen to the TV using an Apple TV.
Other than this, the sport is all but behind a paywall now. You used to be able watch races live on RTL Germany but Sky Germany now has exclusive rights (as in the UK) to show live races in Germany as well.
However, a deal between the two has been done so that RTL can show four events (including the Sunday races) live:
Italy (Imola) – 16-18 April
Spain – 7-9 May
Italy (Monza) – 10-12 September
Brazil – 5-7 November
You can watch these races in the UK if you have a satellite dish and can figure out how to tune into Astra satellite at 19.2E.
I’m also reliably informed that F1 is shown free to air on an Arabic satellite channel service called MBC Action MBC Persia. They’re available on a number of satellites at varying frequencies, but they require a very good satellite installation and setup to pick up the signals.
How to watch F1 online with a VPN
If you’re not in the same country as the TV broadcaster, you won’t be able to watch F1 online without a VPN. For example, you can no longer watch abroad using the Sky Go app on your phone or tablet because of Brexit.
Similarly, you can’t watch highlights on the All 4 app unless you use a VPN with a UK server.
We recommend using NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost and Private Internet Access.
A VPN makes it appear that you’re located in the same country as the broadcaster when you connect to a server in the appropriate country.
Read our guide to the best VPN services for more information.
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