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BBC races away with five-year F1 rights deal

Ad-free Grand Prix motor racing from 2009

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The Beeb has bagged the rights to broadcast Formula One (F1), having signed an exclusive five-year deal.

F1 will return to the Corporation’s screens in 2009 after more than a decade’s absence.

Auntie, which snatched the rights from commercial rival ITV, remained quiet on the financial terms of the deal which includes exclusive rights to TV, radio, full broadband and mobile.

Beeb execs said they were very excited about the new agreement - hardly surprising given the recent resurgence in popularity the sport has seen in the UK, buoyed by wonder kid Lewis Hamilton’s impressive arrival on the circuit last season.

F1 Administration Ltd CEO Bernie Ecclestone said he was “delighted” with the new deal.

“I wish to thank ITV for their commitment to Formula One and the high quality of their coverage," he said in a statement. "It is an exciting time in Formula One and the BBC has some innovative new ideas to consolidate and expand our UK fan base.”

ITV oversaw terrestrial television coverage of F1 in Blighty for 12 years, during a difficult decade for the sport.

It suffered in the popularity stakes after new safety rules were imposed in 1998, following the death of Ayrton Senna four years earlier.

But according to many F1 commentators and aficionados, Hamilton’s arrival heralds a new and exciting time for Grand Prix motor racing.

Still, it’s not exactly been a bed of roses for the driver’s constructor McLaren over the past year. Last September Surrey-based McLaren was fined $100m and kicked out of the constructors' championship for spying on rival team Ferrari. ®

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