F1 Spain GP 2019 review: UK FTA viewership takes a hit and Pirelli keeps French GP title sponsorship

Black Book Business Diary: Hamilton distances himself from Ferrari rumours as Channel 4 struggles with highlights-only offering.

Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of Formula One’s Drivers’ Championship with a victory in Barcelona that saw Mercedes seal their fifth consecutive one-two finish of the start of this season.

World champion Hamilton overtook teammate and closest challenger Valtteri Bottas into the first corner and held his nerve to take a comfortable win.

Ferrari’s early-season woes continued as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s ongoing struggles to gel as a team allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to swoop in for third place.

Carlos Sainz could only managed an eighth place finish in his home country after saying his McLaren car had “no pace”.

The race came to an end in less than spectacular circumstances, as the safety car sent out after a crash between Lance Stroll and Lando Norris numbed the action.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc failed to take a podium place as Ferrari falter in the Constructors' Championship

UK free-to-air viewership crashes

Formula One has lost 3.4 million viewers on free-to-air television in the UK since the start of the year, according to data seen by Forbes from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).

Formula One’s exclusive new deal with pay-TV network Sky Sports means Channel 4 is now limited to delayed highlights rather than live races, and the move has so far seen viewing figures drop by some 33 per cent year-on-year.

Despite viewership for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix improving on the disappointing figures from the previous China race, the 1.8 million people who tuned in represented 40.6 per cent less than 2018.

The news will come as a concern for Formula One, which predicted in December last year that the switch to delayed highlights would actually boost viewership.

In a wide-ranging Q&A on discussion website Reddit, Formula One’s global research director Matt Roberts said at the time: “Channel 4 will have the highlights next year and we have worked with them to ensure they show the races in a favourable prime time slot.

“We estimate that we will actually have more viewers next year in the UK (thanks to this prime time slot) than we had this year.”

Pirelli seal French GP title sponsorship

Tyre manufacturer Pirelli has secured a second consecutive year as the title sponsor for the French Grand Prix held at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

Pirelli has been Formula One’s global tyre partner since 2011 and recently sealed a renewal to that deal through 2023.

Pirelli director, Giovanni Tronchetti Provera, said: “Traditionally, Pirelli has taken title sponsorships of two Grands Prix every year as global tyre partner of Formula One, underlining its role in the sport as a genuine partner rather than just a supplier.

“France has always been a key market for Pirelli, not only as a traditional heartland for motorsport in Europe, but also as part of Pirelli’s own rich history.”

Alfa Romeo gamble on Betsson Group

Alfa Romeo Racing became the third team on the Formula One grid to sign a betting deal after announcing a Europe-only partnership with the Betsson Group.

The multi-brand deal includes the likes of StarCasino, Betsson and Betsafe, the latter of which had its branding debut on the team’s car during the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Swedish gambling firm will also use the partnership to create exclusive and innovative content, as well as provide fans bespoke betting offers and unique experiences.

Frédéric Vasseur, team principal at Alfa Romeo Racing and chief executive of Sauber Motorsport, said: “Betsson compete in a playing field where you are constantly challenged, where the competition tries as hard as you do to win and to be the best in the world. That is very similar to what we’re trying to achieve at Alfa Romeo Racing.”

Mercedes, Hamilton future

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has quashed rumours that his team could quit Formula One at the end of 2020 with the new Concorde Agreement set to slash team spending allowances.

Speaking to German publication Bild am Sonntag, he said: “Today we are committed to Formula One. It's a platform that works very well for us.

“The brand benefits from fighting for victories and championships. It has charged and energised the brand and given it a certain emotion.”

Lewis Hamilton also moved quickly to deny he is eyeing up a controversial switch to rivals Ferrari in the midst of Wolff’s comments on a potential driver swap between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

“I haven't made any plans for my future. At the moment I'm just enjoying driving with this team,” said Hamilton. “It's incredible what we're achieving together, and I plan on working with this team to help it become the most successful team of all time.”

Positive Mental Attitude

I know it hurts being so far behind this weekend but let's remember we do something that we love. Grazie tutti. Forza Ferrari. Sempre.

Ferarri's Sebastian Vettel's radio message after missing out on a podium place again

The Big Picture

Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil soccer star Neymar made an appearance at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit

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