F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has vowed to do all he can to ensure the sport remains on the BBC in the UK.

His comments come in the wake of fresh speculation the broadcast won't renew its current deal when it expires at the end of 2013 [see separate story - click here].

"We want F1 to stay free to viewers," Ecclestone told The Times. "That is 100 percent. The BBC have done a great job for us and we like their shows and the people obviously like it because so many are watching.

"They did warn me that they were facing problems but, so far, nothing more has been said. I hope they want to keep us because it is such a success and I will do my best to keep F1 on the BBC."

McLaren boss and FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) chairman Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile has said it would travesty if the BBC did drop the sport. He also added that he doesn't 'believe for a moment that they'd seriously consider doing such a thing'.

"F1 insiders have been surprised by the recent newspaper reports, since they contain significant statistical inaccuracies," Whitmarsh stated in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. "The reality is that the F1 viewing figures in the UK are high and getting higher.

"In terms of average viewership, peak viewership and average share of viewership - the three key indices for TV executives - more people are watching F1 this year than last year or indeed than in recent previous years.

"For example, the average share of viewership for the BBC's coverage of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, which' Lewis Hamilton won, was more than 50 per cent. In other words, as many people were watching F1 in the UK that Sunday morning as were watching every other channel combined - including all terrestrial channels and all satellite channels - a staggeringly impressive statistic. And the TV viewing figures for other recent Grand's Prix have been massively impressive too.

"It's crucial to the commercial model of F1 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.

"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.

"F1 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 axing it, and that's why I don't believe for a moment that they'd seriously consider doing such a thing."

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