F1 coverage in the United States is set to change hands next season, after it was announced that the sport's 17-year relationship with the Fox Sports Media Group and sports channel Speed
is to end.
The move has apparently been initiated by F1's commercial bosses, who are now entertaining a better financial bid from a rival station, rumoured by Associated Press
to be NBC Sports Group, although no official announcement has been made. Speed
has been with F1 since its inception back in 1996, and first featured live coverage of grands prix in 1997. It has subsequently expanded its commitment to the sport by adding live coverage of qualifying and practice sessions to its schedules, with a knowledgeable presenting team of former racer David Hobbs, ex-Benetton mechanic Steve Matchett and erstwhile GP2 media man Will Buxton joining frontman Bob Varsha.
Buxton has already intimated that he will be 'out of a job' after the Brazilian Grand Prix and, while it clearly does not want to lose its hold on F1, Fox Sports is poised to rebrand Speed
as a broader national sports network, potentially called Fox Sports 1
, which is expected to be the home of its new deal with Major League Baseball.
"It's disappointing to learn that F1 has elected to move forward with a different media partner," Fox Sports Media Group said in a statement, "Speed
has been the US voice of F1 since the mid '90s, and it is a passion for many people at the network. Fox Sports Media Group made what we believed to be a fiscally responsible bid based on the sport's current viewership levels, but F1 has elected to go in another direction. We wish them well."
NBC Sports Network currently shares broadcasting rights to the US-based IndyCar Series with ABC, and announced last month that it had struck a deal with NASCAR and off-road ace Robby Gordon to televise his new Stadium Super Trucks initiative.
F1 returns to the USA later this season, with the first USGP since the sport's break with Indianapolis in 2007 taking place at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas. A second race is included on the 2013 calendar, as Bernie Ecclestone finally sees the realisation of a dream to take F1 to New York City.