GP2 and GP3 races will be shown live on the new Sky Sports F1 channel in 2012, the broadcaster has announced.
"We are delighted to be showing GP2 and GP3 live on Sky Sports F1," said the channel's executive producer Martin Turner. "The series promises nail-biting and fascinating racing and we'll track gifted drivers through the ranks as they aim for F1."
Lewis Hamilton arrived in F1 after winning the 2006 GP2 championship, and Romain Grosjean has managed to fight his way back into a Grand Prix seat at Lotus F1 for 2012 after dominating last year's GP2 title. Last season's GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas is currently a test driver for the Williams F1 team.
Typically held as support events during an F1 Grand Prix weekend, GP2 and GP3 race weekends consist of a feature race up to an hour long, and a shorter sprint race. As well as live coverage of the races themselves in high definition, Sky Sports F1 will also provide news and analysis coverage of both series in its weekly motorsports magazine programme hosted by Ted Kravitz and Georgie Thompson.
GP2 races start with a non-F1 related event at Sepang in Malaysia on March 24-25, after the series combined its European and Asian championships into one 24-race season for 2012. The shorter Europe-only GP3 Series starts in Catalunya, Spain on May 12-13, and two weeks later will for the first time join
GP2 at Monaco for the F1 Grand Prix weekend.
has a full set of dates for the 2012 season
for both GP2 and GP3.
GP2 and GP3 television coverage had previously been available in the UK via British Eurosport. However, last year the channel noticeably downgraded its GP2 broadcasts to the point where few races were shown live in 2011, suggesting to many fans that the channel did not expect to continue with the rights in 2012. Prior to Eurosport, ITV also had the rights to GP2 coverage while they were broadcasters for F1, before the races briefly passed to short-lived digital channel Setanta Sports in 2009. Eurosport initially picked up the TV rights in the fire sale that followed Setanta's mid-season collapse.
SPEED Channel shows GP2 in the United States, and it's expected (but not confirmed) that Sky Sports F1 will take the world feed commentary supplied by SPEED Channel F1 pit lane reporter Will Buxton.
Sky Sports F1 channel launches on March 9, and will be available to all Sky customers with the Sky Sports package or with the HD package. Subscribers can also watch online or on tablet and mobile devices with Sky Go at no extra charge. The channel will also be available to Virgin Media customers who have the Sky Sports package, albeit in standard definition only.
Under a pre-existing contract, Motors TV will also continue to show GP3 Series highlights in 2012. Motors TV is a free-to-air channel on the Sky platform, and is also available to XL subscribers on Virgin Media.