The 2021 F1 season has already provided way more excitement and action than usual in just two races, and this weekend Verstappen and Hamilton will – hopefully – go wheel to wheel in the battle for the drivers’ championship.
Here’s everything you need to know about watching it on TV and online in the UK.
What time does the Portuguese Grand Prix start in the UK?
Round 3: Algarve, Portugal
Date: Sunday 2 May
Race start time (BST): 3pm, Sky Sports F1
Race highlights: Channel 4, 7.30pm
Practice & qualifying times
Friday 30 April – Practice 1 & 2: Sky Sports F1 11.30am, 3pm
Saturday 1 May – Practice 3: Sky Sports F1, 12pm
Saturday 1 May – Qualifying: Sky Sports F1, 3pm, Channel 4 (highlights), 6.30pm
Sunday 18th – Race Coverage begins at 2pm on Sky Sports F1. Race start time: 3pm. Channel 4 highlights, 7.30pm
If you’re unable to get to a TV or record broadcasts, you can watch them later on Sky / Now and Channel 4’s catch-up services. Highlights can take a long while to appear on All 4 so it’s well worth setting your DVR to record the broadcast if you can’t watch ‘live’.
What is a Sprint Qualifying race in F1?
After approval for all 10 teams this week, there will be a new weekend format for three rounds in 2021.
Normal qualifying (with Q1, Q2 and Q3 sessions) will be run on Friday instead of Saturday. Then, after a 60-minute free practice session on Saturday morning Sprint Qualifying will take place. It’s not officially called a race, but it is one.
This will be up to one-third the length of the Grand Prix itself and the finishing order will set the grid for Sunday. Points will be awarded to the top three finishers, with three for first place, two for second and one for third.
Adding to this, tyre choice will be restricted to make it more difficult for teams and, of course, there’s the risk of damage to cars in the sprint that could put them out of the running for Sunday’s main race.
It’ll be the first time ever that the Sunday Grand Prix won’t be the only Formula 1 race on a weekend and it will be fascinating to see how it works.
Silverstone has been confirmed as the first weekend for Sprint Qualifying, and the other two appear to be Monza on 11-12 September and potentially Brazil on 6-7 November.
2021 F1 calendar
The schedule for this year has changed a couple of times already, but below you’ll find the final list of dates and venues.
The decision to postpone the Australian Grand Prix was taken at the start of January, and it has been moved to 21 November. There won’t be a race in China or Vietnam in 2021.
With a record-breaking 23 rounds to cram in, it’s going to be a busy season for teams and drivers.
Le Castellet, France
Round 10 – Sprint Qualifying
Round 14 – Sprint Qualifying
Mexico City, Mexico
Round 20 – Sprint Qualifying (TBC)
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (yet to be homologated)
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
How to watch every F1 race for free in the UK
Sky showing live races
Extended qualifying, plus highlights on Channel 4 shown 2.5 hours after live race ends
Just when we were worried that F1 was about to become exclusively a pay-to-watch sport, a reprieve meant fans can still watch – albeit highlights only and not live – on Channel 4 in the UK.
Sky still has the exclusive rights to show live races in the UK (as well as Italy and now Germany), meaning the only coverage on free-to-air TV in the UK will be available on Channel 4.
This arrangement runs until 2024 and until the end of the 2022 season, extended highlights of both qualifying and races can be shown on Channel 4 only two and a half hours after the race ends, instead of the three-hour delay in 2019.
This doesn’t mean all broadcasts will be shown this soon, and many were frustrated last year that highlights didn’t appear on Channel 4’s streaming service – All4 – for hours after the TV broadcast.
The highlights show lasts 2.5 hours and is allowed to cover 70 percent of the action. The presenting team hasn’t yet been announced, but is sure to include David Coulthard, Steve Jones and Mark Webber.
You can watch Channel 4 on your TV, of course, but you can also watch using the All4 app on your phone or tablet (but not live), or in a web browser via Channel 4’s website.
In 2020 the British Grand Prix was shown live on Channel 4, and as part of the current deal, that’s also the case this year and next.
How to watch F1 races on Sky and NowTV
If you’re happy to pay a subscription fee so you can watch entire races live, then Sky is the only option in the UK. While Liberty operates an online streaming service – F1 TV Pro – you can’t watch it in the UK because of Sky’s exclusive deal.
You can get Sky Sports F1 for £18 per month (or £10 per month for 18 months if you’re a new customer) on top of your normal Sky package, or Complete Sports (all the sports channels) for £25 per month, again for an 18-month contract.
If you’d rather not sign up to Sky TV because you only want F1 then there is an alternative: you can subscribe via Sky’s streaming service, Now TV. That’s available on your phone, tablet, games consoles, via a web browser and also via a Now TV streaming stick.
It isn’t much cheaper though: it’s £33.99 per month for the Sky Sports Pass, although there is currently an offer which gets you the first three months for £25 per month.
Can you get F1 TV Pro in the UK?
Annoyingly, no, you can’t. In case you didn’t know, F1 TV Pro is the official streaming service of Forumla 1 but you can’t get it in the UK because of Sky’s exclusive deal for live races.
F1 TV Pro is only available the US where it costs $79.99 per year. You can also buy it in a few other countries including the Netherlands where it is €7.99 per month.
In the UK, all you can access is the live timing service which costs £2.29 per month. We don’t advise using a VPN to buy the service from the US or Netherlands: it’s likely your VPN will be detected and Liberty Media, which runs F1, says your subscription will be terminated with no refund.
Can I watch F1 online in 2021?
Indeed you can. Coverage is available using the following apps:
Note that you cannot watch live on the All 4 app. Unlike BBC iPlayer, you can’t join a live broadcast and you may have to wait hours for the race highlights to appear in the app. That was certainly the case last year, with the programme appearing over four hours after broadcast on some occasions.
To watch races on Sky you need to subscribe to its TV service. Sky will be broadcasting practice, qualifying and races in Ultra HD, but they’re also in HD depending upon your subscription. You can find out more on Sky’s website.
Use the Sky Go app to watch online.
As we said above, you can still watch Sky Sports F1 without being a Sky customer as the channel is also available on Now (formerly Now TV).
This is sky’s streaming service, which you can watch via the Now app on a laptop, PC, Mac, phone or tablet. The Now app is also on Amazon Fire TV Stick, LG TVs, Samsung TV, YouView boxes (not early ones), Apple TV, Sony TVs, Google Chromecast, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X.
You’ll need the Now Sports Month (or Now Sports Day) membership which costs £33.99 per month or £9.98 per day. So it’s not exactly cost effective if you just want to watch F1.
Is there a way to watch F1 races live for free?
Officially, no. But there is a way. From 2021 to 2023, F1 will be shown on free-to-air channels ServusTV and ORF in Austria, plus on Match TV in Russia.
You’ll need a VPN (see below) to watch these channels outside of those countries, so connect to the appropriate country – Austria or Russia – and then head to their respective websites and figure out how to navigate to the right channel and you’ll be ale to watch the live stream.
Obviously unless you speak those languages the commentary won’t be at all useful, but the good news is that you can listen to English commentary by tuning into Radio 5 Live. You don’t need an actual radio of course: you can also listen via the BBC Sounds app, or on the BBC website.
Here are the website links:
If you fancy watching on the big screen rather than your laptop, then here’s how to hook up your laptop to a TV. You could also cast from Android, if you’re using a VPN and web browser on your phone or tablet. Similarly, those with iPhones or iPads can mirror their screen to the TV using an Apple TV.
Other than this, the sport is all but behind a paywall now. You used to be able watch races live on RTL Germany but Sky Germany now has exclusive rights (as in the UK) to show live races in Germany as well.
If you have a satellite dish and can figure out how to tune into foreign broadcasts, you may find some which aren’t encrypted.
How to watch F1 with a VPN
If you’re not in the same country as the TV broadcaster, you won’t be able to watch F1 without a VPN. Those in the UK can no longer watch abroad using the Sky Go app on their phone or tablet because of Brexit.
Similarly, you can’t watch highlights on the All 4 app unless you use a VPN with a UK server.
We recommend using NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost or Private Internet Access.
A VPN makes it appear that you’re located in the same country as the broadcaster when you connect to a server in the appropriate country.
Read our guide to the best VPN services for more information.