It's only January, but the 2021 calendar has already been set for the upcoming F1 season. In any other year that would be unremarkable, but there's still huge uncertainty about whether coronavirus will be sufficiently under control - not only by the time the first round but as the season progresses.
The decision to postpone the Australian Grand Prix had already been taken at the start of January, and the revised calendar has now been released publicly.
So - if nothing changes - the season opener will be the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain on 28 March, followed by Imola on 18 April. The Australian GP has been moved to 21 November, and there won't be a race in China or Vietnam.
With a record-breaking 23 rounds to cram in, up from 17 in 2020, organisers have clearly tried to sort out the schedule as early as possible and avoid the last-minute decisions of 2020. However, it's pretty likely the pandemic will force some late changes this year as well.
2021 CALENDAR UPDATE— Formula 1 (@F1) January 12, 2021
🇧🇭 Season starts in Bahrain 26-28 Mar
🇦🇺 Australia moves to 19-21 Nov
🇮🇹 Imola returns 16-18 Apr; China discussions ongoing
Dates of Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi races all change#F1 pic.twitter.com/4QoP0gKKsA
2021 F1 schedule
Here's v2.0 of the 23-race schedule.
|Round 1||28 March||Sakhir, Bahrain|
|Round 2||18 April||Imola, Italy|
|Round 3||2 May||TBC|
|Round 4||9 May||Barcelona, Spain|
|Round 5||23 May||Monaco|
|Round 6||6 June||Baku, Azerbaijan|
|Round 7||13 June||Montreal, Canada|
|Round 8||27 June||Le Castellet, France|
|Round 9||4 July||Spielberg, Austria|
|Round 10||18 July||Silverstone, UK|
|Round 11||1 August||Budapest, Hungary|
|Round 12||29 August||Spa, Belgium|
|Round 13||5 September||Zandvoort, Netherlands|
|Round 14||12 September||Monza, Italy|
|Round 15||26 September||Sochi, Russia|
|Round 16||3 October||Singapore|
|Round 17||10 October||Suzuka, Japan|
|Round 18||24 October||Austin, USA|
|Round 19||31 October||Mexico City, Mexico|
|Round 20||7 November||Sao Paulo, Brazil|
|Round 21||21 November||Melbourne, Australia|
|Round 22||5 December||Jeddah, Saudi Arabia|
|Round 23||12 December||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 a pay-to-watch sport a reprieve meant fans can still watch - albeit highlights only - on Channel 4 in the UK.
Sky still has the exclusive rights to show live races in the UK, 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.
Because of coronavirus, sports have all been postponed. But we expect Sky will soon bring back some sort of offer when it restarts in July.
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.
When does the Bahrain Grand Prix start in the UK?
The race will be held on Sunday 28 March. It should start at 4.10pm BST, as the clocks go forward at 1am that day.
- Round 1: Bahrain International Circuit
- Race start time (BST): 4.10pm TBC
- Highlights: Channel 4, time TBC
Can I watch F1 online in 2021?
Indeed you can. Coverage is available using the following apps:
- All 4, available for Android and iOS
- Sky Go for Android or iOS (requires Sky subscription)
- Now TV, for Android and iOS, Xbox One and PC (requires subscription)
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 TV.
This is sky's streaming service, which you can watch via the Now TV Player app on a laptop, PC, Mac, phone or tablet, or Sky's own Now TV Stick which connects to an HDMI input on your TV.
Is there a way to watch F1 races live for free?
Officially, no. But there is a way. And it's free if you have a satellite dish and receiver which can pick up RTL Germany. That's because F1 races are still shown there on the free-to-air channel. Unless you're fluent in German the commentary isn't going to mean much, but you can get English commentary by tuning into Radio 5 Live (you can use the iPlayer Radio app on your phone if you don't have an actual radio).
If you haven't already got a suitable dish and set-top box, there's little point in investing in one as you'll pay around the same price to watch F1 on Now TV. But it could work out to be cheaper if you plan to watch F1 for the next few years and RTL continues to broadcast it.
How to watch F1 with a VPN
If you're not in the UK when a particular race is shown, you can no longer watch it using the Sky Go app on your phone or tablet because of Brexit.
A VPN makes it appear to Sky or Channel 4 that you're actually in the UK even if you're abroad.
Read our guide to the best VPN services for more information.