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Free-to-air Spanish Grand Prix more likely after government intervention

The likelihood of the Spanish Grand Prix being shown on free-to-air television in the country has increased after a ruling handed down by the Spanish government.

The Spanish Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on August 14-16 in Barcelona but will do so without fans because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The race has been deemed an event of national public interest by the government. This makes it more likely that there will be free-to-air coverage put in place, although the legislation stops short of making the race an event of general interest (which would have necessitated free-to-air coverage).

The Spanish Grand Prix has not been shown on free-to-air television in Spain since 2017.

Any free-to-air broadcast arrangement would have to be struck with telco Telefónica, which is the incumbent rights-holder in Spain, holding exclusive pay-television rights to the property. There is currently no indication whether Telefónica could be reimbursed for the loss of exclusivity over the race.

The Spanish rights to Formula One races are exploited by Telefónica on its Movistar Plus pay-television platform with no free-to-air provision made for any races. Its rights run until the end of this season with sources indicating to SportBusiness that the telco and rights-holder remain locked in negotiations over an extension.

Spanish public broadcaster RTVE aired the last free-to-air Spanish Grand Prix three years ago.

As a result of its new status, the Spanish Grand Prix will receive an increased amount of funding from the central government.

The announcement is the second major development for F1 in Spain in the last 24 hours after it emerged that immensely popular Spanish driver Fernando Alonso would be joining the Renault team for the 2021 season. Alonso has been without a racing team in F1 since leaving McLaren in 2018.