Michael Bailey: Sky is the F1 limit for some, but not all

What a week and what a Hungarian Grand Prix – one which went a long way to explaining why Sky want a piece of the Formula One pie.

In case you missed the news, from next season Sky Sports will have exclusive coverage of every grand prix and every session.

Those not shelling out a monthly subscription will have to make do with 10 live races and highlights of the rest on the BBC – the first time free-to-view channels have been marginalised by the sport.

Now, even before Friday's news there were signs of Sky sniffing around: be it the suggestions News Corp was considering a bid to take a stake in the sport, to the fact it had been obvious all season Sky Sports News was dipping into F1 updates far more than it ever bothered to in the past – a tell-tale sign the broadcaster had a hidden agenda.

In the end, it all just teed up the new TV deal.


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The natural reaction, understandably, has been anger. Most fans feel cheated by the direction F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has taken the sport – one which they feel leaves them high and dry.

Judging by a few of the tweets from the BBC team on Friday, their initial feelings were cut from a similar cloth.

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Someone on Twitter asked me to do them proud with an angry rant on the news, but I am finding I just can't do it – because the only feeling I have at the moment is one of inevitability.

The scenario is not new. Many a sport has been here before – with Sky either upping the sport's profile and adding the best coverage money can buy, or leaving fans to witness the heart and soul being ripped out of the sport they love. It simply depends on which side of the fence you sit.

It is a great debate – but it does nothing for the fact F1, like cricket, football and rugby before it, is disappearing from free-to-view. Slowly, steadily and most probably for good.

Exposure is trumped by pound signs rather than the myth of it being sacrosanct. Sky is already too popular for any free-to-view channel to claim victory with the argument. That is what made the TV move inevitable.

In a time of public sector cuts, we should probably be grateful there will at least be sizeable coverage of every race on the Beeb next season.

In fact, according to Ecclestone, fans are usually better off watching race highlights rather than the full two hours of 'action'. Maybe that was the case before this season – but not in 2011.

Hungary can been added to the year's list of cracking races, with Jenson Button once again ruling in anything that constitutes a shower.

What better way to celebrate your 200th grand prix and the place you won your first race – including enjoying several cakes over the weekend to mark the occasion.

And behind Button, there was Sebestian Vettel. Pole and second spot on the podium – a very good way to answer anyone who dared doubt him after Germany.

They are the stories that keep us hooked on F1 week after week – but we are all going to have to accept our habits for tuning in need to change from here on in.

• It is fair to say Paul di Resta looks at home in Formula One.

Yes there has been the odd wobble, but considering he took his rookie seat at Force India after winning the 2010 DTM (German touring car series) rather than the GP2 feeder series, which meets on F1 weekends on the same tracks, the Scot has made a remarkable success of the steep learning curve.

Seventh in Hungary is his best finish to date and puts him level on points with Sauber's Sergio Perez – their battle for top rookie honours will be fascinating.

Di Resta's performance reminded me of a recent chat I had with Terry Fullerton – the Norwich man Ayrton Senna hailed as his toughest adversary.

After world karting success – including over Senna – Fullerton turned to training others. As it happened, his pupils included BBC commentator Anthony Davidson and a 14-year-old Di Resta – now 25.

'He was a raw talent and a great kid – a very gifted driver,' recalled Fullerton, who could not help but compare the Scot to his old rival and an F1 legend.

'With Senna you'd go yes, absolutely; he's definitely going to make it. He had so much ability, determination, self driven and all that – and you would not have ever said that with Paul.

'He definitely had a lot of ability, but he just seemed too far away on some of the other things. But he has done a fantastic job recently in F3, DTM.

'It's brilliant, stunning. He is the number one up-and-coming kid in F1. It's unbelievable and I take my hat off to him, he's done a fantastic job.

'He was very serious about the job, his fitness and all that, and he is putting in the work he needs to combine that with his own ability. He is going places.

'He was too tall for karts really, he got to 6ft. We all decided he should go into cars because he wasn't showing his full potential in karts. So that is what we did and the rest is history.'

• We have arrived at the midseason break and the goal for Hingham's Team Lotus remains: to win their first championship point.

Clearly everyone connected with the team wants it to come along as soon as possible – the landmark would deserve plenty of celebration.

And although the race in Budapest on Sunday ended in neither Jarno Trulli or Heikki Kovalainen completing the race distance – for the second time in three races – there were at least a few positives at the Hungaroring.

Trulli seemed to have found his mojo thanks to a new power steering upgrade, while Kovalainen's race pace was encouraging – all despite the pair's bad luck with reliability.

So given hope is all you really need, there will be plenty of that heading into Spa and the rest.

• Formula One has started its summer break – and so will I.

Keep an eye out for the column's return in the EDP and at edp24.co.uk/f1 on Wednesday, August 24 – just in time for the Belgian Grand Prix.

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