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Outside Line: To beIN Formula 1 comes with responsibility to fans

Outside Line: To beIN F1 comes with responsibility

Arab money abounds in Formula 1, as the sport milks the region’s huge cash reserves but is it neglecting fans with apparently abysmal commentary to go with the live feed they receive from pay TV broadcasters beIN?

But before we go there. F1 has been booming in the Middle East for the past two decades, from humble beginnings to today where there are four Grand Prix weekends there – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – with Bahrain also the go-to host for F1 preseason testing.

Throw into that the F1 teams are either owned or heavily invested in by Arab money eg. McLaren and Aston Martin plus a myriad of Gulf region sponsors in the mix, there’s even talk of the Saudis (PIF) buying F1 from Liberty Media.

In other words, the region is a big player on a global scale and F1 is eager to milk the money that appears to flow freely, yet investing little it appears on the Arabic-speaking F1 fanbase, the grassroots whereupon the sport should grow. It seems they are talking the talk, but yet to walk the walk.

In February Formula 1 announced the deal with beIN and said in a statement: “The multi-year deal, which runs through 2033, will cover 25 territories across MENA and Turkey and grants beIN rights to broadcast every F1 race weekend. This includes all practice sessions, F1 Sprint events and Grands Prix across beIN SPORTS channels and its live-streaming app TOD.”

BeIN: We look forward to creating thrilling F1 experiences for millions of fans and growing a new generation of followers

beIN SPORTS TO EXCLUSIVELY BROADCAST FORMULA O | beIN SPORTS

At the time, Stefano Domenicali declared: “With beIN, we have found a partner who elevate the broadcast experience and create best-in-class programming that delivers against our mission to showcase the drama and spectacle of Formula 1 for our fans at home.”

Ian Holmes, Director of Media Rights and Content Creation at Formula 1, added: “beIN has established itself as one of the leading sports broadcasters in the world, offering fans unparalleled coverage across its sports portfolio.

“We look forward to working with them, utilising their extensive production capabilities in Doha, to continue to elevate F1’s broadcast programming and create tailor-made content that engages fans in the region and encapsulates the drama and excitement of Formula 1.”

And finally, Yousef Al-Obaidly, CEO of beIN MEDIA GROUP promised: “We look forward to creating thrilling Formula 1 experiences for millions of fans and growing a new generation of followers through exciting regional content and innovative broadcasting.”

Plenty of healthy and positive PR speak from all concerned. But a couple of months down the line and five races into this Championship, it appears Arab F1 fans are as up in arms with the Quality of the commentary they are being served.

As a long-time Dubai resident, I still have many great friends and motorsport contacts in the region. Passionate racing fans eager to devour quality content. Many are very knowledgeable about F1 like any of their counterparts around the globe and a new generation is eager to learn and absorb as youth tends to do.

Why are there no experienced and knowledgeable Arabic F1 commentators being used on beIN’s coverage?

Petition · Demand BeIn Sports to hire Firas Nimri and Khalil Beschir as Formula 1 Commentators - Qatar · Change.org

But what they are being ‘fed’ appears to be counterproductive to growing the Arabic-speaking F1 fanbase, I am hearing from several quarters. How F1 is served, no matter what language, has to be of the highest level. That beIN has opted for the Sky F1 coverage is understandable in the short term. For the long term surely not.

But in the region, there is no excuse not to hit the road running with an Arab-speaking, Sky-style F1 team, doing grid walks, analysis, insights and the like. Commentators with the passion and knowledge of the sport from drivers through to teams and even beyond the F1 paddock, like their counterparts in English, Spanish, German, Portuguese or whatever language of the broadcaster. These Arab F1 and motorsport experts do exist, they need to be approached and contracted before the rot continues.

On hearing the complaints from Dubai mates, I asked Jad, an Arab speaker and keen F1 fan obviously, to investigate the facts. He explained: “The F1 coverage shifted from Saudi-owned MBC Group through their Shahid platform to the Qatar-owned beIN network.

“Worth noting that the agreement was announced on February 28, just one day before the Bahrain season opener, leaving the fans – me included – wondering how to follow F1 with Shahid pulling out. F1 TV saved me in this case.

“As mentioned above in the press release following the agreement with beIN, much was promised in terms of and the initial impressions from beIN’s coverage so far after five races can be summed up in one word: Disaster.

“And that’s from numerous sources including disgruntled fans on social media.

Football reporters turned into F1 correspondents by beIN

Formula 1, beIN Sports ink exclusive ten-year broadcast deal for MENA and Turkey | SportsMint Media

“The commentary team used to cover the races thus far lack the knowledge while field reporters are allegedly picked from beIN’s pool of football correspondents and different from the previous team that did the job from MBC. They are simply not up to the job with flagrant mistakes revealing that they do not have the basic knowledge about the F1 teams and drivers let alone the nuances of the sport.”

One UAE-based F1 fan, not involved in motorsport professionally, cited examples of the gaffes made by the beIN commentators: “They are clueless, suddenly Liam Lawson is Williams’ reserve driver while Daniel Ricciardo is Zhou Guanyu’s teammate at Sauber – just a couple of examples of many.”

The perturbed F1 fan continued: “And technical analysis is even worse as Strat Mode for example was explained as the race strategy the team is putting the driver on. We all know – especially F1 analysts – what Strat Mode really is, namely to control ERS (energy recovery system) harvest and boost settings.

“In Bahrain, a fans pitstop exercise being aired on the live F1 feed showing engagement with the crowd, was explained as ‘F1 teams doing pitstop practice without showing the branding on their cars!’

“In China, the beIN correspondent did not manage to get an interview with any driver, team principal, or anyone in the F1 paddock who was newsworthy. I wanted more!” added the Arab F1 fan, who preferred not to be named.

Another aspect of the new beIN F1 coverage is that it is not free-to-air. Before MBC broadcast a certain number of races especially the ones held in the Middle East on their free-to-air channels which was convenient for local F1 fans, but that is not the case with beIN.

Jad added: “It is a fact that football (aka soccer) has a bigger following in the Middle East, and in my opinion, F1 coverage has been lacking over the years but reached a decent level recently with the Arabic content delivered effectively by the previous team.

“However the new coverage is a setback with the subpar level we have seen so far, with beIN not even bothering to hire F1-specialized reporters in the paddock, instead they are using their incumbent football/soccer correspondents to cover races. They have no idea what to say or ask,” reckoned our Editor, who does not watch the Arabic feed when reporting remotely.

Jad: Fans whose brutal comments on beIN’s coverage on social media say it all

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 27: A general view over the grid preparations showing Pole position qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing preparing to start the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 27, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

F1 coverage through F1TV, social media, YouTube and the like, is unprecedented, of the highest standards. F1 fans are spoilt with access to every nook and cranny of the sport. But the vibe is hardly noticed by the beIN social media channels where you rarely see F1-related posts, even Nico Hulkenberg’s move from Haas to Sauber/Audi in 2025 was not covered.

Jad continued: “The content is mainly football/soccer, basketball then a scarce post about F1 here and there. Personally, I have switched to F1 TV this season and the content is impeccable, but for those who would like to have Arabic commentary, they are stuck with the inferior service. beIN sources its English content from Sky Sports F1 by the way.

“It’s sad that – with the Middle East now hosting four F1 races (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain) and becoming one of the most promising emerging markets for the sport – the coverage of F1 is not up to the level of attracting and educating new fans let alone satisfying the existing knowledgeable fans whose brutal comments on beIN’s coverage on social media say it all.

“As I mentioned before, F1 coverage has seen its ups and downs in the Middle East, but has reached a certain decent level recently, making the current coverage a step in the wrong direction,” concluded Jad.

Suggesting that F1, teams and drivers should stop banking the region’s money which they do with such enthusiasm and stop paying lip service and sort out the Arab commentary and the whole coverage naturally, the baseline of getting the F1 narrative and message across, right now the beIN F1 Messenger is under fire and rightfully so, until they do something about it ASAP, for the sake of Arab-speaking F1 fans.