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F1’s return excites ESPN VP – and lifelong fan – Magnus

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN issued this statement Sunday morning.

It’s been 20 years since Formula 1 racing aired on ESPN but that changes this weekend with the Rolex Australian Grand Prix (Sunday, 1 a.m. ET, ESPN2). As part of a multiyear deal, Formula 1 races, practices and qualifying sessions will air all season on ESPN and ABC.

No one is happier about that than ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling, Burke Magnus. A lifelong fan of F1 racing, Magnus and his team in ESPN’s Programming department engineered the deal to bring F1 back this year for the first time since 1997.

Front Row spoke with Magnus:

Burke Magnus
(Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

For those who aren’t familiar with F1, what is it about it that you think will appeal to viewers?
To me, it’s always been the pinnacle of motorsports – it’s the highest manifestation as far as technology is concerned. It’s history and tradition. It’s the gold standard. Ideally we want that in every sport category, and this is it for motorsports on a global basis.

Why carry the Sky Sports presentation rather than ESPN producing its own coverage?
We figured out very quickly that Sky is very good at what they do and that it wouldn’t be possible for us to replicate their F1 coverage. Our friends at TSN in Canada have already been using them and it’s worked well for them. When we had World Cup, we hired the best soccer announcers in the world. From a production and talent standpoint, Sky represents the same for F1.

What’s the best part about this for you?
F1 had its American TV roots on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and then it was a staple on ESPN and ESPN2 for a long time. The fact that we’ve been without it for so long and then having it come back signifies that nothing is forever. On the same week that we’re saying goodbye to IndyCar, which is painful in its own right, we’re saying hello to Formula 1, and that’s exciting. It also suggests to our fans and our customers that ESPN is still interested in motorsports as a category at the highest level.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Read more about Formula 1 on ESPN.com.