2005 San Marino Grand Prix (found ITV advert break during final laps of Formula One race; 2005)
Fernando Alonso ahead of Michael Schumacher in the final stages of the race.
Date found: 25 Feb 2022
Found by: Automaton
The 2005 San Marino Grand Prix was the fourth round of the 2005 Formula One World Championship. Occurring on April 24th, the race would be won by Renault's Fernando Alonso, who would go on to win that year's Championship. The race is notable for a duel between Alonso and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher during the final stages, and for the BAR-Honda drivers being disqualified and banned for two races because of a weight irregularity with their cars. In the UK, the race is also infamous for an ITV advertisement break that interrupted the final laps of the event.
The 2005 San Marino Grand Prix itself was generally uncontroversial, with McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Räikkönen qualifying in pole position, ahead of Alonso and with Schumacher down in 14th following an error during the second session. After Räikkönen retired due to a driveshaft failure, Alonso would lead for much of the race. However, Schumacher climbed the order during the 62-lap race and was right behind Alonso in the final few laps. Despite the Ferrari pressurising the Renault throughout, Alonso ultimately fended off Schumacher's challenge, winning by two-tenths of a second.
BAR's Jensen Button finished third, with his teammate Takuma Sato taking fifth. Post-race however, the BARs would be disqualified from the race, because Button's car was found to be under the minimum allowed weight. BAR claimed that it was an issue with the fuel system, but on May 5th, the FIA disqualified both drivers from the race, and banned the team from the next two races because an investigation found a secondary fuel tank which when drained left the car underweight. Hence, the fuel system was essentially used the car's fuel as ballast, giving an advantage deemed illegal under the regulations. Consequentially, the top eight changed, with McLaren's Alexander Wurz taking the final podium spot.
ITV Advert Break Controversy
Viewers across the world were excited to see the final five laps of the race because of the Alonso-Schumacher duel. In the United Kingdom, ITV had held the rights to televise live Formula One races since 1997, taking over from the BBC. Unlike BBC, which is the UK's public service broadcaster, ITV is a commercially funded institution, where it generates its revenue from advertisement breaks. Live Formula One events were not exempt from being interrupted by breaks, which often resulted in viewer complaints. Notable examples of poorly-timed breaks included missing Schumacher's retirements from the 1998 and 2006 Japanese Grand Prix, which allowed Mika Hakkinen to become champion in the former, while the latter would prove crucial towards Alonso winning his second crown.
Its live coverage of the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix would prove to be the most infamous. When the race headed into the final three laps, ITV decided to interrupt proceedings with an advert break lasting two-and-a-half minutes. The advertisements that aired are unknown, but one was stated to have been by a washing machine company. By the time coverage resumed, the race was on its final lap, thus meaning viewers had missed much of the Alonso-Schumacher duel. ITV did show a repeat of the final three laps later in the broadcast, however, this was not enough for most fans to criticise the broadcaster's coverage, with broadcast regulator Ofcom receiving 126 complaints. Some also wanted the BBC to regain the rights to televise live races, claiming that ITV was putting advertising over programme integrity and quality.
An Ofcom investigation ruled that ITV had breached section 6.7 of the Rules on the Amount and Scheduling of Advertising. As stated by the official document, breaks may only occur during live coverage of long continuous events whereby focus of the event has shifted to an otherwise non-notable moment. For example, Ofcom claims it is acceptable to start an advert break "after a resume of the current placings in a race and before refocusing on a particular section of the race". ITV's decision to air an advert break during the final three laps did not satisfy this rule, as it broke away during a key part of the race and ruined the tension built up throughout the event.
ITV admitted that it did violate the rule, but an ITV spokesman claimed that a final race break was required for revenue purposes, as it was contractually obligated to air five commercial breaks during the race. It was reluctant to air a break while Button was briefly leading the race and was debating on when it should run so that no key action was missed. ITV did however concede that it could have done this break earlier, especially when considering that Button lost the lead on lap 47, 15 laps before the race ended. Ofcom reprimanded ITV for the incident, with the broadcaster also facing criticism for cutting away during Button's post-race interview. Presenter Jim Rosenthal would make an apology prior to the start of the next race, the Spanish Grand Prix that was held two weeks later. ITV would hold onto the rights until the BBC won them back for the 2009 Season.
Following the controversy, ITV's future broadcasts of the race featured no ill-timed advertisement breaks. Full coverage of these edited broadcasts can be easily found online, including via Dailymotion. However, the live version of the event was never repeated. YouTube user mattmeerkat200910 did upload the live ITV coverage on December 22nd, 2013, which briefly showed the ITV interruption and then the consequences of most of lap 3 and all of lap 2 not being shown. However, the full advert break was cut by the user, resulting in most of it remaining lost prior to February 2022.
Nevertheless, the upload showed that there was a substantial chance the incident may again resurface, as other viewers may have recorded the race. On February 25th, 2022, this proved true when YouTuber Automaton found the entire advert break and uploaded it to YouTube.
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- RTE briefly detailing qualifying for the race. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Autosport reporting on the fact Räikkönen retired due to a driveshaft failure. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- MotorSport Magazine the duel between Alonso and Schumacher during the final laps. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Guardian article reporting on BAR's disqualification and two-race ban following the race for running underweight cars. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Irish Times noting ITV won the rights to televise live Formula One races from 1997. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- BBC Bitesize detailing the differences between the BBC and ITV. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Birmingham Post reporting on the controversial advert break during the 1998 Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Racefans noting ITV's controversial decision to air an advert break during the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Racefans review of the race, noting The Sun's comments regarding a tumble dryer advert. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Digital Spy reporting on the 126 complaints made regarding ITV's advert break. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Ofcom's Amount and Scheduling of Advertising rules, detailing section 6.7. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Guardian report detailing ITV's defence and Rosenthal's apology. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Autosport reporting on the advert break controversy, noting ITV's statement it could have aired the break earlier. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Crash reporting on ITV's advert break during the final stages of the race. Retrieved 01 Nov '21
- Independent reporting that the BBC won the rights to televise live Formula One races for the 2009 Season. Retrieved 01 Nov '21