A major piracy operation that has been live streaming F1 Grand Prix races has caused Formula 1's governing body to enter a dispute over broadcasting rights. The row comes as the Formula One circus descends on Hockenheim, with Sebastian Vettel hoping to extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the F1 championship at his home grand prix.
The four-time champion qualified on pole on Saturday, with the race itself beginning at 2.10pm BST on Sunday. The race will be broadcast in the UK on Sky Sports F1, however in the Middle East a pirate service called beoutQ has been illegally hijacking signal from local broadcasters and streaming it to F1 fans on an "industrial scale".
The FIA, F1's governing body, has become embroiled in the dispute surrounding the broadcasting rights, which appears to have been taking place since at least June.
“It has come to our attention that certain Formula 1 content from the 2018 FIA Formula One Championship has been illegally transmitted by the channel known as BeoutQ operating primarily within the MENA region,” the FIA said in a statement provided to The Independent.
“BeoutQ has not acquired any rights from Formula 1 to transmit coverage of the FIA Formula One Championship. Formula 1 takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously, we are looking in to the issue and those that are involved and will take appropriate action.”
The same channel hosting pirated live streams of Formula One championship races has also been accused of illegally broadcasting matches of the 2018 football World Cup.
Both Fifa and Uefa condemned BeoutQ broadcasts of World Cup and Champions League matches, with the football authorities issuing statements earlier this month.
The BeIN Media Group - whose content has allegedly been pirated by BeoutQ - has described the pirate channel as a major operation with multi-million dollar ties to the Saudi Arabian government.
“The pirate channel BeoutQ is not a small outfit operating out of someone’s bedroom. This is piracy on a massive commercial scale with multimillion dollar funding underpinning,” said Tom Keaveny, managing director of the media organisation.
“The pirated signal is being transmitted by the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
A trade ban between Saudi Arabia and Qatar - where BeIN is based - appears to be the reason for BeoutQ being established, however Saudi Arabia has denied any official connection with the pirate broadcaster. The country’s Ministry of Media said in a statement that the piracy accusations were “baseless”, adding that it is “contrary to what is occurring in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Live online coverage of the German Grand Prix - the tenth race of 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship - will be available on The Independent’s live blog, as well as Sky Sports F1.