F1 live stream: Free links to watch Bahrain qualifying online spread despite risks

Free live streams for F1 races have plagued the sport in recent years (YouTube/ Screengrab)
Free live streams for F1 races have plagued the sport in recent years (YouTube/ Screengrab)

The longest season in Formula 1 history gets underway this weekend, with the Bahrain Grand Prix marking the first of 24 races in 2023.

F1 fans will be able to watch the qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday live on Sky Sports F1, with people in the US able to tune in via ESPN. Both channels require a subscription fee, meaning fans that are unable or unwilling to pay it will likely be seeking out free live streams of the race.

While some may seek to use virtual private network (VPN) software to access the race in countries where it is free to stream, such as Austria and Belgium (RTBF and ServusTV), many more are predicted to use illicit live streaming sites and services to watch the F1 opener for free.

This has become an increasingly popular trend, with millions of people around the world accessing unauthorised streams to watch sporting events that are blocked by geolocation or cost barriers.

Illicit live streams are typically shared online in the build-up to a major event, often across social media and on dedicated forums on sites like Reddit.

Some popular search engines also do not remove resultes leading to websites that host such streams, with Google rival DuckDuckGo stating last year that it would not censor or remove piracy sites.

The surge in online piracy in recent years has prompted a major crackdown from law enforcement and rights holders, with a recent operation in the UK resulting in four arrests.

“Anyone tempted to purchase one of these [illegal streaming] services should be aware that their money is going towards a fraudulent scheme, and they might well find themselves having a visit from police or other authorities,” said Detective Inspector Andy Maclean from Police Scotland’s Cyber Investigation Department.

“Money from such activities is often used to fund other crime, so people need to be aware of that. This is, without doubt, a form of organised crime.”

Of the four arrests, one person now faces charges relating to intellectual property theft.