Formula One takes German flag


COLOGNE, Germany -- Sunday’s down-to-the-wire final of the Formula One racing circuit was a blow out for German channel RTL, which logged its best ratings of the season.

Thirteen million viewers tuned in to see Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen win a nail-biter to take the world championship title. With a market share of close to 40%, the race was the most-watched of the year.

At the start of this season, there were fears that German viewers would tune out. German driver and Formula One legend Michael Schumacher had just retired and the new generation of drivers was largely unknown.

But, as RTL figures made clear, Formula One is still a ratings giant. This year’s races averaged 5.9 million viewers with a 40.4% market share.

Those are figures that may be cited by Formula One chief Bernie Eccelstone as he finalizes negotiations with RTL for the German rights to next season’s circuit. RTL and Eccelstone are reportedly close to a deal but RTL declined comment Monday.

Earlier this month, German pay TV group Premiere resigned with Eccelstone for Formula One through 2010. RTL and Premiere paid about €125 million ($179 million) for rights to the 2007 season.

While he’s been careful not to give specific figures, Eccelstone has said he expects considerably more for German rights in the coming years.