It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch sporting events such as Formula 1 on free TV. But in the year that a Schumacher (Mick) returns to Formula 1, it’s almost a must for F1 fans to watch all the races. In many countries you have to pay if you want to watch a grand prix.
But there is still a legal way to watch Formula 1 for free. The German-language channels SRF (Switzerland) and ORF (Austria) continue to broadcast F1 on free TV, but they use the annoying geoblocking.
How can I watch Formula 1 via SRF or ORF?
If you cannot watch SRF or ORF directly, streaming is possible. However, you need an IP address in Switzerland or Austria, otherwise the broadcaster will block you. This works with a VPN or Virtual Private Network! Since I like to watch via SRF, I will explain to you how to stream Formula 1 via SRF. It has worked for me for years. The catch is – you have to live with German commentary.
- Get a VPN that is known to be able to bypass geoblocking. I prefer to use NordVPN* for this purpose.
- Connect via your VPN to a server in Switzerland.
- Open the SRF website.
- Start streaming!
That’s it. There is another advantage watching Formula 1 via SRF. There is almost no advertising on the Swiss channel, so you can enjoy the race in the best possible way. With other broadcasters, you get the impression that it was a continuous commercial show with a bit of Formula 1.
Pro-tip: You can also have a look at the official F1 website which channels broadcasts the races in which country. Maybe you recognize another free TV channel with commentary in a language you prefer. The same trick works – connect to a server in that country and start watching Formula 1.
A few more details
If you are connected to the Internet, you (usually) have an internal IP address and almost certainly an external one. The external one comes from the ISP or Internet Service Provider and with it your location can be determined quite exactly. This is not only true for the country, but also for the city and sometimes even the village.
If you use a VPN, all your data traffic goes through the server of the VPN provider and thus its public IP address. If the server is located in another country, it looks as if you are there. You are connected to the VPN server itself via a so-called VPN tunnel. This tunnel is encrypted and therefore your ISP cannot see what you are doing on the Internet. As a graphic, it would look like this.
Are you interested in how VPN or Virtual Private Network works exactly? I’ll explain it to you in this post.
Let’s stick with the example of SRF from Switzerland for now. If you are outside of Switzerland open the SRF website or app, the service knows that you are not in Switzerland. That’s why the broadcaster can block the content easily. Instead of Formula 1 or another program, you see: This content is not available outside of Switzerland.
Now we apply what we have learned. We connect to a server in Switzerland, and it works. At least, that’s the case if you’re using a premium VPN. Many smaller VPNs have trouble getting around geoblocking. Winning the race (pun intended) against streaming providers requires a relatively large effort. Only the best providers have the resources to bypass the annoying geoblocking.
It doesn’t work!
Of course, even with the good VPNs, it can happen that a server has been detected. If that happens, just take another server in the country of your choice and then things should work.
Streaming providers and VPN providers are in a constant battle. If the streaming providers have detexted a server and blocked it, good VPN providers will swap it or its IP addresses. Furthermore, good providers have stealth servers that are harder to detect.
By the way, such camouflage servers are not only effective against strong geoblocking mechanisms so that you can watch Formula 1 on free TV. They can also be used to circumvent strong censorship, such as the Great Firewall of China and other government blockades.
Which VPNs are suitable for watching Formula 1?
Theoretically, all of them work that operate servers in countries where the F1 races are on free TV and that offer streaming. Of course, I haven’t tested every single provider on the market. I simply don’t have the time. Besides, I know three services that work excellently. In IT, and especially among Linux users, the saying goes: Never change a running system. So, my system runs – why change it?
For me, it is simply important that the thing works and a VPN must offer a Linux client, since that is the operating system of my choice. If a VPN offers a client for the niche OS, there are also software and apps for the well-known operating systems. These are, of course, Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Here’s a brief introduction to the VPNs I used to test Formula 1 + streaming on free TV via Switzerland and what else they offer.
NordVPN – high speeds for Formula 1
NordVPN is well known for its abilities to unblock streaming providers or bypass geoblocking. Many people use it to unlock other libraries from Netflix and Amazon Prime. You won’t see the same content in every country. But the provider makes it also possible to access to channels in the UK without any problems. As a rugby fan, it’s nice to get access to itv and BBC iPlayer. I also have never had any problems with SRF. I have been watching Formula 1 for a long time via the channels in Switzerland. That’s why I know that it works.
NordVPN easily delivers the speeds you need for streaming in HD. You can enjoy the Formula 1 completely. If you have a fast and stable internet connection and use NordVPN, you will hardly notice a difference when the VPN is active. With NordLynx, the WireGuard implementation of NordVPN, it even gets a bit faster, as my speed tests show.
In fact, the perceived speed can be even better with NordVPN. Why? If you activate the integrated ad blocker CyberSec (which also protects against malware, spyware, phishing and hacking), fewer requests leave your device. This not only saves bandwidth, but also has a positive effect on speed. Above all, mobile data is often limited. In this case, you want to transfer as little data as possible. CyberSec helps here.
NordVPN allows torrent downloads and provides special P2P servers for this purpose. There is also a special Onion over VPN mode. With this, the VPN provider routes your traffic through the Tor (The Onion Router) network. You can compare this as if you would first connect to the VPN and then use the Tor browser.
Watch Formula 1 even easier thanks to SmartPlay
SmartPlay is a function that combines VPN and Smart DNS technology. You do not have to do anything manually here. As soon as you connect to the provider’s network, SmartPlay activates automatically. In any case, SmartPlay helps you bypass geoblocking. That is an advantage if you want to watch Formula 1 on free TV.
Great Linux client also for Raspberry Pi
One of the main reasons why I like NordVPN? There is a light and good client for the Raspberry Pi. It is identical to the command line client for Linux. The Raspberry Pis are getting faster, but still, the tiny computer is happy with all applications that don’t need too many resources. The CLI client doesn’t bother me under Linux either. Thanks to autoconnect, I hardly have to do anything manually. It offers all functions, including the integrated ad blocker CyberSec.
Of course, NordVPN also provides clients for Android, Windows, iOS and macOS. The Android client is quite fancy. Here, you simply have to tap on the country of your choice on a map. The software connects you straight away. As mentioned, Switzerland is great for watching Formula 1 for free. Browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome are also available.
Censorship and Security
NordVPN is not only known for excellent streaming qualities, but also for being able to bypass censorship and VPN blocking. The Obfuscate mode or stealth mode bypasses even the Great Firewall of China. The VPN also works in Russia, Turkey and Egypt.
A kill switch ensures that there are no data leaks should your connection to the VPN server get disconnected. It can always happen that a server is down or undergoing maintenance and so on. In this case, your connection to the Internet will be interrupted until a connection to the Virtual Private Network is restored.
Try NordVPN 30 days for free
Is NordVPN perfect? It depends on the use case and I have found and reported bugs as well. The thing is that NordVPN fixes bugs really fast. Just because the company also cares so much about the Linux client, it is one of my favourites.
The service allows up to 6 devices at the same time. That is enough for a few devices. If you have more devices and want to use the provider, you may also use the VPN on a router. This can be a Raspberry Pi. Here you will benefit from the fact that there is a Pi client for the Raspberry Pi. The VPN also runs perfectly with Ubuntu Linux and derivatives like Linux Mint.
You can try NordVPN 30 days for free* because there is a money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the service, you request a refund from support. Your money will be returned within a few days. Just make sure that you cancel in time.
By the way, the graphical client is available in many languages. There is a good chance you can use the software in your mother tongue.
Surfshark – unlimited connections
Surfshark has two outstanding features.
- The VPN is super cheap*
- There are no limits on simultaneous connections – you can connect as many devices as you like.
The second point is especially interesting if you have many devices or a large family. In any case, you will always have a connection to Switzerland to watch Formula 1 for free and almost ad-free.
Surfshark is not quite as fast as NordVPN, but the speeds are easily enough to stream in high quality.
The VPN provider provides clients for all major operating systems. More precisely, these are Android, Windows, macOS, iOS and Linux. The use on routers is permitted. I like the Android client very much. It is also available in many languages, if that is important to you.
The Linux client is currently not quite sophisticated and not as good as NordVPN or PIA. It does work and the provider is developing a new Linux client that will hopefully be released in 2021. I know this because I asked in 2020.
In addition to the clients for the known operating systems, there are also extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Security functions and adblocker
Surfshark also offers an ad blocker that is called CleanWeb. It protects against malware, phishing websites and tracking. However, as with almost all VPNs, you need to enable the feature first. Some websites don’t like ad blockers, and you need to be aware of that when using such a feature. Without ads and trackers, the web is definitely snappier, faster and more anonymous.
Surfshark does not store any logs. This is convenient for users who value privacy. I want to mention the kill switch here. Surfshark immediately blocks connections to the Internet when your VPN is disconnected. This is an additional protection. Servers can go down, and you don’t want to have any data leaks.
There is also a stealth mode. This makes your Internet connection look like normal traffic. The ISP or authorities will not know that you are using a VPN. Stealth mode is automatically enabled when you use the OpenVPN protocol.
Then you get the NoBorders mode. It is especially useful in regions with strong censorship. This works, I have tested it. On Android, the NoBorders mode is not easy to find. You have to hold protocols and then it appears. I find that a bit strange, to be honest. No problem if you know it – but otherwise … in any case, you can use it to bypass China’s Great Firewall and also other VPN blocks from countries that restrict internet use.
Meanwhile, Surfshark also provides the WireGuard VPN protocol. This is super suitable for Formula 1 streaming.
Another good feature is the Whitelister. You can decide which apps use VPN and which do not. This can be useful if some services and websites don’t work well with a VPN connection.
By the way, Surfshark allows torrenting and torrent downloads on all servers.
You don’t have to buy a pig in a poke here either. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee that allows you to test the provider risk-free. If Formula 1 doesn’t work out, or you are otherwise dissatisfied, you can simply get a refund.
A word about Shadowsocks – good for Formula 1
You may have noticed the Shadowsocks protocol at Surfshark. It’s a great way to bypass censorship, but it’s a proxy that only works with the Internet browser. The exception is Shadowsocks on Android. If you use Shadowsocks and Surfshark with an Android device, all traffic will be protected with Shadowsocks.
The protocol is a fast option that works well for streaming. For example, if you use an Android box or an Android TV and want to watch Formula 1 with it, then the protocol is worth serious consideration. I would just try it out if I were you.
PIA – great graphical GUI for Linux
Are you looking for a graphical client for Linux? In this case PIA (very nice client)* offers one of the best Linux clients. Have a look yourself:
The client looks similar on Windows and the provider also supports macOS, Android and iOS. The software offers you all the options that the VPN has to offer. Because the provider also cares so much about the niche OS Linux, it deserves special praise from me.
Of course, PIA operates servers in Switzerland, so you can stream Formula 1 for free and ad-free. In addition to OpenVPN, the provider also offers WireGuard as a protocol. Switching to it could increase the speed a bit.
One of the best features of Private Internet Access is MACE. This is the name of the service’s ad blocker. In addition to advertising, it also blocks trackers and protects against malware.
Here you probably have noticed the kill switch. This prevents data leaks. If your connection to the VPN fails, the kill switch immediately disconnects your connection. Of course, PIA also has a zero-logs policy.
Up to 10 devices simultaneously
With up to 10 simultaneous connections, the VPN is rather generous. That should definitely be enough for a few devices.
The provider allows P2P or torrenting / torrent downloads on all servers. Besides the apps for the operating systems mentioned above, there are also extensions for Firefox and Chrome. A SOCKS5 proxy is also available, should you need that feature.
Not sure if PIA is the right service for you? You can test Private Internet Access 30 days for free*. The provider gives you a money-back guarantee for that period of time.
The PIA client is available in many languages. That makes it easier to use.
What can a VPN do?
Most of the functions and features of a Virtual Private Network have already been mentioned. Therefore, just a summary of what VPNs can do. Not everyone will need all features. The requirements are different. But if at least one of the following points appeals to you, then you might want to have such a service:
- Privacy – since all your traffic goes through a provider’s server, no nosy ISP or government agency can spy on you.
- Ad blocker – a good VPN offers a feature you can optionally enable that blocks ads, trackers, phishing and malware. This is normally done at the DNS level.
- Protection in public Wi-Fi or hotspots – if you like to use public Wi-Fi in hotels, on planes, trains, buses and so on, you should activate a VPN. You neither know who has control over the network, nor who is in it.
- Circumvent geoblocking – such geographical blocks or regional blocks can be really annoying. Of course, broadcasters have little choice and abide by the licences. But with a good Virtual Private Network you can trick the broadcasters. As described in this article, you can now watch the Formula 1 races for free and almost ad-free. In this case, servers in Switzerland help me.
You get all these advantages for about 3 euros per month. The privacy and ad blocking aspect alone is worth the money. Bypassing geoblocking to watch Formula 1 on free TV, for example, is just the icing on the cake. All three providers presented here provide the features and benefits just mentioned. Now you have to decide: NordVPN*, Surfshark* or PIA*. All 3 have a 30-day money-back guarantee – so you can test it risk-free.
Is Formula 1 on free TV in my country?
It’s definitely true if you live in Switzerland. In other countries you have to check. In most countries F1 is not on free TV and you have to pay to watch the races.
If it’s on free TV you also need a live stream. Sports events and many other broadcasts are subject to geoblocking. This is quite annoying, but not a problem if you use a good VPN.
I prefer SRF from Switzerland because there are almost no ads during the race. It’s almost commercial-free I would say. The short interruptions are definitely bearable.
So far, I’ve had no problems unlocking SRF with NordVPN (big discounts NOW)* or Surfshark (unlimited connections)*. That works wonderfully via the broadcaster’s website. It would also be possible via Zattoo Switzerland, but you have to register there with a Swiss IP address. If you only want to watch Formula 1, this is not necessary. However, Zattoo Switzerland also offers the British channels itv and BBC, which might be interesting for rugby fans.
With a good VPN you also could connect to a UK server and get access to itv and BBC iPlayer.
Why do I need a VPN to watch Formula 1 on free TV?
Streaming providers are only allowed to broadcast certain media in countries for which they have a licence. For sporting events, it’s awful with the annoying geoblocking. In many countries you no longer find a free channel that broadcasts Formula 1. There are also no free streams.
In Switzerland and Austria, however, public broadcasters do broadcast the races on free TV. The problem is that you can’t stream the channels in Switzerland and Austria with an IP address from the UK – at least that applies to broadcasts that are geoblocked.
With a VPN, you can connect to a server in Switzerland, for example, and then watch SRF – including Formula 1.
Among other things? Yes! Via Zattoo Switzerland you also get access to itv or BBC and can watch rugby. Alternatively, you can connect to a server in the UK and use the services directly.
SRF also broadcasts parts of the UEFA Champions League live and on free TV. So you can see that a connection to Switzerland is worthwhile.
Can I also watch the races on my smartphone or tablet?
Of course, you can. Surfshark as well as NordVPN and PIA offer apps for smartphones and tablets. You can connect to a server in your country of choice within seconds. With NordVPN, for example, you get a fancy world map. The countries in which servers are available are marked on it.
I really only have to tap Switzerland here and wait a short time until I am connected to a server in this country. After that, I have an IP address in Switzerland. In other words, I have moved my virtual location to Switzerland. Now SRF doesn’t prevent me from streaming the live program any more.
You’re wondering right now if it’s really that simple? Yes, it really is that simple!
Of course, there are apps for both Android and iOS. So, it really doesn’t matter if you want to stream Formula 1 with a smartphone, tablet, Android or iOS. In ancient Rome, they might have said: All roads lead to Monza!
Is it possible to stream Formula 1 via VPN to my Chromecast?
This is also possible, but only if your Chromecast also has an IP address from Switzerland (or the corresponding country). However, there is no native VPN app for the Chromecast. That’s why you need a little trick here. To be more precise, a VPN router helps, but you can build one yourself relatively easily with a Raspberry Pi.
Connect as many devices as you want to your own VPN router. The connection from the router to the VPN provider counts as only one connection. So with this trick, you have an infinite number of simultaneous connections. I described here how to move a Chromcast to another country.
If you own an Amazon Fire TV stick, things are much easier. There are VPN apps for these devices and Zattoo is also available as an app. As you can see, there are many options for watching Formula 1 on your TV.
Is it legal to watch Formula 1 via VPN?
In many countries, the use of VPNs is legal. This also applies to Germany. However, a VPN is not a carte blanche. You still have to abide by the laws in the country you are currently in. Just because a VPN makes you anonymous, it is still not legal to download copyrighted media (torrents). Torrents themselves are not illegal, but downloading protected content is.
Bypassing geoblocking is not illegal in itself. You might be violating the usage policies or the terms and conditions of the providers. I am not aware of any case where a provider has kicked somebody out for using a VPN. With free streaming like public TV, they can’t kick you out anyway.
In the worst case, you should get a notice that the content is not available in your country. You might also be told that you might be using a VPN or proxy and that you should disable that thing.
It may happen that individual VPN servers are detected and blocked. In this case, simply disconnect from the VPN and connect to another server. I have never had any major problems at this point.
Where are VPNs illegal?
This is not so easy to answer because laws in the countries change again and again. It is best to find out if a VPN is illegal before you travel. However, it must also be said that I am not aware of any case of a tourist who got a problem because of a VPN.
China is known to censor very heavily and uses the infamous Great Firewall of China for this purpose. Nevertheless, VPNs are not illegal in China, but they are regulated. Actually, you are only allowed to use VPNs there that have been approved by the authorities and submit to the country’s rules. This, of course, makes the point of a VPN obsolete.
If you are travelling to a country that blocks VPNs, it is best to install a virtual private network that can bypass censorship beforehand. Countries that restrict the use of VPNs include China, Russia, Egypt, Turkey and so on. By the way, most countries censor to some degree. Europe is also censoring. Who is spying on everything? We don’t really know. Authorities of most countries are nosy. We know that. Even the number of inquiries about IP addresses is constantly increasing in many countries.
If you are in a country with heavy censorship, you may not be able to use certain services as usual. Then it may be difficult to stay in touch with family, relatives and acquaintances.
Does a VPN slow down my connection?
You may have read that a VPN slows down your connection. That’s true. The data has to be encrypted and decrypted, and it has to travel further. However, with the best VPNs, this hardly matters. Even with slightly slower speeds, there’s still more than enough bandwidth to stream in high quality. The minimum requirements for good streaming quality aren’t that high.
So if NordVPN still gives me well over 30 Mbps with VPN enabled according to my speed tests, then I can even watch in 4K with it. I don’t need it, HD is enough – my current TV can’t do any more.
The VPN protocol is also crucial at this point. Some are faster than others. The VPNs mentioned here all offer WireGuard as a protocol. It is relatively new, but lean and fast. But OpenVPN is also easily sufficient to stream the Formula 1 races.
Let’s put it this way: the advantages of a VPN outweigh the disadvantages, and you’re more than willing to accept a slight loss of speed.
Can I watch Formula 1 with a free VPN?
Maybe there are some free VPNs that allow you to watch the F1 races for free. As I said – you first need servers in a country where Formula 1 is on free TV.
Free VPNs all have limitations. The amount of data is limited, bandwidth too and so on. That is the bigger problem. Maybe even speed is limited.
Various virtual private network providers have also been caught selling users’ data to third parties. Somehow they have to make money. If the product is free, you are the product – goes the saying. It is possible that free VPNs also show advertisements or compromise your anonymity. There are many disadvantages that come with free VPNs.
If you want to test whether it works with Formula 1 and a VPN, then use NordVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee*, for example. If you don’t like the service, you can ask for a refund. However, you have to cancel within the trial period. The best thing to do is to set a reminder. The provider usually does not ask many annoying questions. In any case, the trial period is enough to watch 2 to 3 F1 races, and it’s completely free.
I also believe a good VPN is easily worth about 3 euros. That’s all they cost for long-term subscriptions. I have described above what VPNs can do. That’s less than 1 beer in the pub – easily worth the money.
Race calendar: When and where will the races be held in 2021?
As a little treat, here is the complete race calendar for the 2021 F1 season:
21.03.2021: Australia / Melbourne
28.03.2021: Bahrain / Sakhir
11.04.2021: China / Shanghai
25.04.2021: To be announced
09.05.2021: Spain / Barcelona
23.05.2021: Monaco / Monte Carlo
06.06.2021: Azerbaijan / Baku
13.06.2021: Canada / Montreal
27.06.2021: France / Le Castellet
04.07.2021: Austria / Spielberg
18.07.2021: Great Britain / Silverstone
01.08.2021: Hungary / Budapest
29.08.2021: Belgium / Spa-Franchorchamps
05.09.2021: Netherlands / Zandvoort
12.09.2021: Italy / Monza
26.09.2021: Russia / Sochi
03.10.2021: Singapore / Singapore
10.10.2021: Japan / Suzuka
24.10.2021: USA / Austin
31.10.2021: Mexico / Mexico City
14.11.2021: Brazil / Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo
28.11.2021: Saudi Arabia / Jeddah
05.12.2021: UAE / Abu Dhabi
Now you know in any case how you can follow the current F1 season live and on free TV. I’m curious to see how Mick Schumacher (Haas) does in his first season and how Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) does with his new team. Fernando Alonso’s (Alpine F1 Team / Renault) return to Formula 1 is also clearly a highlight.
Formula 1 free of charge on free TV – summary
With a good VPN like NordVPN*, Surfshark* or PIA* you can watch the Swiss channel SRF. There, again, Formula 1 is shown on free TV – so you can watch for free if you connect to a server in Switzerland. Of course, the VPN costs a few bucks, but it is really affordable.
Especially when you consider the advantages of a VPN:
- Ad blocker, which prevents advertising and protects against malware, phishing and hacking.
- You are anonymous on the Internet if you are careful. The VPN masks your IP address and thus your location.
- If you travel to countries with strong censorship restrictions, a good VPN allows you to bypass this censorship.
- Bypass geoblocking and unblock content from all over the world.
- Protect your devices in public Wi-Fi and hotspots. You never know who is operating a public Wi-Fi or who is in it. Don’t take any chances and encrypt your connection with a Virtual Private Network.
What do I look for in a VPN?
I am often asked what my most important points are for a good VPN. I’m happy to answer that, and of course, I know that everyone has different preferences here. My most important points are:
- Since I use Linux and Android, my VPN has to offer good apps. I don’t care if this is a command line client or a graphical client. NordVPN not only supports popular Linux distributions with a fancy client, but also the Raspberry Pi. Since I do a lot with the tiny computer, it’s an easy decision. By the way, Surfshark is working on a new Linux client. I am curious. For Android, I think both Surfshark and NordVPN are nifty.
- My VPN has to be able to bypass the annoying geoblocking – in both directions. I travel a lot and also want unlimited access to the TV in my home country. I also like to watch Formula 1 via VPN and SRF or rugby via the English channels. The VPNs mentioned here can handle that.
- If I’m at home, my Pi-hole protects me from annoying ads and trackers. With a good VPN, I also attach importance to a reasonable ad blocker. All VPN providers in this post offer ad blockers that also protect against malware, phishing and hacking. This is important when I use public Wi-Fi or hotspots or am simply on a foreign network – airport, hotel, Airbnb, train, bus … whatever. As soon as I use a foreign network, my VPN is active.
- If I travel to countries where there is heavy censorship, a VPN is worth every penny. I can use all my apps as usual, stay in touch with family and friends, and so on. Plus, I don’t have to worry about a nosy government grabbing my data.
In a nutshell: Privacy and geoblocking.