Thrilling Abu Dhabi Race Completes Formula 1’s Most-Viewed Season on Record (Update)

147,000 watched the re-air Sunday night on ESPN, bringing total USA viewership for the Abu Dhabi GP to 1,110,000

There was another replay on ESPNews, but broadcasts on that channel are not rated.

December 14, 2021 

As 963,000 viewers on ESPN2 watched Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to win the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the F1 season came to a close by setting a record as the most-viewed on American television on record.

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start – Wolfgang Wilhelm Photo

With races airing on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, the F1 season averaged 934,000 viewers per race in 2021, shattering the previous season record average of 748,000 that was set in 1995.

The 2021 season average of 934,000 viewers was up 54 percent over the 2020 season average of 608,000 viewers and up 39 percent vs. the 2019 season average of 672,000 viewers.

End of season group photo

The Oct. 24 United States Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, had the season’s largest audience, averaging 1.2 million viewers on ABC. It was the most-viewed race since ESPN reacquired Formula 1 rights prior to the 2018 season and the average viewership was up 42 percent from 2019, the last year the race was run.

The June 20 French Grand Prix on ESPN attracted an average audience of 1.1 million viewers, making it the second-largest F1 cable audience on record, second only to ESPN’s telecast of the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix (1.7 million). Seven of this year’s races joined the list of the top 10 for F1 cable audiences on record.

The season included a number of event viewership records as well as cable event viewership records, with the Abu Dhabi race being the latest to have the largest U.S. television audience ever for the event. The season averages do not include the rain-plagued Belgian Grand Prix.

F1 will be back on ESPN Networks again in 2022, beginning with the Bahrain Grand Prix March 18-20.

F1 returned to its original U.S. television home in 2018 – the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962. F1 races also aired on ESPN from 1984-1997.