F1: Series draws 1.55 billion viewers in 2021

Formula 1 has released annual audience figures following the 2021 World Championship season, which included the new Sprint events at three races, and a title battle that went down to the wire between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Worldwide, the season finale in Abu Dhabi drew 108.7m viewers, +29% higher than the same race in 2020 – and the highest viewing figures for a race during the season.

The cumulative worldwide TV audience for 2021 was 1.55bn, up 4% from the 2020 season. F1 also saw strong audiences for the season opener in Bahrain (84.5m), and for the three Sprint weekend events at Silverstone (79.5m), Monza (80.4m) and Sao Paulo (82.1m).

(Note: For Comparison, IndyCar drew just 17.677 million cumulative viewers in 2021 – i.e. 1.1% of what F1 drew, which underscores how small IndyCar is compared to F1. Because IndyCar focuses only on the USA market, it delivers just 1.1% the value to sponsors that F1 delivers globally)

There were significant rises in season cumulative audience in several markets, including many of F1’s biggest markets. The Netherlands stood out with an increase of +81% Year on Year, but there were also significant gains in the USA (+58% YoY), France (+48% YoY), Italy (+40% YoY) and the UK (+39% YoY).

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Circuit Zandvoort on September 05, 2021 in Zandvoort, Netherlands. (Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

TV unique viewers (the number of individuals that tune into at least one race during the season) for 2021 stood at 445m (+3% YoY). The biggest market on this metric was China (70.8m unique viewers in 2021, +13% vs 2020), but there were also significant YoY gains in Spain (+272%), Russia (+129%), and the USA (+53%).

Social and digital platforms

Once again Formula 1 was the fastest-growing major sports league on the planet in terms of follower growth in 2021. F1 has 49.1m total followers and have seen the highest engagement rate with social posts compared to other major sports in 2021.

In 2021, followers (across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitch and Chinese social platforms) were up 40% to 49.1m, video views up 50% to 7bn and total engagement up 74% to 1.5bn.

Additionally, total video views across F1.com, the F1 app and social media were up 44% vs 2020 to 7.04bn, unique users were up 63% to 113m and page views were up +23% to 1.6bn. In China F1 saw very strong digital growth with followers on Chinese platforms (Weibo, WeChat, Toutiao and Douyin) up 39% to 2.7m.

The results mean that Formula 1 is outperforming other major sports in the digital arena. The digital share of total minutes consumed (across broadcast and digital) has grown from 10% in 2020 to 16% in 2021.

Race attendance

In 2021 F1 welcomed 2.69 million fans back to its events – after closed doors in 2020 – even though many races had limited capacities, and some could not welcome fans at all due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although lower than pre-COVID figures of 4.16 million, this shows that there is huge demand for Formula 1 races, and F1 expects that demand will return to normal levels once the pandemic subsides.

Three Grands Prix had an attendance of more than 300,000 spectators over the race weekend: USA (400,000), Mexico (371,000) and Great Britain (356,000).

Looking down from atop Turn1 before the start of the race Sunday at COTA. Photo courtesy of Twitter follower

The USA, Mexico and Great Britain welcomed more fans than in 2019, the last time full capacities were possible, with previous attendances being 268,000, 348,000 and 351,000 people, respectively.

A total of 11 events attracted crowds of over 100,000 including: Belgium (213,000), the Netherlands (195,000), Turkey (190,000), Brazil (181,000), Abu Dhabi (153,000), Saudi Arabia (143,000), Austria (132,000) and Hungary (130,000).

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO, Formula 1, said: “The 2021 season was something very special. We had a championship battle that went to the last race with huge excitement throughout the whole championship.

“We began to welcome back our fans who are the heart and soul of our sport and although we were limited in our capacities due to Covid, it was fantastic to see 2.6 million fans in the grandstands around the world. We have also seen some very strong figures across broadcast and our digital platforms, showing once again the momentum, excitement and interest that is all around Formula 1.

“We are looking forward to our record-breaking 23-race season this year, with new cars, new regulations, and a new challenge for all the teams and drivers. I know all of our fans can’t wait to get the season started.”


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