Formula 1: The Dark Horse Rises
By: Neel Kulkarni
In the USA, the NFL, NBA, and MLB have continued to dominate professional sports and capture a major chunk of viewership across linear and streaming platforms. From leading content on ESPN and House of Highlights to player icons such as Tom Brady and LeBron James, there seems to be little room left for other sports to gain publicity when there is an NBA “Woj Bomb” or one of the craziest weekends of the NFL playoffs we have seen in the past decade. However, Formula 1 (“F1”) has emerged as a dark horse in the race to grow its fan base among other U.S. and internationally recognized sports.
While we talk to a global audience with F1, it’s becoming a trending sport in the USA even though more established sports are at the peak of their seasons. For example, in 2021, over 400,000 individuals attended the Austin Grand Prix which is greater than the Super Bowl. Beating out one of the world’s largest public events in sports history, F1 is already impressive enough, not to mention other statistics that support the general rise in the sport’s popularity. Recently, F1 has witnessed a 68% YoY increase in US audience and 53% increase in more younger visitors than the average(aged 18-34). Hit Netflix series, Drive to Survive, has also changed the opinion of US casual fans as a reported 82% are planning to watch more races on TV. This statistic in particular makes it clear that F1 has a real chance to grow its audience by breaking into the content world of sports. Through Instagram and Tik Tok, we see time and time again how memes, short form highlights, and other creative videos are keeping leagues such as the NBA and NFL relevant. If F1 truly wishes to take the sport to the next level, it must start with connecting their audiences with the same forms of entertainment that other U.S. sports have managed to integrate with their players and games.
On an international level, the competition is an entirely different beast. Professional leagues such as the IPL and Champions League are also major threats to a sport like Formula 1 that have the backing of audiences who have watched sports like cricket and soccer for generations. Fortunately, Formula 1 has managed to provide some stiff competition with record-breaking statistics. According to Alpine F1’s team launch, since 2019, Formula 1 has accumulated over 1.96BN TV viewership, 433M unique viewers, and a fan base of over 800M. Looking ahead to 2025, F1 has organized 23 races in 5 continents, emphasizing the fact that the sport is just getting started.
As we continue to immerse ourselves into the world of sports, F1 is still a relatively new sport in the U.S., so continuing to record higher statistics while educating viewers on the sport itself should be a primary focus for years to come.