US F1 TV viewing figures appear to plateau


Despite the claim that last week's GP attracted the highest ever US TV audience for a Belgian Grand Prix, viewing figures appear to have stalled.

According to broadcaster ESPN, the race audience peaked at 1.3 million viewers between 9:15-9:30 ET (15:15-15:30 in Belgium), averaging 1.17 million over the course of the race, up 12% compared to 2022.

The Sprint attracted 555K viewers at 10:25 ET (16:25 Belgium), while Friday’s qualifying averaged 405K viewers between 10:54 and 12:25 ET (16:54 and 18:25).

According to the broadcaster, 2023 season has had three of the four largest live audiences in history on U.S. television, with Miami at 1.96 million, Monaco at 1.79 million and Canada at 1.76 million, while Saudi Arabia, Monaco, Canada, Austria and Belgium have all set event viewership records.

Indeed, all but two races this year have averaged more than 1 million viewers, these being Australia (556K) and Azerbaijan (959K).

Over the course of the opening 12 races, the 2023 season is averaging 1.24 million viewers per race across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, slightly higher than the overall season average for 2022 (1.21 million), which was the highest ever for the sport in the U.S.

Comparing to first 12 races of 2022 however, the average is slightly down from 1.28, though ESPN is keen to point out that 2022 "included the record-setting inaugural Miami Grand Prix and its 2.6 million viewers".

Meanwhile, in Germany, which no longer has a race, and is only represented by one driver (Nico Hulkenberg) and one team, UK-based Mercedes, an average of 3 million still regularly tune in to watch each event.

While ESPN can only dream of such figures, former Mercedes Motorsport boss, Norbert Haug describes Germany's seeming lack of interest in the sport as a "tragedy".

"In Germany, Formula 1 has turned into a tragedy that every motorsport enthusiast can only be ashamed of," he tells RND. "Between 1994 and 2016, there were German world champions like an assembly line, seven titles from Michael Schumacher, four in a row from Sebastian Vettel and finally the last one to date from Nico Rosberg in 2016.

"Mercedes, with its partner teams McLaren and Brawn GP with Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, and Jenson Button, won four drivers' championships between 1998 and 2009, the Mercedes factory team was constructors' champion eight times in a row from 2014 to 2021, winning six world titles with Hamilton and one with Rosberg.

"For a dozen years, in the late 1990s and 2000s, there were two races a year in Germany, in front of full ranks and over 100,000 spectators. On RTL, 12 million people watched, instead of three million today.

"In 2010, there were still seven German drivers in one season," he adds. "Today, Nico Hulkenberg still has one in what is, at best, a second-rate team, and Mick Schumacher is a promising substitute driver, but at least in the right team. There hasn't been a German Grand Prix for a long time.

"A zealous green auto objector could not have developed a less ambitious and less successful German strategy. This specifically excludes the Mercedes works team, which, correctly, operates out of England and has two great English drivers."

According to Haug therefore, the US figures are three times worse than a tragedy as viewership appears to have plateaued.

Indeed, when one considers his claim that at its peak 12m people in Germany (population 83.2 million in 2021) watched F1 races on average, you could say that it would have made more sense for Liberty to have concentrated on Germany rather than the U.S. (population 331.9 million in 2021).

However, the fact is that Liberty is an American company with American investors so it is natural that they decided to build the US market.

However, at a time 3-day ground passes for the Grand Prix at COTA are on sale in U.S. branches of Costco, the membership-only retail chain, for $349.99, they are up against it given that the outcome of every race is predictable unlike the non-stop drama promoted in Drive To Survive which is how many of the new fans came into contact with the sport.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 08/08/2023
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