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Global Series Drives Domestic Interest

Formula 1 Averages 1.12 Million U.S. Viewers to Open 2022 Campaign

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Social Media
April 20, 2022
June 21, 2022
 min read

Formula 1 is known for lavish race locations, multi-million-dollar automobiles, and nine-figure sponsorships, but the international open-wheel motorsport series was, until relatively recently, merely a niche attraction for U.S. audiences. Despite massive interest across Europe, Asia, and South America, the global series had long been considered a collection of small blips on American sporting calendars. But domestic interest is on the rise, as evidenced by last year’s race in Austin, Texas, setting F1 attendance records and two new U.S. circuits set to join the fold in the immediate future – Miami next month and Las Vegas in 2023. With the series gaining traction in the States, MVP explored how fans are consuming F1 as well as the reach it has online. We used our broadcast technology to compare viewership figures for the first three races of the 2022 season – in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia – while also utilizing our social platform to examine which teams and drivers were most engaging across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube during race weekends. Our data revealed an average of 1.12 million viewers watched the first three legs of the campaign, but notable differences emerged from each.

Saudi Night Race Accelerates Ratings

For the second consecutive year, the Bahrain International Circuit hosted Formula 1’s season-opening race. And even though it began before 8 a.m. EST, U.S. fans tuning into broadcast coverage of the event numbered 1.24 million. But while that figure set the tone for the season, the next stop in the Middle East raised the viewership bar, as the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix attracted an audience of 1.33 million. Among the alluring aspects of the race held in Jeddah was the night-time element. Watching drivers speed around a circuit under the lights has proven exciting for attendees and fans watching on television. Additionally, the late local start time allowed for Sunday morning viewership in the U.S. that did not require fans to rise before the sun. Two weeks later, however, the Australian Grand Prix tested U.S. audiences on the other end of the sleep spectrum. The race Down Under began at 1 a.m. EST, which likely contributed to a 39% decline in viewership from the Saudi stop. Only 804,740 viewers in the U.S. watched Charles LeClerc ascend his second podium of the season.

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Season Opener Sparks Online Stir

In line with the audience figures revealed by MVP’s broadcast platform, we found the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix outperformed the Australian race across social channels in the U.S. But, in contrast to viewership, it was the Bahrain Grand Prix that earned pole position on social media. Teams and drivers who had been anxiously awaiting the new season since the 2021 campaign concluded in Abu Dhabi last December were overwhelmingly active on social media from March 18-21, collectively earning 53.6 million engagements throughout the Bahrain GP race weekend. The broad reach helped generate $17.5M worth of post value – or 44% of all post value generated over the first three race weekends of 2022. Team and driver posts from the following weekend in Saudi Arabia yielded $13.6M in post value thanks to 41.9 million engagements across the four major social platforms, while figures coinciding with the Australian GP fell to 33.7 million engagements amounting to $9M in post value.

Celebrations Extend Beyond Victory Lane

A common thread across the first three weeks of the 2022 Formula 1 season is success on the track translating into success on social. Through three stages, Team Ferrari – bolstered by LeClerc’s victories in Bahrain and Australia – has amassed 36.5 million total engagements and led the weekly category twice, while reigning series champion Max Verstappen’s checkered flag in Saudi Arabia catapulted Red Bull to the top of the engagements rankings in Week 2. But despite elevated engagement figures for winning teams, Mercedes still holds the crown in terms of post value. The Lewis Hamilton-led team has already generated $11M in post value on race weekends this season – 27.5% of the ten teams’ collective $40.1M total. Ferrari and Red Bull round out the top three of our post value rankings to date, with $8.5M and $6.7M, respectively. Notably, Team Haas has accumulated the fourth-most post value so far, in part due to driver Mick Schumacher’s post following the Saudi Arabian race outperforming all others across the opening three weekends by generating $263,194 in value on its own.

Relishing the International Ride

Verstappen supplanted Hamilton as Formula 1 drivers’ champion in 2021 after the British racer’s four-year reign at the top of the motorsport series. But motivated challengers including LeClerc, George Russell, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Sergio Perez have all enjoyed podium success to start the 2022 season, pushing the former champions to fifth and sixth in the rankings, respectively, as the series shifts to Italy this weekend. MVP will continue to provide viewership and social insights pertaining to Formula 1 as teams galivant around the globe this season, and we plan to offer additional context and depth after the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on May 8.

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