Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 dominance is supposedly “turning off” fans. Yet the statistics show the opposite is occurring.
Formula 1 has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. Since Liberty Media took over in 2018, viewership has grown almost threefold in the United States, jumping from an average of roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million viewers.
The Formula 1: Drive to Survive docudrama, which debuted in 2019 and saw its fifth season released back in February, has undoubtedly played a role in this surge, especially in the United States.
Circuit of the Americas, for example, drew the biggest crowd of the year last October and set a new record for United States Grand Prix attendance with 440,000 fans in attendance across the weekend.
But there have been recent claims that Formula 1 is at risk of losing its new fans because of Max Verstappen’s domination.
Formula 1 domination isn’t anything new. Eight of the last 11 seasons have seen the championship battle decided before the finale, and on only one of the three occasions when that wasn’t the case did the battle feature drivers from two teams.
Sebastian Vettel won four straight titles from 2010 to 2013, notching seasons with 11 and 13 wins along the way. Lewis Hamilton won four straight titles from 2017 and 2020 and six of seven from 2014 to 2020, securing six seasons of at least 10 wins during that stretch.
While Verstappen set a new single season wins record last year with 15 and was even more dominant this year, breaking that record with 19, it’s not the first time a driver has been head and shoulders above the rest — not even in the Drive to Survive era.
In 2019 and 2020, the first two seasons which were contested during the Drive to Survive era, Hamilton clinched the title with several races remaining on the schedule. He won 11 races each season and there was never any real competition.
The 2020 season was even shortened due to COVID-19-related restrictions, and Hamilton actually missed a race with the virus. Yet he still won 11 times and clinched the title with a handful of races remaining.
If a mass exodus over driver dominance in Formula 1 was going to occur, wouldn’t it have already occurred?
ABC’s live telecast of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, one of the two non-United States-based North American races on the schedule, attracted an average audience of 1.76 million viewers for the race telecast window.
It was the fourth-largest live audience ever for a Formula 1 race on United States television, despite Verstappen leading all 70 laps around the 14-turn, 2.71-mile (4.361-kilometer) road course.
No Canadian Grand Prix had ever drawn more viewers in the United States. That seems like somewhat of an important point to consider before suggesting that fans are leaving the sport in droves.
The Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome, which is now one of three United States races, averaged 1.96 million viewers, and the Monaco Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco averaged a record 1.79 million.
These three races are three of the four most watched Formula 1 races ever on United States television.
Yes, the Miami race drew a smaller television audience from the inaugural running last year, but the hype surrounding last year’s race was second to none. It did, after all, set the all-time record with 2.6 million viewers, which was always going to be tough to top.
Still, the attendance at the track itself was up more than 10% in 2023, increasing from 242,955 fans to over 270,000.
Have there been races that have seen drops in viewership? Sure. But eight races this year set all-time United States records, and the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix at the Las Vegas Street Circuit managed to attract an average audience of 1.3 million viewers, despite beginning at 1:00 a.m. ET.
Plus, aside from an increase in fans watching on television, several tracks continue to report sellout after sellout.
All things considered, these bogus claims of Formula 1’s fanbase dwindling because Verstappen is dominating are nothing more than that: bogus claims.
It is nothing more than propaganda being spread by Formula 1 “fans” who want to be the bearers of bad news, many of whom simply dislike Verstappen. It’s a flawed attempt to make their point and encourage others to stop watching, even as the competition throughout the rest of the grid is as fierce as it has been in years.
But that point couldn’t be further wide of the mark.