Formula 1 Fandom in the United States Is Up 33% Since 2020, Thanks in Part to Netflix Series
Ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the Formula 1 racing series has stronger business momentum in the United States than ever before. In fact, the share of Americans who identify as fans of the sport has increased by 33 percent over the past two years, according to Morning Consult survey data.
And the sport has Netflix to thank for much of that growth.
Formula 1, MotoGP See Biggest Jumps in U.S. Fandom Since 2020
What the numbers say
- Twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults identified as fans of Formula 1, up from 21 percent in a survey conducted prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Just less than 1 in 3 fans (29 percent) considered themselves to be “avid” supporters of the sport, with the rest identifying as “casual” fans.
- F1 has essentially pulled even with IndyCar in terms of popularity among the American public, an impressive feat given that F1 has held only one race per season in the United States (prior to this season’s addition of the Miami Grand Prix) and lacks any American-born drivers. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults identified as fans of IndyCar, up slightly from 26 percent in 2020.
- NASCAR remains the most popular racing body among U.S. adults, with 40 percent identifying as fans. That’s up from 37 percent in 2020, but NASCAR’s 8 percent growth rate over the past two years is the lowest of the five motorsports series included in the survey. MotoGP grew its American fan base in the same period by 43 percent, the highest rate among the five series, but remains the least popular with 20 percent of respondents identifying as fans.
More Than Half of U.S. Formula 1 Fans Say Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ Influenced Their Fandom
The Netflix effect
- “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” the popular Netflix docuseries providing behind-the-scenes access to the race teams, played a major role in the recent growth of the sport’s American fan base. More than half of F1 fans (53 percent) said the series, which debuted in 2019, played a role in their becoming a fan, including 30 percent who said it was a “major reason.” Nearly 3 in 4 fans under the age of 45 (74 percent) attributed their fandom at least in part to “Drive to Survive.”
- Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults who identified as fans of Formula 1 said they became fans within the past five years, including 26 percent who said they became fans in the past year. Among fans between the ages of 18 and 34, 42 percent said they came on board in the past year. Fifty-eight percent of adult F1 fans in the United States are under the age of 45, up from 49 percent in 2020.
Last season marked a major breakthrough for F1 in the U.S. market on a number of fronts. Races on ESPN, ABC and ESPN2 averaged a record-high 934,000 viewers, up 39 percent over the previous full season in 2019. The U.S. Grand Prix drew 400,000 fans over three days to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, a 49 percent increase from the 2019 edition. In addition, the series reported that the United States became its most lucrative market for online merchandise sales through its partnership with Fanatics Inc.
But the real windfall is still to come. The ticket market for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in May is white hot, and Las Vegas is reportedly all but a lock to land a race of its own in the near future. The series is also expected to receive a significant raise on the media rights front following the expiration of its deal with ESPN at the end of the upcoming season. American brands are increasingly coming on board as team sponsors, and there is reportedly interest among U.S. sports executives about investing in team ownership.
The March 5-7, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 6,630 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point. The subset of 1,896 self-identified Formula 1 fans carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2 points.
Alex Silverman previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering the business of sports.