The Rapid Popularity of Formula 1 Is Staggering

Disney's new deal with the international racing series represents a 1500% premium from the last agreement

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Scuderia Alpha Tauri, AT02, HONDA RA620 engine seen during the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 19, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec
F1's digital reach is starting to rival MLB and even football
Paolo Pedicelli ATPImages/Getty Images

How popular is Formula One? Let’s just say football might need to worry.

Per Bloomberg, the Walt Disney Co. is ponying up $75-$90 million per year for broadcast rights to the open-wheel, single-seat racing competition. That number is part of a short three-year deal, but it’s also a 1500% increase from a previous F1 agreement.

The hype for these races can be traced back to 2020 and a Netflix F1 series called Drive to Survive. In a recent poll, more than half of self-identified fans credited that behind-the-scenes docuseries for their fandom. And 28% of U.S. adults called themselves fans of the international racing series, a 33% jump and about even with IndyCar. As the Morning Consult notes, this is “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.”

As The Hustle reports, viewership of F1 was up 56% in 2021. But the real eye-catching numbers arrive via social media; on TikTok, the hashtag #formula1 has around 17B views. That’s two-thirds of MLB’s numbers, half as much as the NFL and a fifth as many as #NBA. Given TikTok’s demographics, it appears that the younger generation is embracing F1 aggressively.

A more worrisome sign of popularity? That transgressions by F1’s biggest names are starting to make headlines, and not in a good way.

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