Netflix Series Is Driving Force Behind Dramatic Shift in Formula 1 Fandom in US

More than half of self-identified F1 fans say the show "Drive to Survive" played a part in getting them to follow the sport

F1 drivers on the grid with their cars during F1 testing at Bahrain International Circuit. According to a new survey, the Netflix show "Drive to Survive" is the leading force behind American Formula 1 fandom.
F1 drivers on the grid with their cars during F1 testing at Bahrain International Circuit.
Dan Istitene/Formula 1 via Getty

Thanks to the success and popularity of the all-access Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive, which began filming in 2018, Formula 1 is more popular in the United States in 2022 than it has been at any point in history.

Starting to find its footing in a country where motorsports fans have typically followed IndyCar and NASCAR, F1 is picking up followers in droves thanks to Drive to Survive. More than half of self-identified American F1 fans say the series played a part in getting them to follow the sport, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

F1 fans watching Drive to Survive in one of the 74 million households in the U.S. that has a Netflix subscription has led viewership of races to increase in the U.S. as ESPN’s live coverage of F1 has averaged roughly 946,000 viewers per race, up 56% from 2020 and 41% from pre-COVID times.

“There is not a way to quantify if the Netflix series has contributed to the audience increases, but it certainly hasn’t hurt,” John Suchenski, director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN, told The New York Times. “Having additional Formula 1 content out there that reaches a wide and different audience helps increase awareness and interest, and hopefully incentivizes them to tune into the races. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Now, thanks to Morning Consult’s data, we have an idea of just how much lift Netflix, along with Ellen DeGeneres and even Vanity Fair, has provided.

“Nearly 3 in 4 fans under the age of 45 (74%) attributed their fandom at least in part to Drive to Survive,” per Morning Consult. “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% who said they became fans in the past year. Among fans between the ages of 18 and 34, 42% 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% in 2020.”

In related news, F1 fans in the U.S. and elsewhere are going to have to get used to calling the sport’s top driver by a new name as Lewis Hamilton announced he is going to incorporate his mother Carmen’s surname, Larbalestier, into his own.

“I am really proud of my family’s name. My mum’s name is Larbalestier and I am just about to put that in my name,” the seven-time world champion said. “I don’t really fully understand the whole idea that when people get married the woman loses her name and I really want my mum’s name to continue on with the Hamilton name.”

How exactly the 37-year-old will position Larbalestier alongside Hamilton is not clear.

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