In 2021 Formula 1 successfully and safely delivered a record-breaking 22-race calendar despite the global pandemic still presenting challenges around the world.
The season included new venues and a revised format at three races with the new Sprint events. The season was thrilling for all our fans around the world, with the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi being the championship decider with drivers Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both going into the race on equal points. Verstappen was crowned World Drivers’ Champion with Mercedes clinching an eighth Constructors’ title.
Our fans reacted to the season, new formats, and new venues, very positively and Formula 1 has seen growth in our TV audiences and on our digital platforms.
Social and digital platforms: Once again Formula 1 was the fastest growing major sports league on the planet in terms of follower growth in 2021. We now have 49.1m total followers and have seen the highest engagement rate with social posts compared to other major sports in 2021.
In 2021, followers (across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitch and Chinese social platforms) were up 40% to 49.1m, video views up 50% to 7bn and total engagement up 74% to 1.5bn. Additionally, total video views across F1.com, the F1 app and social media were up 44% vs 2020 to 7.04bn, unique users were up +63% to 113m and page views were up +23% to 1.6bn. In China we saw very strong digital growth with followers on Chinese platforms (Weibo, WeChat, Toutiao and Douyin) up 39% to 2.7m.
The results mean that Formula 1 is outperforming other major sports in the digital arena. The digital share of total minutes consumed (across broadcast and digital) has grown from 10% in 2020 to 16% in 2021.
The season finale in Abu Dhabi was huge with 108.7m viewers, +29% higher than the same race in 2020 and the highest viewing figures for a race during the season. The cumulative TV audience for 2021 was 1.55bn, up +4% from the 2020 season. We also saw strong audiences for the season opener in Bahrain (84.5m), and for the 3 Sprint weekend events at Silverstone (79.5m), Monza (80.4m) and Sao Paulo (82.1m).
There were significant rises in season cumulative audience in several markets, including many of our biggest markets. The Netherlands stood out with an increase of +81% YoY, but there were also significant gains in the USA (+58% YoY), France (+48% YoY), Italy (+40% YoY) and the UK (+39% YoY).
TV Unique Viewers (the number of individuals that tune into at least one race during the season) for 2021 stood at 445m (+3% YoY). The biggest market on this metric was China (70.8m unique viewers in 2021, +13% vs 2020), but there were also significant YoY gains in Spain (+272%), Russia (+129%), and the USA (+53%).
Globally, the average audience per Grand Prix in 2021 was 70.3m. Looking only at markets where like-for-like broadcasting arrangements were maintained across 2020 and 2021, the figure was 60.3m, up +13% YoY, and the best figure since 2013. The like-for-like comparison excludes Brazil and Germany, where new broadcast arrangements were in place for 2021. Although numbers were lower in those markets in 2021, there have been very positive results and our experience in other markets shows that audiences on pay channels will continue to grow over time. In Brazil, we are now enjoying far more in-depth coverage and more hours of F1 being broadcast than 2020. In Germany, Sky’s cumulative audiences in 2021 have seen significant growth with +55% YoY.
Following closed events in 2020 due to the pandemic, it was fantastic to welcome fans back to the races. In 2021 we welcomed 2.69 million fans back to our events and even though many races had limited capacities, and some could not welcome fans at all due to the COVID-19 situation, this was still a very strong attendance figure. Although lower than pre-COVID figures of 4.16 million, this shows that there is huge demand for Formula 1 races and we expect that demand to return to normal levels once the pandemic subsides.
Three Grands Prix had an attendance of more than 300,000 spectators over the race weekend – USA (400,000), Mexico (371,000) and Great Britain (356,000) –the USA, Mexico and Great Britain welcomed more fans than in 2019, the last time full capacities were possible, with previous attendances being 268,000, 348,000 and 351,000 respectively. A total of 11 events attracted crowds of over 100,000, including Belgium (213,000), the Netherlands (195,000), Turkey (190,000), Brazil (181,000), Abu Dhabi (153,000), Saudi Arabia (143,000), Austria (132,000) and Hungary (130,000).
Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO, Formula 1, said: “The 2021 season was something very special. We had a championship battle that went to the last race with huge excitement throughout the whole championship. We began to welcome back our fans who are the heart and soul of our sport and although we were limited in our capacities due to COVID, it was fantastic to see 2.6 million fans in the grandstands around the world. We have also seen some very strong figures across broadcast and our digital platforms, showing once again the momentum, excitement and interest that is all around Formula 1. We are looking forward to our record breaking 23 race season this year, with new cars, new regulations, and a new challenge for all the teams and drivers. I know all of our fans can’t wait to get the season started.”