Who said F1 couldn’t make its mark in the USA? Last weekend’s US Grand Prix saw 400,000 fans smash the record for the highest attendance at a three-day F1 race weekend in history, snatching the honour away from Silverstone.
Lewis Hamilton described the weekend as F1’s “acceptance into the US” and that’s hard to deny. Sunday’s sell-out crowds had 140,000 fans eagerly watch the action unfold from packed grandstands.
Previously, the 2019 British Grand Prix held the title of F1’s biggest race when 351,000 fans cheered on hometown hero Lewis as he achieved a record sixth victory at the track.
Only two races have recorded higher figures, the 1995 and 1996 Australian Grand Prix. The 1995 race was Adelaide’s final appearance on the F1 calendar while Melbourne made its debut the following year, but both took place over four days rather than the usual three.
WHY WAS THE ATTENDANCE SO MUCH HIGHER?
THE NETFLIX EFFECT & RISING TV AUDIENCE
Long gone are the days when F1’s biggest names were barely recognised in the US. Back in the early 2000s, Michael Schumacher was once asked to spell out his name when checking into a hotel in Indianapolis ahead of the Grand Prix. Imagine that now!
You can’t underestimate the effect Drive to Survive has had on bringing new fans into the sport with over 50 million viewers worldwide. McLaren CEO Zak Brown even claimed that it has “got to be the single most important impact for Formula 1 in North America”.
Taking us behind the scenes into the heart of the sport has seen a boom in F1’s viewing figures, even though many races take place during the early hours of the morning for American fans. Broadcaster ESPN are now averaging nearly one million viewers per race, up 56% on last season already.
NO US GP LAST YEAR
They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and that couldn’t be clearer for the US Grand Prix. The Coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of all the races in the Americas for 2020 and new and returning fans were keen to be back for 2021.
Overall, there was a massive 51% rise in the number of fans at COTA across the weekend, up from 264,000 in 2018.
Writing in his column for F1’s website, F1’s Managing Director Ross Brawn said: “For years, F1 was a cult hobby in America but we are now seeing a genuine increase in engagement.
“It’s very exciting and I think it demonstrates F1 can comfortably have two races in the USA – and maybe more – because of the passion of the fans we’ve experienced this weekend.”
HAMILTON VS VERSTAPPEN
Austin’s reappearance on the F1 calendar came at the perfect time, in the final six races of F1’s most dramatic title fight in decades.
The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen has been intense, as collisions in Silverstone and Monza only added to the ever-growing tension.
Heading into the weekend, the stakes were high as Max held a narrow six-point lead over his rival which could have turned at any time. A dicey battle for the lead at the start followed by plenty of midfield action kept fans entertained throughout.
The close-call finish between the two titans of the track saw the Austin weekend end with a bang and will certainly make US fans hungry for more next year.
What did you think of the record-breaking event in Austin? Let us know in the comments below.