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Is F1 Popular In America? (The Numbers)

Formula 1 has lost popularity in the United States over the past couple of decades. F1 used to race regularly at legendary circuits like Indianapolis, but it went for years without any races in the country. This can leave many fans wondering if F1 is popular in America.

F1 is popular in America, although it’s not as popular as NASCAR or IndyCar. However, with new owners Liberty Media focusing heavily on bringing the US back into the sport, we saw a record 400,000 people in attendance at the 2021 US Grand Prix, and viewership has only been rising since.

Formula 1 has moved towards becoming more popular in the United States, and several steps have been taken to draw the attention of American viewers, including more US Grands Prix and the use of Netflix to market the sport to new viewers. Below, we discuss how these have affected viewership.

How Popular Is F1 In The USA?

F1 is not very popular in the USA when compared to NASCAR or IndyCar. Ever since the Grand Prix at Indianapolis came to an ugly end following controversy in 2005, F1 has not had much of an American presence. However, US F1 viewership is rising once again.

The 2005 race left a bad aftertaste for many fans and drivers, and the following races at Indy in 2006 and 2007 were unspectacular. Ultimately, the sport decided to move on, and the US Grand Prix was off the calendar for several years. America made a return in 2012 after building a state-of-the-art race track in Austin, Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas, or COTA, has played host to the US Grand Prix ever since, and the sport has slowly started to regain traction. However, it still hasn’t reached the level of popularity that it has in Europe and other regions of the world.

That said, Formula 1 has a rich history in the States. The country has hosted the US Grand Prix a total of 50 times in 10 different locations as of 2021. There have been other races held in the US under different names, and in some seasons, we’ve seen more than one race being held in the US.

Sudden Spike In F1 Popularity In The United States

Despite the sport flying under the radar with the Grand Prix being held at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, there has recently been a massive surge of US viewers, and the sport seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the US.

The 2021 US Grand Prix saw record-breaking attendance, with 400,000 spectators attending over the weekend, up from 268,000 in 2019, which was the last time that spectators were allowed at the track. The Mexican Grand Prix had a close second place with 371,000 spectators.

It’s not just about the spectators at the track though. Viewership on TV has also spiked in recent years. The US Grand Prix broke records in Formula 1 for being the highest-viewed US race in the history of the sport from American television sets. The US Grand Prix had a total of 1.2 million viewers over ABS and ESPN.

The 2021 season recorded an average of 934,000 viewers from the US per event, which is up by an incredible 54% from the previous season. The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix recorded the highest US viewership since the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Why Isn’t F1 Popular In America?

F1 isn’t popular in America for a myriad of reasons. It is considered to be a European sport and, throughout the years, many American motorsports fans have chosen NASCAR and IndyCar over Formula 1. However, F1 is growing in popularity as it adds more US races to the calendar.

Formula 1 has had a rollercoaster ride of popularity over the years when it comes to the US. In the past, the sport proved to be popular thanks to American drivers such as Mario Andretti winning the World Championship.

In the early 2000s and the 2010s, Formula 1 drew very little interest from the United States. Aside from small American fanbases, the sport went mostly under the radar in the majority of America during this time.

F1 Is Considered A European Sport

One of the reasons Formula 1 has not been popular in the US is because of the fact that it has always been, and still is, considered to be a European sport. With the majority of drivers being from European countries, and the majority of races taking place on the European continent, it can be difficult to shake this title.

The problem though, is that while the sport has a huge fanbase in Europe, the time zone difference makes it difficult for fans in the US to watch the majority of the races. Formula 1 races are often held at inconvenient times in the US, which prevents many fans from watching the events live.

Instead, US racing fans turn to NASCAR and IndyCar, which are massive local motorsport events that are held at convenient times for US viewers. It’s much easier for Americans to watch since there’s no massive time zone difference, and there is no cultural difference that US fans need to adapt to.

There’s a big difference between Formula 1 and US motorsports. Almost everything is different, from the terminology to the way that the weekend format runs. Even the podium ceremonies are different. If a motorsport fan grows up with one of the cultures, the other can seem strange to them.

Fewer US Races

One of the main reasons Formula 1 isn’t very popular in the US is that there has been a lack of Formula 1 races in the country. After 2007, there were no races on US soil until the 2012 US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. This is a relatively long time to go without a race in the US, and it’s one of the reasons for the decline in interest in the sport.

The sport changed significantly over those years. The cars had undergone massive changes, which made them look almost unrecognizable compared to the cars that had last raced in the US.

In addition, Formula 1 moved away from Indianapolis, a legendary track with a rich history in motorsport. It’s where many Formula 1 fans were located, and perhaps moving to a different location in the US did not spark any interest from fans that had already lost their love for the sport.

No American Drivers

The majority of Formula 1 drivers are European, due to the European roots that the sport has. There are some drivers from other continents, but American race fans find it hard to relate to F1, because there are no American drivers. On the other hand, their local racing series NASCAR and IndyCar have plenty of American drivers, naturally making it the more appealing series to follow.

The last American Formula 1 driver was Alexander Rossi, who participated in just five races in 2015. Even then, his results were no more than underwhelming as he was stuck in a backmarker team. Rossi eventually moved over to IndyCar where he has been successful, even winning the Indy 500 in his rookie year in 2016.

Lack Of American Teams

In addition to a lack of American drivers, there have also been very few American Formula 1 teams – with just one currently. Haas is currently the only American team on the grid, but they are still lingering in the midfield for now, hoping to get their chance at winning some races in the near future.

The drivers at Haas also aren’t American, which is another element that could count against their popularity in the US. There are plans for more American Formula 1 teams in the future though, with Andretti planning to enter the sport at some point. With two American teams, there is a greater chance of seeing another American driver, and a keener interest from US race fans may grow.

How F1 Is Trying To Boost Its Popularity In The US

Ever since Formula 1 was taken over by Liberty Media, an American company, there has been a push to regain the interest of the US fanbase. Over the past few years, the group has worked hard on different strategies to reignite the love of the sport in the US. So far, they have been successful in doing so.

Admittedly, however, this is not to everyone’s liking. Many hardcore Formula 1 fans are resistant to these changes and prefer to stick with traditions and the older format of the sport. The truth is, however, that the sport has been dying out very quickly.

Liberty Media have breathed new life into Formula 1, and it’s breaking records and reaching new highs in popularity with their guidance. Although not everyone likes change at first, it must be said that the changes have been for the better. Looking back at Formula 1 in the early 2010s makes you realize how much the sport has changed in such a short space of time.

The evolution of Formula 1 is far from complete though, and the sport is still trying out new ideas and concepts to further improve its popularity not only in the US, but all around the world. The future of Formula 1 is bright, and it seems as though the new era of the sport is shedding its skin from the past.

Drive To Survive

Formula 1 entered the popular Netflix streaming service with Drive to Survive, a series that takes viewers behind the scenes with never-before-seen footage. Even fans who watch every race are bound to see something new.

The series proved to be extremely popular, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when it gained massive traction. The sport subsequently also gained many new viewers and fans from all around the globe, who had been introduced to the sport through the Netflix series.

Many Formula 1 purists and hardcore fans do not enjoy Drive to Survive because of its dramatization of the Formula 1 seasons. However, many of the new fans have been drawn into the sport directly from this element.

The Netflix series was especially popular in the United States, with many new fans of the sport emerging. The series has helped new fans to get a quick and easy introduction as to who all the main players are and how the basics of the sport works.

More Races In The US

Liberty Media believes one US Grand Prix is not enough, and with Texas remaining on the calendar, there have been more races added as future events. In 2022, Formula 1 raced in Miami for the first time ever. The Miami track is a street circuit that runs through the Miami Gardens around the Hard Rock Stadium.

Liberty Media also added Las Vegas to the calendar. F1 is set to make its return to the city in 2023 with a street circuit running down the world-famous Vegas Strip. It will be the first time that Vegas will feature on the Formula 1 calendar since 1982, more than four decades ago.

Formula 1 is making the most of their return to US soil by utilizing high-profile locations. The Miami Grand Prix has one of the best locations for a street race, and Vegas is set to be one of the biggest motorsport events of the year in 2023. It also means that there will be three US Grands Prix on the calendar in 2023.

American F1 Drivers In The Past

There have been reasonably successful American drivers in Formula 1 in the past. Mario Andretti is a well-known name, and he won the World Championship in 1978. Many fans might not be aware of the other American World Champion though. Phil Hill won the championship in 1961.

There have been a total of 57 American Formula 1 drivers, but the more recent drivers have not been successful in the sport. The last Grand Prix victory from an American driver came in the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix, won by Mario Andretti.

In total, American Formula 1 drivers have 466 Grand Prix starts, two world championships, 33 wins, 129 podiums, 36 fastest laps, and 998 points between the 57 of them. Although they have had some reasonable success, they are still nowhere near the numbers that European drivers have achieved.

Why Are There No American Drivers In F1?

There are currently no American drivers in Formula 1. Formula 2 driver Logan Sargeant is currently the favorite for the next American to secure a Formula 1 seat, but he needs to secure his Super License first. Many American drivers simply end up in NASCAR or IndyCar instead of F1.

There are some important reasons America doesn’t have any Formula 1 drivers. The last American Formula 1 driver was Alexander Rossi, who had a short stint in a backmarker car in 2015. This, however, didn’t do him any favors in the sport, as he was not able to fully showcase his talent.

There’s no doubt that having an American driver in formula 1 would be a huge benefit to the sport’s popularity in the States, but the problem is that getting into Formula 1 is extremely difficult, which is also why there are unfortunately no female Formula 1 drivers.

The Journey To Formula 1

The journey of getting into Formula 1 is extremely difficult. Drivers need to start at a young age and develop their skills in karting and junior single seater series. However, with the majority of American drivers living in the US, it becomes very hard.

In order to make it to Formula 1, drivers need to be in Europe. Even Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo moved to Europe in his teen years. If American drivers want to succeed in Formula 1, their chances are best if they move to Europe during their early teens to participate in junior single seater series such as Formula 3 and Formula 2, which is the key to getting into Formula 1.

That said, there is another avenue into Formula 1 without going through Europe. The IndyCar champion earns enough Super License points to get a seat in Formula 1, but the problem then is that they need to have connections to secure it.

Formula 1’s Popularity In The US

Another barrier to American Formula 1 drivers is the popularity of the sport in the US. The current generation of drivers breaking into the sport were born in the early 2000s, which is when the popularity of Formula 1 was declining. It’s arguable that it was even at its lowest point in the country.

Most of the current crop of American drivers have been focused on NASCAR and IndyCar, which were the more popular forms of motorsport when they were growing up. It’s only natural for drivers to aim for the series that they grow up watching and that they have developed a passion for.

However, with the sudden growth of Formula 1’s popularity in the United States, we might see some more American Formula 1 drivers in the near future. It only takes a small group of extremely talented drivers to make their way to Europe to get their names seen by Formula 1 academies.

Along with the push to make the sport more popular in the United States, Liberty Media are surely aiming to bring an American driver into the sport sooner rather than later. This, along with the success of Drive to Survive and three American Grands Prix, would only boost the sport’s fame in the States.

Final Thoughts

F1 is becoming more popular in America. Liberty Media have revived American interest through Netflix and are soon hosting three races in the country. Despite no current American drivers, Formula 1 has recently enjoyed record-breaking attendance and viewership from American fans in recent years.