Longevity of a sport – Red Bull dominance sees F1 viewership and growth decline

Max Verstappen's meteoric rise might be bringing down audience enthusiasm

Sophie McMillan
14th October 2023
Image credit: Twitter (@redbullracing)
Each year, it is almost tradition that Formula 1 announces a boasting press release, revealing the ever-growing number of viewers for the previous year –  however, F1 are still yet to reveal the exact TV viewers for 2022, why is this? 

According to social intelligence group BuzzRadar's report, Formula 1 has been experiencing a decline in growth and reach for the first time since 2018, a stark difference in comparison to the repeated growth seen previously. Liberty Media's reluctance to admit a decline raises questions of why exactly fewer viewers are tuning into race weekends, and what can be done to try and stay on top. 

The report suggests that the peak of growth has already been hit, and that from here on out, key metrics are taking a nosedive as a result of race consistency and lack of competition. Their Twitter data from early 2023 reveals that mentions are down 70%, new followers across major accounts are down 46% and that overall social media reach is down 64% - contrasting the skyrocketing data seen when grid competition has been "fierce and unpredictable," such as during the 2016 and 2021 seasons. 

It would appear that the thrilling, dramatic competition promised to newer viewers from the likes of Drive to Survive is beginning to fall flat, as the same results repeat themselves each week and a consistent, comically large distance is built up between the frontrunner and the rest of the grid.

It would appear that the thrilling, dramatic competition promised to newer viewers from the likes of Drive to Survive is beginning to fall flat

Along with the finishing position consistency, the controversial Abu Dhabi 2021 farce continues to leave a sour taste behind for many fans, not often helped by the FIA's suspicious inability to apply rules evenly - leading to many fans becoming disheartened and even falling out of love with the sport. This can be seen in the tone of online conversation surrounding F1 of which the report has picked up a notable shift in - with more negative language such as "boring" and "annoying" being seen in analysis, it is a sad contrast to the common use of "exciting" and "interesting" found in previous years.

This boredom could also be in part due to the record-breaking number of races seen in the modern F1 calendar - as well as leaving no time for tension to build up between races, more race weekends means that fewer fans are able to devote free time to watching and engaging with as much of the sport as possible. Although more races mean an instant spike in profit, F1's intended demographic of younger fans are, by nature of their age, often busier in education or employment and less able to devote weekend after weekend to the sport, leading to smaller viewing numbers and a drop off throughout the year as people fall behind and become disinterested. 

Considering the fact that the current budget cap and regulations are to remain consistent till 2026, one can safely assume that Red Bull's (and more specifically, Max Verstappen's) dominance will continue, and with this, annoyance and boredom will continue to bother fans and drive down engagement until something changes. While there are hopes that 2026 will "level the playing field," it will be an agonising wait till then, one which may drive many fans away and start to diminish the thrilling, fast, and most importantly "cool" image that F1 has been trying so desperately to build.  

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