As we entered the 2021 Formula 1 season, there was a lot fo talk about the Mercedes versus Red Bull battle to come. Many believed this may be the first year, in the past seven, that a team other than Mercedes may be able to fight for a win or at least battle Mercedes on merit.
That kind of hype certainly travels far and wide and it has had an impact on the television viewership numbers for Sky Sports F1. Sky said:
“The Bahrain GP was watched by an average of 1.98 million viewers, peaking at 2.23 million, as viewers tuned in to watch Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fight for the top of the podium in an enthralling duel.
These figures place the race as the highest viewed ever on Sky, beating previous races that have even been simulcast on Sky One and becoming the first ever race to peak at more than 2m viewers.”
That has to be good news for not only Sky Sports F1 but for Formula 1 in general and if there was any clear indication to the owners of F1, it would be that the stagnation of the sport under the dominance of Mercedes for the past seven years has not be kind to their total viewer numbers.
I have not seen ESPN’s ratings here in the US for the season opening race but last season averaged just over 600,00 viewers. I think it would be a safe assumption that ESPN had a spike in viewership for the season opener as well. There have been particular races, such as Monaco and others, that have garnered over 900,000 viewers in the past so this year’s hyped Bahrain Grand Prix most likely had more viewers.
That’s good for Formula 1 and if the Red Bull challenge to Mercedes remains over the next few races, then F1 may be heading for a very good season from a television ratings standpoint. I have not see F1 TV’s ratings for streaming viewers but I’m curious if that grew in 2021 due to the excitement around the Red Bull vs Mercedes narrative.
It wasn’t just the race that saw record numbers for Sky Sports F1, qualifying also broke records. Sky Sports said:
“Qualifying viewing figures (averaging at 1.14m with a peak of 1.34m) also saw record viewing figures, with the Bahrain GP becoming the first ever qualifying session with an average audience of more than 1m, as well as the highest ever average peak.”
That’s a very good sign and perhaps it is indicative of a season opening race weekend when so much was unknown as far as Red Bull and Mercedes pace but regardless, the 2021 season seems to be off to a very good start.