Have We Reached Peak F1 Popularity?

Have we reached peak F1 popularity? That is the hypothesis of a recent study that has analyzed the decline of F1 in social media and you will find the details, as well as F1’s response, as part of this week’s Business of Motorsport.

There is also more F1 news including the status of the candidates for new teams that hope to make the grid and what was Toyota doing at the Japanese Grand Prix?

I also look at IndyCar’s 2024 schedule, TV viewership at Le Mans, how MotoGP and Formula E are faring in India and more.

Finally, as usual I have the latest motorsport sponsorship deals and partnerships as well as race team news from around the globe.

All this and much more in this week’s edition of the Business of Motorsport Roundup on Motorsport Prospects. Its business news racers can use.

Motorsport Industry News

Formula 1

Formula 1 Management

Autosport amongst other outlets is reporting that the FIA is to reject three of the reported four applications to join the F1 grid. While aspiring F1 team LKYSUNZ indicated they have secured $1 billion in funding, another applicant, Rodin Cars is confirming that both their bid and others have been rejected with only Andretti Global getting the nod. We will soon find out whether this is all true or not and what the teams and Liberty Media’s reaction will be.

Has Formula 1 reached peak popularity? That is the argument being made after the release of a new research study by Buzz Radar. The study states that Formula 1 has witnessed a dramatic drop in social media mentions, new followers and reach off the back of Red Bull’s 2023 season domination. In combing through the report, Autsoport reports that “Buzz Radar’s analysis suggested that the boom of 2022 – boosted by the dramatic 2021 title fight and new car rules – may well mark a high-point of interest in F1 for a while.”

However, data from early 2023 suggests this turbo-charged growth may have already peaked. Alarming drops compared to 2022 were detected in key metrics:

  • ➔Social media mentions: Down 70%
  • ➔New followers across major accounts: Down 46%
  • ➔Overall social media reach: Down 64%

The tone of conversations also shifted notably. In 2023 fans are using much more negative language like ‘boring’ and ‘annoying’ – a big departure from the highly positive terms like ‘exciting’ and ‘interesting’ we found to be common in 2022.

Our AI models forecast that if current domination continues, F1 could lose 50% of the new fans it has gained by 2024.

Have we reached peak F1 popularity?

Interestingly and perhaps not surprisingly, Racing News 365 reports that F1 disputes the report’s methodology and conclusions.

F1’s in-house data suggests that growth across official FOM channels in 2023 is almost eight times (757%) bigger than the 3.7 million claimed by Buzz Radar.

In the second quarter of 2023 – April 1st to June 30th – F1-owned channels ranked second globally for follower growth rate across top sporting leagues.

Only La Liga – Spain’s top football division where the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid play -ranked higher.

Meanwhile, F1 measured active engagements – counted as likes, comments and shares, was up 4% on the Year to Date against 2022, with 1.5 billion engagements expected to be collected for the third season in a row.

F1 data counters new report’s purported social media ‘crisis’

In Joe Saward’s Green Notebook from Tsu City, he mentions the intriguing news that a number of Toyota brass were at the Japanese Grand Prix visiting McLaren. What could this mean if anything?

The other point worth mentioning is that Toyoda was not on his own during the visit with Masaya Kaji, the head of the Gazoo Racing (GR) powertrain development division, Jun Sato of the GR brand management division and Teppei Hojo, Toyota’s general manager for motorsport strategy all with him. There were also Masato Hirai, President of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, Yuichiro Haruna, the project director of Toyota Gazoo World Rally Championship team, Kazuki Nakajima the vice chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe and Kamui Kobayashi, the team principal. So it was a busload of top people…

Autosport has more details on what the two are working on now and potentially in the future.

As Qatar prepares to host their Grand Prix on October 8th, they have announced a number of improvements to the Lusail International Circuit. But their long-term goals are much higher than just circuit improvements. Qatar has big ambitions to become a major force in Formula 1, just two years after hosting the sport for the first time. “Being a host for the FIFA World Cup was wonderful for Qatar, but it was certainly not the end of the country’s sporting ambitions. People were wondering what is on for Qatar after the World Cup, and the answer is we will continue to attract the best sports stars, the best teams, and we will continue to stage amazing events.”

General Motorsport Industry News

Business of Motorsport

NASCAR’s playoff round in Texas saw over four times as many viewers as Formula One’s Japanese Grand Prix according to BlackBook Motorsport.

Increases in viewership have been few and far between for Nascar this season, with tough results all year, outside of the inaugural Chicago Street Race drawing in . So, it will be a welcome relief to see the Texas Motor Speedway trending upwards, even if it’s a slight increase compared to 2022.

Formula One is experiencing contrasting fortunes, as Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s dominance continues to see the US audience bleed away. While the US east coast would have had to stay up until 1am to watch the race, a double-digit percentage decrease is far from promising.

Nascar sees 2m viewers tune in for Texas on USA Network

Autosport reports that the World Rally Championship has identified China and the USA as its two key expansion targets for the future, with the latter in the running to join the series in 2025.

Establishing a return to the USA for the first time since 1988 has been a long-term ambition for the WRC, which is looking likely to come to fruition in the future through the Rally USA project, based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, a move into China is also high on the WRC’s wish list once it achieves its return to the USA.”

While IndyCar put a positive spin on their 2024 calendar announcement trumpeting their return to Milwaukee and down-playing the loss of Texas Motor Speedway, Racer’s Marshall Pruett is more concerned about their 2024 broadcast package.

In 2024, IndyCar has lost four NBC races, mostly after the Olympics, down from 13 to nine. IndyCar’s presence on USA, which has done a decent job with ratings but is by no means as strong as NBC, has doubled from three races to six, and Peacock, which we know is a ratings dead zone, has also doubled from one to two.”

Speaking of TV viewership, the 2023 edition of the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) 24 Hours of Le Mans in June recorded a global audience of 113 million viewers. According to BlackBook Motorsport, there are a number of factors that likely contributed to such a significant boost in global viewership.

Nascar’s Garage 56 entry generated considerable interest, especially in the US, where MotorTrend recorded a 59 per cent increase in viewership. Notably, the US delivered the second-biggest audience around the world, just behind the traditionally large domestic viewing figures in France. This was the centenary edition of the race, which also will have contributed to the increase. Some 325,000 fans attended the event, which fell below the overall record of 400,000 for the legendary 1969 race.”

Business of Motorsport

Supercars has secured a short-term agreement for the future of the Newcastle 500 but the series is at odds with the local council about whether the race should return beyond that. “We note that the NSW Member for Newcastle has publicly reaffirmed his opposition to the extension of the race for both one or five years.”

On the good news front, they have overhauled the fan experience with the launch of a new app, a project that has been in development for over two years with a ‘multi-million dollar’ investment from Supercars.

MotoGP has announced a record 22 races as part of its upcoming 2024 season with Qatar returning to its season-opening slot having and Kazakhstan confirmed for 2024 after its cancellation this year.

Despite what I wrote in last week’s edition of the Business of Motorsport, Formula E have indicated that they intend to race in Hyderabad in 2024.

Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E, said: “Formula E and the government of Telangana created history together earlier this year with the first-ever motorsport world championship race to be held in the city. The spectacular Hyderabad E-Prix was enjoyed live by millions of fans around the world and . Formula E and the government of Telangana are in active discussions about a possible return to Hyderabad in 2024 with a race on 10th February. Confirmation of our plans will be announced following the FIA [International Automobile Federation] World Motor Sport Council Meeting on 19th October when the season ten calendar is updated.”

Staying in India, MotoGP’s recent Indian Grand Prix saw the lowest attendance of the series’ season. Dan Rossomondo, chief commercial officer of Dorna Sports, told BlackBook Motorsport: “The crowd was what we expected and those that were there were passionate and knowledgeable, we believe they had an amazing time. We definitely can do things better, like promotion in the country, but we are frankly thrilled at the results overall.”

John WallStreet has an excellent analysis of the effect of the Supercross-Motocross has had on maximizing its media rights values. “It’s the collective voice that we’re all finally on the same page, with a common goal to grow the sport and grow motorcycling [driving business growth],” Dave Prater (VP, Supercross) said.

The third annual Women in Motorsports North America (WIMNA) Women with Drive Summit – Driven by Mobil 1 (WWD III) and hosted by Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, will take place on November 7-8. You can register to attend here.

UK-based motion simulator technology company Dynisma has announced plans for its new state-of-the-art Dynisma Technology Campus. The new campus will host the Dynisma Manufacturing Centre, enabling the design, development and build of simulators, the Dynisma Engineering Centre, where ongoing development of Dynisma’s portfolio of Motion Generators will be expanded further, and the Dynisma Technology Centre, a demonstration facility.

The latest initiative from the Grand Prix Trust has been launched in conjunction with the Silverstone-based National College for Motorsport and Silverstone University Technical College. Led on behalf of the GPT by Formula 1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds, the fund will offer college students from a variety of different backgrounds a range of assistance as it aims to create ‘work-ready individuals primed to fill the motorsport jobs of the future’. As part of the initiative, the Grand Prix Trust has announced a new annual £100,000 bursary to help disadvantaged students enter the British motorsport industry.

Global sports marketing agency Right Formula has bolstered its North American team by appointing former CSM SVP Rick Cuellar as its Commercial Vice President for the US.

I’m excited to join the team at Right Formula and combine our deep-rooted entrepreneurial spirit and desire to be the best in class. I’m fully behind Robin’s global vision for the agency, as well as the team Ashlee is building in the US. The US sports market isn’t about touchdowns, slam dunks, or home runs; it’s a cultural phenomenon that transcends boundaries, bringing people from all walks of life together under one banner. From stadiums to living rooms, it’s an arena where emotions run high, creating a perfect platform for brands to make meaningful connections.”

Motorsport Sponsorship & Partnership News

Here are the latest motorsport sponsorship deals, partnerships and related analysis that were announced this week.

Business of Motorsport

Team News

Here is a roundup of the latest team news from around the world of motorsport.

Have We Reached Peak F1 Popularity?
Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.