"Americans Don't Like Formula 1" — The Real Story, Part 1

By Tom Martin

March 15, 2013

"Americans don't like Formula 1."
Oh, if only we had a dollar for every time that phrase was uttered in the two-year run-up to the USGP. We recall smiling at the interesting relationship our media colleagues have with data. Which is to say, if a meme is out there and gets repeated enough, it becomes "true." Now Formula Money, a consultancy, has reported on 2012 race attendance (three-day weekend):
1. British GP: 297K
2. Canadian GP: 285K
3. USGP: 265K
4. Singapore: 248K
5. Australia: 239K
Hmmm. Looks like two of the top three races are in...North America. And attended, at least in part, by...Americans!
A fan at the 2012 USGP.
The picture doesn't really change looking only at Sunday attendance (the order then is: British, US, Australian, Canadian, Singapore). 
Back to three-day numbers, only two other races (Hungary and Japan) top 200K. The Canadian and United States GPs had about twice the attendance of more than half (11) races on the calendar.
To complete this, we need TV data. But because of the way F1 revenues flow, attendance is crucial to where the races are (the local promoters pay F1 to show up; F1 owns the TV rights; local funding comes from attendance and tax revenue sharing). TV revenue (global) is crucial to the existence of the sport itself, but not as much to the markets selected for events. That isn't the same system as in most national sports, and may be a reason the media has misunderestimated the sufficiency of F1 demand. Even more likely, the media isn't asking whether F1 fanaticism is sufficient to have races, they're asking whether F1 is a mainstream, mass market sport. Getting 100k or so people to show up once or twice a year doesn't tell us much about that. And most F1 fans don't care.

The crowd at Circuit Of The Americas.



+ "Americans Don't Like Formula 1" – The Real Story, Part 2