No one can deny that Formula One racing has exploded in popularity in recent years, no doubt due to the Netflix docuseries, Drive To Survive. While the FIA has historically snubbed their noses at American racers and fans, the governing body of F1 seems to really be pushing for a greater presence in the United States of America.
After briefly leaving the country between the years of 2008 and 2012, the series ultimately returned to a new course near Austin, Texas, Circuit of the Americas, aka, COTA. And now with the addition of the street race in Miami, Florida as well as the proposed street course in Las Vegas, it’s safe to say that the FIA is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
Despite that, NASCAR still dominates the ratings. As the American open wheel series, INDYCAR, starts to lag behind in terms of viewership and NASCAR’s overall viewership numbers continue to fall off, F1 has set their sights on taking over as the most prominent and most-watched motorsport in the US.
- NASCAR’s decline in viewership has been a topic amongst fans for quite some time with many NASCAR fans putting forth their own reasonings for the sudden decline. One theory is that the general age of the average NASCAR viewer has continued to rise, leading to the eventual fall-off while F1’s American viewership tends to largely come from the younger demographics. Another theory as to why this is happening is due to NASCAR’s media rights deals with FOX and NBC which largely prohibit streaming. With the average viewer of NASCAR being in their older years, it would make sense for their lack of streaming to be a reason for the sport’s lack of growth. By and large, older fans tend to have cable TV while many younger viewers prefer to stream on their various devices. Meanwhile, older fans blame recent changes NASCAR has made to be the reason behind their sharp decline in viewership.
- As the battle between governing bodies and the viewership wars start to heat up, many fans have offered solutions in ways that NASCAR can fix this issue. One thing that is hotly discussed amongst NASCAR fans is the upcoming new TV contract. Many fans suggest that a streaming deal should be a part of the new TV contract, insinuating that if they make the races more streamer friendly, younger fans and more casual viewers would be more willing to tune in one the go. Another common suggestion is that NASCAR revert back to an old, season-long points championship and stop playing so heavily in the “sports entertainment” aspect of NASCAR as it makes the sport come off as “fake” and “over-the-top”.
- One thing that is consistent with NASCAR fans is that rarely do they agree with each other 100%. While some fans fear being overtaken by F1 as they acknowledge that INDYCAR has the best on-track product at this point, many other dismiss the F1-mania as a fad that will fade with time.
As of late, NASCAR viewership has climbed little-by-little when compared to 2022’s numbers. Only time will tell if the trend continues or what changes NASCAR will make in attempt to gain fresh, younger viewers as they compete with the unlikely opponent of F1.
The Main Character
Italian-American F1 engineer (for Haas Formula One Team), Guenther Steiner, sparked a lot of chatter amongst fans in the community with his comments about F1 potentially becoming the dominant motorsport in America. He is the man behind Netflix’s Drive To Survive and partially responsible for the latest boom in F1 popularity in the United States.
In The Stands
The comments made by Steiner sparked some interesting discussion on Reddit. This user, 2ktx2000 claims that INDYCAR has the best on-track racing product, just poor marketing teams. They bring up the good point that a bulk of their national marketing is reserved for the Indy 500 while all other races are only locally marketed.
I must say, living in east Tennessee, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for an INDYCAR race that wasn’t for the Indy 500. Maybe there’s truth to it?
58903 echoes this by stating that INDYCAR is more territory-based, marketing only in the areas where they race, hence the decline in overall viewership.
1nf1niteCS claims that it’s really the off-track stuff that gains F1 its popularity, not the actual on-track product. They also think it may hurt the FIA in time. We’ll see.
SpenceSmithback says that fans are mistaken if they think a typical F1 weekend is all thrills and chills with all the drama of the Netflix series. They also say that they’d rather have a solid on-track product with bad coverage than the other way around.
Eric29219 claims that the F1 popularity in America is merely a fad and will die down eventually, noting the elitist, snobbery nature of the FIA.
MajorLaag says that most of F1s popularity is due to online influencers with short attention spans that will eventually move on and leave F1 in the dust.
Crank_Calls thinks that the dip in NASCAR popularity has to do with the driver’s limited fan connection and lack of personality. Hmm…where have I heard that one before?
MediumOtter says that F1s primary strength is the shortness of its races…but it also has the major drawback of run-away championship seasons.
imGrumps says that F1 will have a huge problem getting to NASCAR’s level with the on track product being as boring as it is. Hmm…maybe it is all in the off-track marketing?
Cori says that qualifying is much more exciting than the actual race in F1.
KentuckyHorsepower pokes fun at F1 and the FIA, claiming that their streams on TV is the ideal background noise for a nice, cozy nap.
On Your Screen
DDF friend and partner Darian, of Black Flags Matter on YouTube, broke down all the strengths each motorsport has. He’s right, ARCA does have Malcom in the Middle.
What do you think, race fans? Will F1 overtake NASCAR in American viewership or will it always be a pipedream? Let us know what you think!