Formula 1 has always been a global phenomenon, but US fans haven’t historically contributed to the viewership numbers all that much. We now see that changing in a big way.
ESPN is averaging over a million viewers per race this season, which is 49% higher than 2021 and 131% more than 2020.
So, what is causing this trend? Why are Americans, from New York to Florida to Texas, suddenly interested in F1? Why has F1 grown in the US So Fast?
F1’s sudden popularity growth in the States has to do with more than just one thing, but many believe it all started because of a certain documentary.
Netflix’s Drive to Survive
The collaboration between Netflix and Formula 1 gave birth to one of the biggest docuseries hits in the last decade. Drive to Survive gives viewers an exclusive look behind the scenes through interviews with drivers, team members, and managers. The show was recently renewed for seasons 5 and 6.
Drive to Survive became more popular than expected, especially in the United States, and it achieved exactly what F1 hoped it would—it turned the fans of the show into the fans of F1 racing.
New F1 Tracks in the US
Relative to the size of the F1 World Championship, not many races have been held in the US throughout history. This started to change in 2012 when the United States Grand Prix got a reintroduction to the calendar and started taking place at the new Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Another big moment occurred just weeks ago when the inaugural Miami Grand Prix occurred at the Miami International Autodrome. However, that’s not all, as there’s been a confirmation that the Vegas Grand Prix will become a part of the season in 2023.
Launch of Sports Betting in the US
While many see the hit documentary and new racing tracks being the main reasons for the F1 growth in the US, there was one more significant occurrence in the last several years that helped not just the popularity of F1 but all sports.
When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was declared unconstitutional in 2018, it opened the doors for sports betting legalization throughout the country. It started with New Jersey and a few other states, but today, almost half of the states have either authorized or have plans to allow sports betting soon.
While most people in these states prefer betting on major American leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, many sportsbooks offer F1 betting as well, and there’s no question that people have more interest in watching a given sport when they’ve bet on it.
Americans are rapidly becoming F1 fans, with more of them tuning in to each new event. This trend will probably continue, propelled by the masterfully done docuseries Drive to Survive, brand new races in Miami and Las Vegas, and the wave of legalization of sports betting throughout the country.
Formula 1 might have been an afterthought in the minds of US sports fans, but it has now finally broken through and will surely reap the benefits of the new untapped market.