Our esteemed colleagues over at RaceFans have once again kicked the hornet’s nest, while all were concerned with lap times during the last day of Formula 1 preseason testing they popped a question about the drop in the sport’s viewership to Lewis Hamilton.
During a media briefing with the World Champion in Barcelona on Friday morning, before his afternoon stint in the car, RaceFans cited the fact that for the title-deciding “2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, 8.9 million people watched the free-to-air broadcast live in the UK, but last year just 1.28 million turned on live coverage of his fifth world title win on pay-TV.”
Hamilton, clearly perked by an out the box question and irked by the stats, replied, “I didn’t know those numbers. That sounds terrible from a business point of view. That’s definitely not cool. I remember growing up and turning on BBC and watching ‘Grand Prix’, it was awesome.”
With the advent of subscription-based F1TV and pay-to-view Sky Sport-style broadcasters and increasingly less on free-to-air questions arise: Are people willing to pay? How much will they pay? At what cost to the sport’s global footprint?
Hamilton clearly empathises with fans, “I don’t currently understand that pay-TV situation but it’s not my job to come up with the answers for that.”
“But I do understand because it’s bloody expensive nowadays with everything you have in a home with all your insurance and all the things you do end up paying and then on top of it you’ve got to pay for TV, and for a TV licence, it’s ridiculous.”
“So I can understand it,” added the five-time F1 World Champion of humble roots who now, thanks to his huge success, banks around $45-million a year.
“I’m pretty sure that number’s not going to change because of the economy. It’s difficult times for everyone. It is a shame that the fans are not getting to see as much because the more people you have at a grand prix the more atmosphere.”
“It’s the fans that make the sport what it is, so the more you almost block them or deter them the worse the business is going to be for the people that own it.”
“But again it’s nothing to do with me I’ve just got to arrive and when the fans do come or the people I do get to meet at the races I just try to utilise that opportunity to connect with them,” added Hamilton who will start his F1 title defence at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 17 March.