Ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok, and a great addition to the F1 commentary team, believes that Formula 1 can be the catalyst to entice fans to go on to follow other forms of motorsports… and weighs in on Lewis Hamilton’s silence.
“If people are interested in F1 they suddenly become interested in motor racing. It starts with F1,” insisted Chandhok.
While not all drivers have bought into Netflix ‘invasion’ of the F1 paddock, it cannot be denied that the Drive to Survive series has been a huge success, particularly in America, drawing fans into the sport that before were not interested and/or ignorant of the sport.
With that in mind, F1 is more committed to the USA, where a massive fan base remains untapped despite half a century of intermittent trying to win over that side of the pond.
Chandhok: Our viewership at Sky was double what it was in 2018
But a new era beckons and another campaign to win more hearts and minds Stateside with Miami on the schedule this season, along with the now traditional race in Austin, Texas coupled to talk of Indianapolis Motor Speedway returning and even Las Vegas is evidence of the boom in interest.
Chandhok had first-hand evidence of this: “When we went to Austin, the guy from ESPN said their viewership was up by nearly 30%. Our viewership at Sky was double what it was in 2018.”
He also believes the fierce rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will continue to boost interest in all levels of motorsport.
Viewing figures peaked at 7.4-million in the UK for the thrilling 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix climax – the third time F1’s own audience record was broken that year.
The race at Yas Marina was broadcast live on Sky with Channel 4 being given the rights to show coverage on their free-to-air channel.
In the States, 963,000 viewers on ESPN2 watched Max beat Lewis on the final lap to win the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, the F1 season closed that night by setting a record as the most-viewed Grand Prix on American television on record.
With races airing on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, the F1 season averaged 934,000 viewers per race in 2021, shattering the previous season record average of 748,000 that was set in 1995.
The 2021 season average of 934,000 viewers was up 54 percent over the 2020 season average of 608,000 viewers and up 39 percent vs. the 2019 season average of 672,000 viewers.
Chandhok: My personal instinct is Lewis will come back
Finally, in conversation with Express Sport, Chandhok weighed in on F1’s off-season hot-topic: Will Hamilton return in the wake of his going silent since last year’s contentious finale.
The well-connected Sky Pundit said: “My personal instinct is he will come back. I think he showed in the last four races of last season his hunger to win and his inherent speed has not dimmed at all.
“What he did in those last four races, the quality of driving in those last four races was exceptional. It was just as good as anything from Lewis in the last 14 years. As long as he can come back in the right frame of mind.
“As long as the FIA can demonstrate to him they have made changes and put mechanisms in place to make the sport a fairer sport for what Lewis perceives to be an injustice towards him, he will come back,” predicted Chandhok, echoing what most believe of Hamilton’s immediate future.