top of page

Why is F1 not among the ten most popular sports in the world?

Written by Jenny Clynes, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

(Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Formula One is obviously a huge sport, with millions of fans across the world tuning into race weekends throughout the year, and keeping up to date with the latest developments. However, how popular is Formula One, when compared to other world-famous sports? Upon researching this question, an interesting result showed up. Formula One didn’t make it into the list of the top ten sports in the world in 2023 (https://sportsmonkie.com/most-popular-sports/). So, why isn’t Formula One among the top ten sports in terms of following, alongside the likes of football, cricket and basketball?


One thing that needs to be taken into account when considering this question is the lack of accessibility for actually watching the sport. For those in Great Britain, no free method exists to watch every race of the season. What was once available on free television through the BBC, has since moved to services blocked by expensive paywalls, such as Sky Sports, which simply cannot be afforded by a large section of fans.


Some Formula One coverage is still available for free on Channel Four in the UK, but it is rare to see the channel host a live broadcast of the race, and instead only show the highlights of the races after they have taken place, usually on late night television. Therefore, the only way British fans can access the sport in real-time for free is through radio coverage, lap-by-lap updates on the app, or on social media platforms such as Twitter. Therefore, it could be argued that fans find it difficult to engage with Formula One, due to the lack of real-time visual representation, and many people would simply choose to follow the sports generally aired as free-to-watch-live, such as football.


This idea also ties in with the wider argument that Formula One is a sport for the richer members of society. Other sports such as football or rugby are generally available to most members of society regardless of wealth, for instance, most people can watch their local community’s football teams play for free, or for little charge in their local park.

(Photo by Andreja Cencic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Although this is not professional football, it is still an accessible method of engaging with their favorite sport without having to spend fortunes on tickets. In some cases, watching professional football can cost less than a single Formula One race, with the cheapest ticket for a Manchester United game typically costing around £80. When we compare this to the cost of a ticket for the British Grand Prix, which typically costs around £180 for the Sunday, plus travel expenses and accommodation, we can begin to understand why Formula One may be less popular than other sports. The inherent reputation and being looked at as a sport for the wealthy is being reflected in the ticket prices. This means that millions of fans will ultimately never have a glimpse of their favorite sport in real life.


The fact that only a minority of Formula One fans will ever have the opportunity to experience the sight of drivers racing at top speeds could also factor into why Formula One is not among the most popular sports. In the case of other sports, fans are usually able to relate to the players in some way, having played a version of the sport at a young age, for example, most people grow up playing football, cricket, and hockey in school or extracurricular clubs.


Therefore, they have felt the emotions and the adrenaline of the sport at some level, whereas with racing, most fans cannot even begin to comprehend the feelings of being behind the wheel. As humans, we enjoy something we can relate to, and so this may be a contributing factor as to why Formula One is not in the same realm of popularity as the other sports, which nearly everyone has participated in at some point in their lives.


The lack of nationality within Formula One could also contribute to its reduced popularity, compared to other sports. Formula One, although a global sport, does not have national teams the way football and cricket have. Therefore, it could be argued that some people from specific countries that are not represented in the sport, might tend to feel less passion for Formula One, compared to a sport which their country is part of. This could be specifically true for any fans of Formula One, on the continent of Africa, with there being no Grand Prix’s on the continent, and thus it may be more culturally significant for some people to support other sports than Formula One.

(Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

However, Formula One is definitely growing in popularity, especially with younger viewers. This is largely thanks to the impact of social media applications such as Tiktok, Instagram, and others, and the staggering viewership figures of Netflix’s Drive to Survive. It won’t be long before Formula One makes it to the top 10 global sports rankings.


Overall, one of the biggest reasons behind Formula One not being as popular, is likely due to the sport’s limited accessibility for millions of fans, who can access other sports much easier and for less money. We also cannot undervalue the correlation of a sport’s relatability with its viewership, as can be seen with Formula One. But with the help of Formula One’s social media, podcasts and documentaries, younger viewers are on the rise, and ultimately the sport is gaining more and more popularity.


2 comments

2 Comments


Guest
Jul 26, 2023

so interesting!!

Like

Guest
Jul 26, 2023

great article!

Like
bottom of page