Nearly 14 million watch F1’s last lap showdown in UK and Netherlands

An audience of nearly 14 million viewers watched Formula 1’s last lap showdown in Abu Dhabi yesterday, across the UK and Netherlands, overnight audience data from the different territories show.

In the Netherlands, where the weekend aired on a free-to-air basis via Ziggo Sport, an average of 4.92 million viewers (an 87.0% audience share) watched Max Verstappen win his first championship from 13:55 to 15:42 on Sunday, according to data publicly available via SKO.

2.37 million viewers (42.1%) watched on Ziggo Sport, while a further 2.54 million viewers (44.9%) watched on Ziggo Sport Select. At its peak, 3.22 million and 3.12 million viewers watched across the two channels, combined to reach a peak audience of 6.34 million viewers.

Showing just how much interest there was in the race, 1.30 million viewers (55.2%) followed the build-up from 12:05 to 13:55 across Ziggo’s two channels, with 3.87 million viewers (70.1%) sticking around post-race from 15:42 onwards.

Qualifying performed well across Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Select. The session averaged 1.47 million viewers (69.5%), peaking with 2.05 million across the two outlets.

Abu Dhabi was the last race for Ziggo under its current arrangement, with F1 rights moving to NENT Group from 2022 in the Netherlands, through the Viaplay platform. However, Ziggo will continue to air highlights following an agreement reached with Viaplay.

Highest UK audience since 2014

Over in the UK, audience figures jumped to their highest level since the 2014 championship decider.

From 12:55 to 15:00, around 5.8 million viewers (52%) watched the F1 broadcasts across Channel 4, Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase.

During this time slot, 3.44 million viewers (30.7%) were watching Channel 4, with 2.00 million viewers (17.8%) watching Sky Sports F1 and Main Event. A further audience of around 400,000 watched via Sky Showcase.

A one-minute peak audience of 7.4 million viewers (59.7%) watched at 14:32 as Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. At the time of the peak, 4.38 million viewers were watching via Channel 4, with 3.02 million viewers watching via Sky’s portfolio of channels.

It is Formula 1’s highest peak audience in the UK since 2014, when a 5-minute peak of 7.9 million viewers watched Hamilton win his second championship in Abu Dhabi.

Despite the free-to-air simulcast on Channel 4, a large number stuck with Sky, the pay TV broadcaster recording their highest ever audience figures for F1, beating their previous record set the previous week in Saudi Arabia.

Channel 4’s audience was also their highest ever for F1, marginally beating their live coverage of the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Ian Katz, Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, said “Though many British F1 fans will be disappointed, it’s fantastic Channel 4 was able to bring this nail-biting finale to the 2021 F1 Season to 4.4 million free to air and, in partnership with Sky, to an incredible peak audience of 7.4 million.”

“Following on from the return of Test Cricket to free to air television, a remarkable Paralympics and Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph it was a fittingly dramatic end to an extraordinary year of sport on Channel 4.”

Sky’s CEO Stephen van Rooyen added “Sky has broken its own F1 audience record for a third time this season, Sunday’s stunning spectacle will keep our customers talking about Abu Dhabi until next season rolls around.”

“Sky’s audience peaked at 3m for the first time, and thanks to our partnership with Channel 4 that added up to the 7.4m across the country.”

“It was our gift just in time for Christmas and the drama was gripping, with Sky taking an 18% share of the TV audience combined with our free-to-air partner bringing that up to 44% in total. An astonishing day.”

Elsewhere…

Unsurprisingly, the F1 championship decider drew large audiences across Europe and beyond, however, not every territory saw a boost.

  • Australia – F1 fans down under stayed up to watch the action from Abu Dhabi unfold. 135,000 viewers watched the Grand Prix according to The Race Torque, the largest post-midnight race in at least six years, and the third highest F1 audience of 2021.
  • Austria – According to DWDL.de, F1 jumped to its biggest audience since the 2000 Austrian Grand Prix. The race aired on ORF2, drawing an average of 1.12 million viewers, equating to a 55% audience share from 14:03 to 15:39. ORF’s pre-race build-up, from 13:07 to 14:03, averaged 478,000 viewers (26%), while 814,000 (41%) remained for post-race analysis from 15:39 to 17:00.
  • Belgium – According to CIM, in the north of Belgium, 468,000 viewers watched a 30-minute highlights show on Eén, while 364,000 viewers watched live coverage in the south of Belgium on Tipik.
  • Canada – F1 recorded its largest ever audience on TSN, with an average of 667,000 viewers watching the action. In total, TSN’s coverage reached 1.4 million people. Interestingly, TSN notes that their streaming audience has doubled year-on-year, whilst analyst Adam Seaborn added that half of the F1 audience on Sunday were aged between 25 and 54.
  • France – Canal+ reported a record audience for their F1 broadcast. An average of 1.91 million viewers watched the race with them, peaking with 2.41 million viewers, a significant uplift on the 2021 season average of 1.14 million viewers.
  • Germany – The picture for F1 is bleaker in Germany where, according to Motorsport.com, 951,000 viewers (5.8%) tuned into Sky’s live coverage. The figure increases to 1.3 million viewers when accounting for Sky’s digital platforms which, while good for Sky, pales in comparison with RTL’s historical figures, showing the impact pay TV has had on F1 in Germany this season.
  • Italy – The race aired live on free-to-air television on TV8, as well as airing across several Sky channels. Digital News reports that an average of 3.99 million viewers (22.6%) watched across the different outlets, peaking with 4.45 million viewers at 15:11, an increase of 86% year-on-year. Sky’s coverage averaged 1.51 million (8.5%), with a further 2.48 million (14.0%) watching via TV8.
  • Poland – Nearly 800,000 viewers tuned into the action on Sunday, data from Nielsen reveals. Live coverage via Eleven Sports averaged 320,000 viewers, with highlights on free-to-air channel Polsat averaging 470,000 viewers.
  • Spain – Like Germany, Spain has also suffered with little free-to-air coverage and no drivers at the front of the field. Nevertheless, 602,000 viewers (6.2%) tuned into DAZN’s coverage via their pay TV channel from 14:04 to 15:34, reports FormulaTV. 253,000 viewers (2.2%) stayed with DAZN for their extensive post-race broadcast from 15:34 to 17:22.
  • USA – Live coverage on ESPN2 of the race itself averaged 963,000 viewers from 07:55 EST, with 449,000 viewers aged between 18 and 49, a sizeable year-on-year uplift of 84% and 134% respectively. ESPN says that 2021 was the most watched F1 season in the US since 1995.

Across the 12 territories that Motorsport Broadcasting has obtained data for, an audience of 23 million viewers watched the Grand Prix in full. Using the UK uplift as a guide, an audience of at least 30 million watched the final lap showdown.

This excludes many key territories that F1 highlighted in their 2020 data analysis, such as China and Russia, while it also excludes a variety of over-the-top platforms, such as F1 TV. Once F1 adds all the numbers together, it is likely than an audience well more than 100 million viewers watched the season finale last Sunday.

Additional UK data points supplied by Overnights.tv. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who supplied links to information from their own territory.

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3 thoughts on “Nearly 14 million watch F1’s last lap showdown in UK and Netherlands

  1. Just goes to show that the sport should be on a terrestrial Channel.

    I saw on your Twitter feed that Sky were bleating about the high figures…yawn.

  2. My last race broadcast thoughts, with a slight 2021 retrospective…

    I thought Crofty and Martin did a really really good job this weekend. I haven’t always been their biggest fan, but they absolutely delivered a great broadcast. Minimal mistakes, smooth and exciting pxp, great analysis. Ted and Karun were great through the coverage, but bringing in Damon/Jenson/Nico early in the race didn’t bring much that Martin wasn’t already bringing. The last restart though, in my view, is where Crofty absolutely shines. That last lap pxp was some of the best I’ve heard from any sports broadcast, and between Martin delivering the perfect analysis and the FOM production with the Toto clips, that was the Sky F1 broadcast at its very very best in my opinion. (All FOM needs to do now is to make the tower split-screen more dynamic, or just bring proper split-screen to the main world feed like NASCAR and IndyCar broadcasts have done for years now. The PLC style is not as dynamic)

    Found it kind of interesting that Rachel, Anthony, Johnny, and Paul were nowhere to be seen during the biggest race of the year, would’ve thought it would be basically everyone in this huge race. Nico Rosberg is also REALLY good at the TV thing, enjoyed his post-race banter with Jenson and Martin, and enjoyed him in the booth this year. If this was the Channel 4 first impression for many, it was a very good one in my opinion.

    Watched both pre-shows on and off, Sky’s was much better than FOM’s for the most part with the exception of the great Villeneuve interview on FOM’s (I know he’s a french-language commentator, but they should really try to steal him more often like they did with Davide for years). Also prefer Will’s gridwalk to Martin’s, mostly for the informative “here’s the situation with each driver” style over the “let’s interview a celebrity” style. He’s also really good at maneuvering through massive crowds and staying smooth with his delivery.

    The post-race show was MUCH better on Sky. The last-lap controversy wasn’t mentioned on FOM’s coverage until at least eight minutes in by my memory, and while I get that it’s a much smaller team, it’s a much less dynamic show to watch. They also didn’t go into the PLC commentary box for final thoughts like we saw with Crofty, and there was no “Sky Pad”-esque element like there sometimes is with their postrace shows. That said, Jack Aitken was pretty good, and Jolyon and Sam Collins are both excellent. Will’s also a really good host for post-race stuff.

    Went back and watched the Pit Lane Channel’s broadcast of the drama at the end as well. One of the things that’s been an issue for me with the PLC in 2021 is the lack of a main voice at times, and I was worried Alex Brundle would overpower Rosanna Tennant at the end here – thankfully, Rosanna got her well-deserved championship call. Alex was really really good with his insight. I’m not always huge on his delivery (he’ll get better with time, I’m 100% sure), but he brings some of the best driver insight on any F1 broadcast at the moment in my opinion. I love what Craig Scarborough and Sam Collins bring, but I’m not huge on the three/four person booth. Would love to see Jordan King return for more in 2022 as well.

    Looking forward to seeing how the PLC evolves in 2022, I just can’t shake the feeling they need a new lead voice though, and I’m not sure they appeared on the channel in 2021. Rosanna’s a brilliant host, and Will’s a great pitlane reporter and gridwalk/video host, but I’m not convinced either are the future at pxp here. Laura Winter’s also really good.

    Also went back and listened to 5 Live’s broadcast of the last bit, they handled it well and were a great listen as usual. Jack and Jolyon deliver my preferred commentary most of the time for the races, and Jennie Gow/Andrew Benson are both really good too. I went back and listened to their commentary of the penultimate race after watching Sky’s live, and it was really strong for the most part. They weren’t as strong with technical elements as Martin, but they caught some of the driver strategies before Sky. Regardless of who gets the radio rights, I hope this production company and commentary team are back doing F1 in 2022, and if they’re not, the two lead announcers should both be stolen by FOM and the PLC immediately – especially since Jolyon does a bunch of studio stuff for them anyway, and Jack used to. This team is easily the best in my opinion at elevating the weaker races.

    Don’t have access to Channel 4’s broadcasts, but I’ve heard a lot of Alex Jacques over the last few years through F2/F3 and the PLC. I still like Davide the best as his F2 co-commentator, but Alex Brundle is a good second place there. F2 and F3 are still in a good place in the booth, imo. W Series REALLY needs a woman in the broadcast booth, it’s really not good that the all-woman racing series has a rotation of three men in the booth.

    As far as TSN’s Canadian coverage? Not great. Tim Hauraney’s got a really good racing podcast for the network, but the live races still have split screen commercials NASCAR Nonstop style, and while there are viewing options for all sessions on TSN Direct, none of them have commentary – and there’s no access to Sky’s coverage of FP1 or FP3 on TSN or TSN Direct, so it’s no-commentary viewing for Canadian fans who want those included on TSN. F1 TV Pro’s been brilliant in my experience here, the updated app is mostly great and the live races weren’t buggy this year. The F1 Timing App with the radio audio is awful, there’s no reason why it should require the screen to be on to listen to the radio broadcast, and there’s no casting or background play. The BBC Sounds session replays weren’t geoblocked to start the season here, but they changed it a few races in, which is a shame.

    Anyway, that’s enough of my thoughts, looking forward to 2022! Thanks for the great coverage on the site.

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