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.”
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.
Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.