Who’s hot, who’s not? Reviewing 2020’s social media metrics

Each race weekend, teams, drivers and riders battle for points and prizes, with the aim of reaching the top of the mountain in their respective series.

Underpinning each entity is a social media team. For the likes of Formula 1 or MotoGP, the social media team may be a genuine business unit. For smaller championships, it may be a single person running the show.

The objective in all cases remains the same: to drive engagement on their social media channels, turning casual fans into passionate fans which, hopefully for the entity in question, turns into a profit further down the line when the fan begins to purchase their products.

Motorsport Broadcasting is an independent website without big backers, and therefore relies on trackable information already in the public domain, such as the number of followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Whilst this may not show who has engaged with individual posts, what it does help to show is who is attracting a newer, fresher fanbase to their platform, therefore becoming more marketable to their team or stakeholders around them or, alternatively, who is struggling to hit the mark.

A note of caution on Facebook: the platform is removing the ability to ‘like’ pages, instead only allowing users to ‘follow’ pages. Facebook notes that the update will “simplify the way people connect with their favourite Pages.”

“Unlike Likes, Followers of a Page represent the people who can receive updates from Pages, which helps give public figures a stronger indication of their fan base,” Facebook adds. This does mean some figures in this piece have increased slightly more than previously.

Championships

Motorsport Broadcasting compares social media data from 15 different championships, from Formula 1 to the new W Series. 2020 was disruptive for those hoping to grow their following, with most series inactive from March to July.

Some ventured down the Esports route to keep fans engaged during last year’s lockdown before the action restarted. Two championships suffered the most because of COVID: the electric Formula E series and the W Series.

Formula E hosted their final 6 races across 9 days in August, whilst W Series cancelled their second season owing to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the W Series increased its following from 110,000 fans to 154,000 fans, the series no doubt hoping to capitalise on their presence during F1 weekends in 2021. Meanwhile, Formula E’s portfolio grew from 2.44 million fans to 2.63 million fans across 2020, an increase of just 7.7%.

After a period in 2018 where Formula E’s following was rising sharply, the electric series has seen its growth stall in comparison to other series. Whilst COVID has halted any momentum the series had; the reality is that Formula E’s social media platforms have been struggling since early 2019.

In April 2019, 2.19 million fans hooked onto their platforms, meaning that Formula E has only gained half a million fans on social media across the past 22 months.

Whilst Formula E’s slowdown is somewhat explainable, IndyCar’s stagnation cannot. The American series grew its following by just 20,000 fans during 2020, despite holding an Esports series which garnered worldwide attention, followed by a successful 14 race calendar.

Formula 2 continued its social media rise during 2020, doubling its reach from 536,000 followers to an excellent 1.12 million followers.

With Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott both moving on, however, it is difficult to envisage Formula 2 continuing such strong growth during 2021.

Something that, in my view, will likely play against Formula 2 this season is the new championship structure, as the feeder series alternates its slot on the F1 calendar with Formula 3.

If Formula 2 continues to grow strongly during 2021, then it is possible F2 could overtake IndyCar in the social media pecking order later this year.

Out in front, F1 and MotoGP continued to surge unaffected by COVID during 2020, both quickly heading towards 30 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combined.

F1 teams

1st on track, and 1st in the socials. 2020 was a success on and off track for Mercedes, as they continued to increase their lead over Red Bull in the social media stakes.

Mercedes’ advantage on social media is reflective of their openness across their social media platforms.

Despite Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas being their main players on-track, it is technical director James Allison who plays a key role in Mercedes’ digital output. Allison explains in clear detail the design decisions that his team make during each Grand Prix season, helping put Mercedes a step ahead of the rest both on and off-track.

Whilst Red Bull’s portfolio is still growing strong, arguably the Milton Keynes outfit has slipped back in recent times – a slip that we can trace back to Daniel Ricciardo’s departure at the end of 2018.

Statistics compiled by Motorsport Broadcasting show that Red Bull consistently recorded the strongest growth of any F1 team between 2015 and 2018, but has now not only slipped behind Mercedes, but also Ferrari and McLaren.

And, despite Ricciardo not being in a race winning car at Renault / Alpine, his growth on social media during 2020 was still bigger than his former team-mate Max Verstappen (see the chart below), showing how popular he is amongst the motor sport fan base.

Has Red Bull’s revolving second seat turned potential new fans off the team? Of course, we should note that Red Bull still has a combined 18 million followers across the three major social media platforms, an excellent number and only behind the black cars.

Red Bull’s figures will be one to watch this season as Sergio Perez brings his Mexican contingent with him from Racing Point, now rebranded as Aston Martin.

Fuelled by Perez’s shock win in Bahrain, Aston Martin ended up best of the rest on social media in 2020, meaning that they are highly likely to overtake both AlphaTauri and Williams in total followers as 2021 gets underway.

Both Ferrari and McLaren maintained strong growth despite their on-track misfortune in recent years (although the latter is now firmly on the road to recovery), showing how important it is to have a strong brand name behind you during tough times.

F1 drivers

If social media was a championship, then Hamilton, Ricciardo and McLaren’s Lando Norris were 2020’s winners.

The gulf between Hamilton and the rest of the F1 continues to get larger and larger, as Hamilton’s activism off the circuit cuts through to a wider audience that transcends the sporting world.

Hamilton’s combined social media following of 33 million fans is over 4 times the next best in F1, with Ricciardo in 2nd on a combined 7.56 million followers. On Instagram alone, Hamilton has 21.6 million followers, the highest for any motor sport driver by some margin.

Behind Hamilton and Ricciardo, 2020 was the year of the Twitchers, with Norris, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and George Russell all reaping the rewards, building a strong following during the first lockdown in spring.

Norris attracted further attention during the lockdown by participating in IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge, even if it did not necessarily help the latter in the social media standings.

Russell’s growth was one of the strongest during 2020. Helped by his Mercedes drive in Sakhir, his following surged from 551,000 fans at the end of 2019 to 2.55 million fans across the three main social platforms, a rise of 362% in 14 months!

To put that into context, current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas grew his following by just 841,000 fans, considerably lower than his Twitch counterparts, including Alex Albon. If this was a qualifying session, both Bottas and Albon would be out in Q2.

The figures show how important the UK territory is to Formula 1, with 3 of the top 6 ‘growers’ during 2020 consisting of the British contingent.

In addition to the Grand Prix field, Motorsport Broadcasting also tracked Mick Schumacher’s following through his second season in Formula 2.

Schumacher’s growth across the year is remarkable for a driver who was, at that point, in the feeder series, reflecting the name and the weight that he carries on his shoulders with him into F1.

The 2021 season, for both MotoGP and F1, begins on Sunday 28th March, with live coverage of F1 testing beginning of Friday 12th March.

Coverage of testing for UK viewers airs live on Sky Sports F1, with coverage also available via F1 TV Pro for those territories with access to the series.

All the figures above compare the number of followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram between November 29th, 2019 and January 30th, 2021, therefore encompassing the whole of the 2020 motor racing season.

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Scheduling: The 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

For the first time in 24 years, Formula 1 heads to Portugal for the Portuguese Grand Prix!

Instead of heading to Estoril, which hosted the last race there in 1996, the championship instead heads to the 2.9-mile circuit in the Algarve for its inaugural visit.

Live coverage of the race airs as usual on Sky Sports F1, the Grand Prix itself beginning at 13:10 UK time.

Later, the IndyCar Series concludes with the race that was meant to begin its COVID-19 disrupted year in St Petersburg. Scott Dixon looks set to clinch the crown, but Josef Newgarden is close in his mirror.

As if that was not enough, Sky are also airing live coverage of the Spa 24 Hours on Sky Sports F1! The majority of the 24 hours air live on the channel. I would expect the remainder to air live behind the Red Button, but this is unconfirmed as of writing.

With F1 and IndyCar, it means there is over 37 hours of live motor sport on Sky next weekend.

Elsewhere, the British Touring Car Championship starts earlier than usual on ITV4, as the nights draw in heading into the Winter months.

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4 F1
24/10 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
25/10 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/10 – 10:30 to 12:45 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 10:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 11:00 – Practice 1
23/10 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
24/10 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
24/10 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
25/10 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
23/10 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The Story so Far
25/10 – 16:30 to 17:30 – Race to Perfection
28/10 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
25/10 – 13:00 to 15:20 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Teruel (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
23/10 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
23/10 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
24/10 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
25/10 – 07:45 to 15:00
=> 07:45 – Warm Ups
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:30 – MotoGP
=> 13:15 – Moto2
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Teruel< (Quest)
26/10 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

24 Hours of Spa (Sky Sports F1)
Also airs live on YouTube
24/10 and 25/10 – Race
=> 15:30 to 20:00
=> 21:30 BST [Saturday] to 11:30 GMT [Sunday]

British Touring Car Championship – Snetterton (ITV4)
25/10 – 10:05 to 16:55 – Races

IndyCar Series – St Petersburg (Sky Sports F1)
24/10 – 20:00 to 21:30 – Qualifying
25/10 – 18:30 to 20:30 – Race

If details change, this article will be updated.


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Sainz’s pursuit of victory sees F1’s viewing figures double in Spain

Carlos Sainz’s pursuit of victory in last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix saw viewing figures double in Spain, audience data from overseas shows.

The race was red flagged after a major accident for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Following the restart, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly battled McLaren’s Sainz for victory, Sainz a couple of laps too short from potential victory.

Sainz’s pursuit of victory resulted in audience figures surging in his home land.

An audience of 244,000 viewers (2.1% audience share) watched the Grand Prix on pay TV station Movistar+ according to Formula TV, double the 121,000 viewers (1.2% audience share) that watched last month’s Spanish Grand Prix on the same channel.

Last weekend’s race was up by around a third on last year’s Monza figure, which averaged 173,000 viewers (1.4% audience share) in Spain.

Over in France, a peak audience of 1.24 million viewers watched Gasly’s victory on Canal+, a slight increase on last weekend’s peak audience of 1.16 million viewers.

The average audience declined from 932,000 viewers for the Belgian Grand Prix, to 841,000 viewers last weekend, a reflection of the red flag period which may have depleted the Canal+ average slightly.

The conclusion here is obvious, but worth stating: France’s viewing figures are higher than Spain, meaning that there is less room for growth, whereas F1 in Spain is underperforming massively now.

The presence of Sainz fighting it out up front – and the returning Fernando Alonso – is critical to move the needle in Spain.

Unfortunately, one of F1’s biggest territories in Europe shed over one million viewers, thanks to Ferrari’s continued woes. According to Motorsport.com, coverage of the race in Germany averaged 4.54 million viewers, a decrease on last year’s figure of 5.71 million viewers.

The 2020 figure is in-line on F1’s audiences for the year to date in Germany, whereas last year’s race over-indexed considerably.

Viewing figures for the race also dipped year-on-year in America on Labor Day weekend. 602,000 viewers watched the race on ESPN2, compared with 635,000 viewers last year.

Impressively, live coverage of the third practice session averaged 244,000 viewers at 06:00 on Saturday morning on ESPN, with 518,000 viewers tuning into qualifying, showing that increased interest in F1 in the US is filtering through to the other weekend sessions.

Formula Two viewing figures surge in UK
In the UK, viewing figures for the Formula Two championship continue to impress according to consolidated data from BARB and ThinkBox.

Whilst data for the Italian Grand Prix is unavailable, data from the Belgian Grand Prix weekend shows that 222,000 viewers watched the Formula Two feature race on Saturday 29th August, believed to be Formula Two’s highest ever figure in the UK.

185,000 viewers watched the race via Sky Sports F1, with an additional 37,000 viewers watching on Sky Sports Main Event.

To put that into historical comparison, back in 2012 during Sky’s first season covering F1, only 29,000 viewers watched the GP2 feature race during the Belgium weekend.

Viewing figures have increased rapidly in the past year and a half, Sky’s F1 exclusivity helping the cause.

Elsewhere, the Indy 500, which took place the week before, averaged 130,000 viewers, although the two figures are not directly comparable given that the IndyCar figure includes a 90-minute build-up which would have depleted the average.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix

Nine races. Three old favourites, three new challenges and three modern circuits is all that remains as the 2020 Formula One season heads into the Autumn.

Whilst both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships look set to be heading towards Mercedes, the COVID-19 pandemic means that everyone (from a championship perspective) has a new set of challenges ahead of them, starting this weekend at Mugello!

But, if last weekend told us anything, it is that anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does (just when you least expect it).

For Formula Three, the Mugello weekend marks the end of the year, with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant fighting over the crown and almost certain promotion to Formula Two.

With the Porsche Supercup season now over, both Formula Two and Three move 45 minutes later on Sunday morning.

MotoGP returns after a few weeks off, with nine races taking place in the next eleven weeks. As revealed by Motorsport Broadcasting in our behind the scenes piece, BT Sport are remaining off-site as the season resumes.

Further afield the World Touring Car Cup finally starts its 2020 season over in Belgium, with Eurosport airing live coverage.

On the documentary front, a special 30-minute programme airs on Sky Sports F1 following the Tuscan Grand Prix and live IndyCar action from Mid-Ohio to mark Ferrari’s 1,000th F1 race.

Sky’s F1 documentary series Race to Perfection also drops this Saturday, which each of the seven episodes also airing on Sky’s F1 channel over the coming weeks.

Channel 4 F1
12/09 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying Highlights
13/09 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
11/09 – 09:30 to 11:50
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
11/09 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2
12/09 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
12/09 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying
13/09 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
11/09 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
13/09 – 20:00 to 20:30 – Scuderia Ferrari 1,000th Race Celebration
16/09 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
10/09 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
11/09 – 09:55 to 11:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/09 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/09 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/09 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – San Marino (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
11/09 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
11/09 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
12/09 – 08:00 to 15:45
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
=> 15:00 – MotoE
13/09 – 07:15 to 15:00
=> 07:15 – Warm Ups
=> 08:45 – MotoE
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – San Marino (Quest)
14/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula Two – Tuscan (Sky Sports F1)
11/09 – 11:50 to 12:40 – Practice
11/09 – 15:55 to 16:30 – Qualifying
12/09 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
13/09 – 10:45 to 11:50 – Race 2

Formula Three – Tuscan (Sky Sports F1)
11/09 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
11/09 – 13:00 to 13:45 – Qualifying
12/09 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
13/09 – 09:20 to 10:20 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Mid-Ohio (Sky Sports F1)
12/09 – 21:30 to 00:00 – Race 1
13/09 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race 2

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport 3)
12/09 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Touring Car Cup – Belgium
13/09 – 09:15 to 10:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport)
13/09 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport)

As always, this article will be updated if plans change.

Updated on September 10th.

Update on September 12th – The Ferrari special is airing live, right now at 20:12, on the F1 channel.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Belgian Grand Prix

Six down, eleven to go…

The legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium plays host to round seven of the 2020 Formula One season, and the start of the third triple header.

The big news from a UK perspective is that Channel 4 are back in the paddock on foreign soil, with Steve Jones and David Coulthard reporting on-location throughout the weekend.

Most of Sky’s coverage from Spa also airs on Sky Sports Main Event, including four out of the five F1 sessions.

Elsewhere, a packed weekend of sport across ITV’s portfolio of channels means that the latest British Touring Car Championship round from Knockhill airs live on ITV2.

The start of the Tour de France occupies ITV4, with horse racing coverage on ITV3, meaning ITV2 is the next best thing for BTCC. As usual, ITV have opted to show repeats on their main channel, in this instance an old Bond film and a Marple repeat.

Speedway returns to BT Sport this weekend, with the start of the Grand Prix season. The season starts with a double-header event in Poland.

Although the Belgium weekend promises to be action filled, there will also be an air of poignancy over the Spa paddock, as we remember Anthoine Hubert, one year on from the accident that claimed his life.

Channel 4 F1
29/08 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
30/08 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
28/08 – 09:30 to 11:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
28/08 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
29/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/08 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
29/08 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
02/09 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/08 – 09:55 to 11:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/08 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
29/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/08 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/08 – 14:30 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/08 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Touring Car Championship – Knockhill (ITV2)
30/08 – 10:40 to 17:50 – Races

Formula Two – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/08 – 11:50 to 12:45 – Practice
28/08 – 15:55 to 16:30 – Qualifying
29/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Formula Three – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/08 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
28/08 – 13:00 to 13:45 – Qualifying
29/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
30/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Gateway (Sky Sports F1)
29/08 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race 1
30/08 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
30/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland
28/08 – 17:30 to 21:15 – Races – Round 1 (BT Sport 1)
29/08 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races – Round 2 (BT Sport 2)

Virgin Australia Supercars – Townsville (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
29/08 – 06:30 to 08:00 – Race 1
30/08 – 04:15 to 05:30 – Race 2

World Superbikes – Aragon
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
28/08 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Practice 1 (Eurosport 2)
28/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (Eurosport 2)
29/08 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
29/08 – 12:30 to 15:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
30/08 – 09:45 to 15:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
01/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If schedules change, this post will be amended.


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