Sky Sports secures IndyCar rights in key European territories, including UK, until 2024 season

Sky Sports will continue to air the IndyCar Series in the UK until the end of the 2024 season, the broadcaster has announced.

The broadcaster made the announcement on Friday 29th October via their German arm Sky Sport. Sky have yet to make a formal announcement via their UK outlet.

Sky’s new exclusive deal also covers Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and Italy. It is the first time that Sky has covered IndyCar in Germany, the series currently airing on Sport1+.

Sky says that the deal covers live coverage and highlights of IndyCar, as well as “extensive exploitation rights for numerous other content, such as highlight clips or archive material,” although it is unclear whether this element of the statement covers all territories or just Germany.

Charly Classen, Executive Vice President of Sport for Sky Deutschland said, “With the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, we have secured the exclusive rights to the largest motorsport series in the USA, which also has a large fan base in Europe.”

“The racing series is a perfect addition to our strong motorsport range.”

The 2021 season finished in September at Laguna Seca, with Alex Palou crowned Drivers’ Champion. Next year’s season is set to begin on February 27th from St Petersburg, the earliest start to an IndyCar season since 2000.

IndyCar continues to support strong Sky F1 portfolio outside of core content

2022 marks a decade since Sky Sports F1 first hit the airwaves in the UK, and the shape of the channel outside of F1 race weekends has changed somewhat in that time.

The most noticeable change is the increase in supplementary content to the core F1 action. In recent years, Sky have aired, in either live or highlights form, the British GT Championship, the Ferrari Challenge, GT World Challenge, with IndyCar also joining the fray since 2019.

Sky goes beyond the basics, the broadcaster opting to air IndyCar qualifying and practice live (yes, practice) where possible.

The partnership between Sky and IndyCar makes logical sense, considering Comcast owns both Sky and NBC in the US.

Earlier this year, NBC and IndyCar announced a multiple year extension to their rights deal, making the Sky arrangement in Europe more of a formality than originally anticipated.

Sky have promoted IndyCar more in the UK this season through their F1 programming, with viewing figures benefiting as a result.

The 105th Indianapolis 500 averaged 125,000 viewers across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event according to consolidated data from BARB. The impressive figure takes into account Sky’s marathon two-hour build-up, with the race itself likely equalling 2019’s record figure for the 500.

Later in the season, IndyCar’s debut outing at Nashville on Sunday 8th August brought 66,000 viewers to Sky’s F1 channel, with 62,000 tuning in a week later to watch an IndyCar race round the Indianapolis Road Course.

While these figures are lower than Formula Two, IndyCar has built a loyal following over the past few years, a statement supported by IndyCar’s UK audience figures this year on Sky.

However, longstanding problems with IndyCar’s broadcast remain, including the lack of a consistent English-language commentary feed for the duration of the race which, in this writer’s view, prevents the series from growing further outside of America.

In addition, Sky have begun to air limited commercials following a sponsorship deal with Arrow, title sponsors of McLaren’s IndyCar outfit. It remains unknown if Sky intend to air commercials next season during their IndyCar coverage.

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5 key stories from the 2021 British Grand Prix weekend

The key talking point after last weekend’s British Grand Prix was, of course, that incident between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen which has generated column inches across the board.

On the broadcasting side, it was a newsworthy weekend, for multiple reasons.

Alongside the previously announced offline HDR test, there were other things that caught the eye over the Silverstone weekend. Here are just a few…

New format, new graphics…

A new experiment for Formula 1 brought with it new graphics for the Sprint session.

The changes were visible to fans immediately after the F1 opening titles, with the usual fly-over coming in the form of enhanced augmented reality graphics.

The pre-race graphics detailed the same information as usual, such as the track layout and starting grid, but in a different format to the Grand Prix graphics.

In my view, the changes helped to differentiate the Sprint to the main event on Sunday.

I know sometimes F1, and other forms of motor sport, sometimes have a habit of implementing ‘change for changes’ sake, but I thought that this was a cool change.

As a wrestling fan, it reminded me of WWE’s broadcasts, the wrestling juggernaut having used augmented reality to their advantage throughout the pandemic with no fans in attendance.

The graphics which followed during the race had mixed execution, however.

A graphic depicting the live speed of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo at The Loop and Aintree fell into this category.

If this was a top speed graphic, it might make sense, displaying the live speed at one of the slowest parts of the circuit added little to the broadcast.

In contrast, F1 used augmented reality to highlight Alpine’s Fernando Alonso when riding on-board with McLaren driver Lando Norris, a graphic which worked well.

McLaren’s Lando Norris chases down Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in F1’s new Sprint experiment.

Others suggested that the Alonso graphic resembled a video game, but that for me is not a valid criticism.

Not every livery stands out as easily as a McLaren (orange) or Ferrari (red), especially when viewing from behind.

If F1’s implementation helps new viewers engage in our sport, then this is a change for the better.

Besides F1 are not the first (see: MotoGP, NASCAR, amongst others), and certainly not the last, to implement a graphic of the nature. 

…as audiences in the Netherlands remain strong

In the Netherlands, ratings bureau SKO reported that Friday’s evening qualifying session averaged 552,000 viewers (15.5% audience share) on Ziggo Sport.

The figure in-line with Saturday’s afternoon qualifying session from Austria, which brought 585,000 viewers (31.7% audience share).

The higher share for Austria is reflective of the fact that the Silverstone qualifying session aired in an evening time slot, so whilst more viewers could have watched Friday qualifying in the Netherlands, they opted not to.

Saturday’s Sprint averaged 717,000 viewers (28.9% audience share), a significant volume increase on Austria qualifying, with a slight share drop.

The race on Sunday, from the start of the red flag period, averaged 1.31 million viewers across Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Select, equating to a 62.9% audience share.

In the US, 529,000 viewers watched the new Sprint format on ESPN, while the race averaged an excellent 1.03 million viewers, continuing F1’s positive trajectory in the States.

The picture was less positive in Spain, where the Sprint generated no additional interest.

According to Formula TV, 114,000 viewers (1.3% audience share) watched the Sprint programme on DAZN, compared with the 116,000 viewers who watched the Austria qualifying session.

Sustainability on the agenda…

Wherever you looked across the F1 weekend, sustainability was one of the main topics featured across F1’s UK broadcasts.

Sky’s #GoZero campaign was in the spotlight during the coverage, with all their presentation team using green ‘Sky Zero’ microphone coverings and recycled clothing.

The broadcaster hopes to become net zero carbon by 2030, and is working in collaboration with F1 to help bring down carbon emissions across the sport. F1 themselves announced that the Silverstone weekend was their first ever Carbon Neutral broadcast.

Writing on Sky’s F1 website, senior producer Jamie Coley explained how he plays his part in Sky’s Sustainability Content Group.

“The group brings producers and journalists together from across Sky Sports to find ways of achieving tangible results and awareness around the environmental problems our world faces through our sports coverage,” he says.

“Over the last year, this group has achieved some significant milestones, including making all our host broadcast sports productions albert certified sustainable productions, and joining the UNFCCC’s Sport for Climate Action Framework.”

“It has also led to Sky Sports marking a ‘Summer of Sustainability’ at some of the biggest events on the sporting calendar this week, including the British Grand Prix.”

“As a producer for Sky Sports F1, my part in this is helping to tell the great stories of how Sky and F1 are going green.”

“The best person to showcase the great work F1 has done and continues to do to improve its environmental impact, which for a petrol sport is no way easy feat, is Nico Rosberg who I filmed a special feature with that airs during this weekend’s coverage at Silverstone.”

Over on Channel 4, a feature involving Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel aired. Vettel, along with Lee McKenzie, visited a local school to help engage children on how to live sustainability in the future.

…as Channel 4 teams up with Hollywood stars

Channel 4 splashed out on their live offering from Silverstone, with Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Ryan Reynolds featuring through their broadcasts.

Reynolds introduced viewers back to Channel 4’s programming throughout the weekend through short VTs.

Meanwhile, Cruise featured in the broadcaster’s excellent opener to their race day coverage alongside Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Mark Webber.

In the build-up to the Grand Prix, the BBC’s Top Gear team were also in action, preparing for the next series, which will air in the Autumn.

The feature sees Sebastian Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris taking on Paddy McGuiness, Freddie Flintoff, and Chris Harris in a head-to-head challenge.

Elsewhere, a week of contract signings

Outside of the F1 world, it has been a big week for a few rights holders.

Stateside, the IndyCar Series and NBC have extended their partnership in a multi-year agreement. Normally, a rights renewal is not surprising news, however in this instance it is, as earlier suggestions linked IndyCar to CBS.

NBC’s main station will air 13 races next season, with the remaining races airing on USA Network and NBC’s over-the-top platform Peacock.

No races will air on NBC Sports Network after this season, following NBC’s decision to close the channel at the end of 2021.

In the UK, BT Sport will remain home to the World Rally Championship until the end of 2024, after the two parties agreed a new three-year deal.

On the personnel front, Will Buxton has joined Motorsport Network’s portfolio of talent, the network has this week confirmed.

While Buxton will continue his F1 commitments, his YouTube show (This Week with Will), will move across exclusively to Motorsport.tv’s over-the-top platform on a free-to-view basis.

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Scheduling: The 2021 Indianapolis 500

After almost 40 hours of practice and 7 days of on-track action, it comes down to this. Welcome, to the 2021 Indianapolis 500!

Scott Dixon is on pole for the race from the brickyard, can he convert pole to victory to win his second 500?

Joining Dixon on the front row are Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay, both young chargers looking to win their first Indianapolis 500.

There are five ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid, led by Alexander Rossi in 10th place.

Indianapolis 500 – the coverage

Live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 airs exclusively on Sky Sports F1, with the broadcaster’s offering coming live from McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking.

Natalie Pinkham presents Sky’s broadcast, with Tom Gaymor and McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris joining her.

Sky’s coverage will serve as a wrap around to the main US offering, meaning that UK fans will not miss a second of NBC’s US coverage. Sky will build-up to the US coverage from 15:45, before handing over to NBC at 16:00.

From 16:00 onwards, UK fans will hear Sky’s line-up during the frequent US ad-breaks over the hours that follow.

Leigh Diffey leads the commentary line-up for the third year running, with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy joining Diffey.

Down in pit lane, Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee will keep fans abreast of developments as the race progresses.

Meanwhile, Mike Tirico, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, and Steve Letarte will provide additional views from NBC’s on-site studio, whilst Rutledge Wood will be out around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Friday 28th May
16:00 to 18:00 – Carb Day

Sunday 30th May
15:45 to 21:00 – 105th Indianapolis 500
=> race starts at 17:45

Full UK scheduling details for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 24th May and are subject to change.

Elsewhere, MotoGP heads to Mugello for round six of the 2021 season. Ducati’s Jack Miller will be looking to win three races in a row after winning a changeable French Grand Prix last time out.

MotoGP – the coverage

After airing live on ITV4 for Le Mans, coverage airs this weekend exclusively on BT Sport, with ITV returning to the frame later this year for the British Grand Prix.

For BT, the weekend marks a big milestone on the return to normality, as the broadcaster begins a phased return to the MotoGP paddock.

Since the start of the pandemic, BT’s MotoGP team has based themselves in the UK, firstly in Hinckley at Triumph’s headquarters, before moving to the BT Tower in London.

While BT’s main presentation and commentary will remain at the BT Tower for now, a small crew led by Natalie Quirk, will be present on-site interviewing the stars of the show. Joining Quirk on-site is 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli who will be part of the team for the remainder of the season.

ITV4’s highlights airs later than usual at 23:00 due to live coverage of French Open tennis.

Friday 28th May
08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP
=> 09:55 – Moto2
12:15 to 15:00 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
=> 12:15 – Moto3
=> 13:10 – MotoGP
=> 14:10 – Moto2

Saturday 29th May
08:00 to 16:15 – Practice and Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP: Practice 3
=> 09:55 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 11:35 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 13:10 – MotoGP: Qualifying
=> 14:10 – Moto2: Qualifying
=> 15:15 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 1

Sunday 30th May
07:30 to 14:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3: Race
=> 11:00 – Moto2: Race
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag
14:30 to 15:30 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Monday 31st May
23:00 to 00:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Italian MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 25th May and are subject to change.

It promises to be an exciting weekend of action on both two wheels and four wheels, with plenty to whet the appetite over the Bank Holiday for UK readers.

Last updated on Tuesday 25th May.

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Scheduling: The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Formula 1 returns to the streets of Monte Carlo for round five of the 2021 season, the Monaco Grand Prix!

So far in 2021, Lewis Hamilton has claimed three victories, with Max Verstappen winning a dramatic Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Can Verstappen close the gap on Hamilton around the principality?

The upcoming week is set to be a bumper one for Sky Sports, with over 48 hours of live motor sport airing on Sky’s F1 channel.

F1 – the coverage

Live coverage of the blue riband event airs exclusively on Sky Sports, with most of the action simulcast across Sky’s F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event.

Free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race follow a few hours later on Channel 4, whilst the BBC also covers every session live via BBC Radio 5 Live.

Joining Steve Jones out in Monaco for Channel 4’s trackside offering are David Coulthard and Mark Webber, whilst Alex Jacques joins Coulthard in the commentary booth. In addition, Eddie Jordan is with the team, the first time Jordan has joined them since 2019.

Meanwhile over on Sky, Ted Kravitz returns to the team having missed the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

As is tradition in Monaco, all the Friday action moves to Thursday, with only the first Formula 2 sprint race taking place on Friday morning.

The timing of the second Formula 2 sprint race on Saturday morning leaves fans wanting to watch it live with a slightly early alarm call: the race beginning at 07:20 UK time…

F1 – over-the-top

Fans watching via Formula 1’s over-the-top platform outside the UK will hear a different voice to usual on the Pit Lane Channel.

Tom Gaymor, who is a regular voice over on Eurosport, steps into the hot seat for the first time on F1 TV. Alex Brundle and Sam Collins join Gaymor in commentary, with Rosanna Tennant reporting from on-site.

Also new this weekend is the Porsche Supercup commentary line-up, as Harry Benjamin and Shaun Hollamby commentate on the series for the first time.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website

Wednesday 19th May
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:30 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Thursday 20th May
08:40 to 09:35 – F2: Practice (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
10:00 to 11:45 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 10:25 to 11:35
12:15 to 13:05 – F2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
13:45 to 15:30 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:55 to 15:05

Friday 21st May
10:35 to 11:40 – F2: Sprint Race 1 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)

Saturday 22nd May
07:10 to 08:15 – F2: Sprint Race 2 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
10:45 to 12:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 10:55 to 12:05
13:00 to 15:30 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:55 to 15:05
16:05 to 17:25 – F2: Feature Race (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:00 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
20:00 to 21:30 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday 23rd May
09:30 to 10:15 – Porsche Supercup: Race (Eurosport, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
12:30 to 17:30 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:55 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 13:50 to 16:00
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Ted’s Notebook
18:30 to 21:00 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Thursday 13th May and are subject to change.

Why, and how, are Sky Sports airing so much motor sport over the next week? The answer is the Indianapolis 500…

Indianapolis 500 build-up – the key details

UK fans will be able to see most of the Indianapolis 500 build-up, practice and qualifying exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.

There are exceptions, but this is where coverage overlaps with Sky’s Monaco Grand Prix offering, which understandably takes priority.

Normally pre-pandemic, the 500 immediately follows the Monaco race, but this year the two are on different weekends, the first time this has happened since 2010.

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that practice will come with limited commercials on Sky, but that qualifying and the race will run ad-free for UK fans.

Sky will take NBC’s coverage (NBC’s network channel, NBC Sports Network or Peacock) throughout the build-up, with Leigh Diffey leading proceedings.

Full coverage details for Sky’s race day offering are yet to be confirmed.

Tuesday 18th May
15:00 to 19:00 – Practice
20:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Wednesday 19th May
20:30 to 23:00 – Practice
=> session begins at 17:00

Thursday 20th May
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Friday 21st May
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice

Saturday 22nd May
18:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying
=> session begins at 17:00

Sunday 23rd May
18:00 to 21:30 – Qualifying
=> 18:00 – Last Chance
=> 19:30 – Fast Nine

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 build-up. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 14th May and are subject to change.

The week is jam packed for motor sport fans, as one of the most exciting periods of the motor sport year begins…

Last updated on Thursday 20th May.

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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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