News round up: Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, Sky Sports ramp up preparations for their British Grand Prix coverage, whilst Formula E have won an award focussing on their television offering.

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team will feature in the Netflix’s second season of Drive to Survive, having played no part in season one. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said that Netflix will film with the team at one race this year, which will “probably be Hockenheim.”
  • Ahead of the British Grand Prix next month, Sky Sports F1 have been busy filming different features.
    • Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert have been revisiting the 1995 British Grand Prix in Sky’s own cinema. Herbert won the race after Hill collided with Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.
    • A documentary celebrating Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1 will premiere following the Silverstone qualifying session. The documentary features current Sky analyst and Williams Heritage driver Karun Chandhok driving the Brabham BT26, which was entered in 1969 by Williams as a privateer. Piers Courage raced the car to second place in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, their first ever podium.
  • F1’s in-house digital team have filmed two excellent pieces of content in recent weeks.
    • The team gave fans a peek behind the scenes with McLaren during the Monaco qualifying session.
  • F1’s in-house digital team is now also producing the content for Formula Two and Formula Three across social media, which explains the recent surge in video content across both of those championships.
  • To help with Formula Two’s growth, Formula 1 has launched an official podcast for their feeder series. Following in the footsteps of Beyond the Grid which launched a year ago, the Road to F1 podcast sees Alex Jacques and Rosanna Tennant interview the stars of Formula Two on their way to F1.
  • W Series commentator Claire Cottingham substituted for Jennie Gow during 5 Live’s coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Gow will be back in pit lane for 5 Live at Silverstone.
  • Recent audience figures in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. Live coverage airs on pay-TV outlet Ziggo Sport, and according to audience agency SKO
    • The Monaco Grand Prix averaged 547k (34.3%) for the pre-race build-up, 1.24m (46.1%) for the race itself and 637k (22.8%) for the post-race analysis.
    • In comparison, coverage of the French Grand Prix averaged 396k (26.5%), 824k (40.9%) and 357k (19.8%) respectively.
    • Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory in Austria averaged 479k (29.1%), 1.20m (49.5%) and 878k (36.9%).
    • France rated lower across all metrics. Austria rated lower than Monaco for both the pre-race build-up and race, noticeably closing the gap for the latter. Amazingly, Verstappen’s victory meant that the post-race segment for Austria rated higher than the French Grand Prix itself!
  • ESPN in the US continue to tout their own F1 audience figures. Live coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix attracted 1.1 million viewers on ABC, an increase of 17 percent on last year’s figure.

Formula E

  • Formula E TV won the ‘Best in Sports Media’ prize in 2019 Sports Business Awards. Formula E fought off competition from the likes of BBC Sport and the PGA European Tour to win the category.
    • The SBA said that Formula E’s television content “creates jeopardy, develops character and narrative throughout, uses technology and innovation to create a point of differentiation, and educates consumers about electric mobility while giving global manufacturers a platform to test and develop road-relevant technologies.”
  • The BBC’s technology programme Click went to Berlin at the end of May to find out more about the innovations driving the electric series (link).
  • On the social media side, Formula E’s team have been busy linking the championship in with popular culture. Heading into the Bern E-Prix, Formula E put their own spin on Crash Team Racing across their social channels.

Elsewhere…

  • IndyStar posted in the run up to the Indianapolis 500 an excellent behind the scenes look at NBC’s IndyCar coverage. The article is well worth a read, even if a little late noting on my behalf.
  • According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, an audience of 1.10 million viewers watched the IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America on NBC in the US, their highest IndyCar audience on record outside of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The remainder of the 2019 VLN Series will air live on Lets Go Racing’s YouTube channel. The channel, which also airs the Japanese Super Formula championship, was founded following the demise of Nismo TV at the end of last season.
  • Fans of the British Superbike championship in the US and Canada can now watch the championship live via MotorTrend On Demand platform.
  • A trailer for the new Ford versus Ferrari film was released last month ahead of its theatrical release in November. The film, which starts Matt Damon and Christian Bale, focuses on Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in the run up to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. For UK readers, the film will premiere under the title of Le Mans ’66.
  • The Le Mans Esports Series generated some big numbers across digital media during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend. Ben Rossiter-Turner, the Managing Director of Virtually Entertained, gave readers a behind the scenes look at the series on his LinkedIn page.
  • In today’s unusual mention, Channel 4 Weather is now sponsored by W Series.

Spot any stories making the rounds worth mentioning? Drop a line in the comments section.

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Strong social media growth for Formula E as Hamilton continues F1 onslaught

Motorsport Broadcasting has tracked the social media figures for a range of stakeholders over the past five years.

In the latest analytical piece, we look at Formula E’s growth across social media, Lewis Hamilton’s gargantuan reach, and how Twitter is fast becoming an archaic platform.

As always, this site uses publicly available data to piece the jigsaw together, such as the number of followers.

Whilst the figures presented do not give a reliable indicator as to the engagement per series, the figures do give an idea as to whether a championship or team is attracting a new audience, which is critical for the growth of the sport moving forward.

Championships
This site tracks the social media fortunes of thirteen different championships at a variety of levels. The list ranges from the likes of Formula 1 and MotoGP on a global level, down to the domestic championships, such as the British Superbikes series and the British Touring Car Championship.

As each entity operates at a different level, expecting the same amount of growth from all of them is unrealistic.

The series on the move from a percentage perspective is Formula E, having grown its social media following by 160 percent since the middle of 2018. From 893,000 followers last Summer, the championship now has 2.33 million followers, a staggering growth for the electric series.

However, analysis of the underlying figures raises some suspicions as to whether Formula E’s growth is all natural. Whilst their Twitter reach has stalled, their Facebook following has jumped significantly from 497,000 likes last Summer to 1.60 million likes currently, an unusual rise considering that growth was slow for the first half of 2018.

In comparison, Formula E’s Instagram growth is more natural: 217,000 likes in May 2018 to 361,000 likes in December 2018, and now 544,000 likes, with the percentage increases modest along the way.

The other big mover is Formula Two, whose social media following has increased by 65 percent in the past year. However, the raw volumes are low, as Formula Two’s portfolio of channels increased from 215,000 followers to 355,000 followers in the past year, Instagram contributing most to the gain.

MotoGP and Formula 1 continue to lead the way. Between December 2018 and now, MotoGP’s portfolio has increased by 1.12 million fans, with F1 jumping by 2.36 million fans. F1’s growth has actually slowed compared to last year, a legacy of how F1 playing catch-up on social media after years of neglect from Formula 1’s owners.

Formula 1’s presence on Netflix, with Drive to Survive, should help the figures grow, but to what effect is difficult to say. Although the Netflix documentary launched to a huge buzz within F1 circles during March, the impact it has may serve as an undercurrent to these statistics throughout the remainder of 2019 as non-F1 fans find the series, rather than present a ‘big bang’ effect immediately.

In addition to Netflix, F1 has made significant movements on the social media front in recent years, so any movement will be down to a multitude of reasons for them. The series has experienced a good first half of 2019 on Instagram, with F1’s number of followers increasing by 24.6 percent, from 5.60 million fans to 6.97 million fans.

An extra emphasis on Instagram helped the World Rally Championship in the first half of 2019. Their following on the platform increased from 734,000 fans to 996,000 fans, representing a larger than usual jump at 35.7 percent, and helping the series to a 9.8 percent increase overall across the main social media platforms.

F1’s teams
The same core principles apply when analysing Formula 1’s ten teams: Instagram growing, Twitter slowing and Facebook holding the core of the audience. However, Instagram is making serious inroads on Facebook on this front, and again is the place for stakeholders to direct their resources.

F1 and F1.5 gap is prevalent across social media, although McLaren joins the top three teams, with the remaining six teams forming F1.5. The story remains the same as before, as Red Bull continues to close the gap on Mercedes.

Between July 2018 and now, Red Bull’s following increased by 1.99 million fans, with Mercedes’ increasing by 1.50 million followers. Mercedes’ following continues to reach the edge, with McLaren recording a larger gain.

Red Bull continues to seize the initiative on Facebook. The Milton Keynes based team increased their following by 835,000 likes in the past year, compared with an average increase across the grid of just 135,000 likes. Mercedes have failed to improve their Facebook reach in nearly three years (stagnating at around 11 million followers), with Racing Point further down the grid also struggling.

Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari remain in close formation on Twitter with Ferrari having the edge, but Instagram is where all teams have seen their reach increase significantly. Since July 2018, McLaren’s audience on the image sharing platform has increased by over one million fans, with the other three big teams following behind.

The Netflix effect appears to have had, at headline level, a positive impact for Renault and Haas. Helped by the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s following has increased from 3.66 million followers last Summer to 4.27 million followers currently, a strong increase considering their growth figures had slowed somewhat up until that point.

Being a newer team means that the full impact of Haas’ increase is not apparent in raw volume, but a percentage jump of 39 percent cannot be overlooked. The increase helped them claw over the one million figure as well, just ahead of the now defunct Manor outfit at the time of their administration.

Outside of Haas and Renault, there are no other unusual increases. There may have been minor bumps due to Netflix, but nothing significant in the grand scheme of things.

F1’s drivers
Standing far above everyone is Lewis Hamilton, with 21.20 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a gulf that increases by the day.

The combined following of the next nine drivers, from Ricciardo on 4.83 million followers down to Carlos Sainz on 1.33 million followers, is 21.48 million. In other words, nine smaller F1 drivers equals one Lewis Hamilton from a social media perspective!

Hamilton’s following on Facebook and Twitter have stalled, however his reach on Instagram has almost doubled since last Summer, moving from 6.89 million followers to 11.50 million followers, cementing his place at the top of the Grand Prix tree.

Behind Hamilton, Verstappen and Ricciardo made respectable increases, but further down the pecking order there are three success stories.

Despite being in only his second season, Charles Leclerc is already the sixth popular F1 driver on social media, and rising, with an increase of over a million followers in the past year, helped by his move to Ferrari and an ever-increasing Instagram presence.

The aura around Kimi Raikkonen has resulted in him becoming the fourth most popular driver on Instagram, despite having zero presence elsewhere on social media. Elsewhere, Lando Norris’ following is increasing rapidly across all social media platforms, as Norris’ following cross cuts both F1 and eSports.

As new drivers enter the sport, it is interesting to note how the skew for each driver moves increasingly towards Instagram and away from Facebook and Twitter. For example, 50.8 percent of Nico Hulkenberg’s following comes from Twitter, compared with 13.8 percent for Charles Leclerc. In contrast, 37.0 percent for Hulkenberg is Instagram related, versus 78.9 percent for Leclerc.

The younger drivers are far more likely to build a platform on Instagram in 2019, whereas the 2009 to 2014 generation of drivers focused far more on Twitter at that time, hence the wildly different skews.

If you manage any championship on social media, Instagram is the place to divert your resources. Facebook is still growing from a motor sport perspective, and remains by far the biggest social media platform, but has now fallen Instagram in terms of growth.

Facebook is better for long form content with Instagram primarily intended for short-form videos. Twitter is great for your existing audience, but not great if you want to hook new fans in, as the figures throughout this article demonstrate.

What content across social media has made your eye-brows raise recently? Have your say in the comments below.

Hamilton continues to surge on social media

Four-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton continues to remain far above the remainder of the Formula 1 field on social media, analysis of the three major platforms show.

At regular intervals during the year, this site crunches the number of followers each Formula 1 driver and team, along with key championships has across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hamilton leads the way
As has been the case for many years, Hamilton leads at the front of the field, growing his reach faster than all his rivals. With a cumulative audience of 16.30 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Hamilton now has nearly 10 million more followers than his nearest championship contender.

To show the scale of Hamilton’s reach, the drivers placed from 2nd to 5th in the social media standings bring in a combined following of 16.43 million followers. In social media terms, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, and Sergio Perez equal Hamilton, showing how the Brit on social media transcends the motor sport audience, and why F1 needs to tap into said audience.

Formula 1’s loss is likely to be IndyCar’s gain where Alonso is concerned in 2019, presenting the American series with an excellent opportunity to capitalise on Alonso’s broad reach in the same way they did with last year’s Indianapolis 500. From 2019, Verstappen will be Formula 1’s next big thing on social media behind Hamilton and Ricciardo. But both Red Bull drivers are currently no match for Hamilton on social media.

Social media - 2018-08 - F1 drivers gain
In the first half of 2018, Hamilton gained 1.29 million followers across the three main platforms, whilst Ricciardo and Verstappen gained 499,000 and 368,000 followers respectively. Currently, Verstappen’s contingent of fans is no match for Hamilton on Instagram, which is where most of Hamilton’s increase lies.

The further down the field you look, the slimmer the pickings get. As an example, Valtteri Bottas’ social media accounts gained 185,000 additional followers during the first half of 2018, which is a small number in the social media sphere. Considering millions of viewers worldwide watch these drivers every two weeks, are the gains considered poor, or expected now that social media is mature?

Following a poor start to the 2018 season, Williams driver Lance Stroll deleted his Instagram account in June, reducing his social media reach from 179,000 followers to 42,000 followers. The reality is though that Stroll never used his two active social media accounts. His Twitter was last updated in February 2017, whilst his team updated his Facebook last November.

Meanwhile, since joining Instagram at the end of last year, Kimi Raikkonen has amassed nearly one million followers. The Iceman’s reach of 833,000 followers places him tenth in the overall list of drivers, despite having no presence on either Facebook or Twitter! Raikkonen is the fifth most popular driver on the image sharing platform, only behind Hamilton, Alonso, Verstappen and Ricciardo.

Red Bull closes the gap on Mercedes
In the first half of 2018, Mercedes’ following across social media increased from 14.83 million across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to 15.03 million followers. Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren in comparison increased their following by around 900,000 followers.

The metrics suggest that Mercedes are close to hitting their roof, and struggling to attract new followers, even though the content produced is fantastic. There is a real possibility that, based on current growth figures, Red Bull will become the number one team on social media, at least based on the number of followers, within the next twelve months.

The perceived two-tier Formula 1 goes far beyond the race track, and into the social media metrics. Beyond the top four teams, the growth for the mid-field teams resembles a barren wasteland, with the remaining six teams attracting an average growth figure of 133,000 followers.

For a team nearer to the foot of the table, it is proving to be very difficult to make waves outside of the typical Formula 1 social media circles. Ask yourself this: how many teams go ‘the extra mile’ to produce something relevant to a general sporting audience as opposed to the motor racing fan who might already be following them?

Currently, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren are the big Formula 1 brands, although it will be interesting to see if Renault usurp McLaren on that front in 2019 with Ricciardo joining the Enstone outfit.

Roborace crashes
On the championship front, Roborace’s combined following has dropped by 15 percent over the course of the first half of 2018. From 2.82 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram last November, Roborace now has 2.37 million followers as of the end of July.

Social media - 2018-08 - percentage gain

The drop for the autonomous series, which has yet to begin, is a result of social media sites clamping down on suspicious accounts. Twitter has taken action recently to remove locked accounts from account follower numbers. Roborace has been prominent in this space in recent years, with their number of followers spiking at different times.

Further down the pecking order, Formula E has experienced a strong first half of 2018, culminating in the latter stages of its fourth season. The electric series has increased its combined audience from 584,000 followers to 893,000 followers, an increase of 52.9 percent.

IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship and Formula Two also recorded percentage increases of over 10 percent, but in the case of the latter, that equated to an increase of just 34,000 followers across the first half of 2018. Both Formula Two and their feeder GP3 have low numbers on Facebook, with 51,000 and 17,000 followers respectively.

Out in front, MotoGP continues to lead the way with a combined 21 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, although F1 has closed the gap, with a cumulative following now of 14.66 million.

Casting an eye over the F1 media landscape

The Formula 1 community is filled with journalists from all corners of the globe, with the sport covered in a variety of languages, catering for a range of different audiences, from the hardcore aficionados to the person wanting a quick five-minute summary of everything that is going on.

From a United Kingdom perspective, there are eleven entities that make up the Formula 1 media landscape, covering both heavyweights and outlets further down the chain:

  • Official F1 website
  • BBC
  • Crash Media Group
  • ESPN Media Group
  • ‘Fleet Street’
  • Motor Sport Magazine
  • Motorsport Media Services
  • Motorsport Network
  • Racefans
  • Reuters
  • Sky

Most entities above are primarily web-based, although some straddle into both television and print. So, how do the entities break down, and which groups splice off into sub-divisions?

The leading quartet
For most readers, four outlets are instantly recognisable, and hold control of the Formula 1 media landscape. Others will be unknown to the naked eye, until you look below the surface and see why they are listed.

The BBC and Sky are two of the UK’s biggest broadcasters, the latter now pan-European. Whilst the BBC no longer covers Formula 1 on television, its website, led by Andrew Benson as it has been for the past two decades, still produces insight and opinion.

Since their television coverage started in 2012, Sky’s UK arm have operated an expansive F1 website. As well as their news articles, the UK site provides a variety of columns, from behind the scenes paddock insight via Rachel Brookes, to technical analysis from commentary box director Mark Hughes. Although Sky’s UK and Italian television crews share content occasionally, this is more unusual online with a specific website for Sky Italia.

If you have purchased a copy of Autosport recently, or read an article via James Allen’s website, you might think that the two are owned by separate entities. Why would the passing punter think any different? That is where Motorsport Network, led by McLaren’s CEO Zak Brown, comes into the equation.

Initially consisting of just Motorsport.com, Motorsport Network have expanded their portfolio the past two years. First on the agenda was Haymarket Media Group’s motor racing outlets (including Autosport and F1 Racing), which moved under Motorsport Network’s ownership in late 2016.

Allen’s website and GPUpdate.net followed, with Motorsport Network closing GPUpdate.net’s English site, diverting resources towards their existing channels. Editorial resources covering Formula 1 across Autosport and Motorsport.com are becoming rationalised, with the same content, appearing on both platforms.

Autosport also runs an Academy for budding journalists, allowing them to exploit a wide range of opportunities across the Motorsport Network portfolio, both on print and television (Motorsport.tv, which was Motors TV, is also part of the Network).

Up until recently, the official Formula 1 website ran a skeleton news operation, reporting only information and not engaging in the rumour mill or analytical pieces. The frequency of news has increased since Liberty Media’s takeover of F1, with the likes of Lawrence Barretto (ex-BBC and Autosport) and Chris Medland joining the team.

Alongside the news articles, there are now regular features on the site, such as the F1 Inbox, and F1 Power Rankings with other FOM personnel such as Will Buxton contributing to these articles.

The mid-pack
The leading contingent above are significantly larger than some of the mid-pack runners, one might think of this as a ‘manufacturer’ versus ‘independent’ situation.

Previously known as F1 Fanatic from 2005 until the start of this year, Racefans is an independent website covering Formula 1, although it has started to branch out to cover other championships recently. Dieter Rencken, who was part of Autosport’s offering for 25 years, defected to Racefans at the start of 2018, bolstering their paddock presence.

Like Rencken, journalist Joe Saward has attached himself to an independent site. His musings are hosted on Motorsport Week, part of Motorsport Media Services’ outlets. Whilst the relationship is a little less formal than that between Rencken and Racefans, it goes to show that not every established journalist is within Motorsport Network’s portfolio. Motorsport Week has been around since 2008, historically known as The F1 Times and Grand Prix Times.

Another F1 rights holder with a website presence is ESPN. However, its Formula 1 website is largely independent of the US television coverage, having being around for several years. Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders lead the web output, with familiar faces to UK readers such as Mark Gallagher and Jennie Gow contributing to video content. Instead of giving their US coverage a distinctive voice, ESPN and FOM decided to give US viewers Sky’s UK coverage meaning that the ESPN website remained independent of the TV output.

As well as writing and contributing to Sky’s F1 coverage, Mark Hughes also writes regular columns for Motor Sport Magazine. Now in its 94th year, if you are after a more in-depth outlook on current affairs, as well as a reflection on yesteryear, Motor Sport Magazine is the place for you. Best of all, their entire magazine archive has been digitalised, putting many classic moments at your fingertips, written by those who were there on the day.

Slightly younger than Motor Sport Magazine at 18 years, Crash Media Group (CMG) is now an established name in the motor racing media circles (one can only guess if this group is on Motorsport Network’s radar or not). CMG goes beyond Crash.net, as the group also owns a motorcycling website (Visordown) and a golf website (GolfMagic). Crash has a working relationship with Bike Sport News, but does not currently own the entity.

News agencies and foreign outlets
Reuters is primarily a news agency, meaning that it is unlikely that fans go to Reuters’ directly for their news. Instead, news from Reuters’ resident Formula 1 correspondent Alan Baldwin will more than likely make its way through to other sites, such as the BBC for example.

The ‘Fleet Street‘ contingent has reduced over the years, but there are still some UK newspapers reporting on Formula 1 from the races. Bec Clancy leads the way for The Times, having succeeded Kevin Eason as their motor racing reporter. Other sites, such as The Independent and The Guardian, but very few have someone dedicated to F1 like in yesteryear. As one might expect, the expense of sending someone on site outweighs the amount of readers likely to view or read the following article.

The main non-English website to mention is German website Auto Motor und Sport, which regularly reports F1 stories before its English counterparts through its main reporter Tobi Gruner.

There are countless more websites that I could mention, but I have tried to avoid including sites that regurgitate content already out there. The further down the motor racing pyramid you go, the more sites you see that specialise in a specific series, as accreditation is more straightforward than at the top.

Plus, you have a higher probability of speaking to contacts, breaking an exclusive Formula E story for example, and getting your foot in the door than an equivalent in F1, , increasing your reputation. As the saying goes, you must start somewhere…

Are there any major websites that I have missed out? Do the sites listed cover everything you look for in Formula 1 reporting? Have your say in the comments below.

McLaren continues social media gains despite Honda relationship

The 2017 Formula One season saw the split of two brands after three painful years together. Re-entering Formula 1 at the start of 2015, Honda aimed to take McLaren back to championship winning ways. Just two and a half years later, and very little to celebrate, their marriage ended, with McLaren pairing up with Renault from 2018 onwards.

McLaren’s relationship with Honda has caused damage to their on-track reputation: their last podium visit was at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. But has the damage for both McLaren, and their lead driver Fernando Alonso, extended to off the track and onto social media?

The F1 Broadcasting Blog has analysed the number of social media followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that Formula 1’s teams and drivers have obtained going back to the middle of 2015, reporting on progress at checkpoints half way through the season and at the end of the season. Generally, you expect to see all metrics increase, as drivers become more popular throughout their career, growing their fan base. Similarly, fans may switch allegiances depending on which team their favourite driver heads to.

At this point, I hear you say “why are you not tracking engagement”, and maybe saying “the number of followers is useless if no one interacts with the brand.” Both points are equally valid. However, engagement data is not readily available in the public domain, and it would be extremely difficult to track and record the engagement data across three platforms, covering potentially thousands of different data points (platform, multiplied by 33 accounts, multiplied by individual statuses).

No two tweets generate the same amount of engagement. There is no “one size fits all” approach to presenting this data. For the moment, it is what we have, although I am open for other ways of analysing the data. I would argue that, as a measure of popularity, the number of followers one driver has compared to another is still an interesting statistic.

McLaren continues to rise, but at a slower rate of knots
In July 2015, McLaren reached 4.37 million followers across the three main social media platforms. Fast forward two and a half years, and that number has increased by 64 percent (or 2.79 million followers) to 7.16 million followers. In isolation, it feels like a good increase, and not one that suggests apathy from new fans engaging with the brand. Given the brand history of McLaren, it should be looking to grow at the same rate as its nearest rivals, such as Ferrari and Red Bull.

Interestingly, Ferrari’s number of followers over the same time has also increased by 64 percent, from 4.82 million followers to 7.90 million followers. So, despite having a much poorer period than their Italian neighbours, McLaren kept the pressure on, rising by an identical percentage from a similar baseline.

Social media - 2018-01 - F1 Teams

The problem for both Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes is the onslaught from Red Bull. The drinks company has increased their following by 113 percent, rising from 5.77 million followers in July 2015 to a whopping 12.27 million followers. Whilst still shy of Mercedes, their positive and fun social media strategy, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen at the helm, has caused a surge in their following, bringing new fans to their outlets. As noted during the Summer break, Mercedes’ social media growth has slowed in the past year.

For allegedly such an important brand to Formula 1, Red Bull is now streets ahead of Ferrari in the social media game. And, to their credit, McLaren’s following has continued to rise despite their poor on-track performance. One of the drawbacks with this data is that we do not know the overlap of followers between teams. How many of Red Bull’s new followers are new Formula 1 social media followers? If the answer happened to be ‘the majority’, from a Liberty Media perspective, this is a group of people that they should be interested in tailoring their output to.

Hamilton wipes social media history as Raikkonen joins the fray
Fernando Alonso’s social media profile has also risen, but to a slower degree. Comparing Alonso’s performance across social media with other leading drivers on social media is difficult as there are only four other drivers who were in a similar situation in July 2015. They are Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

Unsurprisingly, Ricciardo’s and Verstappen’s following has surged and both have increased in larger share and volume than Alonso. Alonso’s performance flat lined in the second half of 2017, but the gulf between him and the remainder of the field means that his social media position is not under threat. Of course, Hamilton is still comfortably out in front. For the moment…

Social media - 2018-01 - F1 Drivers

Following the gathering of the statistics behind this post, things went south for Hamilton, and his social media profile has come under scrutiny in recent weeks. As a result, the four-time Drivers’ Champion has wiped his complete Instagram account, and his Twitter account dating back to October 2013. If any of them disappear completely, his large profile of over 15 million profiles will be gone in a flash, and places a major dent in Formula 1’s social media presence.

We live in a bizarre world now where Kimi Raikkonen has more Instagram posts than Hamilton. No, that is not a misprint. Yes, the Finnish driver has joined Instagram, already amassing over 300,000 followers in a week, ahead of the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen.

Outside of Hamilton, the Red Bull drivers and Perez, no one else stood out in the second half of 2017, in what was a quiet end to the social media year. The one team further down the field that impressed was Toro Rosso, who are on course to overtake Force India, a surprising development considering Toro Rosso was the lowest ranked team on social media just two years ago. Toro Rosso’s large increase is likely due to their driver rotations this year, bringing in a wider variety of fans as a result to their social media pages.

A long way to go for F1, and motor racing as a whole
Formula 1’s official social media pages have shown strong growth across 2017. Between March and November, their profiles grew by 39 percent, reaching 11.04 million followers, overtaking NASCAR during 2017. However, Formula 1 remains some way behind MotoGP overall, thanks to a significant gulf in following on Facebook, and is unlikely to overtake MotoGP for many years.

Social media - 2018-01 - Series

Liberty Media themselves have touted Formula 1’s growth on the official F1 website. Whilst F1 has indeed grown proportionally compared to other brands, their reach remains far, far lower. La Liga, which according to F1 has grown just under 30 percent year-on-year, has 34 million followers on Facebook, dwarfing anything motor sport has to offer.

The F1 website also points out Formula E’s growth on social media, which is amusing considering how it is not in the same category as any of the other major brands listed. IndyCar’s PR team may be mystified at how they have not made the list considering it has a far greater social media presence than Formula E and grew their number of followers by 33 percent between March and November.

Proportionally speaking, F1’s following is spread equally between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, something Liberty needs to work on changing as Facebook is a far bigger platform than Twitter and Instagram. Different content works for different audiences across the three platforms, and that is something F1 needs to explore further in 2018 if it is to unlock the potential that Facebook presents.