It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s not NASCAR. Formula 1, F1, racing is climbing to new motorsport popularity globally and, more recently, in the United States. The racing series that features 20 drivers throughout 23 races fuels a multi-billion dollar industry. F1 is known for its races with star-studded attendees, dramatic off-track politics and mind-blowing speed.
The races are a weekend-long affair with up to three practice sessions, one qualifying session and, of course, the headlining race. The qualifying session, where drivers have 45 minutes, sectioned into three parts to complete the fastest time possible, determines the order of each race or Grand Prix (GP). The driver that advances through all the sessions with the fastest lap time gets to line up in the first spot on the grid.
What truly distinguishes F1 from any other kind of racing is the circuits. In all 23 countries, there are differently shaped circuits with all kinds of turns and hills varying from mountainous to inner city tracks. Tires also play a large part in the efficiency of the delicate multi-million dollar cars, allowing them to go faster or slower depending on the weather conditions and track temperatures.
According to Forbes, F1 experienced a 28% increase in viewership in the United States from the 2021 season to 2022, bringing in over 1.2 million views. F1 also experienced a revenue increase in 2022 of $2.573 billion, up from $2.136 billion in 2021.
One of the biggest reasons that F1 gained worldwide popularity was due to the Netflix-produced docuseries “Drive to Survive.” The show closely followed the behind-the-scenes, closed-door action with interviews from drivers, team principles, F1 Journalists, experts and fans. Each episode covers a race weekend from start to finish, documenting every fight, decision and moment of the weekend’s theatrics and race that occur.
Mary Saunders, third-year BA, was first introduced to F1 through “Drive to Survive.”
“My favorite aspect of Formula 1 would have to be the strategy that goes into each race. The behind-the-scenes done by the engineers and strategies often go unnoticed since they aren’t in the car on race day. I also think the fan presence, specifically in Europe, is so unique as certain drivers have dedicated fan bases,” Saunders said on the excitement of the race.
Due to a growing fan presence in the United States, F1 announced a new race set to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, in November of 2023. The race is set to take place at night through the famous Las Vegas strip. This is the most recent effort taken by F1 to appeal to their new American fanbase with the Miami GP being introduced in 2022.
“We could not be more excited to work with our local partners to create a marquee event. The potential of Formula 1 has been well demonstrated over the last several seasons and the Las Vegas GP will only take it to the next level.” Stefano Domenicali, F1 President and CEO, said in a press release, “This is an incredible moment for Formula 1 that demonstrates the huge appeal and growth of our sport with a third race in the US. Las Vegas is a destination known around the world for its excitement, hospitality, thrills and, of course, the famous Strip.”
As the sport gains more popularity, F1 executives are pivoting in ways they have not needed to before, addressing concerns over diversity, wealth divides and sustainability. Issues like these arise with growing viewership, but F1 continues to experience positive feedback through these changes.
Just recently, Bianca Bustamante joined the McLaren Driver Development program, becoming the first female driver to enroll in this program. She is considered to be paving the way for women in motorsport just as women such as Susie Wolff and Jamie Chadwick have done before her.
The motorsport has also announced new sustainability measures, with the goals of reducing carbon emission through travel and race weekend festivities, as well as new engines for the cars.
“I think people should watch F1 because it highlights the technological innovation within the sport and provides a lot of entertainment. The nature of the sport allows you to get connected to a driver or a certain team and in my opinion makes it feel more personal than other sports. The community around F1 is something I have also found to be very enjoyable and have made many friends through the F1,” Saunders said.
Many fans look forward to the debut of F1 in Vegas soon.