Formula 1 Finds New Gear with ‘Drive to Survive’

    • Formula One racing has seen major growth, especially in the U.S. after Netflix's 'Drive to Survive' series.
    • The popularity comes at an opportune time: F1 is coming to Miami in 2022.

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When Formula 1 returns to Florida for the Miami Grand Prix in 2022, it will have a new set of fans ignited by Netflix’s “Drive to Survive.”

The documentary series, now three seasons in, has done wonders for the popularity of F1, particularly in the United States, where racing is dominated by NASCAR.

  • Last weekend’s French Grand Prix brought in the second-highest cable audience in F1 history, with just over 1 million viewers on ESPN.
  • So far this year, F1 viewership on ESPN is up 53% compared to 2020, and 38% over 2019. 
  • Fanatics renewed its deal to sell F1 merchandise after sales grew 40% from 2020 to 2019 — they’ve grown “in the triple digits” in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, according to F1. That growth has largely come from the U.S.

Netflix also made waves with its documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty, “The Last Dance,” co-produced by ESPN and Jordan’s production company Jump 23. Documentaries on Tom Brady (ESPN) and the Jordan-sponsored NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace (Netflix) are among the many sports docs in the works.

Formula 1 has held the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas since 2012. The race’s host venue, the Circuit of the Americas, says its sporting events have had an economic impact of $3.1 billion on the Austin area. Next year’s inaugural Miami race is expected to bring its own swarm of economic activity.

Netflix may keep the momentum going as well: The company is in talks with F1 about a fourth season.