Sunday’s Formula One, NASCAR Races Finish in a Viewership Dead Heat

    • Sunday's F1 race in Miami on ABC and NASCAR's Darlington event on FS1 each averaged 2.6 million viewers.
    • The Miami Grand Prix was the most-watched live F1 race in U.S. history.

Formula 1 and NASCAR finished side-by-side at the stripe viewership-wise on Sunday. 

The inaugural Miami Grand Prix averaged 2.6 million viewers on ABC, mirroring NASCAR’s viewership for the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Speedway that was broadcast on FS1, according to numbers released by the networks on Tuesday. 

The Miami Grand Prix, a race won by Max Verstappen, was the most-watched live F1 race in U.S. history, a result of the series’ Netflix-aided rise in popularity in the states that made it an easy choice for Disney execs to place the race on ABC instead of ESPN. 

Although the viewership numbers were the same, the F1 race won the coveted 18-49 demographic. Miami averaged 735,000 viewers compared to 517,000 viewers for Darlington. 

The NASCAR race won by Joey Logano was at a disadvantage given FS1 is available in fewer homes than ABC. 

Saturday’s Miami qualifying on ESPN averaged 953,000 viewers, which was more than the average viewership in the U.S. for the actual races in 2021.  

The next three F1 races will be ESPN or ESPN 2 before the series returns to North America — and ABC — for the Canada Grand Prix on June 19.

Texas’ Aramco United States GP on Oct. 23, F1’s other stop in the U.S. this season, is the only other race slated for ABC, although there are currently nine races where broadcast details have not been announced by ESPN. 

One or more of those races could be shown on ABC with the Mexico GP (Oct. 30) and Heineken Brazil GP (Nov. 13) the most likely candidates. 

NASCAR’s ratings, overall, have been an improvement over last season, although Sunday’s viewership was down about 13% over last year’s race in Darlington on the same weekend. 

F1, owned by Liberty Media, is in its last season of its domestic broadcast deal with ESPN, which pays about $5 million to rebroadcast the British feed. Liberty Media is seeking a massive increase in rights fees that could run as high as $100 million per season

NASCAR’s TV deals with Fox and NBC run through the conclusion of the 2024 season. Fox pays an average of $300 million annually to broadcast the first half of the NASCAR season and NBC shells out $440 million for the latter half under the current deal.