The 2021 season produced one of the closest championship fights in F1 history, delivering thrilling on-track battles and off-track drama between the two title protagonists.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the season finale at Abu Dhabi, where the title was decided, recorded an astonishing 97 percent increase in viewership compared to last year.
According to Auto Motor und Sport, the 2021 season also drew in more people to the sport throughout the year. F1 recorded a 13 percent increase in TV viewership this season alone.
In recent years, many had raised concerns that F1 was in danger of being irrelevant in the real world, as it failed to attract a new (particularly young) audience. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic took a huge toll on the sport’s revenue in 2020. A few of the teams, including Williams, Haas, and McLaren, had to take drastic financial measures just to survive the impacts of the pandemic.
Heading into 2022, when the sport shifts to a brand new “formula”, targeted at making the sport more exciting and relevant, the increased viewership numbers are an encouraging sign.
Since their takeover of the sport’s commercial rights in 2017, Liberty Media has launched an aggressive marketing campaign to draw in more fans. Unlike previous management under Bernie Ecclestone, Liberty fully embraced social media and actively engaged with fans.
In 2018, they partnered with Netflix to produce the hugely popular docu-drama series “Drive to Survive”. The show is credited with bringing in younger audiences to F1, while also giving the sport a foothold in North America.
F1’s plans to stay relevant in a world after fossil fuels
Over the last few years, the automotive industry across the world has rapidly shifted its focus away from Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) to electric engines. As countries try to regulate ever-increasing carbon emissions, this move has been more than welcome.
Meanwhile, F1, often touted as the pinnacle of motorsport, still relies heavily on ICEs. In the face of a rapidly electrifying automotive industry and rival “electric-only” motorsport championships such as Formula E, F1 has decided to stick with ICEs, for now, believing they are still relevant to the world.
The current generation of F1 engines, 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrids – originally introduced in 2014 – are the most efficient power units in history and can achieve nearly 60 percent thermal efficiency. An F1 PU will produce three times as much power compared to a normal road car with the same amount of fuel. Therefore, F1 hopes to retain the same engines for at least the next decade, while slowly phasing out fossil fuels in favor of “sustainable” synthetic biofuels.
Meanwhile, similar to most consumer electric cars, the current generation of F1 cars “recover” energy that is otherwise lost while driving. The energy recovery system (ERS) systems in F1 are, however, much more advanced and complex than those in road cars.
Each F1 car has two Motor Generator Units (MGUs) that recover kinetic and heat energy MGU-K recovers energy from braking, while MGU-H captures wasteful heat from the engine to produce usable electrical energy.
The Power Unit regulations for the 2026 season and onwards increase the scope of the ERS while reducing its complexity, and therefore, the costs associated with the development of the power units. With the new power units, F1 hopes to attract more manufacturers who are interested in developing similar technologies for use in their road cars.