There is no question that Formula 1 has experienced a rapid growth in recent seasons that has seen the sport reach a range of new audiences. This rise in popularity was emphasised by the recent visit to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The U.S has long been somewhat an anomaly in the global reach of F1, with Indycar and Nascar taking a large share of the spoils when it came to motorsport viewers. But following a 5-year hiatus from the States between 2007 and 2012, the country now hosts two races following the recent addition of Miami and are set to add a third event with next year’s inaugural Las Vegas grand prix. C.O.T.A saw 440,000 spectators through the gates throughout their 2022 event and an average of 1.3Million viewers tuning in to watch on Disney-owned channel ABC. The figures mark a clear increase in F1’s viewership in general, contributing to a 29% average rise on the 2021 season. With the U.S being such a vast market with huge growth potential, it was positive for F1 from a marketing perspective for the event to return to record breaking heights The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had previously broken the record for the best attended F1 grand prix in history at 250,000 spectator at its first event in 2000.
Increased spectator numbers and fan interactions has been prompted by several factors. Netflix’s Drive to Survive series has taken the sport into mainstream audiences that would previously not have taken an interest in Formula 1. The deep dive behind the scenes into the off-track relationships and driver personalities has been a major hit with the younger generation of viewers as well as the casual fan. This, along with increased social media engagement, improved grand prix fan Zones and an increased calendar have contributed towards frequently sold-out events throughout the year.
However, with increased demand inevitably comes a rise in ticket prices. Long standing motorsport fans are, in some cases, faced with being priced out of the sport as it looks to capitalise on it’s wave of popularity. The British grand prix at Silverstone recently released ticket sales for 2023 using a dynamic pricing model, a decision widely criticised by fans and the press. Prices were seen to be increasing by the minute with some people adding tickets to their basket only to find they had increased in price once they went to purchase. To add to the disappointment, Silverstone’s website was unable to cope with the demand for tickets and there were several cases of fans being unable to purchase the tickets as they continued to rise in value. Silverstone CEO Stewart Pringle has apologised for the malfunctions and vowed to improve the system. However, Silverstone are in a position where their costs come close to matching their incomings on Grand Prix weekend. Therefore, from a financial perspective they have little choice but to capitalise on the sport’s popularity to ensure they can survive as a business and continue as a mainstay on the F1 calendar.
On the subject of Dynamic Pricing, understandably not popular with fans (and myself to be honest) Every penny of profit made at the British GP is ploughed back into the circuit and this pricing structure isn’t new, just this year, tickets are selling (and prices) rising faster.
— David Croft (@CroftyF1) September 15, 2022
F1 Commentator David croft took to Twitter to defend remind fans that Silverstone are quick to reinvest their profits to improve the grand prix weekend.
Granted, Formula 1 as a group are not in control of how individual grand prix circuits choose to price their tickets. However, it seems that the amount they are charging FIA grade 1 venues to host an event has increased post-pandemic. Arguably, this is forcing promoters to introduce pricing schemes that will deliver maximum profits to ensure they recoup the fees they are having to pay out. As previously mentioned, F1 is riding a wave of popularity and naturally independent venues need to take full advantage of the demand for tickets. But in a season where the on track spectacle has perhaps not lived up to the standard set in the following year, it is important to consider the loyal supporters that have stuck with the sport regardless of the competition level. Circuits promoters may consider some form of loyalty incentive for long-standing fans; a reward for contributing their hard earned money so frequently to the sport they love.