GERMANY: Viewers tune back into F1 - report

By just-auto.com editorial team | 17 November 2003

Formula One racing won back millions of television viewers late in the 2003 season, but the sport is still below its 2001 peak, Automotive News Europe reported.

For each of this season's last five races, an additional 8 million viewers worldwide watched than in 2002, according to Initiative Media, a media planning and buying specialist.

The extra viewers helped increase the total television viewing audience that watched F1 in eight major markets to 9.0% this season from 8.6% in the disappointing 2002 season.

But viewing this season is still well below the 9.9% F1 achieved in 2001. But, in 2002 when the Ferrari team and driver Michael Schumacher clinched repeat world champion titles early in the season, many fans were angered when Ferrari driver Rubins Barichello was ordered to slow on the final lap of a race to let Schumacher win, and again in a later race when Schumacher apparently gave back a win to Barichello. Viewership flagged in late 2002.

F1 overhauled its rules for the 2003 season to try to inject more competition and excitement into the sport -- and the driver and construction championship was not decided until the final race.

F1 regained a combined 0.4% of viewers in its top viewing markets -Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and the UK. Overall, audiences rose in 10 European countries, were flat in four and down in nine.

The season's unpredictability also meant viewers watched the races longer, making the contests more valuable events to sponsors and broadcast advertisers, Automotive News Europe said.