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NASCAR officials, drivers, and fans realize that Formula 1 has been surging in popularity for a while now. It’s been unavoidable with all the publicity surrounding the Netflix Drive to Survive docuseries. Some in the sports industry have even boldly suggested the international racing series could catch and surpass the popularity of the American-based motorsport. 

However, after this past weekend’s disqualification-fueled F1 race at Circuit of the Americas, the only track where both series race each year, the latest head-to-head television ratings tell a different story. 

NASCAR faces battle for viewers with growing F1 popularity

NASCAR has been around for 75 years. Unsurprisingly, it’s had a stranglehold on the American television market. But there was a noticeable shift in racing interest a few years ago when DTS debuted on Netflix. Racing fans were introduced to the 20 teams and given a behind-the-scenes look at the drivers, their personal lives, and the drama that plays out at the track. 

In 2021, F1 experienced the perfect storm, with the show’s already-growing popularity receiving a turbo boost due to the exciting battle for the championship between Max Verstappen and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. 

The television ratings for the 2021 F1 race weekend at COTA reflected that enthusiasm, with 1.2 million fans tuning in for the race. The NASCAR Cup Series race in Kansas recorded 2.11 million viewers.  

NASCAR ratings hold steady while F1 declines

YearNASCAR ViewershipF1 Viewership
20212.11 million1.2 million
20222.31 million1.11 million
20232.25 million882,000
Viewership numbers at COTA, per

Those numbers were understandably encouraging to F1 officials. However, over the last two years, they have trended in the opposite direction.

In 2022, 1.11 million tuned in for the F1 race outside of Austin, a 7.5% drop in ratings from the year before. Conversely, NASCAR, which raced at Homestead, experienced an uptick, up to 2.31 million, or an increase of 8.7%. 

And that brings us to this year. The 2023 numbers are out, and it’s an alarming sign for F1. According to, this year’s race at COTA drew 882,000 viewers, or a drop of 21% from 2022. 

NASCAR, which ran again at Homestead, saw a slight decline to 2.25 million, or a decrease of less than 3%.  

Why the decline in F1?

NASCAR pre-race show on Fox at COTA.
The NASCAR Cup Series pre-race show on Fox at Circuit of the Americas with Chris Myers, 2009 F1 champion Jenson Button, Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner, Kurt Busch, and Clint Bowyer | Photo by Kyle Dalton

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The decline in F1’s viewership can be attributed to one factor: competition, or lack thereof. That 2021 season was a battle until the final lap of the final race at Abu Dhabi, with the Red Bull driver dethroning Hamilton and claiming his first championship. He’s been on top since.

Verstappen won 15 of the 22 F1 races in 2022. This year, he’s been even more dominant through 18 races, winning 15. Meanwhile, NASCAR has had 15 different winners through 34 races. 

The DTS production crew can do everything in its power to highlight the drivers’ personalities and the team drama, which is undoubtedly appealing to fans. But there’s not a lot that can be done to spice up excitement for the races when the winner is effectively known before the green flag waves.  

There is no drama on the track, and that’s, unsurprisingly, a turnoff for fans, who have responded by turning off the races in large numbers. And most concerningly for F1, both trends don’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

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