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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

F1 is the highest level of professional single-seat, open-wheel and open-cockpit motor racing competition; this form of racing was introduced in the 1950s at the Silverstone British Grand Prix. Auto-racing has always been thought of as a masculine activity. Males do not only dominate on the Grid but also in viewership. It wasn’t till 2022 that ESPN saw an increase in female and young audience viewership. Many think this change can be attributed to the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” which aired on Mar. 8, 2019, as a collaboration between Netflix and Formula One to show the behind-the-scenes activities. The docuseries includes how the cars, drivers, engineers and the rest of the crew put together the car that is presented at the beginning of every season. 

It is important to note that there has been a 50% increase in viewership since the show’s debut.  “1.21 million viewers per race across the three channels used – ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC – marking an increase of 28% in 2021,” according to Racer. “Importantly, that growth included significant increases in female viewership, with the average up 34% in 2021 and women making up 28% of the overall audience this year.”  

While women are assumed to only like F1 for the pretty drivers, Ellie Bishop argues in “Along the Race Line” that female fans should be taken seriously as they can further the awareness of F1 in the sports arena. Additionally, Bishop argues that  “[Female watchers]  carry significant financial power and enable progression opportunities.” This is demonstrated in ticket sales of F1 races mentioned by Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott in an interview “Ticket purchasing used to be 75 percent male to 25 percent female. Purchasing for this year was 60-40, so there is a huge increase in female purchasing.”

“Drive to Survive”  helped bring in both women and a younger audience because it broke the isolation of the drivers from their fans. Before the series, seeing the driver’s personality was hard because the only context they were caught in was in the car or the post-race conferences. However, with the series, viewers can understand the drivers more because the barrier is broken. Additionally, the pandemic forced drivers to take to social media and try to relate and be more in touch with their fans to keep their relevance. All of these factors contributed to more female and youth viewership increasing because they feel they know these drivers and what they stand for better. 

While some women do admit that they started being more intrigued in Formula 1 when “Drive to Survive” came out, they found ways in which they can relate to F1 and feel connected to the drivers.  

When talking with Allison Gabriela, AU ‘24, she explained that her love of F1 has many connections to the docuseries, her father and a general fascination with cars. “I have always been interested in cars, my dad was a mechanic. However my passion for F1 specifically started with a “Drive to Survive” on Netflix. I appreciated how the show gave a behind the scenes look into this world that was previously mostly unknown for me. Who knew there would be so much drama! So now that I have a better understanding of what goes on in F1, that fuels my attraction towards F1.” 

Speaking more in depth regarding drivers and the Grid this year, Gabriela stated that her favorite driver is “Danny Ricardo! I’ve been a fan of his since he was at Renault. I’m so sad he isn’t on the Grid this season, but at least he’s Red bull’s reserve driver.” When it comes to teams she will be rooting for Mercedes and McLaren as they head into the second race of the 2023 racing season.

Formula 1 is a very niche sport, however, the  docuseries has had an enormous impact on the audience levels. As the season progresses, it is possible to see yet another season hopefully hit peak performances in viewership and race times. Whether you are a Redbull or Mercedes fan, hopefully you tag along and enjoy the 2023 season. 

Malak Hassouna is a Senior Student-Althete here at American double majoring in Legal Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is passionate about equality with in sports, social justice movements, and equal rights. She is a writer at HCAU.