Formula 1, which stops in France from Friday to Sunday, finds in France a level of popularity comparable to the early 2010s, when it was broadcast on TF1, thanks to the series dedicated to it on Netflix and to the successes by Pierre Gasly.

Since the start of the 2021 season, the premier motor sport category, owned by Canal, has recorded its best average audience per Grand Prix since 2012 (the last of the TF1 years) with 1.2 million viewers for qualifying and the race, according to figures from the sports industry research firm Nielsen Sports.

“In 2018 and 2019, the French GP recorded the highest audience of the season,” adds Pierre-Emmanuel Davin, General Manager France Benelux at Nielsen Sports. “With the arrival of F1 at the Paul Ricard circuit this weekend – one of four races broadcast on C8, Canal’s free channel – we expect the numbers to continue to rise. “

Anyway, F1 on Canal has already broken several records this year, averaging 1.89 million viewers and peaking at 2.34 million during the Bahrain GP, ​​broadcast in clear. end of March. In encrypted form, the Monaco GP in May gathered 1.35 million viewers on average, with a peak of 1.74 million at the start.

In addition, the share of the French population saying they are interested in this sport increased from 23% in January 2020 to 27% in April 2021, according to Nielsen Sports.

The popularity of French pilots, Esteban Ocon (Alpine) but especially Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), has also been on the rise on social networks since March 2020.

The audience of Gasly, who became the first French GP winner last year since 1996, grew by 205% on Facebook (399,000 subscribers), Twitter (630,300) and Instagram (1.9 million, an increase of 179%). Ocon, who has just extended his contract with the French team Alpine until 2024, for his part has 925,000 subscribers on Instagram and 384,600 on Twitter.

“Having two promising French pilots certainly contributes to this increase,” analyzes Tom McCormack, in charge of rights holders at Nielsen Sports.

“The power of the Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive [three seasons devoted to the 2018, 2019 and 2020 championships, editor’s note] probably comes into play,” he adds. “This format is ideal for bringing Gasly’s personal history and professional successes to a new audience. “

The interested party abounds. “My podium in Brazil in 2019 has already been a pretty strong message and it started there,” said the 25-year-old driver. Then, “the victory, inevitably, changed a lot of things on my status whereas it was 24 years since we had not had a GP winner in France. Clearly, I saw the change. “

Ocon, mounted on his first podium in 2020, goes further: “France is already shining a little in F1 but also in other motorsports such as MotoGP. And there is Netflix which has helped to gain visibility with the general public. F1 opened up to a lot of more global media and that really helped the popularity. It’s nice. “

With a gauge reduced to 15,000 spectators per day, Covid-19 obliges (against 60,000 in normal times), it will not be seen in the stands this weekend but the craze exists. Thereupon, a good result for the tricolors would not be too much: in 2018, Ocon and Gasly clung, in 2019, the second could not do better than 10th.

Which gives an internal vision of exciting F1.

We forget that the grand prix had been interrupted after the first oil crisis given the incredible consumption of these vehicles.
F1 was on the verge of disappearing at one time because it lacked the money. Ecclestone managed to oversell the media, clean the stables (he was a mechanic at Brabham initially) and the money came back with the sponsors, mostly linked to the tobacco industry.
At the beginning of the 1970s I was a fan because we could approach this environment very easily. I went to Paul Ricard (circuit fully paid by Paul Ricard, not by the state) to see private tests every weekend and take pictures without any problem. All the teams went there because the circuit was less dangerous than the others.
We could meet all the drivers, Ken Tyrrell, Gordon Murray, see all the technical details of the cars, it is true much easier than today.
The only downside: at least one driver was killed every month around the world because the cars offered no security. Safety came later thanks to pilots like Prost.
I am getting older and F1 cars have become very complex and 50% longer as a result of this complexity. No one is approachable and you have to pay to see them on television. As for the technological impact on our cars, this is really becoming marginal (perhaps certain electrical aspects in recent years).

Sometimes GPs are boring … As sometimes some football or tennis matches are.
But F1, no offense to the Green Khmer, is an exciting discipline.
It combines the highest technology (which often later benefits the average citizen) with strategy, mental and physical (pilots are very high level athletes because piloting these machines requires monstrous physical abilities), piloting talent pure, courage …
Long live mechanical sports. F1 and WRC … And also watch MotoGP even more spectacular and with 2 French at the top now.

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