As some of you guys know, I along with some others on various other forums, have been doing "research" into the past and present Formula One television ratings. The figures are all between the time period 1992 to 2011 - for some years figures are a tad sketchier, and for qualifying a few figures are missing, but on the whole it gives a good picture at how the ratings have changed in the UK over the years.
To start off, here are some basic statistics concerning the races. I've done three tables - one as a whole, one covering races in the "America-zone" and one covering races in "daytime" - reason being that races in the America's rate higher as they are in "primetime" (i.e. the time most people are watching television):
Top 10 Race Broadcasts
01 - 08.80m - 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
02 - 08.10m - 1992 British Grand Prix (BBC2)
03 - 07.52m - 1999 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
04 - 07.37m - 2000 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
05 - 07.24m - 1998 Canadian Grand Prix (ITV1)
06 - 07.15m - 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
07 - 07.08m - 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
08 - 06.84m - 1997 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
09 - 06.73m - 1996 Monaco Grand Prix (BBC1)
10 - 06.70m - 1996 Portuguese Grand Prix (BBC2)
As expected, the last race of 2008 is top - a British champion in primetime was always bound to bring in bigger figures than in daytime. As proven there - F1 will most of the time have bigger figures in primetime than daytime. Now, let's break down the above into American races and European races:
Top 10 "American" Race Broadcasts
01 - 08.80m - 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
02 - 07.52m - 1999 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
03 - 07.37m - 2000 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
04 - 07.24m - 1998 Canadian Grand Prix (ITV1)
05 - 07.15m - 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
06 - 07.08m - 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
07 - 06.84m - 1997 Brazilian Grand Prix (ITV1)
08 - 06.60m - 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix (BBC1)
09 - 06.38m - 1999 Canadian Grand Prix (ITV1)
10 - 06.23m - 1998 Argentine Grand Prix (ITV1)
This table is dominated by ITV1. Two reasons for this. The first one is that BBC put their "American" races either on tape delay or on BBC Two so it didn't interfere with their primetime schedule when they had the contract until 1996 - the highest Brazilian GP rating from 1992 to 1996 for instance was 6.0m in 1992. Second reason for the above is well, "Coronation Street follows this programme". Well, viewers of that programme would have tuned in to find cars racing around, which may explain the high figures above as their soap was delayed by 20 minutes. My third race table, is for European races:
Top 10 "European" Race Broadcasts
01 - 08.10m - 1992 British Grand Prix (BBC2)
02 - 06.73m - 1996 Monaco Grand Prix (BBC1)
03 - 06.70m - 1996 Portuguese Grand Prix (BBC2)
04 - 06.40m - 1995 British Grand Prix (BBC2)
05 - 06.12m - 1995 European Grand Prix (BBC2)
06 - 06.10m - 1992 Monaco Grand Prix (BBC2)
07 - 05.87m - 1998 British Grand Prix (ITV1)
08 - 05.78m - 1993 British Grand Prix (BBC2)
== - 05.78m - 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (BBC1)
10 - 05.77m - 1995 Portuguese Grand Prix (BBC2)
One thing you'll notice is hardly no ITV1 races. The charts that I'll post below will show a steady decline for Formula One from 1999 onwards, due to lack of British talent and Schumacher dominance. The only two races that do enter the top ten are 1998 Britain (Hakkinen/Schumacher battle) and 1997 Europe (Villeneuve/Schumi) - nothing from 2000 for ITV enters the top 10. I think we'll need a table "Top 10 Europe 21st century only" Race Broadcasts - lets see if we notice something....
Top 10 "European" Race Broadcasts (21st century only!)
01 - 05.78m - 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (BBC1)
02 - 05.08m - 2011 Monaco Grand Prix (BBC1)
03 - 04.98m - 2000 Monaco Grand Prix (ITV1)
04 - 04.85m - 2000 European Grand Prix (ITV1)
05 - 04.83m - 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix (BBC1)
06 - 04.80m - 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (BBC1)
07 - 04.76m - 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix (BBC1)
08 - 04.75m - 2000 British Grand Prix (ITV1)
09 - 04.71m - 2010 Monaco Grand Prix (BBC1)
10 - 04.69m - 2010 British Grand Prix (BBC1)
As you can see only now is F1 having a resurgence due to the closer, more exciting racing.
I think the above, while there is a margin of error as I don't have every single figure (as some are too low) show how much F1 declined. The biggest single drops are 1997 from 1996 (change of broadcaster), 2000 from 1999 and 2004 from 2003 - obviously not helped at all by Schumacher's dominance. 1993 from 1992 did have a drop also - but I don't have many figures for those years. The thing that surprises me is that, even when his dominance ended, figures stayed low, maybe the public just thought "Different guy, same domination story". ITV were lucky that Hamilton came along in 2007 - the above graph demonstrated that with him, figures very quickly returned to 2001/02 levels. Had Hamilton not come in, I would guess that figures would have continued to decline. With the 'more exciting' F1 now in 2011, F1's ratings are now heading upwards.
And onto the last bit - qualifying. I'm not doing a top ten - because a few figures are missing, so it doesn't really give a complete picture. The highest figure, for anyone interested is 5.16 million for the 1996 Argentine Grand Prix qualifying. The next best thing is 4.4 million which is for the rain affected Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying in 2009 (for Asian sessions I combine live and re-run rating as the live rating is not big at all - this helps to get a more complete and better picture). The graph above shows a huge increase for 2009. The average for 2009 qualifying is only 1.6 million behind the race average. Qualifying has performed much more better since moving from ITV. One thing that surprised me was the 2006 average - it is pretty accurate seeing as I've got 14 of the 18 qualifying ratings. Considering the new format was to make qualifying more attractive - it appeared to do the opposite to TV ratings - not high at all. 2006 seemed a pretty shite year for UK TV ratings. I thought a German would be more unpopular in England than a Spaniard? Maybe its just me! To round off - thanks to EmilioLargo, rzt and iaindb for helping me get figures and filling in a few gaps along the way!
If you do read this thread - please leave a thanks, if anyone has any analysis for other countries, please share it - did F1 have a similar decline in other countries? It'd be interesting to see. Also, if anyone does get access, or has a load of past UK F1 ratings, ping me a PM - and I'll see if I don't or do have them.
Edited by D.M.N., 18 June 2011 - 15:45.