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From Niche to Mainstream: How ‘Drive to Survive’ Transformed F1’s Fanbase

By June 21, 2023No Comments

Sports documentaries have long been a part of popular culture, appealing to fans of the protagonist, relevant sports fans, and at their best – sports fans more broadly. Drive to Survive (DTS) – the hugely popular F1 docuseries on Netflix – has gone further: Introducing the sport to new audiences. 

Given the narratives intertwined in F1 – competition, money, world-famous brands, world-famous people, unknown billionaires, strategy,  jeopardy, and engineering excellence – it’s not difficult to imagine how a story such as this can be compelling. However, it has been the commitment of F1 to execute a holistic strategy – chiefly of which was creating its docuseries which has expanded and appealed to an audience that has been in steady decline.

Before Drive to Survive’s release in 2019, F1’s global research director cited a statistic that only 14% of viewership was under the age of 25 (source). Furthermore, viewership in the US, which has been referenced as a target, was, before 2018, at only approximately 550,000. 

Using AMPLYFI’s AI-driven platform to analyse the footprint of this impact, below are some insights on this data. The analysis, spanning the last five years, illustrates the growth of F1 and “Drive to Survive” in the media.

Mentions of F1 and ‘Drive To Survive’/Netflix have risen steadily since the release of the first season of the docuseries in March 2019. The number of mentions has increased in line with the popularity of the show and, consequently, increased media coverage. Many of the peaks correspond with the beginning of the year, specifically when “Drive to Survive” was released in March.

In F1’s historically underperforming markets – such as the US – the topic of F1 and ‘Drive to Survive’/Netflix are more prevalent than its established markets in the UK, Middle East, Western Europe, and Brazil. Since Drive to Survive’s debut, viewership in the US has grown by approximately 40% (source).

The matrix above illustrates the ‘connection strength’ and the relative relationship between key terms. On the X-axis, key players in the story, including 7 of the 10 F1 teams are listed, and on the Y-axis, these teams and Netflix are compared against terms such as World Championship, Final Race, Grand Prix, and New Fans.

‘New fans’ has a strong connection strength to Netflix and is even compared to the mentions of specific F1 teams. Especially in the US market, this has been evident in viewership and race attendance, so much so that races have been added in Miami and Las Vegas alongside Texas when DTS has been airing.

Much of the media spotlight has been on Mercedes vs Redbull as the World Championship contenders and this is evident in the analysis within the matrix. These connections may well evolve as the Championship progresses and teams become more or less prevalent in the media reporting.

Whilst such sports series are not new, and similar series have been created by Netflix: “Cheer” (2020) and “Last Chance U” (2016), albeit with differing objectives the success of these programs has solidified ‘sports docuseries’ as their own segment (source). What F1 has achieved with “Drive to Survive” illustrates this and has ignited copycats – to serve the entertainment and commercial purposes in close equal measure (source). Leveraging this newfound appetite with audiences “Break Point”, a series highlighting some of the world’s top tennis players, has been released this January, with others being announced on surfing, golfing and cycling (source and source).


Gina Chang – Customer Success Manager

Gina has spent the last 3+ years collaborating with clients in the B2B market – delivering and embedding SaaS solutions into their workflows to optimise output.

As a Customer Success Manager, she collaborates with clients to maximise their output and value derived from Amplyfi’s software. This is achieved through thoroughly understanding AMPLYFI’s AI – its strengths and constraints.