F1 is back this weekend after a one-week break, not that it made a difference for the Mercedes cars because both were sh-t again today in practice at the Australian Grand Prix, and while Lewis Hamilton, being who he is, can still contend for the championship as it’s still early enough in the season, if they don’t get it together soon, and put together a car that isn’t slow as f-ck, it will eventually become impossible for him to catch up to Ferrari and Red Bull.
But at least the fashion isn’t a disappointment. Lewis wore a bright green tracksuit on his runway yesterday – not exactly the official green and gold of Australia, but green nonetheless to mark the return of Formula One to Melbourne after the 2020 race was cancelled because of COVID. And what a difference two years makes.
F1 wasn’t all that popular before COVID for Australians. In fact, pre-COVID there were a lot of people in Melbourne who were opposed to it happening there at all. And then Drive to Survive happened. After four seasons of Drive to Survive, the attitude of Melbournians to F1 is dramatically changing. ESPN just did a report on it yesterday:
“Formula One public relations released a statement after a busier-than-usual Thursday at the track, saying that 410,000 fans are expected to pour through the gates this weekend (Friday to Sunday), which would make the 2022 Australian Grand Prix the highest attended sporting event -- in combined figures over three days -- in Australian sporting history.
A major metric race organisers are now using to determine the success of an event is the percentage of female ticket holders. In 2019, just one in four attendees were female, whereas this year females account for 40 percent of ticket sales.”
So it’s not just that people are interested; it’s also that they’re attracting a new key demo: WOMEN. And that’s been the case with Drive to Survive in general and the response to F1. All over the world, because of a Netflix series, women are into motor racing. I am into motor racing! And this is exactly why other sports are trying to find the same success with the Drive to Survive production team including golf and tennis, as the PGA, WTA, and ATP tours all have shows in development now to build interest in their respective sports.
The PGA tour was just given a major gift this week with the return of Tiger Woods who is playing at the Masters. They’re rolling on all this right now for the Netflix golf series and it’ll be really interesting to see if the response to the golf version of Drive to Survive will do for the fairways what Drive to Survive has done for the track. A key difference, too, between golf and F1 is that 99.9% of the F1 audience can’t participate in the sport they’re watching…but with golf… you can get obsessed with the series and also learn to play. Whether that happens and golf sees a surge in new followers remains to be seen – but the potential is certainly there, because who would have thought that Drive to Survive would have this much of an impact of Formula One? A television show! Of course, they were hoping people would watch the show, but for the sport itself to basically double its reach? Truly a phenomenon.