A strong peak audience of 7.89m watched Lewis Hamilton become a two-time Formula One champion, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.
BBC One’s live coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, screened from 12:10 to 15:30, averaged 4.71m (35.2%), peaking with 6.53m (42.1%) as Hamilton crossed the line. A further 963k (7.3%) watched on Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 15:30, their coverage peaked with 1.36m (8.8%) at the same time. The combined average of 5.67m is the highest of the entire season, but it is not the highest ever for Abu Dhabi. In 2010, an average of 5.78m (41.4%) watched Sebastian Vettel’s title victory at the same race track. Having looked at the breakdown, the reason for this is because BBC’s coverage in 2010 started off very high having followed the Remembrance Sunday service directly before it, whereas the start of BBC’s coverage began at a relatively low base in comparison.
At the start of the race, 6.02m (46.8%) were watching BBC One and Sky Sports F1. As always, its worth remembering the figures refer to people, not homes, so this is six million people. That figure climbed quickly to 6.67m (48.7%) by 13:25. After a brief dip for both channels, the combined figure hit 6.84m (48.0%) at 13:50, breaking through the seven million barrier at 14:15. At 14:30, 7.50m (49.8%) were watching as Hamilton entered the final laps, peaking with 7.89m (50.9%) at 14:40. The peak is 530k higher than the 7.36m (50.5%) that watched Vettel’s title win at its peak four years ago.
It goes without saying that the numbers are significantly lower than the 8.8m average and 13.1m peak that watched Hamilton clinched his first title back in Brazil 2008. From a publicity point of view, it does Formula 1 no good whatsoever having the championship decider in Abu Dhabi. By doing that yesterday, Formula 1 lost several million viewers as a result. The UK numbers would have been higher had yesterday’s race been held in Brazil. Okay, I’m not saying the F1 would have peaked with 13.1m viewers yesterday had it been in Brazil as that had some fairly unique circumstances surrounding it, but the peak number would have been higher than 7.89m.
Sky’s extended post-race coverage reaped the rewards of Hamilton’s championship victory. An average of 340k (2.4%) watched their coverage from 15:30 to 16:50, remaining above 400k until after 16:00.
Qualifying and Formula E
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 2.38m (23.8%) on BBC One from 12:10 to 14:15. Sky Sports F1 added 341k (3.6%) during its extended 11:15 to 14:35 slot. The first 45 minutes averaged 208k (2.8%), which is a brilliant figure when you consider that a classic race in the same 45 minute period in the past has failed to average even half of that number. From 12:00 to 14:35, the channel averaged 380k (3.8%), with Sky1’s coverage bringing in 59k (0.6%). The combined figure of 2.82m for the coverage is down on last season’s number, BBC having had highlights of last year’s qualifying session on the fringes of primetime.
Elsewhere, Formula E dropped from its inaugural race in Beijing. Round 2 from Putrajaya averaged 66k (5.1%) from 05:00 to 07:30 on ITV4, peaking with 137k (7.2%) at 06:50. Highlights from 18:00 averaged 95k (0.5%). By no means stellar, but even those low figures beat all GP2 and GP3 programming on Sky Sports F1 and would compare solidly with MotoGP on BT Sport. Had that race been on BT Sport, the figures would have been embarrassing.
Three things did not help Formula E at the weekend. The first undoubtedly was the ten week gap, which sadly for the series was unavoidable. The Putrajaya race was originally meant to be held in October but was moved at the request of the Malaysian government. The date change meant it clashed with the Formula 1 season finale, and of course the late time change to avoid thunderstorms. So Formula E was always on the back foot. That should change now though as Uruguay, Argentina and two rounds in the USA follow between now and April which should help build an audience for the series from Beijing with the races being held in European primetime.
The 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.