Verstappen leads the Google Trends table

Mercedes may have led the way on track, but have they been the most searched ? According to Google Trends, the answer is no. Using data from Google Trends, Max Verstappen leads the way in the popularity rankings, whilst Lewis Hamilton has been searched more than double his team-mate.

To start off with, Google Trends data is described as follows:

Trends adjusts search data to make comparisons between terms easier.

Search results are proportionate to the time and location of a query:

  • Each data point is divided by the total searches of the geography and time range it represents, to compare relative popularity. Otherwise places with the most search volume would always be ranked highest.
  • The resulting numbers are then scaled on a range of 0 to 100 based on a topic’s proportion to all searches on all topics.
  • Different regions that show the same number of searches for a term will not always have the same total search volumes.

To analyse the data, we need to find the largest data point from every driver in 2016. They largest point is scaled at 100 with the remainder of the data following afterwards. The data is aggregated weekly, so we can see which driver led each race week throughout the season.

Max Verstappen’s win at the Spanish Grand Prix was the most searched Formula 1 topic of 2016, narrowly beating Fernando Alonso’s spectacular crash at the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

Most Searched Drivers’ on Google in 2016
14 x Max Verstappen (RUS, SPA, MON, CAN, BAK, GBR, HUN, GER, BEL, SIN, JPN, USA, MEX, BRA)
3 x Lewis Hamilton (AUT, ITA, MAL)
2 x Rio Haryanto (BAH, CHN)
1 x Fernando Alonso (AUS)

It was a Verstappen whitewash at the top of the table for the majority of the year, showing the global impact he has made in such a short space of time since his move to Red Bull following the Russian Grand Prix.

Behind Verstappen were the aforementioned Hamilton, Alonso and Haryanto, in that order. Hamilton has been a title contender all year-long, so his placing should not be surprising. Alonso would not be as high up the pecking order without his Australia crash, which generated a lot of press attention and imagery to go along with it. Haryanto was the first Indonesian driver in Formula 1, becoming somewhat of a celebrity in his home country as a result.

Nico Rosberg has been consistently behind Hamilton throughout the season by a ratio of 2.5 to 1, never once moving ahead of him and only once equalling him in the search rankings following the Austrian Grand Prix. Even if Rosberg does win the championship on Sunday, Hamilton will remain by far the more recognisable figure outside the paddock thanks to his superstar status.

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Jenson Button are the only other drivers’ that get respectable search numbers via Google. Everyone else is clustered within the same region, led currently by Felipe Massa. The Sauber drivers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson trail the table, with Jolyon Palmer just ahead of the pair.

Analysing each team is difficult as someone searching Ferrari could either be searching the racing team or cars to buy, whereas Red Bull could either mean the racing team or the soft drinks. Using the data already gathered though, it is possible to see which race weekends generated the biggest impact via the Google search engine. As already discovered, the Spanish and Australian weekends lead the way, thanks to Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso respectively, although the Spanish race win for Verstappen was due to Mercedes’ own misdemeanour as well.

The wet race in Brazil featured as the 3rd best race of the season, again Verstappen the key here for the search metrics. Austria and Mexico rounded out the top five positions. It’s clear to see why those five races generated a lot of search traffic. Shockingly, races with big moments result in a surge in search activity for those associated with the action.

At the other end of the spectrum, the European Grand Prix from Baku generated the least amount of search traffic all year. Not only was the race poor, but it clashed with Euro 2016 and more importantly from a motor racing perspective, Le Mans. Hopefully Baku manages to avoid a Le Mans clash in 2017 as it hurt the former more than anticipated in the process.

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