By Stefan Kristensen
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August 5, 2022
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WHICH IS BIGGER F1 OR NASCAR?

Despite being categorized as non-conventional, motorsports have taken over the world, gaining an impressive fan following and recognition. There are 2 global motorsports giants,  namely, F1 and NASCAR, and both have a massive fan following. But fans remain divided over which is bigger F1 or NASCAR?

Well our answer, and we know it will leave quite a few people fuming, is that F1 is bigger. Formula 1 has a huge fan base and global reach resulting in more significant revenue generation. 

We will now take a deep dive and take a look at the many factors that in our opinion make F1 bigger than NASCAR.

NASCAR vs Formula 1

To understand the gist of the argument, we must first look at what these sports are and how they appeal to fans. NASCAR racing is developed around a closed-body sedan, modified to be lighter and produce better engine performance. The racing is based on an open throttle and oval racetracks with banked turns. The sport allows aggressive contact to make it more fun for the spectators.

F1, on the other hand, is a single-seater open cockpit car designed specifically for racing. The racing is centered around acceleration, braking and other technical factors with curvy race tracks to truly test the ability of the car and the driver. 

Attendance 

Now that we know what these sports are, we take a look at how they stack up against each otherand finally answer the question of which is bigger F1 or NASCAR. Both these leagues generate impressive attendance figures, both in terms of in-person attendees and those watching on the broadcast.

According to a Red Bull infographic, NASCAR generated the highest figure of 182,000 attendance for its Daytona 500. A figure that seems unbeatable. 

However, F1 soars past it with 298,000 in attendance for its Australian Grand Prix. Formula1 also beats NASCAR’s yearly figures with 4 million people per year compared to NASCAR’s 3.5 million people per year (RACERS).

Revenue Generation

Once again, both these sports generate jaw-dropping figures. NASCAR brings in around 100 Million USD annually and employs over 1800 people and broadcasts to 150 countries worldwide (“NASCAR Revenue - Zippia”). 

These figures might look impressive but wait till you hear about how much F1 makes! Formula 1 raked in a whopping 2.13 billion USD in 2021 despite being affected by COVID-19 (“F1 Reports $92M Profit In 2021 As Income Bounces Back”).

Now that our answer to the question “which is bigger, F1 or NASCAR?” has a solid backing, we can transition to why this is. Why is it that F1 is more prominent and bigger than NASCAR? 

Global Reach

Even though we have determined that Formula 1 globally is more prominent than NASCAR, we cannot completely disregard NASCAR. Unlike F1, NASCAR is locally situated in the USA, with companies from North America participating in races. Even though Formula 1 is actively trying to develop its market in the US, NASCAR outperforms its rival in its homeland. 

The Formula 1 US Grand Prix of 2019 had an audience of 861,000 on ABC; however, NASCAR trumps that with a huge audience of 2.2 million viewers in its Cup Series on NBCSN (“NASCAR Vs F1 - Some Interesting Facts”). Viewers from the States have grown up watching NASCAR, and its particular style of bold, loud, and aggressive racing is something that hits home. 

Even though Formula 1 loses this battle, it wins the war by choosing a different approach. Its audience and demographic are not specific to a country. The format is intercontinental, with competitions taking place across the globe. This allows Formula 1 to gain a more global overall attraction. 

Teams

Having a greater global reach allows Formula 1 to gain attraction not just from fans but also from auto manufacturing companies. A look at either sport’s leader board tells us the complete story. NASCAR’s top 50 leader board comprises just Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota (GamesXFL et al.). Compare that to Formula 1 which has Red bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin, and others. ("Standings") 

Formula 1 attracts more exotic companies, which in turn attracts more viewership, allowing for greater revenue inflow due to better sponsorships. 

Sustainability

Another example of a better strategy is Formula 1’s Formula E segment, a segment for electric vehicle racing conceived in 2011 and implemented in September 2014 (“History Of Formula E | FIA Formula E”).

Given the current situation on climate change with depleting natural resources and increasing air pollution, the world is moving towards sustainable options. Consumers are also more environmentally aware and following the trend, Formula 1 has also made a progressive move. In comparison, NASCAR plans to have its first E Racing demo race in 2023 (“History Of Formula E | FIA Formula E”).

Formula 1’s eco-friendly strategy allows it to gain an edge over its competitor, especially among young people. 

Media

Once again, Formula 1’s global reach and innovative marketing strategy have allowed it to have a very prominent media presence. Just looking at a simple metric like Instagram following gives us an idea about where F1 and NASCAR stand. Formula 1’s Instagram page has a total of 20.3 million followers, while NASCAR has just 1.6 million followers. 

Formula 1 also gained popularity by moving into mainstream media with its “Drive to Survive” series; this show has four seasons and ever-growing popularity. According to data released by Netflix, Drive to Survive season 4 had over 4.14 million viewers just three days after its release (Nelson, and Nelson).

Conclusion 

To wrap up the argument about, “which is bigger F1 or NASCAR?”, the simple answer is Formula 1. Formula 1’s strategy of targeting a global demographic has given it a clear edge over NASCAR on a number of metrics. 

That is not to imply that NASCAR is a failing sport. The sport has figures only second to NFL in the USA. However, in a holistic comparison, it is quite evident that Formula 1 is bigger than NASCAR. 

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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