Where Are The 31 million Indian F1 Fans?

Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber plays cricket with Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir, also an F1 fan.
A recently released report from Formula 1 indicates that India has a large 31 million fan base.

Formula 1 recently released its performance numbers across markets for television, digital and others. The report proved a few things – Europe is Formula 1‘s key market. This is why the race broadcast timings are decided basis what is most convenient for the European audiences. Also, traditional variables still matter when it comes to increasing viewership. Poland proved how hero worship (for Robert Kubica) led to a spike in viewership while in the Middle East and North Africa, new distribution agreements brought in more viewers.

But the number that interested me the most? 31 million fans in India, a number that puts India in the top-5 fan markets. However, the irony is that despite such a large fan base, India doesn’t feature in the top-20 markets for television viewership and the Indian Grand Prix doesn’t seem like it will resurrect any time soon. In fact, if this fan base tuned in to live broadcast, Star Sports would be able to actively work on delivering better quality content like their European counterparts.  Currently, the critical mass of television viewers is not high enough for Star Sports to invest further in the broadcast via pre and post race shows, features and more. One wonders what would it take to activate this fan base for commercial gains.

Why Same Day Qualifying & Race Won’t Work For F1

Along with television, the other opportunity that exists for this large fan base is in the area of betting. I’ve long written posts on betting in Formula 1 and there is ample opportunity to explore live betting odds with 10cric India. If only, we had bet on Max Verstappen’s win on debut with Red Bull Racing back in 2016. We predicted this on the Inside Line F1 Podcast back then. For those new to betting, there are several options for one to consider – including pole sitter, race winner, podium finishers, fastest lap and more. For now, a few big bets would be on whether Mercedes will continue in Formula 1 after 2020 or not. Will Lewis Hamilton deflect to Ferrari in the future? If those are standard ones, sample this – will Fernando Alonso ever return to Formula 1? Will Sebastian Vettel ever become a Formula 1 world champion again?

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

2 comments On Where Are The 31 million Indian F1 Fans?

  • I dont live in Asia anymore, but I do visit regularly. FoxSports Asia’s coverage of F1 has dramatically improved in the last decade. Free Practise is now shown, there is actually a pitlane reporter now etc. The pre and post shows are still the same, pretty average, much of the same really. Alex Yoong was a pretty average driver, but he is a decent pundit, but the whole production often seems a bit rushed and forced.

    Having said this, good effort on the improvements.

    I was under the impression that India got the same FoxSports feed. I was in Sri Lanka a few years back and was watching the FoxSports feed. You’d think that they’d just share the feed with Asia, making investments more viable. Perhaps even get the likes of Narain Karthikeyan back in the studio from time to time.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jay. Yes, the FoxSports feed was beamed into India for the longest time – Alex Yoong, Mathew Marsh and Paula Malai Ali being household names for Motorsport fans. However, the cost of the broadcast feeds are structured differently. Star Sports would require to pay for the pre and post race coverage to FoxSports while the race feed comes from FOM. Given the low viewership, Star Sports opted to release the FoxSports feed and offer only the FOM feed for all official sessions. As a result, fans miss out on the pre/post analysis and conversations. Hope this helps. And of course, you are welcome to tune in to the Inside Line F1 Podcast, our weekly show on the sport and business of Formula 1.

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