Formula 1 has revealed a slight drop in its television audience for the 2020 season.
As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 was forced to race exclusively in Europe for most of last year before rounding out the season with a triple-header in the Middle East.
However, while the timing of races suited a European audience, start times were less convenient for audiences elsewhere in the world and this was reflected in the figures released on Monday morning.
F1 has enjoyed a steady growth of its TV audience since 2015 and averaged over 90million viewers per Grand Prix in 2019, but this figure dropped by 4.5 per cent to 87.4m last year.
However, the sport has revealed figures in a number of "key markets" continued to show year on year increases, with the largest change seen in Russia - audiences rocketing by 71 per cent.
The Max Verstappen effect saw a 28 per cent rise in the Netherlands, with the Chinese audience also growing by 43 per cent despite a race taking place last year.
Despite there being no Grand Prix in North or South America last year, the USA audience grew by 1.1 per cent.
Across the year, F1 recorded 433m unique viewers, a decrease of eight per cent from last year but a figure reflective of the European-based nature of the season.
Stating a cumulative TV audience drop of 0.4billion from 2019, F1 commented this was a reflection of there being four fewer races across the year and "does not reflect a drop off in audiences in general".
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “Last year was an unprecedented time for everyone and Formula 1 had to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
"We delivered 17 races, something many thought impossible earlier in the year. We did it safely and brought excitement and new races to our fans around the world.
"The audience figures for 2020 show the strength and resilience of our sport, with average audience figures in 2020 at 87.4m and a total season cumulative audience of 1.5bn.
"We had strong growth figures in China, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and the USA, combined with the huge boost in our digital figures.
"We saw only a marginal reduction in TV audiences, caused by multiple reasons but clearly driven but a shortened and limited geographical calendar compared to 2019, but something every major sport has experienced in 2020."
Despite the drop in TV audience, F1 revealed a significant increase in its online presence, making it "the second fastest-growing major sports league on the planet".
The sport's following across social media was up by 36 per cent, while there was a 99 per cent increase in total engagement across all platforms.
Domenicali added: "We are proud of what we delivered in 2020 and know we have an incredibly strong fan base and audience platform to grow in the coming years.
"We are delighted our fans feel a strong satisfaction with the sport, our season, and the way we responded to the global pandemic.
"We are looking forward to the start of the 2021 season after the winter break and we know our fans are as excited as we are to get racing."
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