F1 fan survey lists Max Verstappen as most-popular driver ahead of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton
Changes in the popularity stakes for drivers and teams in the latest global fan survey run in conjunction with Formula 1; F1 chief Stefano Domenicali welcomes feedback on wide range of subjects, including sprint races, with younger and more diverse respondents noted in 2021 survey
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 22/10/21 6:02am
A Formula 1 global fan survey has found Max Verstappen to be the sport's most popular driver, with Lewis Hamilton third, amid a rise in popularity for the sport's younger generation.
Commissioned by Motorsport Network in conjunction with Formula 1 and data experts Nielsen Sports, the first Global F1 Fan Survey since 2017 compiled feedback on a range of topics in the sport with responses from 167,000 fans in 187 countries during September.
There have been significant changes since the last survey as far as the pecking order for the most popular drivers is concerned.
Whereas Hamilton was top last time ago, ahead of fellow experienced title winners Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, the reigning champion was third this time behind title rival Verstappen and fellow Briton Lando Norris - although the survey creators stressed there was little to sperate the leading trio in the final data.
Hamilton, the sport's most successful driver and comfortably the most-followed on social media, was the most popular in the UK and among respondents aged 45 and over. Verstappen was popular within the 25-45 age range, while Norris was the highest-ranked driver in the 16-24 bracket and among the female demographic.
Daniel Ricciardo, Norris' McLaren team-mate, was the fourth most popular ahead of Vettel, while youngsters Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Pierre Gasly were also in the top 10.
McLaren, who ended their nine-year victory drought at Monza last month, were voted the most popular team ahead of Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.
The survey did, however, find that nearly two-thirds of F1 fans follow a number of teams and drivers.
In wider results from the survey, 55 per cent of fans said the sport is in better health compared to five years ago (up from 25 per cent in 2017). The survey also reported a younger and more diverse audience, with an average age of 32 (it was 36 in 2017) with female participation in the survey almost doubling to 18.3 per cent from 10 per cent.
Speaking in a virtual press conference to announce the survey's results ahead of this weekend's showpiece US GP in Austin, F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said of the fans' feedback: "Their views are very valuable to all of us, and we are extremely pleased for what we have heard. We take that very seriously.
"One very important element for us is it shows that today Formula 1 is the most followed platform internationally and this is really great. This is something that shows who we are and the things that we need to do in order to progress with this growth that we are living today.
"It's clear that we are reaching new fans and people that are also coming to the sport with a different vision. So we need to respect the traditions of the ones who are super-avid about motorsport with the fans who are getting into this business."
What was the response to the sprint race trials?
One area in which F1 has attempted to evolve the spectacle while respecting the sport's traditions is through the trial Sprint format, which was run at the British and Italian Grands Prix earlier in the season and will be used for the final time this year next month in Brazil.
The format - which sees a mini 25-minute race take place on Saturday to set the grid for Sunday's main grand prix, with the usual qualifying format moved to Friday night - recorded a net positive result of seven per cent in the survey.
With tweaks to the format, F1 is looking to hold sprint weekends at six of next year's 23 race weekends.
"The number [in the survey] is very encouraging because you need to consider the mixed feeling of having a more traditional fan less happy for the change while the new fans are really happy to see things moving in a different way," said Domenicali.
"As it's stated on the survey, we are not even thinking to go with all the Grand Prix in a different format. We are thinking that we can create a very fixed number, that I think will be six, in the next future with this format with changes that we are thinking about together with the teams to improve the quality of the offer."
As with past surveys, there was a continued negative response to the notions of reverse grids and success ballast.
Meanwhile, with F1 strongly pushing ahead with its sustainability plans, 55 per cent of fans expressed the view that the sport should be a 'world leader' in the development of 100 per cent sustainable fuels.