In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1’s weekend attendance figures exceeded two million. The United States Grand Prix was the best attended race of the year. We take a look at F1’s spectator numbers from the blockbuster 2021 season.
In 2020, the majority of F1’s seventeen races took place behind closed doors. Thankfully, that was not the case in 2021 as F1 expanded its calendar to a record-breaking 22 rounds. While the coronavirus did cause some races to be cancelled – and three races early in the season were held behind closed doors – the majority of this year’s races went ahead with spectators in the grandstands. At most races this year, those attending had to prove they were vaccinated against coronavirus and/or supply a negative test result.
Top 5 attended F1 races in 2021*
*3-Day attendance figures **Dutch Grand Prix attendance figure is an estimate based on the circuit being open to 70,000 fans per day. Race day attendance at Zandvoort was 72,000.
From no fans to full houses
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the Portuguese Grand Prix and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix were the most affected by the pandemic, with these early season races going ahead without fans in attendance. There were further limitations on crowd numbers early on in the season. Only 4,500 fans were allowed to attend the season-opener in Bahrain, which set a trend of races being open only to those who had been vaccinated against, or had recovered from, COVID-19.
By July, Formula 1 began opening its doors to capacity crowds once again, with the Austrian Grand Prix the first to welcome a full house since the beginning of the pandemic. Record figures were seen at the British Grand Prix, as well as the United States and Mexico City Grands Prix later in the season. In total, F1’s weekend attendance figures exceeded 2,000,000 in 2021. In 2019, the last season not to be affected by the pandemic, attendance figures were almost double that number.
Keep reading for an in-depth look at attendance figures at each race in 2021.
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
4,500 fans were present at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. As with most races in 2021, the event was open to those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19, or who had recovered from the virus. The record weekend attendance figure in Bahrain is 97,000, set in 2019.
2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Imola is yet to have had any fans in attendance at either of the Emilia Romagna Grands Prix held during the coronavirus pandemic. Tickets were available in 2020 but plans for fans to attend were shelved due to restrictions in Italy. In 2021, tickets never went on sale, with the race held behind closed doors.
2021 Spanish Grand Prix
The 2021 Spanish Grand Prix was set to be the third consecutive race held behind closed doors. However, a week before the race, organisers announced that 1,000 fans would be permitted to attend on the day of the Grand Prix. The fans permitted to attend were all members of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Certain restrictions were lifted in Spain the day after the race.
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix was held with a fraction of its usual capacity. 7,500 fans were permitted to attend each day of the weekend, with 3,000 tickets available for the Friday of the race weekend on which support races took place.
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
In March, it was announced that the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix would take place with no spectators in attendance.
2021 French Grand Prix
Following the cancellation of the Turkish Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix was brought forward by one week at short notice. The event was open to 15,000 fans per day, with the venue divided into three separate spectator zones.
2021 Styrian Grand Prix
The first of two consecutive race weekends at the Red Bull Ring saw 15,000 fans in the grandstands for the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix. Similar to the French Grand Prix, the Red Bull Ring was divided into four zones with access restricted to only fans with grandstand tickets in each specific zone.
2021 Austrian Grand Prix
The 2021 Austrian Grand Prix was the first full capacity F1 event since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. 132,000 fans passed through the turnstiles over the weekend, while almost 60,000 watched Max Verstappen storm to victory on race day.
2021 British Grand Prix
At the biggest event in the United Kingdom since the start of the pandemic, the 2021 British Grand Prix had a record-breaking attendance of 356,000 over three days. 140,000 watched Lewis Hamilton add another home win to his collection on race day. 2022 looks set to be another record-breaking year for the Silverstone race, with General Admission tickets – and many popular grandstands – having already sold out.
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix
65,000 fans witnessed Esteban Ocon take his maiden race win at the damp 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. 130,000 attended over the race weekend – that’s around 100,000 down on the 2019 figure, which was boosted by Robert Kubica’s presence on the grid.
2021 Belgian Grand Prix
Attendance for the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was capped at a maximum of 75,000 fans per day, but no official attendance figures have been released. Wet weather on Sunday meant that no F1 racing action took place, with laps completed behind the Safety Car determining the outcome of the race. It has recently emerged that fans attending the race will not be offered refunds, but will instead be offered a subscription to F1TV and be entered into a prize draw for tickets to the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix.
2021 Dutch Grand Prix
The Dutch Grand Prix’s comeback was delayed by one year to ensure that fans would be able to attend. Circuit Zandvoort was cut to two thirds of its capacity due to coronavirus restrictions. Around 72,000 fans were there on race day to watch home hero Max Verstappen take victory. The event’s sporting director Jan Lammers says that number could double in 2022.
2021 Italian Grand Prix
Perhaps the most disappointing attendance figures in 2021 came at the Italian Grand Prix. With the venue running at only half capacity, ticket prices were increased substantially in order to make up revenue. According to Stefano Domenicali, the venue was open to a maximum of 25,000 fans per day. Only 10,000 were in attendance for the qualifying session on Friday afternoon, while 16,000 watched the Sprint Qualifying action on Saturday. Race day figures were similarly disappointing, with at least 5,000 tickets still available on the morning of the Grand Prix. The poor ticket sales in Italy this year were compounded by the late launch of ticket sales for the race.
2021 Turkish Grand Prix
For the first time since 2011, fans were able to watch from the grandstands at the Turkish Grand Prix. Ahead of the race weekend, Intercity boss Vural Ak commented that 100,000 fans were expected to be in attendance for the race weekend. The official attendance figures have not been released. Around 35,000 fans were expected from abroad.
2021 United States Grand Prix
Formula 1 enjoyed a record attendance figure at the United States Grand Prix, with 400,000 fans passing through the turnstiles over the three-day weekend. The race was the best attended of the season. Formula 1’s popularity has received a significant boost in recent seasons, thanks to more accessible TV coverage and Netflix’s Drive to Survive series. The 2021 attendance figure was 132,000 more than the last race at Circuit of The Americas in 2019.
2021 Mexico City Grand Prix
The 2021 Mexico City Grand Prix was a sell-out event. 372,000 fans packed into Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez over the race weekend, where home favourite Sergio Perez finished on the podium. The attendance figure was up around 30,000 on the 2019 attendance. Impressively, only 5% of fans requested a refun]d for the cancelled 2020 event instead of electing to carry forward their tickets to 2021.
2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix
Tickets for the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix sold out quickly after the event had been cancelled in 2020. 170,000 fans were in attendance over the race weekend. The event was the biggest in Brazil since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
2021 Qatar Grand Prix
QMMF President Abdulrahman Al-Mannai reported 80,000 fans were in attendance over the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix weekend. The event was the biggest sporting event held in Qatar – a record which is likely to be beaten by next year’s FIFA World Cup.
2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Attendance figures for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Street Circuit have not been released.
2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Days ahead of the highly anticipated title decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix organisers announced that the event had sold out. The event was originally scheduled to go ahead with a reduced capacity, but this changed in October. The circuit’s capacity is 60,000.
Summary and looking ahead to 2022
We estimate that around 2.4 millions fans attended a race in 2021 (based on 3-day attendance figures), a 40% decrease on 2019 when 4.16 million fans went to a race. With a record 23-race calendar planned for 2022 and interest continuing to rise in Formula 1, circuit bosses will be hoping to return to, or even exceed, 2019 attendance figures, provided of course that there’s no further disruption from coronavirus restrictions. Tickets are already on sale for more than half of the races on the planned 2022 calendar, with tickets for several races – notably Miami, Monaco and Canada – already close to being completely sold out.