It’s often said that Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, but is that really the case? Are there other competitions around the racing world that compare favorably?
When we look at the overall landscape, there are certainly many alternatives to F1, both for fans of racing on two and four wheels. The quantity is there, but how do those other motor racing disciplines compare with the sport at the elite level?
Out in pole position
Formula 1 certainly attracts the bulk of investment, and it supplies high levels of revenue for associated industries. Hundreds of millions of viewers tune into each Grand Prix across a season, and the TV companies pay high premiums to secure the broadcasting rights.
TV advertising is also highly prized during these races, while the sports betting industry supplies more F1 odds than for any similar competitions. In that sense, it’s really out in front in racing terms, but it’s certainly not the only motorsport that fans can enjoy.
The two wheeled equivalent
Motorsport covers a whole host of different disciplines, and it isn’t just about the cars. Racing on two wheels has a strong following and, for the bikes, the equivalent to Formula 1 is MotoGP. This is the elite level of motorcycle racing where the best riders and the best machines are involved.
Both disciplines have a long history: Formula 1 was founded in 1950, while the top level of motorbike racing began a year earlier in 1949. Each sport also attracts the most external investment and that allows it to showcase the best drivers and riders.
Support for Formula 1 outstrips its two-wheeled equivalent and this is where the sports differ. Figures show that there are around 70 million viewers tuning in to each F1 Grand Prix. In a MotoGP event, we can expect those numbers to settle at around 300,000.
In short, MotoGP is the best in the business as far as bikes are concerned, but it still falls short when compared to Formula 1.
Four wheeled competition
In certain parts of the world, there are some additional events that have started to enjoy a more global following. They are widely considered to be niche, but those that support them feel that they easily match the quality and drama of Formula 1.
NASCAR is one such discipline: The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was established in 1948, so it can match Formula 1 in terms of its history. It’s a strong start, but that’s where the similarity ends.
NASCAR’s detractors have an issue with the nature of the racing. Drivers appear to just simply speed around a left-handed track in circles for hours without the twists and turns of an Formula 1 track. There are nuances to the sport, but this relatively simplicity means that very few F1 fans can ever switch on to NASCAR.
A more palatable alternative can be found in IndyCar. First run in 1996, the history may be lacking, but there are far more similarities to Formula 1. IndyCar also showcases some iconic races such as the Indy 500 and far more F1 fans have an interest in this discipline.
Racing down under
Australia has produced its fair share of top drivers. Sir Jack Brabham was one of the greatest of all time with three world titles to his name; while his countryman Alan Jones went on to win the Formula 1 Drivers title in 1980. There is definite interest in F1 down under but, for many Aussies, the Bathurst 1000 is more important.
Australia’s answer to Formula 1 is the Supercars Championship which has been run in various guises since 1997. There are 13 races in total, but the undoubted highlight is the Bathurst 1000.
This dramatic race takes place annually on the Mount Panorama Circuit in New South Wales and, having been first run in 1960, it actually predates the overall Supercars Championship. There is great rivalry among fans of the competing drivers and cars, and the Bathurst certainly isn’t short on action and drama.
The best on a global scale
The contenders have all been assessed, but it’s still tough to see past Formula 1 as motorsport’s premier competition. Of the alternatives, few can really say that they are global sports.
MotoGP is different in that respect as it is the Formula 1 equivalent for motorbikes. The best machines and riders take part, but the viewing figures are poor in comparison to F1.
Of the four-wheeled contenders, many of the competitive sports are regional. NASCAR, IndyCar and the Bathurst are just three examples of car races that are specific to certain countries.
In short, there is little to compare to Formula 1 as the best sport involving driver and engine. Diversity is great and there will always be a demand for other disciplines but, in the race to be the best, there is only one winner…