With the planned season-opening Australian Grand Prix called off in March, and the campaign not getting going properly until July, F1 held no races in the first half of the year.
But while the disruption could have prompted a dramatic fall in audience figures, F1 has reported only a slight drop compared to 2020 – and viewership that is still in line with previous years.
The total TV audience for 2020 was 1.5 billion, which compares to 1.9 billion viewers in 2019.
However, with there only being 17 races last year, compared to 21 events the previous season, the average viewership per race did not see that big a drop-off.
The average viewership per race was 87.4 million last year, which was 4.5% down on 2019.
However, compared to the 87 million average in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and the 80 million in 2014 and 2015, the figure is not too unexpected considering the unusual season.
The highest audience figure was for the Hungarian Grand Prix, which attracted 103.7 million viewers – 7% higher than the event got in 2019.
The Portuguese Grand Prix attracted 100.5 million viewers, the Sakhir GP got 98.1 million and Turkey delivered 89.1 million viewers.
Some territories saw a boost in audience figures with China up 43 per cent year on year. The Dutch audience was up 28%, while Britain (10%), Russia (71%) and Germany (5%) also enjoyed a growth in engagement.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said the audience figures last year were testament to the strength of the sport, which could have faced serious problems if the season had been called off.
“Last year was an unprecedented time for everyone and Formula 1 had to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic,” he said.
“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.”
He 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.”