The numbers are alarming: Only 3.69 million followed the fifth consecutive Mercedes double victory at the GP of Spain on German TV (RTL) last Sunday. That was over a million fewer viewers than for the same race in Barcelona just a year earlier. At that time, however, Germany’s world champion Sebastian Vettel had already won two races with his Ferrari before heading to Barcelona for the European opening. Vettel was, in contrast to this season, competitive and fighting for the championship title.
That alone is not a concern for F1 rights holder Liberty Media, that the global number of TV viewers could spiral downwards. Despite the bickering by many F1 fans on social media, the interest in Formula 1 worldwide is still high. The loss of spectators and TV viewers is a specific German problem and therefore one for Mercedes.
Mercedes Needs a German Driver!
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The German car manufacturer based out of Stuttgart has an image problem in their own home country. The team is not considered German, but English. That’s not only internal gossip at the company headquarters in Untertürkheim, Germany, this is now also confirmed by TV numbers. Whether Lewis Hamilton wins one race after another in the Silver Arrow is of little interest in Germany.
For me, the meager TV ratings are just a logical consequence. Would German football fans turn on the television if the Three Lions (English national soccer team) played? Rather not! Unless they played the German national team which is always considered an epic battle of good and evil in both countries.
A German driver in a victorious Silver Arrow would give it a German brand seal and the TV ratings in Germany would shoot back up again. Of that, I am absolutely certain. The reason for that is simple:
Any sport lives in each country by the fact that the fans mainly want to identify with the role models and heroes who come from their own home country. The question is whether Formula 1 is still a sport at all? For Mercedes, the global conglomerate, certainly not any longer.