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Women Who Wheel: The Rise of Female Formula 1 Fans

Vroom vroom baby! 

Admit it or not, we've all seen this video on our phones: POV: You're dating a Formula 1 driver. Images from the racecourse appear before your eyes. A 23-second TikTok, viewed hundreds of times, slows down only to show WAGs (short for "wives and girlfriends") ruffling the luxuriant, curly hair of their loved ones: attractive, thick-necked, toned athletes at the pinnacle of their careers and Taylor Swift's "Call It What You Want" plays in the background. These types of videos are typically linked with pop artists and actors. However, a transition is underway. Culture travels quickly, and the girlification of Formula 1 is real and here to stay.

Women Who Wheel: The Rise of Female Formula 1 Fans

Formula One (F1) racing has been well-known since its debut more than 50 years ago, with countless fans tuning in across the world each year. However, in recent years, we've seen a new wave of F1 mega fandom. Women are driving a growing enthusiasm for racing through TikToks and Tumblr fan pages that idolize gorgeous drivers, as well as podcasts that analyze car mechanics or sports politics.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stated in November 2022 that 40% of global F1 fans were women, an 8% increase over 2017. F1 racing has grown in popularity among younger fans on social media sites. For example, on racing weekends, there could be up to 40 million social media interactions, with many of them coming from young women. If you want to know how motorsports became so popular, especially in the United States, you must follow the money. Liberty Media, an American firm, paid $4.4 billion for Formula One in 2016. The previous owner had struggled to move the brand into the twenty-first century, refusing to attract a younger audience even though his regular viewers were fast aging. As a result, Formula One viewership fell by 40% between 2008 and 2016, when Liberty Media stepped in.

We all know that Americans love sports and would spend dollars to prove it, therefore Liberty Media made improvements to appeal to American audiences. They abolished the sexist practice of grid girls and loosened previously imposed social media limitations. This enabled drivers and their teams to go crazy online, propelling Formula 1 to the largest, most popular sport across digital platforms (and transforming gorgeous, likable drivers into marketable celebrities). If the common consensus is to be followed, this popularity may be attributed only to Netflix's Drive to Survive, which launched in 2019.

Kate Lizotte and Nicole Sievers, the women behind Two Girls One Formula, credit Formula 1: Drive to Survive with helping to boost the sport's fanbase (although they were fans before the series premiere). "It's reality TV; we get to see heightened drama and relationships play out in real-time." "It's The Real Housewives of Formula One," Sievers claims. The drivers' appearance at New York Fashion Week should be proof enough of their rising superstar status, and hello! No one complained about Lewis Hamilton's attendance at this year's Met Gala.

While many of us became interested in Formula 1 after Ferrari recruited Charles Leclerc in 2019 and felt it was great that they were introducing youthful drivers to the grid, other female fans saw it as a union of cars and boy-band-looking boys.

On YouTube, several fan-made movies highlight individual drivers and their friendships, including Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc (and lately his dog, who BTW has his own Instagram page), Carlos Sainz, and Daniel Ricciardo. Some of the videos have garnered millions of views. There's even a popular Formula 1 romance fiction series, Dirty Air by Lauren Asher, that doesn't shy away from the erotic risque of driving 300 kilometers in a race with a jawline that could cut glass. Not to forget that there are podcasts in which the self-described audience gathers to debate sport regulation changes, driver thirst traps, and breakfast menus themed after the race's overseas venues. Across the world and with varied degrees of experience — stans who've never liked a sport before Formula 1 and seasoned fans alike — these female fans are the subject matter experts.

But, like with everything else, a few men find an excuse to put a female down simply because she is a fan. You have men who are disrespectful to anyone who is not one of them, and you also have the typical internalized misogyny of a female fan who says, "I like the real sport. I enjoy engineering. I don't like WAG gossip. I am not like the other gals." It is also disappointing that the sport itself is hesitant to welcome female fans, with Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner declaring that Formula 1 is "bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great-looking young drivers," dismissing the possibility that many of them have recently become fans because they genuinely enjoy the sport as well.

To summarize, In a world where women's voices are often ignored in sports, these fangirls are making their voices heard loud and clear. They're not just redefining the game; they're demonstrating that the passion for Formula One is as diverse as the sport itself. Whether you're into the sleek design of the cars, the adrenaline of the race, or just can't get enough of those driver bromances, remember that there's a spot on the grid for everyone.

So next time you scroll past a TikTok showing a WAG brushing her beau’s hair or a fan-made montage of heartthrob drivers, don’t just swipe up. Take a moment to appreciate how these dedicated fans are revving up the sport's appeal, making it faster, louder, and a whole lot more fun. After all, in the race to win hearts, F1’s newest fans are leading the pack. And to quote Taylor Swift, "Call It What You Want" — we call it awesome.


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