F1 still 'nowhere' on social media despite impressive 2017 growth

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Formula One bosses know the series is still "so far" from rival sports in terms of social media despite registering a huge increase in followers during 2017.

This month F1 reported a 54.9 percent rise of followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, following a big social media push from the sport's new owners Liberty Media in 2017. That made it the fastest-growing sport on social media for the whole year.

Despite the encouraging numbers, F1 bosses are under no illusions about the scale of the task at hand. Former Williams technical boss Pat Symonds, who joined the group working under F1 sporting chief Ross Brawn to help define the series' future direction, knows the good work of 2017 is just a start.

"When you read it, it looks like good news but in reality, we are nowhere," he said when speaking at the MIA's Entertainment and Energy-Efficient Motorsport Conference. "We're so far behind. If you just look at Facebook, Mercedes are there at over 10m against 95.5m for Barcelona Football Club.

"We're nowhere in F1. It's the same with the drivers. Lewis [Hamilton] has four million followers on Facebook while [Real Madrid footballer Cristiano] Ronaldo has 11.8 million. We have so far to go in these areas. At least we're aware of it now. Prior to Liberty taking over, I don't think this crossed Bernie's mind at all."

Part of the new approach to social media included a relaxation of the stringent restrictions previously placed on teams during race weekends, while F1 also enjoyed a significant increase in the amount of video content created during the season. The views of its video content expanded by a huge 165 percent from 2016.

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who was removed from a position of power when Liberty Media completed its takeover in early 2017, was a staunch opponent to social media -- he once claimed F1 did not need to appeal to a younger audience and that Twitter would be dead before he was.

Curiously, Lewis Hamilton, F1's reigning world champion and it's most popular athlete on social media, kicked off the new year by deleting all his posts from Instagram and Twitter. This came several days after the Englishman had been criticised for a video posted to Instagram during the Christmas break in which he appeared to chastise his nephew about wearing a princess dress.