Formula 1 boosts viewing figures

TV viewing figures in Formula 1 broke through the 600m barrier last, largely thanks to the extraordinary World Championship showdown between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. This was a gain over the dramatic 2007 season, although not by much.

According to the report issued by the Formula One group, China has now become the sport's biggest audience with a total of 119m watching the races during the season. This overtook previous leader Brazil, which claimed 110m in 2008. The European audiences remain the most significant for the sport, however, and the largest of these was the Italian market with Ferrari fans tuning in to watch Massa. Italy claimed 37.5m in total throughout the season, while Lewis Hamilton's charge helped ITV record a total of 29.1m, which was up seven percent on last season. The BBC, which takes over the rights next year, hopes to do considerably better.

German audiences were down once again, although the arrival of Sebastian Vettel offers some hope for the future, but France is making a recovery after years in the doldrums. This seems to be in response to Renault's success rather than the appearance of Sebastien Bourdais in a Toro Rosso.

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