Audience figures plummeted by 5.1 million viewers.

According to a report in The Independent newspaper, F1's annual Global Media Report that is sent to television broadcasters revealed that just 21.8 million viewers watched the sport last year – despite there being a record 21 races.

The move away from the BBC to Channel 4, allied to a campaign where local hero Lewis Hamilton endured his fair share of frustrations, have been cited as the two factors that have contributed to the decline.

The five-million fall in UK audiences accounts for fully half the 10-million drop that F1 experienced worldwide. F1's global viewership figures dropped to 390 million in 2016, which is the sixth consecutive year that F1 audiences have declined.

Since F1's move to pay TV at the start of this decade, global figures have dropped by more than 130 million. The latest figures will act as a wake-up call to F1's new owners Liberty Media, who are determined to lift fan interest in F1 and deliver bigger audiences in the future.

However, it has stated many times that it believes broadcasting pay TV channels remains a priority for driving income, rather than abandoning them for the greater audiences possible with free-to-air TV. We (and F1's sponsors, who are attracted to the sport because of the coverage it gets) shall see...