New breed of drivers to ignite F1 in 2016

26.11.15, London – Whilst the Drivers and Constructors World Championships were decided well before the final Formula One race of the year in Abu Dhabi this weekend, the 2015 F1 season has seen a new generation of drivers emerge, data released by Repucom, the trusted advisor in sports and entertainment intelligence shows.

Having celebrated his 18th birthday three days after the Japanese Grand Prix in September, Max Verstappen, F1’s youngest ever driver, has enjoyed an unprecedented rise in the sport. With two fourth-place finishes to his name so far this year and a string of impressive overtaking moves, the Dutch driver has marked himself out as a potential F1 world champion.

Rise in marketability

In his native Holland, public perception of the teenager has seen him become one of the most marketable sports stars in less than 12 months. In February this year, 68% of the Dutch population knew who he was. Today, that proportion of the population is over 83%.

Using Repucom’s Celebrity DBI tool which measures a person’s marketability against eight defining metrics, Max Verstappen is now considered as marketable a personality as football player, Robin Van Persie in the Netherlands. Today, Verstappen sits as the 6th most marketable personality based on the opinions of the Dutch population.

F1’s next generation

Verstappen, son of former F1 driver Jos, joined Red Bull’s young driver programme last year, before making his F1 debut for Toro Rosso at this year’s Australian Grand Prix. During his debut year in the sport, he has also secured personal sponsorship agreements with Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo and business software product manufacturer Exact.

Nigel Geach, SVP Motorsport, Repucom, said:

“This is an exciting time for the sport with the introduction of a new breed of quality drivers including this year’s debutants Carlos Sainz Jr., Felipe Nasr and Alexander Rossi. They join 2014’s new racers, Daniil Kyvat, Marcus Ericsson and Will Stevens and 2016 will also see two further new drivers in Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Gutierrez.

“By far the stand out success has to be that of Toro Rosso’s, Max Verstappen. The importance these young guys bring to the sport cannot be underestimated, offering new opportunities for brands and right holders to engage in F1 but also helping to bring the sport to a younger, more digital savvy generation.

“I don’t think we’re quite seeing a changing of the guard just yet, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, Martini Williams’ Felipe Massa and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen still have so much to offer the sport.”

It is not just Verstappen’s public perception which has increased this season. The Dutchman’s social media following (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) has jumped over 500% from 68,000 at the start of the season to 455,000 today. Understanding the value of this growing fan base is key for the driver, the team and sponsoring brands.