The 2021 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix has become Sky Sports' most watched F1 race ever, viewing figures have revealed.
An average of 1.98 million viewers tuned in to watch the event, and this peaked at 2.23 million. The figures mean that the grand prix - which saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen engaged in a gripping battle for the lead - was not only the highest viewed ever on Sky but it was also the first to peak at more than 2m viewers.
This is a huge difference on figures from the 2020 Formula 1 season; the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix attracted 1.51m viewers, whilst the Bahrain race last year was watched by 1.39m.
As well as attracting record numbers for the race itself, the qualifying session for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix was the first ever qualifying to attract an average audience of more than 1m. An average of 1.14m tuned in to watch the first qualifying of the season, and this peaked at 1.34m, the highest ever average peak recorded.
Those viewers were certainly treated to an entertaining weekend of racing to kick off the season. After coming into the first race off the back of an impressive pre-season testing, Red Bull's Max Verstappen was the favourite and the Dutchman followed through on this promise by securing pole position for the race.
During the grand prix itself though, Verstappen faced competition from the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, resulting in the two battling for the lead in the closing laps of the event.
Verstappen managed to get ahead, but was forced to hand the position back to Hamilton after being deemed to have made the move outside of the track limits. The Red Bull man was then unable to pass again and Hamilton took the first victory of the season.
The pair will have the opportunity to continue their battle when round two takes place at Italy's Imola circuit on the weekend of 16 - 18 April.