An additional eight million viewers around the world tuned in to watch the last five races of this year's F1 season, but the number was still below 2001’s peak. After a closely-contested 2003 season, what more needs to happen for viewers to watch F1 again?

An additional eight million viewers around the world tuned in to watch the last five races of this year's F1 season, but the number was still below 2001’s peak. After a closely-contested 2003 season, what more needs to happen for viewers to watch F1 again?

The additional eight million viewers worldwide for each of this season's last five races helped increase the total television viewing audience that watched F1 in eight major markets to nine per cent this season from 8,6 per cent in the disappointing 2002 season. But the figures this year are still well below the 9,9 per cent achieved in 2001.

Viewership flagged dramatically late in 2002 when the Ferrari team and Michael Schumacher clinched repeat world champion titles early in the season. Many fans were also angered when Ferrari driver Rubins Barichello was ordered to slow on the final lap of a race to let Schumacher win, and again in a later race when Schumacher apparently gave back a win to Barichello.

Ahead of the 2003 season, the FIA overhauled its F1 rules in an attempt to inject more competition and excitement into the sport. Since then, there have been eight different grand prix winners in the 16-race season and the drivers’ and constructor’s championship was only decided in the final race.

The season's unpredictability also meant viewers watched the races for longer, making the contests more valuable events to sponsors and broadcast advertisers. Will 2004 be the year that viewers tune into F1 like never before?