Vettel behind off track as well as on it

Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:56am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is Formula One's most marketable driver with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel only fourth despite winning the last four world championships, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The report by global sports marketing research firm Repucom found the Spaniard, a double world champion, enjoyed the greatest worldwide recognition and celebrity impact while Germany's Vettel ranked only fourth.

Britain's 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, who drives for Mercedes, was second on the list and Brazilian Felipe Massa, who moved from Ferrari to Williams at the end of last season, took third place.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who has returned to Ferrari this season after leaving the sport and then making a comeback with Lotus, rated higher than Vettel in awareness but below him in overall marketability.

"It may be a surprise to some that globally, Sebastian Vettel does not score as highly in terms of public opinion as the likes of Alonso, Hamilton and Massa," said Repucom's Nigel Geach, senior vice president of motorsport, in a statement.

He said that was due in large part to Ferrari's popularity and brand recognition - the Italian team are the most glamorous and successful in the sport - as well as Alonso's own international sponsorship deals.

"Despite Red Bull's recent successes, globally, 59 percent of F1 fans have an interest in the Ferrari team, representing the highest levels of interest in any F1 team," added Geach.

"With races screened across 160 global markets to a cumulative global TV audience of 1.8 billion, one can see the importance this can have on perception."

The report said Alonso was known by 71.14 percent globally, although only 12.76 percent of those in the United States were aware of him. Vettel's global awareness rating was 54.30 percent.   Continued...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany prepares for the second practice session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young