Series 16 of the BBC show began on Thursday evening, with Lord Alan Sugar aided by Baroness Karren Brady and previous winner Tim Campbell, who filled in for Claude Littner while he recovers from an accident.
The launch show was watched by an average of 4.6 million viewers, giving BBC One a 30.6% share in the overnight ratings – its highest since 2011, the corporation confirmed.
In the episode, former pharmacy manager Harry Mahmood, 35, became the first entrepreneur eliminated from the show.
He was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2021 New Year Honours for his work in the West Midlands during the early months of lockdown.
The series will continue to see the remaining 15 entrepreneurs battle it out to win £250,000 of investment in their business.
The Apprentice continues on BBC One and iPlayer.