‘Drive to Survive’ a Netflix Hit

Formula 1 fans finally have a show for them

Just in time before the start of the 2019 Formula 1 season, Netflix released the 10-part documentary series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.” For Formula 1 die-hards and general sports fans alike, the series has become a must watch on the streaming service.

The series dives in-depth on some of the big storylines from the 2018 season, which proved to be one of the most dramatic in recent history.

The storytelling is where “Drive to Survive” hits its stride. Each episode focuses on one or two drivers or teams and goes through the story over multiple Grand Prix weekends.

In the opening episode, it gives the audience (especially the American audience) the main protagonists that F1 fans have thrown decent support around. Centered on the opening Australian Grand Prix, the first driver thrust into the spotlight is Daniel Ricciardo.

The ever-smiling Aussie has become one of the most universally liked drivers on the grid. In fact, as the series goes on, Danny Ric is a central character, as the Red Bull racing driver’s contract situation develops, and the public divorce of the team and engine supplier Renault plays out.

Along with Ricciardo, the Haas F1 Team spends time in the spotlight in the opening episode. The first American team in 30 years, team boss Gunter Steiner cuts a strong figure through the show, leading the newest team on the grid through the crowded midfield.

And in the stories, the ability of Netflix to frame key parts so both the hardcore F1 fans and new to the sport viewers can figure things out is a large bright spot.

Often, the show will allow journalists, mainly Will Buxton, who is the lead journalist for the sport’s social media platforms after a successful stint as the on-site analyst for NBCSN here in the States, to fill in background information.

With that information, it becomes very easy to see what is likely going to happen. So, when Steiner says in his pre-race weekend team talk that Haas has a couple of new guys in the pit crew, you can see where it is going.

There is a wide range of stories throughout the series. One of the most surprising has to do with the financial troubles of the Force India team. Troubled team owner Vijay Malia actually takes part in the documentary, and that is a bit of a shock when considering the fact he was facing extradition from Britain to his home of India.

The resolution of the story, common knowledge to F1 fans, is alluded to in an earlier episode. The stories weave together better than expected.

A great thing for all viewers is the straight-shooting nature of most of the stories. Buxton especially brings this balance. So, when Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, when discussing his driver lineup, speaks glowingly about Ricciardo’s young teammate Max Verstappen but avoids speaking of the Dutchman’s contract, the record is set straight.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the show is that Mercedes and Ferrari, the top two teams, declined to take part. This meant that the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is hardly discussed.

This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as the story that dominated the headlines during the season is already well known, with Hamilton winning his fifth world championship.

There is a lack of insider sayings that don’t make the cut, which is good for the new viewers. That does mean that they will have no idea that the right-hander at the top of the hill at Spa is not Eau Rouge. That’s Radillion actually.

Leave a Reply