F1 to speak with Netflix about ‘fake drama’

There is no doubt that the Netflix series, Drive to Survive (DTS), has been a real boost for Formula 1 and it’s brought a host of new fans to the sport. During the lockdowns of the last two years, randomly binging Netflix shows seemed like a full-time gig for many and when they stumbled onto DTS, they became hooked. 

There are a host of reasons the series is so successful. The dramatization of incidents, crafty editing that builds intrigue and emotion, the actual intrigue, emotion and clashes in the paddock and much more. As veteran fans can tell you, it wasn’t just the racing that got them hooked, it was the politics, technology, intrigue and personalities behind the sport that set the hook and made them fans for life. DTS is successful because it gives fans a look behind the paddock gates…something that very few people ever see.

The DTS did a very good job of baiting the hook in its first season and it continued to write its script around incidents that they could highlight and amplify to create some drama and keep viewers engaged and intrigued.

While some of it may have been amplified, it wasn’t created out of thin air. The friction between Cyril Abiteboul and Christian Horner was real. The same can be said of Horner and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in Season 4. Was there some creative license on how DTS revealed those contentious relationships? Sure, but isn’t that show biz people?

However, the gloss and shine of DTS is starting to wear off as viewers who became fans of F1 in season 1 and now follow the sport much closer, are not seeing the drama that is portrayed in the series. As Jonathan Noble points out at Motorsport.com, fans and drivers are starting to push back on the series. The series isn’t helped by drivers who don’t participate such as Max Verstappen and he has always had an issue with the dramatization.

“They faked a few rivalries which they don’t really exist,” Verstappen said to AP last year. “So I decided to not be a part of it and did not give any more interviews after that because then there is nothing you can show.”

Max isn’t the only one with a jaundiced eye on the series. McLaren’s Lando Norris recently weighed in saying:

“There are obviously some comments and things here and there which are maybe out of place for sure. When you’re the person that it’s about, you maybe don’t agree with it so much because it can make you look like you said something in a time and place which is definitely not correct.” Said Norris.

Now, with the sentiment shifting on social media, F1 is looking to have an alignment meeting with Netflix and the drivers to safeguard their property, get full participation and pull back on some of the over-dramatization. F1 boss Stefano Domenicali said:

“There is no question that the Netflix project has had a very successful effect,” Domenicali said in an interview with selected media including Motorsport.com Italy.

“In order to ignite the interest of a new audience, a tone was used that in some ways focused on dramatising the story.

“It’s an opportunity, but I think it needs to be understood. We talked about it this weekend [in Bahrain] at a meeting with the teams as well.

“A driver who refuses to participate because he feels he is not being represented in the right way is not being constructive; so a dialogue is needed to understand how he can be included in a format that he feels is correct.

“We will also talk to Netflix, because it is necessary that the story does not move away from reality, otherwise it no longer fits.

“It is a topic that we will address together with the drivers. We have to make sure that a project that has generated such exceptional traction has a language that continues to appeal, but without distorting the image and the meaning of the sport that we live with every day.”

F1 is very keen to see the investment in DTS continue its meteoric rise in new fans but they also are very sensitive about the very successful marketing tool actually damaging the series now that it is four seasons old. To be honest, as a long-time fan, DTS doesn’t need to embellish F1. Drama will happen and it is enough to show the average working behind the scene. Creating drama where there wasn’t any is not a good recipe and over-dramatizing otherwise mundane things doesn’t help either. 

Most people like the stories but there is a fine line and if I were Netflix, I would explain that just taking a bunch of footage of the ho-hum day of an F1 paddock is nothing more than a season 5 of B-roll. You have to craft stories, For that, F1 may be forced to recognize that at their heart, they are not merely an entertainment property but they are actually a sport too and not all sport or every race, match or game is wall-to-wall drama and intrigue. Sometimes it’s just a race and that can be rathe r pedestrian at times. 

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charlie w

A rising tide lifts all boats. And F1 is enjoying the fruits of labor from Drive To Survive now. Tickets for the USGP at COTA sold out in two days, thanks to Drive To Survive. Leave it to F1 to build a dam around itself to hold back the ocean. Let the NetFlix people do their thing and don’t worry about the fake drama.

Peter

You may remember years and years ago NC and I discussed that F1 had to get a TV show EACH WEEK like the NFL did in the 70’s-90s. That “Inside the NFL” every week is what grew NFL interest with women and families to what it is today. The graph of NFL growth is DIRECTLY linked to that show. Now the NETFLIX program is accused of “fake drama?” Nonsense. Selected REAL words/scenes/gestures are captured. No spin dialogue is ever concocted. So the word “fake” is itself a misnomer. Drama? Sure, there’s drama in F1 and I completely understand Verstappen not… Read more »

garysaidwhat?

“selected” There’s the mischief. Plus the amped up vividness and sound editing, gratuitous jump cuts, and weird dialog “stingers” from Will Buxton, etc. etc. etc. This is pure, junky, trite “docudrama” technique. And I’m not above it. I’m distracted by just about anything shiny and gaudy with loud motor sounds. But it really is junk—more for the White Claw drinker than, say, a Chimay enthusiast. Ha! I agree with you that F1 needs to figure out what they want out of the series because this kind of trash production always seems to fill in these days when producers lack focus.… Read more »

Peter

I agree Will Buxton’s comments and facial jestures border on pandering to the lowest common denominator, but with a good producer and editor it would be much better. The issue however of “fake” is moot. Badly produced? Oh, yes (and I speak from experience). Fake segments? Nope. Watch the final two episodes and, yes, their focus is on Hamilton vs Verstappen and the teams’ members, but in all honesty what was revelatory (and Todd can weigh in here) was the incredible statement in episode 9 by Masi and then the phone access during and post race… his “friendship” admission with… Read more »

garysaidwhat?

I’ma have to wait till at least Saturday when weed concentrates are 20% off to stock up on enough of the chronic to get me through… well, maybe another couple of episodes. And, too, I might as well stop by the liquor store to make sure I have a snap o’ that on hand as well. And after doing all that, why not Trailer Park Boys instead?

Fake (definition): “a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.” I put DTS in there with room to spare.

Chris

Norris: “… make you look like you said something in a time and place which is definitely not correct…”.

His issue was with DTS putting comments and radio messages over images from a completely other time and place (different championship rounds even), in order to bring a spicier storyline.
So, fake? Yes, definitely. Parts of DTS are. While it brings us lots of insight which we otherwise wouldn’t have had, it’s something I really dislike about DTS.