There’s a lot that can be said of Sean Bratches and his marketing team in F1. You can raise an eyebrow to a 3-second ident or the 3M-like logo or even the expensive new theme music.
You can ponder why, after saying they are dedicated to the US and Europe, they’ve only managed to sign Vietnam and they face 4 or more races that have not renewed their contracts.
You can wonder why they have yet to agree to a new Concorde Agreement with the teams and defined a new set of regulations the FIA are happy with. You can even question the sideburns and mustache and the entire notion of Americans owning a British sport. There’s a lot you can question.
What you cannot question is the sheer genius of the new Netflix F1 documentary called Drive to Survive. In short, it is brilliant and a must-watch series.
Why is it good?
Like the best documentaries in history, the producer of Senna has delivered a terrific documentary that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. More intrigue than finality. The viewer is the arbiter of what is good and what is not so good. No narrative forced down the viewers throat like so much news and media these days.
They have managed to put a personality behind the sport, drivers, teams and circus that is Formula 1. Sure, you know the names and see their faces in the news but what you learn in this documentary is how they think, how they deal with stress, pressure, joy and sorrow. You, in short, get to see their humanity, not just their human capacity.
Each episode follows the teams and series throughout the 2018 season and you get to see differing levels of stress, friction, pressure and elation within these teams and faces of those who work for them.
I have said a million times, I follow F1 and got hooked on F1 when I was young because I got sucked into the drama and soap opera of the sport, not just the on-track results. This documentary will deliver in spades because it will turn casual fans into avid fans.
What it isn’t
It does have the official blessing of F1 so the cameras were rolling in places that fans never get to see. Situations where fans never imagined they would get to be the proverbial fly on the wall. Even the cameras were frustrating to some of the teams and drivers and that’s a sign you’re seeing something they’d rather you not. This adds to the tension and drama.
It isn’t a series that includes Ferrari or Mercedes as they declined access and you know what? That’s perfectly fine. They were such big stories that I fear they would have dominated the documentary in narrative and it would have taken a very self-controlled producer to exclude the hours of footage they would have gained from both garages.
Would it be nice to have both Ferrari and Mercedes? Sure it would. Did it hurt this series by not having them? Not in the least.
If linearity is your game, this series isn’t going to please you as it jumps from team to team, driver to driver and does so while backtracking ground the previous episode already covered but from a different perspective. It works though and is the same cadence as the Senna documentary so I was fine with its jumps between teams, drivers and races.
What was best?
If I am honest, Gunther Steiner was one of the heroes in this series. He is an absolute hoot to listen to and a passionate racer that had me laughing for all of the segments he was involved in.
We all love Daniel Ricciardo and he featured heavily in the series for good reason. He’s a delight to watch and listen to. Those things you thought you liked Dan for are completely validated in this series. “Now lets’ go F*** some s*** up”.
I’ve read some disparaging remarks about Red Bull’s Christian Horner based on this documentary but to me, he is a passionate, serious racer and he made decisions and said things I would have done and said in similar situations. I thought he was brilliant and explained Red Bull’s position very well and helped the viewer understand why they race, where their position in racing is and just what an amazing job they have done in F1.
I drink a lot of Red Bull but I get no love or support from them but regardless, I have defended this team adamantly and after seeing this documentary, will do so even more now. What a terrific team of professionals. Christian is very proud of the team and damn it he should be!
Charles Leclerc and his relationship with Jules Bianchi, the loss of his father and rise to Ferrari is a story unto itself. Not only is this young man immensely talented and the future of Ferrari, he is wise beyond his years and if he gives his teammate Sebastian Vettel a run for his money, it wouldn’t’ surprise me in the least.
Haas F1 features heavily in the series and it is great to see the American team highlighted given what they have achieved so far in F1. It tracked the struggles of Force India to its final conclusion and even showed a side of its new owners, Lawrence Stroll, that you probably didn’t want to see (junk adjustments and all).
More F1 documentaries is more good
Sean Bratches has seen the sharp end of my bullying club and for good reason but he hit it out of the park with this one and I am not beyond admiring and respecting someone when they do well. Well done, Sean, you did an amazing job with this and I am sure you would point to your team as the real heroes here. I’ll happily eat crow any day if you continue producing F1 features like this.
Fans are left salivating about what will happen this weekend in Australia between Cyril Abiteboul and Christian Horner. Who will come out on top? They are both shooting for third or even second. How will Kevin Magnussen race against Nico Hulkenberg and how will both manage Daniel Ricciardo? How will Charles Leclerc do in a Ferrari and will Fred Vasseur move Alfa Romeo even further up the grid?
It is all to play for and the documentary sets the table impeccably well for this weekend’s first race of the 2019 season.
Incredible job, Formula 1! Simply incredible. If you don’t get Ferrari and Mercedes in 2019, that’s ok…it will be wonderful without them so don’t worry about that in the least.