Like many of you, I really enjoyed the first season of the Netflix series called Drive to Survive on Netflix. It was a rare glimpse behind the machine and circus that is Formula 1. It made new fans out of casual Netflix surfers looking for something to watch. It made new heroes in the paddock in the form of Gunther Steiner. It was brilliantly done and wonderfully written. In short, it was one of the best things F1 has done since its new owners bought the series.
That’s why I was really looking forward to the second season that just dropped on Friday February 28th. I am happy to report that the second season is just as terrific as the first.
The series expanded with Mercedes and Ferrari joining the documentary and offering more fabric in which to weave a more complete tale of the 2019 season. Tensions, race drama, grid-leading and grid-trailing stories from Mercedes to Williams. It is all there and it is a wonderful ride that focuses on some of the bigger twists during the 2019 season.
Pierre Gasly’s rise, fall and rise. Lewis Hamilton’s 6th world championship. The tensions within Ferrari between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. The return to form for McLaren and its new hero, Carlos Sainz. The hope-turned-despair of Haas F1 and clear warnings from Gene Haas. The cold snub of Paddy Lowe by a despondent Claire Williams. In short, there is a lot of stories to follow.
The driver interviews show the personal side of each person and reveals the prime mover for each of them to do what they do. The families who support them and the hope they have in achieving what they’ve dreamed of since they were young.
The team bosses reveal the pressure to deliver and desperation to get it right while leading hundreds of people to create over 20,000 parts to build a car that can win. The difficult driver decisions they have to make and the stark words about just how competitive and draconian the sport can be.
You’ll watch all ten episodes and come away thoroughly entertained and re-charged for the 2020 Formula 1 season. You won’t even notice the one thing that is missing from both season one and season two and when you do realize, you’ll most likely stroke your chin and say, hmmm.
You see, I watched both seasons of Formula 1’s brightest property via Netflix and not one single episode spent any time or narrative talking about the technology in F1 and the hybrid engines or high degradation tires or even the Drag Reduction System 9DRS). That’s right, not a mention other than when the car failed and very little was said about that.
My point? Simple. No one cares and none of it is what drew new fans to the sport when they stumbled across the series on Netflix. They became fans for the same reason I did several decades ago…they became enthralled with the people and stories in F1. The politics and the passion.
The tech is part of the story but none of it comes remotely close to the story of Alex Albon’s mother being imprisoned while he was 15-years-old and trying to succeed in the Red Bull Junior program. None of it.
The HD tires didn’t matter to Pierre Gasly’s return to confidence when he took 2nd place in Brazil and the tears and emotions he felt for the loss of his best friend Anthoine Hubert.
The DRS didn’t hold a candle to the big risk Daniel Ricciardo took in moving to Renault and Nico Hulkenberg losing his seat. They didn’t spend two episodes discussing the ERS or hybrid engine like they did when covering Williams and Claire’s determination and disgust with Paddy Lowe over their testing debacle.
Unfortunately the reality of F1 is all focused on the tech. It’s hybrid, DRS, HD tires and hand-wringing over moving to all-electric cars. What a sad situation when the single biggest harvester of eyes is a documentary that doesn’t even mention the tech and yet the series is mired in nothing but technical constructs that betray what the Netflix series portrayed on and off track.
If F1 wants to continue down the road of genuflecting to manufacturers and allow the car makers to set the narrative and direction of the sport as an engineering championship, they’ve missed the very thing that makes people want to watch…the players. The lives and stories of those who love the sport and work tirelessly in the industry.
There is no doubt that the teams would have some editorial oversight as to what Netflix shows in the series but even with that, the stories were still terrific and it takes good writers and producers to ferret out the narratives to follow. Kudos to Netflix for yet another terrific season of Drive to Survive. I am already anxious to see season three.