From Pit Stops to Pop Culture: Navigating the Sixth Season of Drive to Survive

From Pit Stops to Pop Culture: Navigating the Sixth Season of Drive to Survive

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Most recently, the sixth season of Drive to Survive, a Netflix documentary about the Formula 1 World Championship, was released. Just a few years ago, it was something new and unusual. It was just something unique to see the backstage of Formula 1, to hear secret conversations and, in general, to see how Paddock lives from the inside. The series has become a tradition; it always comes out before the start of a new season, and many fans are looking forward to it. But over the years, Drive to Survive has also gained a lot of criticism. Let’s not argue that the series has affected the championship. But which one is more: positive or negative? Let’s explore it.

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The Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive has rapidly become a symbol of modern Formula 1 since its premiere. It has even become a phenomenon in the world of motorsport. Led by experienced producers James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin, the team consistently delivers captivating portrayals of the sport, unimpeded by excessive drama or pathos in the narrative, which evolves with each season.

The first season of Drive to Survive was like a breath of fresh air despite the series explaining self-evident things. It is clear that the idea of the project sets and sets the goal of attracting a new audience, but it is very unusual to see that the explanation of the basic things still needs to be made more explicit.

Another point is the drama. In the first seasons, it looked intriguing. Netflix shoots any situation from all angles, keeping you in suspense. You feel the sharpness of the moment, and sometimes, you even get the impression that you are watching the race for the first time, although you have already seen this before. You may have already read the news, but the narration from Netflix awakens excitement in you.

However, the drama has a limit, which must still be visible in the series. Several situations are beginning to be portrayed from a different perspective. For instance, in one of the seasons, the tension between two McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr., was depicted despite their close friendship off the track.

In the case of Lando and me, everything was a little exaggerated. All fans who are familiar with F1 understand that Netflix may have overdone it. But I still think that even with this, let’s say mistake, Netflix is doing a lot of good for our sport, for F1 as a brand,” – said Sainz Jr.

Other drivers also confirm excessive dramatisation — for example, Sergio Perez from Red Bull: “They sell our sport by focusing on drama. But this is a show, and ultimately, it benefits F1 and the fans like it.” 

Additionally, the series often focuses extensively on the narrative of a single driver and team, spanning multiple episodes. Consequently, out of 10 teams and 20 drivers, not all receive adequate coverage across the ten episodes. However, Daniel Ricciardo or Guenther Steiner frequently dominates screen time. The final episodes sometimes need more clarity, and Netflix struggles to encompass the breadth of the subject matter.

Another area for improvement is the inaccuracies in facts, a recurring problem each season. For instance, radio conversations depicted often occur at different times than portrayed. There also needs to be more consistency in the chronology of events. While the Netflix team has exclusive access to team areas and drivers’ accommodations, they operate under constrained conditions. Netflix plans which Grand Prix to film, making it challenging to predict on-track events. Consequently, the series frequently includes fragments from regular TV broadcasts, and the footage sometimes needs to align more precisely with the Grand Prix being discussed.

For example, after one season, Max Verstappen even refused to shoot for Netflix:

“You are giving an interview, and you don’t know what it will be used for. For example, in the first season, I remember exactly what I was talking about, but then I saw that they released a completely different video to illustrate my words. I understand that Netflix wants to show everything more dramatically, portray an epic battle, and develop rivalries that don’t exist. That’s why I decided not to be a part of it.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, also once spoke about the series, saying: “It’s a TV show. They take fragments and turn them into a television program. We must remember that the project is intended for entertainment.”

The team members’ concerns are valid, but let’s face it: the audience enjoys this format. Morning Consult reports that over half of new American fans were interested in Formula 1 after watching Drive to Survive. Moreover, the female audience of the championship surged by 30% after its release.

The surge in American interest in Formula 1 can be attributed to various factors: Liberty Media’s efforts to promote its flagship product, the intense battle for victory in the 2021 championship between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, etc. Experts also acknowledge the impact of Drive to Survive, which has increased the recognition of drivers and teams.

However, this advantage also has its downside. The paradox is that new audiences often perceive racers as actors from a racing show on Netflix. For instance, Daniel Ricciardo has gained popularity in the United States due to his appearances in the documentary series Drive to Survive. However, Ricciardo acknowledges the negative aspects of this situation.

“It amuses me when people say, ‘You played a great show.’ I thank them and wonder, ‘Do they even know I’m a racer? Or do they think I’m an actor?’ It’s both strange and amazing. I want to convey that I’m a racer, not an actor. Unfortunately, many seem to misunderstand this.”

By the way, the recently released season of Drive to Survive was not as bright as previous seasons. The format seems to be boring. F1 and Netflix may need to rethink the show’s concept in the future.

“It’s vital for us to be with Drive to Survive, with our Netflix friends, up to the moment where we’ll make sure that it’s a differentiating factor.

“If it’s becoming a different way to speak about F1 without adding or giving the F1 platform any added value, maybe it’s better to renegotiate and see what could be done differently with Netflix and the other partners.

“But for sure, this platform has been vital to the growth of awareness, mainly with the young generation and newcomers to F1. And for that, we need to thank that vision, and the process and the quality—that has been very, very good.”—Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1 CEO, told Motorsport.com. 

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Jastina has been a sincere fan of Formula 1 for a long time. Working at the media centre of the Russian GP since 2015, in 2018 she began her career as a sports journalist. Since then, she has been working at many motorsport events and projects. Jastina writes on various topics and interviews drivers. Also working in the field of mobile applications, she tries to be on-trend and has blogged on social networks.


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