Written by Sameera Bhamra, Edited by Will Stephens
On the 5th of May 2022, ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, F1 and Netflix announced that they have renewed the popular show ‘Formula 1: Drive to Surive’ for seasons 5 and 6.
According to F1 and Netflix, the series ranks in the weekly top 10 in 56 countries. The series continues to be produced by Academy Award Winner James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin for the production company Box to Box Films.
Netflix’s ‘Formula 1: DRIVE TO SURVIVE’ has played a huge role in expanding F1’s reach across the globe. The series offers behind the scenes footage, driver interviews, and all the political battles that happen off-track between drivers and team principals. DRIVE TO SURVIVE is ‘Keeping up with the………’ version of F1. But this has encouraged people to tune into the real thing which is beneficial for the sport. FORMULA 1 is a cut-throat sport: high stakes, epic rivalries, hotheaded bullies, heroes and lots of drama. When you mix all these elements you get a NETFLIX series in the form of DRIVE TO SURVIVE. The Netflix show does a commendable job at keeping the viewers hooked with its high octane pit lane drama.
While some people enjoy the Netflix camera crew in the paddock, A few people in the paddock have voiced concerns about how the sport is being presented. The current World Champion, Max Verstappen chose to not be a part of the show, in an interview with the Associated Press he said, “They faked a few rivalries which don’t exist.”
The latest season of the show received a lot of harsh reviews and criticism. The majority of fans claimed that the series was scripted and was a made-up drama for TV. This comes after the controversial final race of the 2021 season. The two title contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton entered the race on levelled points. A late-race crash by Nicholas Latifi brought out the safety car. Verstappen pitted for fresher tyres while Hamilton decided to stay out and extend his lead. The race director Michael Masi allowed ONLY the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to overtake, leaving them with just one lap sprint. Verstappen on new tyres made his way past Hamilton to win his first worlds drivers championship.
The fans remain divided over the decision. Did Masi make the right decision? Did the Netflix camera crew influence his decision? Maybe. Maybe not.
But, the question remains: Is the Netflix series good or bad for F1?
Formula 1 has gained a lot of fans globally (mainly in America). The viewership has increased nearly 50% worldwide since the show debuted. The largest explosion was experienced by the US, to the point where the F1 calendar added one more race in America: Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023. The US Grand Prix attendance in 2018 was 264,000 VS in 2021 was 400,000. The final race of the 2021 season (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) was watched by 108.7 million eyeballs beating Super Bowl LVI (101 MILLION).
The series has been criticised by many for faking rivalries, overdramatizing and misinterpreting certain situations and relations in the paddock.
The show is also accused of manipulating footage to build up the drama. Season 4 of Drive to Survive just got 17% audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The latest season paid attention to unnecessary events. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Brazil Grand Prix and Qatar Grand Prix didn’t even get a mention. The Russian Grand Prix ignored Hamilton’s 100th race win and Norris’ heartbreak. Netflix even snubbed Former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement. Former World Champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel’s return to the podium also got the same cold treatment. Crashes from Silverstone Grand Prix and Monza Grand Prix were shown multiple times.
With Netflix renewing ‘Drive to Survive’ for two more seasons, it is time that the F1 chiefs and executives asked themselves, ‘ Is Netflix showing the global racing in its true light?’ It is the FIA administration’s responsibility to ensure that the glitz and glamour of the paddock or the Netflix camera crew don’t affect the sport.
Will the hunger for more drama keep the series alive or will Netflix and FIA finally show the historic open-wheel racing in its true light?
We won’t know until season 5 drops on Netflix.