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What Drive to Survive Doesn't Tell You

via Formula 1

Written by Tanishka Vashee, Edited by Andrea Teo

The fourth installment of "Drive to Survive" is set to be on Netflix on 11th March. The show has been a great way to create excitement for the season upon us as well as bring in new fans to the sport. "Drive to Survive" has done an incredible job at engaging a younger audience with Formula One, it shows us drivers, team principals and a lot of important people in the paddock in a light we have never seen before.

The show, as great as it is, has some shortcomings, apart from the infamous fake engine noises and random radio messages. I too, am one of those people who binge-watched the available seasons over 2020’s lockdown and immediately fell in love with the sport. When the 2020 season started, I watched the first race and very soon realised I had no idea how to read the infographics on screen. Heck! I didn’t even understand how weekends worked. While talking to people who have been following the sport way before "Drive to Survive" existed, I realised there are quite a lot of things the series leaves out.

Thank you for your time and patience as I list out what "Drive to Survive" DOES NOT tell you.

1. The format of a weekend

Nobody properly explains the format of a weekend, the screen just goes black and it says FRIDAY PRACTICE SESSION or SUNDAY THE RACE. They just brush over something that actually becomes quite crucial as you follow the sport. A Grand Prix weekend actually starts on a Thursday! It’s the day drivers and teams catch up with their media duties and give us a glimpse into what they’re looking forward to this weekend.

Thursday press conference, via Formula 1

Friday, you’ve got two practice sessions of ninety minutes each. Saturday calls for one practice session and qualifying and finally on Sunday, the race. Now, with three sprint races happening this season, the weekend will be structured a little differently.

Read about the 2022 season’s sprint qualifying here and our evaluation of the qualifying format here.

2. The Car and other technical aspects

Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, each car is the fruit of a huge team of engineers and technicians who have spent endless hours creating it. Every team follows the same regulations but each one interprets them differently. I understand, no team would want to disclose the specifics of their cars. I still believe just a basic explanation on how a Formula One car works could be a great way to educate new viewers. Formula One is a team sport, even if we just see 20 guys racing, there’s a legion of people who work to make it happen and they deserve to have their work appreciated.

via Mercedes AMG F1

3. F1 jargon

Apex, backmarker, brake balance, CFD, chicane, clean air, delta time, downforce, DRS, flat spot, G-force, graining, lockup, oversteer, Parc Fermé (my favourite phrase), sectors, undercut… I could go on forever! How did they make an entire show on Formula One without ever talking about these?

I watched my first race without even knowing what those words were and boy was I lost when the commentators sprinkled them around. You’ll pick them up eventually as and when you watch and start reading about F1 but a little heads up is always nice.

4. Races happen in places apart from Italy and Austria

This, for me, was what made me realise that "Drive to Survive" was actually a reality TV show rather than a sports documentary. Monza, Imola and the Red Bull ring provide us with the most dramatic races. Everyone has a soft spot for at least one of these tracks. Understandably, they provide a lot of content to work with. Yet, there are about 20 other incidents that took place at various different tracks that won’t even get an honourable mention because they don’t fit in with the storyline. "Drive to Survive" is a show, they get to take creative liberties but the show would not exist without Formula One.

5. Everybody does not hate each other

The show focuses more on the human aspects of things, how members of the team deal with bad days and the good days. It delves more into relationships between people. I realise looking back at the seasons, the series loves fabricating some interesting animosities.

Don’t get me wrong, Formula One is a sport. There will always be competition, every driver’s biggest opponent is their teammate. It goes without saying that the team principals too enjoy healthy rivalries (2021 will always be an exception). At the end of the day, they are all part of one huge clan that travels to a new country every week to work towards something they all love.

Formula One is what drives them apart but also holds them together, there is a brotherhood that runs through the paddock that is often overlooked by the show to push the narrative constant hatred towards each other.

Competition and animosity are two very different concepts, the show often enjoys mixing the two. A prime example of it would be Season 3’s feature on Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. at McLaren. Everybody knows that we see what the media division of every team wants us to see - it is filtered. "Drive to Survive" wanted to show us their relationship without the filter and they failed. Miserably. You want me to believe that two guys that play golf with each other in their spare time are enemies? People can be each other’s competition and still enjoy a healthy rapport with each other. It’s almost like that is the magic of Formula One!

Norris and Sainz, via Sky Sports

6. Drivers have more than one personality trait, so do the others

We can all agree that DTS did Haas dirty, above all it portrayed Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen in a bad light. Turns out the show loves doing it over and over, showing people in light of just one of their personality traits or an incident in the past. They either strip people of their redeeming qualities or only show the best of them.

Daniel Ricciardo is funny, Max Verstappen is a bully, Pierre Gasly is a victim, Christian Horner loves complaining, Toto Wolff is a God, Sebastian Vettel is arrogant, and Charles Leclerc is this angel that descended from heaven to rescue Ferrari - These are the one dimensional characters of your play.

It feels like we’re watching people without any depth to them. In reality, that is not the case. When they react to things a certain way, new fans do not like it because it destroys the image they have of everyone in their heads that was created by the show. I really wish people would understand that a personality comprises many attributes, not just the quirks "Drive to Survive" likes to highlight.

7. Max Verstappen is not a demon child.

Every good fictional story needs an antagonist, a person that exists to throw a wrench in the works. The show decided to cast Max Verstappen as their Villain. Though, this is where the problem arises, Formula One is a sport, NOT a fantasy novel. The one person in particular that was slandered way too much in my eyes was Max.

They showed him in such an unlikable way, I entered the sport rooting for his downfall. Instead of praising him as a generational talent that teammates could not keep up with, the narrative shows him as the root cause behind the downfall of Daniel’s career at Red Bull and all of the problems in Gasly’s relations with the team.

It has gotten so bad the World Champion decided to opt out of the show, he says he wants the show to put forward facts instead of clearly fabricated drama.

As I’ve said earlier, I will say again: Max Verstappen is not a villain. In fact, even after Daniel’s departure from the team he continues to be on good terms with him. When Daniel was still part of Red Bull, both of them had perhaps one of the most iconic friendships of Formula One.

via Getty Images

Max may be aggressive on track and he is very direct while giving interviews. He is a straightforward person, not a bully that goes out of his way to harm others.

That’s all I’ve got to say folks! The fourth season of "Drive to Survive" will be up 11th March on Netflix, a good way to recollect everything that went down in 2021. Consider this a reminder to watch the show as entertainment and not as an accurate depiction of the sport.

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