The fourth season of Netflix’s Drive To Survive documentary series has landed amid pre-season testing in Bahrain for the 2022 season, with live coverage of the test broadcast all day and everyday of the three days of running.
Yet, fans and future fans are indulging in the storylines of the past. Specifically the tales of the hugely controversial 2021 season – a tantalisingly nail-biting prospect on the face of it – however here I am fully engrossed in pre-season testing, deciding against binge-watching the Netflix series.
I will put this disclaimer out there in that I did like the first and second seasons of Drive To Survive, and it was indeed an extraordinary hit when it debuted in 2019, showcasing an F1 season unlike any other coverage had ever done so before. It would be safe to say it went against Bernie Ecclestone’s exclusivity mantras in pretty much every way it’s possible to conceive.
It was the unfiltered nature of the behind the scenes conversations, the brutality of what team principals, drivers etc, who up to that point fans had only ever heard the filtered professional sides of, were saying so openly in front of Netflix’s cameras which made it so enlivening.
Everyone in and around Formula 1 acknowledges how extraordinary the series has been for the championship. Bringing in a whole new fanbase of both casual and the more ‘die-hard’ fan was something F1 struggled to do organically prior to that, even when Liberty Media overhauled its stance on social media.
Especially from an existing fan’s point of view though, the irregularities in the final creation is what can make Drive To Survive, at times, unnecessarily irritating. We all know what those things are, and to me a production with that much weight, access and money behind it shouldn’t have anything like as many blatant inconsistencies.
There’ll be those that rightly don’t mind this, as at the end of the day the series’ purpose isn’t to re-tell the story with 100% accuracy, it’s to give the fans more of an insight into the sport which only really exists on social media away from race weekends, for most. But when something borders along the lines of fabricated, or plainly untrue, it’s insulting to everyone.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen refused to take part in season four, meaning Netflix have clearly had to face the challenge of telling the 2021 story without words from the eventual champion. I’m sure Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have filled in the blanks for him.
“I won’t change my mind,” Verstappen said. “I think it was already ruined after season one. I’m quite a down to earth guy. I just want it to be facts, just don’t hype it up.
“I understand of course it needs to be like that for Netflix – people like that. That’s what every series on there does as well, or documentary or whatever you call it, it’s just not my thing. I’ll probably watch it and see how nicely over-the-top it is and then just continue with my life, and I’ll probably watch some other documentaries on Netflix.”
The ordering of the episodes in the new series has apparently come under fire too, with the build-up to the end of Q3 at the Monaco Grand Prix reportedly spoiled by the episode before which detailed Leclerc’s pole position and subsequent pre-race retirement. Surely an oversight like that simply shouldn’t happen?
The behind the scenes access across the board is unrivalled though. There are no doubts about that, but this is the aspect where inaccuracies aren’t really possible merely because we haven’t watched them already.
Formula 1 recognises this, and is set to revamp the format of the series for season five. I’m hoping this means there will be less of the puzzling on-track footage altogether, and a greater onus placed on the true and non-agendised narratives of the paddock which we wouldn’t necessarily see.