If you follow me on Twitter, you can obviously see that when I’m not tweeting about basketball, I’m all over Formula 1. It only makes sense for me to binge watch the latest season of F1’s very own Netflix show, Drive to Survive, right as the 2022 season starts in one week’s time of writing this article.
Netflix continues onto their fourth season with the global racing league as it’s been extremely successful in showcasing the drivers, teams and politics of the sport. Most of its success has also been growing a widening audience in America for what’s been mostly a European-centric sport. Enough growth where Formula 1 will be racing in the United States twice this season, and a possible third race on the 2022 calendar.
But what does Drive to Survive season four provide for viewers and fans, casual or diehard? Well, it’s mixed.
Let me start with what makes this series great. DTS gives fans an exclusive behind-the-scenes look that you don’t get to witness during the season on the broadcast or even the multiple team’s social media. The interviews with the drivers and teams they do have access to, you get a deeper look at how these teams operate, how drivers and teammates interact with each other, and get a deep insight to their thoughts and feelings throughout the season.
Teams and drivers do see DTS as a great opportunity to build their brand with the exposure that the series gives them. Drivers like McLaren’s Daniel Riccardo has utilized this since the first season and has grown to be a massive fan favorite. Teams like Red Bull, Mercades, and McLaren take full advantage of the exposure DTS gives them. However, some teams and drivers don’t participate which can hinder Netflix’s ability to tell the full store of the F1 season. Teams Aston Martin & Alfa Romeo didn’t participate with Netflix and thus are shown very little to not at all throughout season four (which is interesting when Aston Martin, or previously known as Racing Point, was very active in participating in previous seasons).
The massive hole though in this season is the lack of presence from Red Bull driver Max Verstappen who declined to participate in Drive to Survive this season. It’s a hole as Verstappen was one of the key drivers fighting for the World Championship title. DTS does its best to still give Verstappen his time, but it’s mostly filled with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner who is the main character for Red Bull in the season. This is also present when showcasing the battle between Red Bull & Mercedes throughout the season, where Mercades has a lot more time and insight to their team from their participation with the show. Now, it’s not completely one-sided from this, but there can be the misconception of favoritism with the unbalanced representation of the two title fighting teams.
One key issue the show has that more engaged fans of F1 have with Drive to Survive is the depiction of how the actual races are shown. While this is a valid criticism of the show, I think it needs to be interpreted in a different perspective. You won’t be shown full races in these episodes, you’ll be shown enough to entice casual viewers and give a recap of key moments for fans who watched these races in full. You’ll get edited moments from key moves or big crashes. Key moments from qualifying and races along with some team radios that have drivers and team principles communicating with each other. It gives you a full, unfiltered access to those teams participating as they celebrate, or express frustration. But with 23 races on the calendar, 10 episodes isn’t going to allow each race to get equal treatment.
Now I say the show needs to be reinterpreted by those complaining as they want the show to be a full season recap. However, I see Drive to Survive as additional content that should be viewed along with full races. As a fan who watched this latest F1 season, I already witnessed what happened on the track and knew the results of the races. However, Drive to Survive does a great job on adding on to those races and to the F1 experience as a whole. Hearing team radios I never heard before, seeing interactions and relationship dynamics I wasn’t aware of, and so much more. That’s at least how I interpreted the show and it made my watching experience much more rewarding.
If you’re a casual fan or someone who’s never seen an F1 race before, Drive to Survive is a great starting point as you’ll get invested in not just the racing, but the people behind the helmets and monitors that make the racing much more dramatic and exciting. Season four continues that as they will explain more complex things, but not bog you down with nitty gritty details. Now you won’t get the full breakdown of how qualifying is conducted or even the existence of the formation lap, but you’ll get the basics needed to start your F1 fandom.
Now I did say this show is best viewed alongside viewing the season, but it’s not required. New viewers will still get an enjoyment from the content provided from showing the side of the sport most fans don’t see on a regular basis, as well as getting to know the personalities of the drivers and team principles. The people of the sport are on full showcase and it really helps get you involved into the sport.
Season four continues the great success of Netflix and Formula One in showcasing their sport and improving on their craft from the visuals, the storytelling, and even improving showcasing a single race in the 2021 season finale race in Abu Dhabi. While the limitations of the show do show the faults, it doesn’t ruin the overall experience of the show and its ability to create fans and entertain old ones.
All four seasons are currently available on Netflix, and the 2022 Formula One season starts on Sunday, March 20th with the opening race in Bahrain.