Drive to Survive: Is it time for Formula 1 to kick Netflix out?

Drive to Survive has irritated several members of the paddock since its introduction in 2018.

Drive to Survive entered Formula 1 in 2018 to film unprecedented and fascinating behind the scenes footage of the lives and daily operations of F1 teams and drivers.

There have now been four seasons of the popular show, but questions are being raised as to its usefulness to the pinnacle of motorsport.

Intoxicating, exhilarating, infuriating and absurd are all words you could use to describe the 2021 season as Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fought for the world championship, and similar adjectives could probably be used to express one’s feelings about the Netflix season that covered it.

One of the main objectives of the show initially was to appeal to a wider audience, and attract more demographics, like an American crowd for instance.

It is also a way for pre-existing F1 fans to catch a glimpse into the nuances of working in an F1 paddock, and just what the drivers and teams go through throughout a season of racing.

It is for this reason that Daniel Ricciardo is enthused by the show.

“You rarely see emotion. You’re sitting in these rocket ships and we’re wearing these helmets so for the most part you only see us wearing a helmet,” he told Ariel Helwani.

“So you don’t really see much emotion. So getting back behind the scenes already is going to do wonders.

“And I think like anything when you follow someone’s personal life or family life or what they do away from the race track, it’s easier for people to get invested so it had a double-impact I think.”

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Conversely, Verstappen has previously slammed the show for manufacturing drama between drivers; they have a habit of adding in team radio messages that do not correspond to the race being covered.

At best, it is an exaggeration of the adrenaline-fuelled events of an F1 race. At worst, Netflix are simply lying to their audience.

Either way, this manipulation is the reason that the Dutchman has no interest in taking any further part or paying attention to it.

“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,” he said.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted “I hate it” when talking about the show due to the frequently inaccurate representation of the facts, and it seems that the show is beginning to wear a little thin.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has suggested that the sport should be looking for alternative options if Netflix is no longer adding anything constructive.

“If it’s just becoming a different way to speak about F1 without adding or giving to the F1 platform any added value, maybe I think it’s better to renegotiate and see with Netflix and the other partners what could be a possibility to do something different in the future,” he said, as per Autosport.

There are issues with the show, there is no doubt about it. They insist on placing completely de-synced audio to the pictures, they lift radio messages from other races to paint images that simply do not exist, and they spin storylines to give the impression that there is a personal rivalry between two drivers that get on just fine – like Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris in 2020 for example.

McLaren and Ferrari were interlocked in a fascinating battle for third in the Constructors’ Championship last season; they mentioned the battle in the episode dedicated to it, and never touched on it again.

They also completely ignored the fact that Kimi Raikkonen, who contest 19 F1 seasons, won a world title and took part in 349 races, retired at the end of last year.

As a fan of the sport, these are a slap in the face and an insult to the intelligence of viewers that have been watching F1 for many years. A further aggravation lies in the fact that Box to Box films have been made aware of their flaws and the negative impact their inaccuracies have, but they do not seem to have been willing to take any of that feedback on board, which has been extremely disappointing.

Their impressively scrupulous handling of the controversial end to the season was commendable, but it does not make up for the countless errors made and, having arguably cultivated a generation of fans on social media that claim knowledge of F1 through an inaccurate series, I do not see a way forward for it.

Whether it gets abandoned completely or replaced by another service such as Amazon Prime would be an interesting discussion to have, but for me, Drive to Survive’s usefulness has very much expired.