Formula 1 reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg says that, while he initially had reservations about appearing in Netflix’s Drive to Survive docuseries, he has “no regrets whatsoever” about his role in seasons one and two.
Netflix first sent film crews out to the F1 paddock in 2018, and documented the highs, lows and everything in between of eight of the 10 teams; Ferrari and Mercedes opted out of season one.
The leading two teams at the time then decided to involve themselves for the second season aired in 2020, and this also featured Hulkenberg’s final full season in the sport.
He managed 10 points finishes in what would turn out to be a struggling season for his Renault team, and he and Daniel Ricciardo guided the Enstone outfit to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2019, 54 points behind McLaren as Renault slumped back from their marvellous form of the year previous.
Season two covered the German’s heart-breaking crash at his home race in Germany, when he was set for his first career podium, and ultimately the demise of his career as boss at the time Cyril Abiteboul replaced him with Esteban Ocon for 2020.
The 34-year-old says that he initially did not quite understand what the purpose of the Netflix’s crew’s presence was.
“I still remember the production for the first season of Drive to Survive,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.
“‘Netflix in Formula One? What are they doing here?’
“During our first encounters with the camera teams, the drivers weren’t entirely clear about what they wanted in the paddock, and, above all, what the result would be.”
However, he ultimately acclimatised himself to the additional members of the paddock and, despite the visible affliction as he realised his F1 journey was all but over, he does not rue his appearances on the show.
“After some initial scepticism, however, I agreed to be filmed more often. And in retrospect, I have no regrets whatsoever,” he explained.
“With the help of the documentary, many fans – especially new fans – understood what this sport is all about, how much politics is involved, the effort put in by the teams, and the high performance in F1.
“The makers of the documentary have found a good balance between Hollywood and reality. Sure, not everything is exactly as portrayed, but it is very entertaining, and available anytime and worldwide.
“The documentary has been a huge success in America, in particular. At no previous race weekend have I taken as many selfies with fans, and signed as many autographs, as I did in Austin in 2021, even though I am not racing currently.”
The former Williams, Force India and Renault driver also notes that he has gained greater recognition as a result of his part in the series, and is pleased with the fact that the pinnacle of motorsport is reaching a wider audience.
“The fans recognised me because of my two featured episodes in the first two seasons,” he added.
“Most importantly, they [F1] are gaining younger viewers too.”
Hulkenberg would return for three races in 2020 with Racing Point, two of them in Silverstone when Sergio Perez came down with COVID, and again in Germany when Lance Stroll fell ill.
He is now the test and reserve driver for the Aston Martin team.
Season 4 of Drive to Survive will be released on Netflix on 11 March, with all episodes being available as soon as it drops.