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Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Formula 1: Drive to Survive has now arrived on Netflix, offering one of the world’s biggest consumer markets the chance to binge on our beloved sport. The question is, how have they done in representing the action and drama of Formula 1?

Drive to Survive is a 10-part mini-series that looks back over the 2018 season. Since the Liberty takeover of Formula 1, we have been promised more access and exposure to the sport. In the modern age of social media, Formula 1 has been running to catch up, slowly letting go of the hold on the sports content and trying to appeal to wider markets.

Working with award winning documentarian James Gay-Rees, who most appropriately was part of the team behind 2010’s Oscar winning documentary “Senna”, Sean Bratches and the F1 Commercial team have done a fantastic job on picking up the stories of the 2018 season and bringing them to life on our TV’s and mobile phones.

Each episode focuses on a particular story from the season. From the public divorce of Red Bull Racing and Renault F1, to the rise and rise of Charles Leclerc, each episode uses a mixture of the commercial feed footage, and original footage from both the race day and interviews through the season.

A particular focus over a few episodes is fan-favourite Daniel Ricciardo, his redemption in Monaco following his nightmare in 2016, and his decision to leave Red Bull. The combination of factors that came together between decisions taken by the team in Azerbaijan (following his collision with teammate Max Verstappen), and later on in the year once completing their deal with Honda as an engine supplier for 2019, really shines the light on how he came to his decision. Additionally, the tension in the relationship between respective Team Principles Christian Horner and Cyril Abiteboul ranges between horrible and hilarious.

This highlights a riskier part of the strategy taken in this production. Fans often feedback in surveys that the politics of the sport are something that is taking away from the action on track. I think however, their selective process in picking the stories that are focused on has helped avoid the duller moments of this, and paid more attention to the more dramatic moments.

Episodes have been well written and production quality is high, as would be expected with the budgets available from both Formula 1 and Netflix, and existing fans will be enthralled by each episode. However, have they struck a balance between content for the fans and content for new viewers? Whilst I think anyone can find entertainment and knowledge in each episode, I fear it is still quite heavily biased towards the existing consumer. As always, I would like to be wrong, however until viewing figures and reviews are counted, we won’t know.

All-in-all, I found each 40-minute episode enjoyable and not short of action, and for anyone already interested in the sport, or looking to expand their interest in it, this is entertaining viewing. It certainly outshines the McLaren / Amazon effort taken in 2018, and can hopefully push forward the medium.

Enjoy your viewing, race fans!

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