Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” recently released its third season of the docuseries covering the 2020 Formula 1 season, which was delayed after coronavirus struck the world in March.
The new season takes experienced fans and newcomers alike behind the scenes with interviews and footage exclusive to the show.
As Netflix has done in the previous seasons, it undergoes an amount of dramatization, something F1 fans often see straight through. From added sound effects to intense music that makes close teammates seem like aggressive rivals, it can be misleading to those new to the sport.
But some aspects of Netflix’s dramatization of the 2020 season aligned with fan discussions about certain teams. In episode eight, “No Regrets,” McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says, “you never wanna favor drivers.” While he says this, Netflix shows Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, both who were rumored to be favored by their teams over their respective teammates. This gives viewers the impression that Red Bull and Ferrari are guilty of the mistake that Brown mentions, and many F1 fans agree.
Regardless, F1 has seen more new fans as a result of the show and who quickly understand the real politics and nature of the sport.
The show’s beginning captures the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, some drivers expressing serious concerns over the Australian Grand Prix going on as scheduled. The race weekend was eventually cancelled after McLaren received a positive test for COVID-19 and withdrew prior to hitting the track.
The show does not do a great job of explaining important history, rules or acronyms for those who have not watched Formula 1 in the past. It does some of this, but specific events are mentioned with no context. Since the show has been a gateway for new fans, it would make sense to implement more explanations, but in the end, it is not meant to be a crash course.
F1 presenter and reporter Will Buxton is shown throughout to give analysis of what is being shown on screen, like Mercedes’ controversial steering system. Buxton also provides important information about what it means to the sport when unexpected decisions take place.
One major oversight to the show is the, almost, total lack of coverage of Mercedes during the Sakhir Grand Prix. After Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, a now seven-time world champion, tested positive for COVID-19, Williams Racing driver, George Russell, served as a replacement.
F1 had never seen a driver leave his team to replace another team’s driver for a single race. Even more so, Russell was switching from Williams, a team that had not scored a single point during the 2020 season, to Mercedes, a team that had already claimed the constructor’s championship for a seventh-year in a row.
The last five minutes of the final episode were set aside for Hamilton to speak about activism and being the only black F1 driver.
The British driver was not afraid of speaking out during the 2020 season, standing at the podium of the Tuscan Grand Prix wearing a shirt that read, “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” across the front. “I’m not always too bothered about upsetting someone, if it’s gonna make a difference,” Hamilton said.
Overall, the new season is great for fans to learn what goes on behind the scenes and for new fans to get baptized into the sport. While there are things Netflix could change, the show does its job.
The Formula 1 2021 season began March 28 at Bahrain International Circuit and will next travel to Italy for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 18.
“Formula 1: Drive to Survive” season three is streaming now on Netflix.