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  • Writer's pictureCastor Chan

The Impact of Drive To Survive on F1

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Drive to Survive plays a little like a reality show. You have cleverly cut scenes of drivers in interviews, cameras capturing every bit of tension on and off track, and cheesy cliche one liners about pressure and competition, all with a healthy dose of swearing. (Mostly notably from the one and only Guenther Steiner) There is no denying its popularity, with fans already looking for the release date of Season 3 mere weeks after the last race of 2020. But beyond Netflix enchanting another sport’s audience with a cool new documentary, how has Drive to Survive actually changed the F1 community?

Firstly, it chose its stars well. The show starts off with Daniel Ricciardo, whose story arc is featured over the two years. The first season captures the tension in Red Bull over his move to Renault, then what the outcome of that new contract was in Season 2. Even without the show, Ricciardo is a huge personality. Many of his lines have made their way into fans’ minds, and he gets a rivalry story with first Max Verstappen and then Carlos Sainz. Then whether or not you echo the same sentiment in real life, Christian Horner has undoubtedly been cast as the villain. The edited scenes between his public discussions and his personal interviews make his role play out as almost the mastermind behind the scenes, switching out his pawns and sending them out next to Verstappen, the apple of Red Bull’s eye. And as expected of fans of a competitive sport, the drama is well received.

Contrary to that, the show also gives us a front row seat to bitter and heart wrenching outcomes. Audiences saw Marcus Ericsson lose his seat in Season 1 while teammate Charles Leclerc went on to Ferrari, and then watched Pierre Gasly’s hope of success in Red Bull fade. The latter in particular was like striking gold as it allowed producers to play with another new rivalry and continue their focus on Red Bull. How this all played out also means that fans will be eager for an episode featuring Gasly’s stunning Monza victory in Season 3. Paul Martin, one of the executive producers of DTS, said that “a lot of this series is down to luck.” In regards to that it did seem awfully fortunate that Netflix were on hand to capture Mercedes’ Hockenheim horror show in S2. With such a dominant lead until then, winning all but one of the races, no one could have foreseen the absolute nightmare the team would have that weekend. Yet that is exactly what was portrayed in the show, with a raw look into the tragedy of Niki Lauda’s passing and how Lewis Hamilton, hailed by many as one of the greats, has tough moments from time to time. This episode also fuelled the jokes about the Netflix curse and team principal Toto Wolff’s desk smashing tendencies.

And on that note, the comedy that is embedded into the series is also one of its biggest selling points. Guenther Steiner’s fame has since rocketed up, especially since the door smashing incident between him and Kevin Magnussen. Then come another two team principals, Horner and Cyril Abiteboul and their press conference about their engine deal and driver swaps. Then of course we get to see more of the drivers. Nico Hulkenberg’s hilariously awkward quips about staying in Renault, Ricciardo’s less than positive descriptor of Netflix (that contrary to his belief made it in) and the show calling in Kimi Raikkonen just for him to tell us that F1 is a hobby in the last minute of Season 2.

But while the above factors made the show popular, that is not its most important impact. What it has managed to do is aid the draw of new audiences to the sport, which as an industry is crucial for sustainability. F1 has been rather closed off, and while some fans may enjoy it that way it is no way to ensure the longevity of the sport. It is also less well known outside of Europe, which is converse to its status as a global sport. On top of that, it brought in younger fans. Netflix was a great channel for F1 to branch out into, especially since they have been stepping up in their social media. Because younger generations now spend less time at the TV and more on mobile devices and streaming services, F1 has had to create content elsewhere. For example there was much success in the lockdown streams, both by individual drivers and with the competitive series that were hosted throughout the season delay. There is a new sense of accessibility to the paddock, and in this season where most were not allowed to go to the races in person, Drive to Survive allows the behind the scenes content that the fans love.

Love it or hate it, Drive to Survive has opened the doors of a once restrictive sport. Some may prefer it when F1 seemed like a prestigious, out of reach sports whose audience was solely made up of male purists. And although most tend to stay away from the more eager parts of stan Twitter, there are good things to come out of this new flood of viewers. There is an increase of female fans (despite the rather misogynistic history that F1 has) and also young content creators. There are now new artists, writers and video makers all over the world who were able to find a new sports that they were passionate about. And this has only happened because of DTS and their change in direction with social media. Now who’s ready for Season 3?


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