Formula 1 is often known as the pinnacle of motorsport. It combines the cutting edge of propulsion systems, aerodynamics and driving ability. Many argue that it is more about the car than the man behind the wheel but that leaves out a lot of contexts. To most, it may seem dull to watch 20 cars do 50-60 laps over 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon but as an F1 fan it’s the best way to spend weekend afternoons. It’s hard to explain that passion to those who know little about it. That’s where Netflix’s documentary series, ‘Formula 1: Drive To Survive’, comes in and they just dropped Season 3.
I’ve watched previous seasons but this is the first time I’m doing a review for it. Each season of the show does a dramatic recount of what happened in the F1 season the year before. What makes the show – also called DTS – entertaining to F1 viewers who already know exactly what happened at the races is the behind the scenes stuff we don’t normally get to see but Netflix does.
The 2020 Formula One calendar was particularly interesting with the pandemic shutting down much of the world till June. The first episode starts with F1 being called-off at the very last moment of the season-opening Australian GP in mid-March 2020. Like previous seasons of DTS, we get an insight as to what drivers and team owners have been up to in the time between seasons, showing us a bit of their personal lives, their backgrounds and their training as well. The main action picks up from the second episode onwards.
In 2020, we had a lot of exciting/controversial driver transfers. DTS covers these stories as best as they can, but as you’d expect, some drivers are wisely hesitant to share their feelings and thoughts on media. In Season 3, we get to hear from almost everyone except the Williams drivers. There are episodes dedicated to events and drivers alike. There’s one about Valtteri Bottas, one about the relationship between Daniel Ricciardo and then Renault F1 team principal Cyril Albiteboul, one about Ferrari’s downfall and of course the one about the Haas team. We get to hear a lot from Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, Red Bull’s Christina Horner, Renault’s Cyril, McLaren’s Zak Brown, Racing Points’ Otmar and even a bit from Ferrari’s Binotto.
I think DTS Season 3 has done a good job to tell some of the most exciting stories from the 2020 Formula 1 season. The 10-episode format means some things just have to get left out and I know many British/Mercedes/Williams fans were upset that there was nothing on George Russell or his incredible one-night stand with Mercedes for the Sakhir GP. I’m not in that group so I did not miss it. But they did skip out two memorable races from the season, the Tuscan and Turkish GPs.
Big surprises from the show include the fact that Otmar Szafnauer (Team Principal of Aston Martin F1, formerly Racing Point) apparently has an incredible car collection and he sometimes drives a Ferrari 488 Pista to work. There’s also a scene where we get to see nearly ALL of Bottass, I mean Bottas. The vilification of Ferrari’s “Italian Karen”, aka the drivers’ media manager, might be unfair but it just works brilliantly. Also, we get to meet Lawrence Stroll whose aura feels quite the opposite to that of his son and F1 driver, Lance Stroll. We do get ONE segment with Kimi Raikkonen and it’s effortlessly hilarious, exactly as Kimi fans would expect.
In terms of editing and packaging the stories down to bite-sized entertaining episodes, Netflix has done a great job. Their choice in background scores and music impresses me every time and ends up getting an emotional response out of me. Even though I had followed every race they talked about, every incident or news development, I felt excited to watch every episode. As a way to introduce Formula 1 to those who’ve not seen it at all, Drive To Survive is pretty brilliant.
However, I do have some gripes with the production. First and foremost, the episode that covered Romain Grosjean’s near-fatal crash in Bahrain. I still remember the sick feeling in my gut as I watched those scenes, LIVE, during the race. It had me shook for days. The way they covered those painful minutes where we did not know if Grosjean was dead or alive, could have been done more tastefully. The scenes of the flaming wreckage with Romain still in it could have been fewer and not so drawn out. Aside from that, there were times when the editing felt a bit lazy from Netflix, considering the amount of amazing footage they had access to from the teams and the sport. I understand they take creative liberties to tell the story and not every scene is going to be 100 per cent accurate in terms of technical details. But if you’re showing me the driver’s last lap of the race, the shots should match the sequence of the circuit layout. Don’t cut from the final corner to a middle section and then to the finish straight. Also, in terms of combining engine sound with the scene…We can see the driver shifting gears and the engine sounds being unrelated to the visual. Take the liberties to make a great show, but hide them better. Again, details and gripes as an F1 fan that watches every race.
Overall, I think Drive To Survive Season 3 is an incredible watch, action-packed and full of real stories and dramatic events. Is it for F1 fans? No. Can you still enjoy it as an F1 fan? Totally. It’s quite binge-able like all good Netflix shows and the best part is, the start of the 2021 F1 season is only a week away so you won’t miss the action for too long. Overall, I’d rate DTS Season 3 a solid 8 out of 10 tyres.
If you have watched the series before or are watching it after reading this review, feel free to share your thoughts on DTS in the comment section below. Maybe even let me know your favourite episode or moment from the show.