Netflix F1 documentary aims to win over new fans – and is succeeding

Drive to Survive is currently streaming on Netflix

When the producers of Drive to Survive approached all 10 of the current F1 teams about their plans to make a fly on the wall documentary of the 2018 season, all but two agreed.

The big exceptions were Mercedes and Ferrari, both citing it as a distraction. Now that the result is airing on Netflix, both teams may well reconsider that decision for the planned second series. For Drive to Survive is probably the best thing to happen to the sport in years.

Watching Drive to Survive with someone who is not a Formula 1 fan, it’s clear that producers decision to focus on individuals rather than the cars or technology is clearly paying off. Given the producers also made the superb documentary Senna, this is no surprise.

The sport in recent years has suffered from a perceived lack of drama and excitement, races seen as processions. It has to be said that the TV coverage is also pretty bland – at least in the UK, where you get hours of uninteresting chat from the pit lane. Then the race.

The start of the race is the best bit of any coverage. Then all the excitement is experienced by the drivers and the pit crews – but long range TV cameras fail to capture this.

This is where Drive to Survive succeeds. By focusing close up on the people, the stress, and the things that always go wrong, the viewer is drawn in whether they are a fan or not. It’s human at its heart.

Few people would not be moved by the sight of Daniel Ricciardo’s mother in bits watching her son risk his life.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes: too busy for series one of Drive to Survive. Pic: Daimler AG

Formula 1 may be a sport of billionaires, of super rich corporations and is hardly diverse – but Netflix has succeeded in showing that is also bloody exciting.

Now we just need its biggest stars to appear in the next series.

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