Stream it or skip it?
Formula 1 racing is one of the most truly international sports in the world, perhaps behind football in its global ambitions and planetary appeal. For many American viewers, however, it was an overseas afterthought like polo or cricket – until Drive to survive arrived on Netflix, that is. The drama-filled sports docuseries returns for a fourth season, promising even more heightened drama and heart-pounding, thrill-packed motorsport action.
Opening shot: The fourth season opens strong, with a thrilling montage of drama both on and off the track – crashes, clashes, characters and storylines are entered midway through. It’s clear that, much like its subject matter, this show is going to go fast.
The essential: The 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season sees the sport poised for change. After the limitations of COVID in 2020, the new season finds four-time reigning champion Lewis Hamilton – owner of seven championships in total, tied with the legendary Michael Schumacher for the fiercest competition to keep his grip on the throne. Young Red Bull team driver Max Verstappen looms in his rearview mirror, along with a laden list of other worthy contenders. Can the wise veteran hold on and take sole possession of the record? Or will his streak of dominance finally be broken? These are the scenarios at play as Drive To Survive, the flagship motorsport television program, enters its fourth season on Netflix.
What shows will this remind you of? At this point, the question might be “what do the other shows remind you of Drive to surviveBut if you haven’t yet been introduced to streaming TV’s most popular sports soap opera, you might find less of a comparison in HBO’s NFL training camp drama. hard knocks. (Also note: similar Amazon docu-series Grand Prix driver arrived in 2018, a year before the first season of Drive to survive aired, but for some reason Amazon didn’t decide to give their series a second season.)
Our opinion : If you’re like me, an American sports fan who mostly follows the most popular sports in North America like football, basketball, and baseball, you might have noticed something unusual in the two last years.
It was confusing at first – a few unknown names that kept popping up in your social media feeds and then popping up again. An enigmatic conversation about an event you were unaware of. People are talking more and more about Mercedes for reasons that weren’t clear.
Then one day you realised: suddenly a lot of people you knew were really passionate about Formula 1.
How did it happen?
The answer, of course, is Drive to survive. Although Formula 1 racing has been around for over seventy years and is hugely popular overseas, the recent surge in interest from US viewers can largely be attributed to the success of Netflix’s hugely entertaining sports documentary series. The first season debuted in 2019, and while Netflix is usually coy about its viewership numbers, its – at least anecdotal – appeal has snowballed with each successive season.
The latest season, which debuted this week on the streaming service, follows the 2021 season of the Formula 1 World Championship, a slate of 22 races that took place from March to December 2021. Each season of the show easily condenses a full racing season in ten – digestible episodes of around 40 minutes each, making this the perfect on-ramp for new viewers to an unfamiliar sport: the barrier to entry is low and the main storylines (although presumably embellished for the cameras) are laid out right in front of you. (If only soccer or hockey made it so easy!)
An individual sport like racing relies on big names – big personalities – to provide pulling power, and even if you’re skydiving into a brand new sport, it’s clear from the start that F1 has personality to spare, from Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen to Valterri Bottas and further down the rankings. Even non-sports fans might find themselves drawn in, because ultimately Drive To Survive is more of a well-crafted reality show than an indifferent account of sporting events.
Sex and skin: Formula 1 stars exude charisma and confidence, but nobody jumps out of bed here. At least not on camera.
Farewell shot: Fireworks explode into the night sky over Bahrain as Lewis Hamilton holds off rival Max Verstappen during the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first race of the season and the first of many head-to-head duels that both will have in their championship race.
Sleeping Star: Drive to survive is all stars, with the biggest names in F1 – Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas and many more – all represented. The most charming participant in the season four opener might be Scuderia Ferrari engineer and team principal Mattia Binotto, a bespectacled John Turturro lookalike with the most Italian energy imaginable.
The most pilot line: “This sport is fierce, obviously,” British driver George Russell noted in a montage ahead of the first race of the season, “and we’re all here to win.” “I’m like a tiger preparing in silence,” added Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda. “I have no fear.”
Our call: SPREAD IT. Even if you’re not a racing fan, you might find yourself hooked after the first episode.
Scott Hines is an architect, blogger, and internet user who lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife, two young children, and a noisy little dog.