TV Review – ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ Season 3

It is no secret that Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive has completely changed the world of motorsport. As well as bringing in a wave of new fans to Formula 1, it has allowed withstanding fans behind-the-scenes glimpses into the personalities of the drivers and team principals.

If you watched the races as they happened in 2020, then you will know exactly how each episode plays out prior to watching the show. However, if you are a new fan, and this is your first insight into the sport, then you will have a very different experience. Every plotline will be unpredictable, instilling more suspense and intrigue.

The Effects of Coronavirus

Season 3 begins slightly differently to the previous two seasons. The effects of the pandemic are documented in the first episode, which covers the build-up to the ultimately cancelled Australian Grand Prix. It seems alien watching the drivers interacting without masks or social distancing, filmed during a time when the pandemic was not expected to affect us to the magnitude which it did.

Driver Line-Up Changes

Season 3 explores the multitude of driver line-up switches throughout 2020. These include Sebastian Vettel’s move from Ferrari to Aston Martin, Daniel Ricciardo’s move from Renault to McLaren, and Carlos Sainz Jr.’s move from McLaren to Ferrari. Netflix delve into the underlying emotions, most of which came from Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul. Watching him accept Ricciardo’s departure from the team is somewhat like watching a relationship breakup.

Guenther Steiner, one of the most prominent stars of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, unsurprisingly makes an appearance in Season 3. He still has his fair share of iconic moments involving his notoriously bad language, albeit perhaps not as memorable as previous seasons. He also shows a rare softer side to his character, as he struggles to decide which of the Haas drivers to keep on for the next season of the sport.

Success Stories

A highlight of the season was episode 6: ‘The Comeback Kid’. The show detailed Pierre Gasly’s rise and fall during Season 2 in 2019 when he was demoted from Red Bull during the same week as his childhood friend Anthoine Hubert passed away. This time round, Netflix were ready to document Gasly’s magnificent and emotional comeback. The Frenchman was presented in all his glory with coverage of his stunning win in Monza.

Another success story is Sergio Perez’s debut victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in episode 9. Whilst the episode is enjoyable, it’s a shame that Williams’ driver George Russell’s time at Mercedes whilst Hamilton had coronavirus wasn’t documented. Obviously, Netflix can’t film every driver at every point in time, but I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed, nevertheless.

A Near-Fatal Crash

Romain Grosjean’s near-death crash in Bahrain was one of the most haunting and memorable moments of 2020. When paired with dramatic music, it made for an intense and captivating episode. They did drag out the question of “will he survive, or won’t he” for a little too long, but watching the episode with the prior knowledge that he did successfully escaped from the inferno alive made it slightly easier to digest.

Bitter Racing Rivalries

We see a new side to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in episode 3 – in fact, we see more than we ever anticipated after he is filmed during a nude sauna scene at home in Finland. He may initially seem like seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton’s wingman, but he strives to be more. We are provided insight into the mind of one of the quietest drivers on the grid, and you will likely warm to the Finn more than you expect to.

With Mercedes, the rivalry extends beyond the teammates. Episode 2 documents the tension between the team principals of Mercedes and Red Bull, Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, the latter of which has an intense competitive streak. He will clearly go to extensive lengths in order to try to prevent Mercedes from achieving their unstoppable success too easily, and this will help to shape your opinions of the two most dominant teams in the sport.

Episode 8 focuses on McLaren teammates Sainz and Norris. It highlights a problem with Formula 1: Drive to Survive – it may not always be 100% accurate. Radio messages and conversations are combined out of context (something which Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has previously accused the show of) shaping their relationship to be one of bitter rivalry. On the contrary, longstanding Formula 1 fans know of their heart-warming bromance.

Remember That It’s A TV Show

Formula 1: Drive to Survive continues to successfully capture behind-the-scenes glimpses into the sport. However, at the end of the day, it is a docudrama TV series. The fact that its primary aim is one of entertainment, which may involve overdramatisation of events in some cases, should be kept in the back of the mind whilst watching.

Words by Gemma Cockrell

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