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By: Qasim Hasnain
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsports with high speed, high stakes racing, around each corner. The quest to become the greatest has led to drivers to become more than just racing drivers, but heroes in the eyes of children, and their countries. The sport turned into a religion, taking life, one corner at a time. Enriched with long history and passionate fanbases, Formula 1 is one of the most watched and most popular sports ever, so the fans’ hunger for maximum content makes sense. Not shy of drama, with the world titles for best driver and team on the line, and the dominant Mercedes team, fans were excited when Netflix announced a documentary series focusing on the season at hand. The first and second seasons of Formula 1: Drive to Survive were some of the best and most insightful series ever made. Season three however, was far from it. While it exceeded expectations in many areas, it lacked what was necessary in some.
Nailed: The Visuals
One of the best parts of Drive To Survive is the stunning visuals it offers to fans. Showing every edge and corner of an overtake from a beautiful angle, the precision and beauty of the sport are highlighted. Seen in high resolution, some stills are nothing short of art, and provide alternate angles as to which fans see on their television screens live. In Episode 9: Man On Fire the sequence of Sergio Perez, in his pink BWT Racing Point, overtaking Alexander Albon’s Aston Martin Red Bull Racing car, is simply one of the highlights of the season. With stunning camera angles, and slow motion shots dominating the screen, fans simply marveled over every shot of the series, backed up with a voice-over from the drivers themselves, or an appropriate figure, visually, Drive To Survive has been a treat to watch, and an experience in itself.
Missed: Fake Drama
One of fans’ greatest criticisms of the series was the intentional fabrication of some aspects of the season. The supposed “fierce rivalry” and “obstacle in working relationship” between Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris at McLaren, one of the most known duos in Formula 1, famous for their deep and very public friendship, were suddenly shown as bitter enemies when in real life this was not the case. By inserting audio from a different scenario to properly fabricate the situation, Netflix made one of their biggest mistakes ever. The inserted audio was very clearly from the Perez-Norris collision in the season opener at Austria into a different race where a Norris-Sainz “collision” was shown. It is common knowledge that Formula 1 is a cutthroat sport and at the end of the day it is every driver for himself, but falsely creating a rivalry amongst two very prominent drivers was one of the biggest let-downs in the series.
Nailed: An Insight Into The Technical Side Of Formula 1
For fans, the major role that technology has played in deciding the outcomes of races is obvious, especially entering the “Hybrid era” where many races are won purely on strategy and technological upgrades that give a team the upper hand over another. Drive To Survive did an impeccable job showing the technical side of the series, especially during the whole BWT Racing Point fiasco, where their car was widely mocked and protested against for being illegal because of its apparent use of similar parts to a dominant car from a past season. It gave good insight that led to many fans having a clearer look at the technical side and discovering a newfound appreciation for the people in charge of the inside of the car. That is a so rarely highlighted and considered importance once a race has begun, and it contradicts the general perspective that pure speed in a straight line is what wins a car a race.
Missed: The Sudden About-Face On Perez Following His First Win At Bahrain
Sergio Perez has been in F1 for a considerable amount of time with stints at McLaren, Force India and BWT Racing Point. His impressive performances have led him to earn a second Red Bull Racing seat alongside Max Verstappen. In earlier seasons, Perez was shown as an antagonist, a hurdle to Esteban Ocon and it was implied, against him, that he stole Ocon’s seat. Emphasis was laid on his “bad-boy” attitude and his many crashes. However, following his win, Perez was shown in a completely different light. He was shown as someone who struggled to get into Formula 1, which is true, and of his Mexican heritage, a big hurdle in his journey to Formula 1, also true and certain. But the sudden turn to portray him from a “couldn’t care about the rules” bad boy to a person who has struggled was very sudden. Portraying Perez in a negative light in earlier seasons was one of Netflix’s biggest mistakes, and one which they simply retconned in this edition of the series.
Nailed: Getting Proper F1 Experts and Journalists For Analysis
One thing Netflix did do correctly was getting the proper people for analysis and opinions. In addition to the major team principals the leading figures of the team (Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, Will Buxton, a trusted Formula 1 journalist, and Jennie Gow) provided good opinions and analysis of the situation at hand. While at the time, especially during the McLaren-Norris-Sainz episode, the dramatics were a bit overdone, they did a great job overall. Coupled with the team principals themselves, they made for a perfect group of panelists, narrating the events as they went, occasionally providing insider information as well, which is always appreciated.
Missed: Missed Drama
#HulkenBack was one of the biggest events of the 2020 Formula 1 season, along with George Russel filling in for Lewis Hamilton, for the Grand Prix at Bahrain. Netflix missed both of these major events, both brought out by drivers contracting the COVID-19 virus. Giving such limited screen time to drivers such as Max Verstappen, and George Russel should be considered a crime. Episodes of the series focused upon the struggles at Ferrari with their abysmal season, and their lack of pace. Netflix failed to acknowledge some of the best Ferrari performances, namely at the season opener at Austria where Charles Leclerc gained a second place podium, and in Turkey where Sebastian Vettel gained his maiden 2020 podium after what was arguably his worst season. As the #BlackLivesMatter movement gained popularity, the series was ended with Lewis Hamilton, the only current POC F1 driver with messages of hope, and valuable input regarding his own personal experiences. Hamilton was also fined for wearing a Justice For Breonna Taylor T-shirt. The amazing show of unity in the #WeRaceAsOne and the End Racism T-shirts were regularly highlighted throughout every race week, but missed in Drive To Survive.
Nailed: Distribution Of Team Content
This season saw the gap in Formula 1 brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the failing form of Ferrari, Mercedes facing a genuine threat from Red Bull, the tight midfield battle between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault, and the Williams family leaving F1 after falling from the top step. And this is just to name a few, Sebastian Vettel’s back and forth with Ferrari, him joining the Aston Martin F1 team, and Grosjean’s brutal crash, ending his Formula 1 journey. Thankfully he is alive and well with his family now. So much content squeezed in the middle of a span of a few episodes, seemed next to impossible, but Netflix nailed it. Giving almost each team individual episodes, while squeezing the big drama in between each episode was a brilliant decision. While some Grand Prix were missed, the major drama was covered thoroughly.
Missed: Lack Of Content For Some Drivers
Max Verstappen was one of the biggest focuses in racing during the time the season was run. Verstappen was known for the threat he posed towards a dominant Mercedes team, and his form being stronger than ever. However, he was almost left out from the series, even though he went through some major drama. With a retirement in the opening race and a home race for Red Bull, in what seemed like a frustrating season for him, he was negated to a large extent. Another driver, a victim of the “Cut For Time” element was William’s Driver and promising British driver, George Russell, considered a frontrunner for the Mercedes seat, below current second driver, Valtteri Bottas. He was given his chance to shine in Mercedes, given the nod for a race, after Lewis Hamilton sadly contracted the virus, which was all seemingly completely left out. Putting in an impressive performance despite a disappointing result, he was a big talk for the season, but apparently, not for Netflix.
Nailed: Emphasis On Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel was one of the highlights of this season. His witty jokes, and playful humor, were massively highlighted. Taking digs at the disappointing Ferrari season, as well as Charles Leclerc’s clothing line being delayed, and his hilarious and sometimes, no holes barred responses were always hilarious to watch. His announcement of joining the Aston Martin team, which came “conveniently” on the anniversary of Ferrari’s 1000GP celebration, after his very public fallout with Ferrari, was given special emphasis. His performances, while below his usual standard, still gained him a podium in a very wet Turkish GP. Going behind-the-scenes of the press meetings he was brutally honest which made for good fun and entertainment for those watching at home, and was seen as “good riddance” after he was forced out of Ferrari.
Missed: Dramatizing the Grosjean Crash at Bahrain
One of the biggest incidents of the season came in the final stages of the Formula 1 season as Romain Grosjean, now labelled as the “man who walked out of fire”, was the victim of a crash in his HAAS F1 car. He went into a steel barrier, and up in flames. While, thankfully, he got out of there alive and only suffering burns on his hands and body, the whole ordeal was stretched out and used for intense drama. While driver reactions and the inclusion of his family, along with the scenes of his return was greatly appreciated, it was stretched out to much longer than it originally was, and used simply as a plot point. The dramatization of the crash being shown over and over again is something Daniel Ricciardo had criticized in the past. However, the heartfelt messages from his family and his own account of the event were important and appreciated by viewers.
Originally posted on Movie Web