REVIEW: Drive to Survive Season Four

Credit: Netflix

It was a crazy 2021 season, so it was sure to be a crazy season of Drive to Survive, right?… Right?

Drive to Survive season four just came out and it’s… okay. The big difference I think is that while the show got myself and many others into Formula 1, I actually watched the entire 2021 season this year as it happened. Therefore, I knew all the results, I knew the twists and turns the series would take. That’s a natural outcome for the show, as it is a recount of what happened in an F1 season but what makes it attractive for F1 fans is the behind-the-scenes content. The problem is that there isn’t as much of it as fans who watched these events might like.

Many people were commenting once the 2021 season was over that the next season of Drive to Survive would be insane especially given the dramatic title fight between Red Bull and Mercedes. But it seems that the producers missed the point. Do fans really want to watch an edited version of a race they’ve already seen? No, they want to see what happened in the background away from the public eye. And that is still present, you do still get interviews and perspectives from the drivers involved as well as the team principals, but all they do is repeat what we already heard in the media. There isn’t much new and juicy information that Drive to Survive gives us in relation to the title fight.

That isn’t an issue with the whole show, just as it pertains to the title fight. For instance, the background we get on Haas is incredibly interesting, as well as the drama that was happening with Williams. That stuff we didn’t get much attention in the media, especially the drama with Mazepin and Haas. Actually, the Mazepin stuff was more interesting in what they didn’t say as team principal Guenther Steiner clearly couldn’t say everything he thought of their main sponsor Uralkali and Dmitry Mazepin.

Nikita Mazepin

While not showing George Russell much last season at all, Netflix have overcorrected on this front. Now they show a lotof George Russell. Not to say that it isn’t interesting. It’s fun to know what Williams thought of all the rumours that Russell was going to Mercedes. The answer was that they didn’t like it.

We get a good focus on McLaren that mixes to a greater effect the behind-the-scenes and race aspects of the documentary. It doesn’t feel like a simple a recount of how Daniel Ricciardo’s race in Monza went. You get a whole character arc for Ricciardo without it having to feel forced or fabricated. It’s great. You even discover the deeper rivalry and tension between Lando Norris and Ricciardo that could only be guessed at during the season. But this could have also been fabricated as some have already claimed.

One of Drive to Survive’s biggest detriments is the exclusion of Max Verstappen. That isn’t the show’s fault (kind of) as Verstappen has refused to provide Netflix with interviews. The problem is that when you focus so heavily on the title fight and don’t even have the perspective of one of the contenders, it feels one-sided. You’ve got Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, defending Max’s actions on track or complaining about Lewis Hamilton, but it does feel like something is missing without Max’s input. It’s a complaint but there isn’t really much the producers can do about it. It does give Mercedes the PR advantage though, especially as it pertains to the Verstappen’s contentious title win.

They’ve changed the structure of the show to create a more linear timeline rather than constant jumping back and forth in the season. It does have some benefits, you’re no longer confused about motivation or when in the season this is taking place and it does fuel the overall title battle narrative, building into what they must’ve thought was a crescendo at the end. It’s a fine change but it does mean that certain teams don’t get any attention at all.

There is a focus on fewer teams this season and that means there is less behind-the-scenes content. Granted, what was going on at Ferrari or Alfa Romeo this year may not have been as interesting as the other teams. It doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t have been interesting business dealings or a strange team dynamic as an F1 team doesn’t seem like a place where things are often smooth sailing. Surely there is something worth reporting on. Like Antonio Giovinazzi’s precarious position at Alfa Romeo. Then again, if they avoid the less interesting teams then they don’t have to fabricate drama or stories. So it’s a double edged sword.

Overall, this isn’t different to previous Drive to Survive seasons really so in that sense it’s still a great way to get new people into the sport. The downside is that while the linear structure removes a lot of the jumping around through time and teams it means you may miss out on what’s going on with your favourite driver. Though this time there is less fabricated drama, there is also less behind-the-scenes content that is really the best part of the series. Too much time has been given to retelling events that many fans saw live. This doesn’t mean that the series is bereft of the good stuff but it is less interesting.

6/10

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