article Spring 2023

Drive to Survive: Fact or Fiction?

The newest season of Netflix’s acclaimed docuseries Drive to Survive tells a story of drama and rivalries between the twenty drivers and ten teams in Formula One, but does it accurately portray the hidden world of this competitive sport?

The first season of Drive to Survive debuted on Netflix in 2019, and now that the fifth season has been released as of February 2023, viewers are again drawn to its portrayal of the drama in the world of Formula One racing. Given that drivers in the past have highlighted the inaccuracies of the series, fans of the latest season must decipher the truth about the unknown world of Formula One. Is the show fact or fiction? Does its captivating storyline outshine its inaccuracies? 

Formula One is a competitive racing sport consisting of ten teams and twenty drivers. Between early March and late December of each year, these teams travel around the world and race at different circuits to compete in the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships. The Constructors’ Championship involves the overall performance of the ten teams, while the Drivers’ Championship focuses on the individual drivers’ standings. The top ten highest placing drivers in each race and their associated teams receive points that determine their standing at the end of the season. This past season, Red Bull Racing dominated both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships, with Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen becoming a second-time world champion.

Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes leads Max Verstappen of Red Bull in the 2019 Abu Dhabi grand prix. Photo sourced from Getty Images.

The latest season of Drive to Survive picks up with Red Bull Racing’s success in the previous season, while also giving insight into the struggles of Ferrari, Mercedes, and other midfield teams in maintaining driving pace with the Red Bull cars. With each season of this series documenting the competition from the previous year, viewers learn more about the rivalries between drivers, the financial and mechanical troubles of some teams, and even the legal battles involved in the negotiation of drivers’ contracts.

With every episode focusing on a specific driver or team, Netflix showcases the struggles of participating in this highly competitive and costly sport. Several season five episodes focus on the strategic and mechanical errors made by the Ferrari team, which destroyed their lead in the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships. 

Other episodes highlight the conflicts surrounding drivers’ contracts, which gained public and legal attention this season. As several drivers did not receive contract renewals, viewers learn more about the drama surrounding newcomer Oscar Piastri’s arrival to Formula One. The Alpine Formula One Team believed they would be signing Piastri onto their team, but he soon revealed he had no intention of signing with Alpine, and would instead go on to sign with the McLaren team. This resulted in Australian driver Daniel Riccardo, who was unaware of the ongoing conversation regarding McLaren’s intention to write off his contract, to lose his seat at McLaren. This somewhat public betrayal is spotlighted in the Netflix series.

Despite the grain of truth behind the drama of every season, Netflix nevertheless fabricates rivalries between drivers and creates misleading storylines about the relationships between teammates. Several drivers have publicly spoken out against Netflix’s misuse of quotes, audio, and video clips in its series to escalate minor incidents on the track.

Even though it is known for its tendency to inaccurately portray the drama of each season, Drive to Survive has nevertheless gained popularity throughout the world and especially the United States during its five seasons. This increased exposure in the U.S. has brought more circuit contracts to the country, including new races in Miami and Las Vegas. However inaccurate it may be, this series successfully entertains the viewer over its ten-episode duration and encourages them to follow the upcoming season’s races. The dramatics of the series are less important than the stories about the public and private struggles and successes of the teams and drivers. While some longtime fans of Formula One may disagree with the series’ focus on drama, it has undeniably helped create a new generation of fans of the sport, and any Netflix user should seek out Drive to Survive to learn more about this elusive but exciting sport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *