Opinion

Published on March 20th, 2020 | by Harry Currall

Review: Drive to Survive (Season 2)

It has long been said that what happens on the track is just a small proportion of what goes on in the world of Formula 1. What goes on behind the scenes has long been off-limits for fans, but Netflix’s Drive to Survive changes that completely.

The first season gave fans an insight into the emotion in the sport, including a look into the personal lives of those working in it. The second season is no different, but this time includes F1’s two biggest teams, Mercedes and Ferrari.

The series begins with a scene-setting episode, unsurprisingly titled “Lights Out”. It’s a rather slow start, looking at the off-season driver changes with particular focus on Daniel Ricciardo’s move from Red Bull to Renault and his disastrous debut in the Australian Grand Prix, his home race.

The most interesting nuggets to come from the first episode are Red Bull team principal Christian Horner’s admission that star driver Max Verstappen has an exit clause in his contract were he not among the top three in the championship by the summer break, and also Horner’s suggestion that Ricciardo left because he couldn’t handle the pressure of being Verstappen’s team-mate.

Steiner loses it

The pace soon quickens, with a full episode focussing on Haas and one of the stars of the last series, team boss Günther Steiner. The Italian became much-loved by F1 fans for his swear-filled rants, and he hasn’t calmed down.

It is a turbulent year for the American team, who suffer a dramatic downfall in results following an impressive race in Australia, where their two cars finished 6th and 7th.

It can often be hard to work out whether Steiner is being serious or joking. One standout moment is an exchange with driver Romain Grosjean, where the Frenchman reminds his boss that despite success with his former team Lotus, they went bankrupt. “We’re not bankrupt,” Steiner replied. “Anyway, not yet. It depends how many cars you destroy this year.”

Frustrations reach boiling point after yet another disappointing result at the Spanish GP, with Steiner launching into another trademark tirade aimed at chief race engineer Ayao Komatsu. “Find out the problem and make progress out of it instead of ‘this is better’. It isn’t ‘this is better’, it f***ing isn’t. I want to see the progress. I mean otherwise I make changes, you know?”

The tension erupts at the British GP, after the two cars collide with each other on the first lap. In arguably one of the moments of the series, a post-race debrief featuring Steiner and both drivers goes horribly wrong, with Danish driver Kevin Magnussen smashing the glass door on the way out.

“He smashed my f***ing office door,” Steiner rages. “I don’t know where he is but he can f*** off, I told him. Both of them. We have got two f***ing idiots driving for us.

“This is not acceptable and we will make changes. If it would be my decision now I would sack them both.”

Disappointingly, the episode ends abruptly, and Haas’ progress is not followed throughout the rest of the campaign. Whilst those who watched the whole season would know their struggles continued, casual fans of the sport would be left wondering how the season played out.

Mercedes meltdown

Another standout episode features Mercedes, who were not involved in the first series, celebrating their 125th year in motorsport at their home race in Germany. The race is a disaster, Lewis Hamilton finishing 9th whilst teammate Valtteri Bottas fails to reach the chequered flag.

Team boss Toto Wolf’s angry reaction to Bottas’ crash – pounding the table and exclaiming “F***! How is this possible?” in German, is one of the most iconic moments from the series.

Despite being left with red faces, Mercedes to their credit do not deny Netflix access to anything, with the cameras allowed to film their post-race debrief, with Hamilton apologising numerous times for his costly crash.

Grief to glory

One narrative followed closely throughout the series is the driver change at Red Bull. Pierre Gasly begins the season as Verstappen’s team-mate, but is demoted during the summer break, with Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon making the step up to replace him.

Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko can be heard telling Horner at the Canadian GP: “Gasly is poor, he’s lost four tenths in the last two corners, which I think you or I could do.”

The French driver is at a loss to describe his failings, offering the explanation: “I’m f***ing fast but at the moment I’m f***ing slow” as it is presented as being inevitable he will lose his seat.

Drive to Survive brilliantly captures the raw emotion fans rarely get to see from drivers. The tragic death of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert in Belgium is presented fittingly. Gasly speaks emotionally about losing his “best friend”.

“I’ve grown up with this guy since I was seven in karting, we’ve been roommates, we’ve lived in the same apartment for six years. I’m still shocked. I don’t realise how it can go so fast. It’s just terrible.”

The final episode focusses on the penultimate race in Brazil, where Gasly secures an emotional and unlikely second place for Toro Rosso. His narrative is perhaps the best of the series, with viewers left rooting for him to succeed after a year in which he was demoted and lost his best friend. It’s a fitting way to finish, with him securing his first ever podium.

Disappointingly, several drivers and teams are barely mentioned throughout the 10 episodes. Fan favourites such as Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen are given very little screen time.

Norris’ McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz’s journey from joining a new team to securing an unlikely podium is tracked, but the English rookie receives little attention. Similarly, teams such as Alfa Romeo and Racing Point are mentioned only in passing.

Overall however, the second season of Drive to Survive is very entertaining. Whether you watch every race or have never seen an F1 GP in your life, there is something for everyone.

Images via: Flickr (Haas https://www.flickr.com/photos/105731165@N07/46549269174 )

Wikimedia Commons (Red Bull
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FIA_F1_Austria_2019_Nr._33_Verstappen_1.jpg)

Pexels (Mercedes
https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-shot-f1-f1-car-formula-1-1414483/ )

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