Tag Archives: F1

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/ )

Darts ditches glamour girls and F1 follows suit

Darts looked distinctly different at the 2018 PDC campaign curtain-raiser, the Masters Championship in Milton Keynes.

But it wasn’t the absence of now-retired multiple world champion Phil Taylor, nor the presence of his newly-crowned successor Phil Cross.

No, it was the decision by the Professional Darts Corporation to stop using walk-on girls with immediate effect.

It was the first time in over 23 years at a televised PDC event that players hadn’t been flanked on their way to the stage by glamorous models.

A statement from the organisers said: “We regularly review all aspects of our events, and this move has been made following feedback from our host broadcasters.”

Tradition?

Walk-on girls have accompanied players to the oche since 1994, just a couple of years after the birth of the PDC in 1992, in its attempt to attract the wider public to the sport with music, glitz and glamour.

Many fans across social media have argued that walk-on girls are therefore part of darts’ tradition and that their role should very much remain.

However, others have rightly suggested that darts has been around for more than just the two decades that the PDC and the walk-on girls have existed, so it’s far from the be all and end all.

A petition addressed to PDC chairman Barry Hearn has since been started in favour of keeping walk-on girls, attracting more than 40,000 signatures.

A tweet from five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld urging the public to sign the petition read: “I will really miss the girls! For me they are a part of the darts. Sign their petition so they can keep their jobs.”

The models also work at other sporting events, including horse racing, boxing, cycling and as Formula 1 grid girls.

However, F1 has followed in the footsteps of the PDC and announced the withdrawal of models from the sport.

Domino effect

In a statement F1’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches said: “Over the last year, we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.

“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grand prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”

Leading national charity the Women’s Sport Trust also stated: “We applaud the Professional Darts Corporation for moving with the times and deciding to no longer use walk-on girls. Boxing and cycling… your move.”

As momentum and pressure continues to grow, it remains to be seen whether there is a domino effect which ultimately ends the use of female models in promoting sporting events, but it would come as no surprise should others follow suit.

Why Hamilton can still win the F1 drivers’ crown

The Brazilian Grand Prix has served up incident-packed races ever since it first appeared on the F1 calendar in 1973.

And a good dose drama at Interlagos is exactly what Lewis Hamilton needs if he is to take the drivers’ championship into the final round in Abu Dhabi.

rosberg
Hamilton cannot afford to see Rosberg celebrating a win in Brazil

His Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg will take the crown if he wins either of the year’s two remaining races, or by finishing with at least one second and third place even if Hamilton wins in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

So can Hamilton snatch the title out of the German’s grasp despite trailing him by 19 points?

Most petrolheads will tell you that Interlagos is a circuit that produces tantalisingly good races – contests that, down the years, have seen many championships won and lost.

So Britain’s three-time F1 champion only needs to glance through the Brazilian GP’s history to be hopeful of derailing Rosberg’s title dream.

Comebacks and drama

In 2006, Michael Schumacher proved the circuit is one for overtaking. Starting from 10th position on the grid, the German did an astonishing job after falling to 19th position due to a flat tyre.

The seven-time world champion returned to the race, having almost been lapped, and carved his way through the field to finish in fourth place.

“Hamilton will take confidence from replaying his 2008 outing at Interlagos, showing that miracles in Brazil can happen.”

‘Schumi’s’ performance was agonisingly not enough to win his eighth drivers’ crown, as Fernando Alonso successfully defended his title.

Hamilton will also surely take confidence from replaying his own 2008 outing at Interlagos, showing that miracles in Brazil can happen.

After adopting a conservative strategy to secure at least 5th place, and the title, a late-race rain shower caused unexpected problems.

Hamilton wins the championship at the last corner in Brazil 2008

Hamilton was pushed down to 5th place by Timo Glock who didn’t enter the pits for intermediates like most others.

With just three laps to go, Sebastian Vettel overtook the Briton which meant Hamilton would end up with equal points to Massa, but with one fewer victory.

Against all expectations Vettel and Hamilton were able to overtake Glock, who had lost all grip with his dry-weather tyres, in the very last corner of the race.

This meant that Hamilton ultimately grabbed the fifth place he needed to become champion.

The 2009 season saw more drama as Jenson Button sealed the drivers’ championship with a sublime recovery drive, starting in 14th but finishing fourth.

In 2012, the outcome of the championship remained in doubt until the final lap, as Vettel – who fell to the back of the field on the first lap – drove a gritty race back through the pack to seal the title.

Although Hamilton is yet to win in Brazil, he can take confidence in denting Rosberg’s maiden title hopes from the tracks record of drama.

Weather

Rain is nothing out of the ordinary at Interlagos in November, and so the weather might also give Hamilton a helping hand.

He won’t have forgetten the Monaco GP earlier this year, which he won in in wet conditions while Rosberg struggled home in seventh place.

Inclement weather often courses havoc in F1, with drivers’ race strategies hit by puddles and spray, while chopping and changing tyres from full wets, to intermediates and back to slicks can often catch them out.

rain-in-interlagos-in-2013
Rain is a regular occurrence at the Brazilian GP

The forecast for Sao Paulo suggests there is a chance of low temperatures and showers on Saturday and Sunday.

Another seventh placed finish for Rosberg and a win in the wet for Hamilton would leave the pair level on 355 points going into the final weekend in Abu-Dhabi.

Three of the last six race weekends in Brazil have featured wet weather.

Combine that with Interlagos being a tight, twisty circuit which dries out quite quickly, and unpredictability is almost guaranteed.

For example, Nico Hulkenberg won a surprise pole position for Williams on a drying track in 2010.

A full-on wet race could also swing the balance towards Red Bull who have looked strong in the rain this season.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second in a wet British GP earlier this year with Hamilton winning, Rosberg third and Verstappen’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

Rosberg overdue bad luck

hamilton-mayalaysia
Hamilton breaks down in Malaysia

Over the course of the year Rosberg has surprisingly only won one more race than Hamilton, despite the large points difference between the two.

Hamilton has had the lump sum of bad luck between the pair. You only need to glance at the table below to see that Rosberg is due a blip.

Race’s in which Mercedes drivers have had problems

Race order Driver Problem
Bahrain Hamilton Hamilton suffered a first-corner collision dropping to 7th; he fought back to 3rd
China Hamilton Hamilton started at the back of the grid due to a power unit failure; he finished 7th
Russia Hamilton The Brit started 10th after an engine failure in qualifying; he finished 5th.
Spain Hamilton & Rosberg Rosberg and Hamilton collided on the first lap resulting in both not finishing the race
Canada Rosberg The German finished 5th after suffering a slow puncture during the race
Austria Rosberg The German turned into a corner late as Hamilton tried to pass around the outside and damaged his front wing, finishing fourth. Rosberg was given a 10-second penalty.
Belgium Hamilton Hamilton started in 21st place on the grid, after a raft of engine penalties resulting from failures early in the season. He fought back to third.
Malaysia Hamilton Hamilton’s title hopes were dealt a heavy blow when his engine failed as he led the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Just one error for Rosberg will blow the championship wide open, be it in the wet conditions he’s struggled in this season, the drama the Brazilian GP often throws up or an overdue car performance issue for the German.

If Hamilton can emulate his hero Senna and notch his first win at the late Brazilian’s home circuit; the current world champ could bolster his chances of defending his crown and taking it right down to the wire in Abu-Dhabi.

Earl Bamber: A Le Mans winner unable to defend his crown

Earl Bamber is a name which most racing fans are still not familiar with, even though they probably should be.

Having worked his way up through the ranks at Porsche Motorsport, the New Zealander was handed the opportunity to drive its third LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) 919 Hybrid at the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – a race he won outright alongside fellow Le Mans prototype rookies: F1’s Nico Hulkenberg and fellow Porsche up-and-comer Nick Tandy in the same car.

“Get out your diary, look at June and write in there that you have to drive the 919 Hybrid at Le Mans”

But due to the VW emission scandal, Porsche (and sister brand/rival Audi) opted to scale back its effort for the 2016 edition to just two cars at the big race in an effort to cut costs, leaving Bamber and his team-mates without a chance to win again.

After winning ‘the world’s greatest motor race’, it’s bitterly disappointing for Bamber and his fans alike, that he won’t be able to return to the race at the top level and do the double.

Elephant Sport sat down at length with Bamber, to get some personal insight on the #19’s incredible and in some ways unexpected triumph, scoring Porsche’s record 17th win at the Circuit de La Sarthe and how hard it was to hear the news that he wouldn’t be driving in LMP1 again this year.

Bamber’s Le Mans story began while he sat on the floor at a crowded airport gate, waiting to board a plane from Orlando Airport after the Daytona 24 Hours in January 2014. His phone rang – it was Dr Frank Walliser, vice president of motorsport at Porsche AG.

“Earl, I have something important to tell you,” he said. “Get out your diary, look at June and write in there that you have to drive the 919 Hybrid at Le Mans.”

Emotion

That was how Earl Bamber found out he was going to be at ‘the world’s greatest motor race’ for the first time in an LMP1 car, competing in a race that would turn out to be the most remarkable of his career so far.

New Zealand continues to provide talent in sportscars, and Bamber is proof, becoming the third Kiwi to win the race after Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren le-mans-2015-finish-featureback in 1966.

Bamber took up go-karting at eight years old and at the age of 12 was already winning titles. The competition back then was familiar, as Bamber competed, socialised and travelled with his now team-mate Brendon Hartley, which only added to the emotion of standing atop the podium at Le Mans.

“It was great to have Brendon on the podium (after finishing third) with me at Le Mans, as we grew up racing together in the same go-kart club,” he said. “We talked about it when we were karting, we used the same trailer, our families were together and we raced together. But you’d never think aged eight that you’d both be on the same podium at Le Mans together!

Bamber’s career took a path similar to many young drivers, racing in just about every series on the ladder before winding up as a Porsche factory driver. He’d have to wait a few years after being spotted by Porsche for his talents to really be recognised.

“I couldn’t celebrate, I couldn’t tell anybody, not even my parents.”

“I remember the first time I got called to do a test in the 919, it was just before Christmas. Dr Frank Walliser called me and said: ‘I have a Christmas present for you.’ As I’d just signed I didn’t think I’d get the chance so quick, I was just looking to get to grips with my GT career,” he chuckles.

Special moment

“Frank then called again two weeks after the test and from there the journey started with the preparations for Le Mans. It was weird,” he revealed. “I couldn’t celebrate, I couldn’t tell anybody, not even my parents. It was hard to contain my excitement, it was a dream come true.

“So many Indy Car drivers, F1 drivers, you name it, contacted Porsche and ask if they could drive for them at Le Mans, and instead they chose me to fill that seat at the world’s biggest race.

“Together we merged our ideas and experience and pushed each other in testing and every aspect”

“It’s really special, you don’t quite believe it. When I was waiting for that first test, I was nervous, I did loads of simulator training and the moment I closed the door on the car it was a special moment.”

Getting in the car for the first time was a nerve-racking experience for Bamber, but he quickly adapted.

“The biggest thing for me was the vision,” he says when asked about his first impressions of the car. “It’s a really small box of a window in front, with pillars and stuff. It’s difficult in that sense, but aside from that it felt normal, it’s still a racing car, it still has a steering wheel, pedals.

“It was really nice to have proper downforce again as I haven’t really driven a car like that since I drove for Team New Zealand in now defunct A1GP (the World Cup of Motorsport) series. I adapted to it well, I enjoyed it.”

Chemistry

Alongside him in his two-round contract for the WEC in the #19 would be Nick Tandy and Nico Hulkenburg. Being effectively a third bullet for the team though, meant team-building and chances outside of the few weekends spent testing and racing to get to know his co-drivers were few and far between.

Tandy was alongside Bamber in the US but Hulkenburg was consumed by Force India, meaning the trio had to gain chemistry together on the job.

“Race week can be overwhelming for a driver, but Bamber seemed to just soak it all up”

“When I got the call that I’d be driving, I was told immediately I’d be with Nick and Nico. I think it was a great combination, as Nick and I had come from GT racing and obviously Nico has an F1 background. So together we merged our ideas and experience and pushed each other in testing and every aspect,” Bamber says.

“We trust each other, we get on well so all the important stuff was easier to get on with.

“We kept in touch via WhatsApp all the time, but we didn’t get the chance to really get out and meet with each other much. During the races and longer tests though we spent so much time together and we got to know each other in difficult situations.

“When we came to Le Mans, it just felt like another test day.”

Overwhelming

19-Spa-Porsche-Bamber-2015-WEC1

But when I met Bamber at Spa, and spoke to him for the first time face-to-face, he didn’t seem quite as confident. “I’m here for Porsche,” he said, giving the impression he was very much considered the new kid on the block.

“This weekend is all about learning, we are all so new to this. After doing so much running in GTs, it’s taken a bit of time to get comfortable dealing with the traffic.”

After downplaying his chances, he finished sixth in his P1 World Endurance Championship debut at Spa in Belgium, headed into the Le Mans test day, and then the race.

He treated Le Mans – a race with over 260 thousand spectators in the stands – as if it was just a normal race weekend, so when he found himself leading the race in the closing stages after a costly penalty handed to Mark Webber gave the #19 crew a healthy margin, he was able to watch Nico cross the line with his nails in tact.

“It was just a nice drive through the French countryside really.”

“It was clear that all three cars were there to win, it was important that Porsche won. Porsche were clear to us, it didn’t matter which car, Porsche needed to win. We did the test day, and we realised that the trio we had were quick and capable.

“We qualified third and said to each other that we’d have a shot at a podium if we kept it clean. We didn’t have a special tactic, we just relaxed, and did what we love doing, which is driving race cars fast!”

Whirlwind

“I remember when the sun came up that we had it, we had a lap lead it was our race to lose, we just had to be careful. It was still massively enjoyable though, I can’t believe how relaxed I was.

“Porsche is one big family, that’s a big part of the reason why I won Le Mans, and why I keep winning things”

“My stint at lunchtime on Sunday was amazing, it was just a nice drive through the French countryside really.

“Everyone asks me to describe how I felt at the end of the race, but I can’t. Just look at the images of it, you can’t put into words how happy we were and what it meant to us. As a kid I dreamt of it, and when we crossed the line I realised it. It was also our first time in LMP1, we were rookies, it was a risk to be there and it paid off.

“I was also so tired, it was unbelievable. I was up from 6am Saturday until 10pm Sunday. I don’t remember much, it was all adrenalin. I remember going to the Porsche employee camp in Weissach after and seeing all the workers, and how excited and proud they were to have been a part of it.”

Good position

Since the big win, Bamber hasn’t driven an LMP1 car. He had to go back to his roots with Porsche, driving GT cars during the second half of 2015, before being told his dream of driving at the top of sportscar racing in LMP1 with the marque would have to be put on hold for the year.

“Hopefully I’ll get another shot in the future, I’m eager to win the race again”

He know’s he’s in a good position, with so much left in his career. So what’s next?

“I don’t pay much attention to my future and speculation surrounding that,” he admitted. “At the moment I represent Porsche, and I want to represent them the best I can. I’m not worried about where I’ll be, I’ll let the guys above me decide. Porsche is one big family, that’s a big part of the reason why I won Le Mans, and why I keep winning things.

“Sure, I’m very disappointed that I’m not driving in a prototype this year, but that’s how things go. Things change quickly.

“Hopefully I’ll get another shot in the future, as I’m desperate to win the race again.”