Formula One is at somewhat of a crossroads.
Heavily criticized as a highly-politicized and money-vaporizing sport, F1’s relevance has been faced with a lot of questions, particularly in light of an up-and-coming series that embraces the future with electricity and is virtually free to enjoy: Formula E. The numbers don't lie: F1’s viewership has declined significantly in the last 10 years.
Netflix’s new series, however, might be able to turn it around.
Called Formula One: Drive To Survive, the new documentary series from the binge-buffet of a streaming service seeks to bare all that has been going on behind the scenes in the 2018 season. And it was much more than I expected.
It’s one thing to read about these things from foreign journalists that are embedded in the Formula One paddock, it’s another thing entirely to see it all presented before your eyes.
Whether or not you’re a motorsport fan, you really should check it out not because of the racing or the cars, but because of the human element.
The show bared to us the problems faced by small but proud teams with a rich history like Williams and McLaren. Both have been unable to be competitive in the current era of Formula One. Williams seems to be still in a downward spiral in terms of budget and overall competitiveness, while McLaren’s (somewhat) new chief even paraphrased the Trump campaign: Make McLaren Great Again.
Then there was the disaster at Force India, and the rescue package that involved Canadian billionaire, et al, buying the team and appointing his son to race. They showed the choice of Sergio Perez, a driver backed by one of the world’s richest people, over Esteban Ocon who earned his F1 drive on merit than sponsorship and made you really feel for him when he lost it.
They gave us a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of racing drivers. There is the troubles faced by Grosjean who has proved that crashing can be done consistently. There was the contest between teammates such as Red Bull’s Ricciardo and Verstappen as well as Spanish compatriots with Carlos Sainz and his hero, two time champion Fernando Alonso. Ocon, then a Force India driver, was even shown taking on a reaction training machine that I can only describe as something out of Mr. Miyagi’s dojo.
Netflix bared the ugliness of the divorce between Red Bull and engine supplier Renault, up to and including the potshots both verbal and gesticular. They made Ricciardo’s leap into Renault from Red Bull a literal one, and showed the backhanded talk between the bosses of both teams that followed in a press conference, particularly Renault F1’s smug French boss.
But perhaps the biggest eye opener is the fact that almost everyone swears at every opportunity. Yeah, those *bleeps* you heard every time someone cursed on the team radio are just the tips of the icebergs.
Personally, I’m still at Episode 5, but I’m already hooked, and it’s serving as a great way to get excited about the 2019 season which opens next Sunday in Australia. And that comes at a time when many -myself included- are starting to lose interest in the world’s premiere open wheel racing series. Like the show said, it’s boring if it’s just Mercedes or Ferrari winning all the time.