Hot off the success of Sunderland Til I Die, Netflix continues on with its absorbing sport documentary catalogue with Formula 1: Drive To Survive. Following almost every team from last year’s Grand Prix, Drive To Survive takes us behind the scenes to witness the drama unfolding between team mates, rival racers and expectant owners. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and when it comes to Formula 1, only the best survive.
Taking cues from its previous venture in this genre, Drive To Survive combines commentary with face to face interviews and fly on the wall footage to piece together the drama surrounding last year’s Grand Prix. The first couple of episodes predominantly follow Daniel Ricciardo and his time at Red Bull. After a particularly rocky patch between himself and fellow team-mate Verstappen, we see the drama of him jumping ship and heading for rivals Renault first hand and up close.
The following few episodes then look at Force India and their surprising rise up the Formula 1 ranks with as much drama off the track as they had on it. All of this is then rounded out by the final few episodes that look at the intense rivalry between Haas and Renault vying for the coveted fourth place spot. It’s worth noting at this point that both Mercedes and Ferrari refused to be part of this documentary and as such, the dramatic title fight between Hamilton and Vettel is barely mentioned here which is a little disappointing.
Although some may dislike the constantly changing perspectives between drivers, it actually works really well here to keep things fresh and interesting. The Formula 1 Grand Prix is a long, tiring campaign stretching across most of the year and spanning multiple weekends. With that in mind, Netflix do an excellent job condensing the entire campaign into the space of 10 episodes that are chock full of drama both on and off the track.
Stylistically, the series works really well and as mentioned before, takes visual cues from Sunderland Til I Die. Each showcased race in the calendar begins with a black and white globe which zooms in on the highlighted country. This then fades to be replaced by a red outline showcasing the track’s layout and a brief explanation of the challenges each racer may face there. This, combined with in-the-moment racer positions as things change, help to give the series a real slickness and deliver exposition in a way that feels natural and engaging.
In a bid to showcase the more dramatic moments in all their glory, Drive To Survive does have a tendency to over use slow motion effects throughout the 10 episodes. At times this works really well and especially during some of the overtaking manoeuvres, are incredibly effective in increasing the drama. Other times, seeing debris fly in the air from a crash or zooming in on the Team Principal’s face during intense moments of the race often linger a little too long and do feel a little distracting
Despite this minor complaint, Formula 1: Drive To Survive is an exciting, absorbing and incredibly endearing watch. Lovers of Formula 1 may be a little disheartened at the lack of coverage for the title race but there’s enough drama and interesting behind-the-scenes coverage to make for an enthralling watch nonetheless. While it’s still quite early in the year, Netflix have raced into pole position here, delivering the best sport documentary of the year and one well worth checking out when it drops on the streaming platform March 8th.
Verdict - 8/10