Drive to Survive

Drive To Survive – Truth Or Fabrication?

by Martin Blessing

Drive to survive will once again return to our screens in March. The much loved, behind-the-scenes documentary into the sport of Formula 1, was considered pivotal in drawing in a younger audience. Drive to Survive is a no-holds barred, raw interpretation of what goes on inside and outside the racing world. We see exclusive interviews, garage meltdowns and uncensored radio communication.

But is it all a genuine representation, of what happens, particularly on race day?

There is growing concern, from fans (and some drivers) that Drive to Survive is fabricating a lot of storylines. This gives the audience the perception that there is a brewing storyline, where in reality, it likely doesn’t exist. These allegations, it seems, aren’t unfounded either. The most vocal person amongst these allegations, is none other than reigning world champion, Max Verstappen.

Verstappen has refused to take part in the upcoming season 4 of Drive to Survive. His reasoning? He firmly believes that rivalries are being “faked”.

“I understand that it needs to be done to boost the popularity in America,”

Associated Press

“But from my side as a driver, I don’t like being part of it.”

Associated Press

“They faked a few rivalries which they don’t really exist, so I decided to not be a part of it and did not give any more interviews after that, because then there is nothing you can show.”

Associated Press

“I am not really a dramatic show kind of person, I just want facts and real things to happen.” 

Associated Press

Let’s Talk About McLaren

So which rivalries in particular are being fabricated? One recent theory that has gained some traction, is the driver rivalry between McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, was indeed created just for viewing benefit. This was shown to us in season three. It brings the story, that the pairing started off their partnership at McLaren in good spirits, but a bitter rivalry developed was brewing amongst one another. So why was this considered an untruth?

Well, one viewer had pieced together a key piece of footage from the episode in which the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix took place. There was a point in the race, where Norris was told to overtake, as part of a strategy call. As Norris prepared to overtake, you then hear a radio communication take place where Norris appears to shout “He just turned in on me. What’s he trying to do?”

On the face of it, it looks as though Norris is very disgruntled at Sainz, for failing to adhere to team orders. We actually learn, that the radio message played, was in fact from a different point in the race. Delving in to genuine race footage, we see Norris approaching to overtake a Racing Point. The distinctly pink car appears to not see Norris approaching on his inside. When they both approach the corner, the Racing Point turns in to Norris’ car. The aforementioned radio message is then spoken by Norris. Clearly something designed by Netflix to draw a false sense of rivalry amongst teammates. Those who follow both closely, know Norris and Sainz are friends off the track. Even with Sainz now at Ferrari, the two regularly socialise outside the world of Formula 1.

Another example of this involving Sainz again. This time, in season two. Netflix created this obscure rivalry between then Renault driver, Daniel Ricciardo and the Spaniard. Ricciardo had taken the seat at Renault, previously occupied by Sainz, who was now driving for McLaren. This rivalry appeared before us, that was meant to make us guess who had fared better with their respective transfers. The storyline felt hollow and clearly something designed to fill a void.

Varying other annoyances witnessed in the series, are disjointed engine and gear change noises, from the footage shown. Diehard fans are quick to be rattled with these inconsistencies.

So why create rivalries where none exist?

Deliberate Deceit?

Sure, drivers are competitive beasts by nature. But to portray radio messages at their incorrect points during a race, feels like Netflix are going way beyond poetic licensing. Drive to Survive has by and large been the major driving force in gaining more viewers to the sport. Particularly from the United States. It has brought about a whole new demographic, which was much needed to move the sport forward. But is this really the way to portray our beloved sport? Through deceit and false storylines?

Broadly speaking, does this translate in to Formula 1’s way of working when it comes to portraying the sport? Does it value entertainment, more than it does in upholding truth and integrity? The events that unfolded at Abu Dhabi, may suggest this could well be the case.

Drive to Survive does however get some things right. Enjoying the personalities of people such as Gunther Steiner, Daniel Ricciardo and Christian Horner, is a welcome insight. This is truly what the documentary should be focusing on. The interviews and reactions from the most contentious moments of Formula 1. There’s something all-so genuine in those moments and that’s what we’re really here to see. And that is, what really goes on behind the scenes.

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