Formula 1 Drive to Survive Season 6 Review: A Surviving Act

Drive to Survive, the documentary series centred on Formula 1, has returned with a new season on Netflix. Despite its popularity, the last few seasons of the series have drawn some criticism for not living up to its potential. So, the question is – is the new season any better?

By Aakash S Paul | on February 26, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

As someone who often has to cover trade events, product reviews, and even write race reports, I empathise with the challenges faced by the makers of Drive to Survive and understand the complexity of creating a compelling narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, especially when covering something like the 2023 season of Formula 1, which was replete with intertwining stories and unexpected twists. To decide what to keep and what to leave on the cutting floor is a challenge in itself. Moreover, presenting the selected content in a coherent manner with an engaging narrative demands meticulous planning and storytelling finesse. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that navigating these intricacies to offer a captivating narrative without compromising on the essence of the sport is no easy feat.

Drive to Survive Season 6: Return to Glory?

That said, I must commend the series for its adept cinematography and the way it ventures beyond the confines of the racetrack, delving into the lives of those involved in the sport.

The series starts well, with the first episode focussing on one of the most important highlights of the 2023 season – the giant leap taken by Aston Martin. While it effectively portrays Lance Stroll’s arduous journey to make it to the first race of the season following his wrist injuries, his storyline somewhat overshadows the contributions of Fernando Alonso, despite the fact the latter secured multiple podiums for the team throughout the season. Additionally, the series effectively underscores the way Ferrari and Mercedes were outpaced by the Silverstone-based outfit.

F1 Ferrari Frederic Vasseur

The episode centred on Ferrari is quite interesting; however, the conspicuous absence of Carlos Sainz’s remarkable drive, which ultimately made him the only non-Red Bull race winner in 2023, was rather disappointing. To give you some context, Sainz was driving on old tyres towards the end of the race while facing immense pressure from the Mercedes duo. Despite the circumstances, the Spaniard managed to fend off their advances, strategically keeping Lando Norris within DRS range without allowing him to close in for a pass. While the episode mentions the victory, it primarily attributes the success to team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Nevertheless, it was heartening to witness the exchange between Fred, Charles and Carlos following their intense battle during the final laps of Monza. These off-track moments are what makes Drive to Survive a success, and it’s moments like these that make the new season better than the last few.

Drive to Survive Season 6: Padding the Runtime

In 2023, F1 witnessed a saturation of the Dutch national anthem and a dominance by Max Verstappen, which admittedly led to some fans growing weary. However, I contend that despite the potential monotony it brought to races, the exceptional performance of Max Verstappen and Red Bull in 2023 should have deserved a more substantial screen time in Drive to Survive. Their display of brilliance was unprecedented and warranted a more in-depth exploration. Instead, we get two episodes on Alpine and two on Alpha Tauri, both of which could have been condensed into one. Furthermore, Sergio Perez’s struggles with the RB19 and the uncertainty surrounding his future with the team were notably absent from the series.

Speaking of Alpha Tauri, the second episode underscored the drama enduring factor within the series. It focused on Daniel Ricciardo as a replacement for Nyck De Vries, offering insights into Christian Horner’s relationship with the Aussie driver. The episode, however, seemed to exaggerate certain moments, for instance elongating the pause between Ricciardo's spin and the subsequent response during the test in Silverstone and incorporating three shots of De Vries cleaning his window, which added little value. The pacing of the episode felt sluggish – I think a bit more content could have made it better, allowing it to maintain viewer engagement.

F1 Daniel Ricciardo 2

Episode nine, the second of the two focusing on Alpha Tauri, is structured in a manner that may lead viewers to believe that Singapore was rookie Liam Lawson’s first challenge. In reality, Lawson made his debut at Zandvoort, stepping in for the injured Ricciardo. Despite not securing any points, he managed to finish ahead of Yuki, clinching P13 in challenging rainy conditions. Disappointingly, neither of the episodes acknowledges developments such as Franz Tost’s departure from the sport and Alpha Tauri’s impending rebranding for the next season.

Similarly, two episodes are dedicated to Alpine, which is set to adopt an ‘aggressive approach’ in 2024. However, unlike Alpha Tauri, Alpine’s storyline lacks drama to justify the screen time, with the mid-season replacement mid-season replacement of team principal Otmar Szafnauer being the sole noteworthy narrative.

The Will Buxton effect of stating the obvious seems to have become a trend, given that several interview statements stating the obvious permeate the series. Honestly, I felt that they were included so that the showrunners would have a statement that can be attributed to so and so. While this may have slightly detracted from the viewing experience, it didn't significantly mar the overall enjoyment of the show.

F1 Max Verstappen 1

Personally, I liked the last episode, titled ‘Red or Black’, the most. I found it to be the most engaging and well-crafted of the series. Initially, it seemed that it would solely explore the battle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship between Ferrari and Mercedes, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The episode also highlights the intense competition between Aston Martin and McLaren for P4.

The episode skilfully builds tension surrounding Ferrari’s on-track mishaps in Las Vegas and the struggles of the Mercedes duo with a sub-par car, adding depth and thrill to the narrative. Moreover, the episode also offers a nice, satisfying conclusion by acknowledging the achievements of other teams and providing a comprehensive overview of the season’s results. Adding a tinge of poignancy, it even includes a rather sad clip of Charles requesting to perform burnouts at the last race, only to be denied, perfectly capturing the state of the team throughout the year.

Drive to Survive Season 6: Should You Watch?

Season 6 of Drive to Survive is not revolutionary in any sense of the word. It’s unlikely to draw in new fans to the series, given that it offers much of the same content that viewers have grown accustomed to. However, there is indeed a noticeable improvement over the last two seasons, partially owing to the chaotic nature of the 2023 season.

That said, if you are looking for spicy insights into the drama that unfolded during the winter break, you will be left wanting – the season doesn’t delve into any of that, which is understandable, given that the production of the season would have ended by that time. Consequently, developments like Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari for 2025, Guenther Steiner’s dismissal, and the Christian Horner controversy are conspicuously absent.

Despite its fair share of misses, the makers of Drive to Survive deserve credit for introducing some of the elements that made the earlier seasons so enjoyable, offering exclusive glimpses into meetings and conversations that we did not see on F1TV. I am hoping that the makers of the series will continue to heed feedback and strive for further improvements in the next season, making it even more enjoyable.

Tags: Formula 1 Formula 1: Drive to Survive F1

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