Why Drive to Survive has transformed the sport into a global juggernaut

Why Drive to Survive has transformed the sport into a global juggernaut

April 6, 2022

As the F1 show arrives in Melbourne this week for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, the impact of the hugely popular Netflix series continues to reverberate through the sport.

First released in 2019, the docu-series has helped revolutionise the sport’s following, lifting the helmet off the drivers to show a more human side of the biggest motorsport show on earth and opened it up to a new audience beyond the rusted on revheads.

Now in its fourth season, the series has reeled in casual viewers with its behind-the-scenes look at the drama, rivalries and high-octane battles in the sport on and off the track.

Former F1 driver and now Sky Sports commentator Brundle said the series had provided a turbo-boost for the sport’s viewership and a new generation of fans.

“What it is aimed at are people new to Formula One, who haven’t seen Formula One, wouldn’t consider watching Formula One and therefore it has been a massive success,” Brundle said.

“(It’s been) one of the most powerful things I have witnessed in Formula One in terms of it’s the golden ticket – not only has it got a lot more eyeballs watching but, and you ask any marketeer this, but it has reduced the average age of the audience as well, which is almost an impossibility these days in sporting TV.”

Perhaps the biggest impact of the series has been opening the sport up to the huge market in the United States.

Despite F1’s global reach, it had previously struggled to crack the US market but interest in the sport there has increased dramatically since Drive to Survive hit screens.

Now the sport is drilling into that popularity boom with a second US race added this year in Miami (in May) alongside the Grand Prix in Texas.

And next year, a third US race will be positioned on the F1 calendar when the sport lights up the famous Las Vegas strip.

Brundle said Drive to Survive had been able to do what F1’s former long-time boss had never been able to.

“When I went into Austin (Texas) last year, they were queuing into the circuit like it was Silverstone or Spa at 8am in the morning,” Brundle said.

“Normally you would see them turning up in the afternoon when there happened to be F1 cars racing because the fans in Austin were going to the Taylor Swift concert and now they are going to watch Formula One … it has energised America.

“As great as Bernie (Ecclestone) was at bringing together and creating modern Formula One he could never quite get it to work in America and now we are, so I think Netflix has been a huge success in that respect.”

Australian F1 star Daniel Ricciardo acknowledged the huge impact the series has had in growing the sport but conceded the producers sometimes sprinkled “a little bit extra” on some storylines, which he did not feel was needed.

“Generally speaking, it has been a good thing. I mean it has grown the sport massively, there is no denying that,” Ricciardo said.

“To have a platform like that has been huge for the sport, the teams and us drivers. As well for teams to bring on new sponsors, new brands, I think it has helped some kind of the marketability really well.

“It has grown the sport from a numbers point of view as well.

“Certainly because we live it, we will see some things and go ‘That’s a bit stretched’ or they might cross over some audio.

“Where I stand with it, I think the sport is, let‘s say, dramatic enough that I actually don’t think that it needs it.

“Obviously they sprinkle a little bit of extra on some things and I guess I’m not actually sure it makes it any better because I think it is there genuinely. There are rivalries, there is drama, there is intense racing.

“I guess some things I don’t think add value or add extra value.”

And Ricciardo had been comfortable with the way he had been portrayed.

“I certainly don’t think that they have made me look like a bad guy in any of it so I can’t complain,” Ricciardo said.

“The one thing I will say with the last season, I feel like they used a lot of the F1 footage, like the TV footage and they have got cameras all the time. There is so much more behind the scenes (footage) and again I feel if they used more of that, it would make the show stronger.

“I’m no editor or anything so I don’t want to act like I could do a better job, but I feel like with all the content that they have got I would just say use more of it because it is good stuff.”

Ricciardo’s former Red Bull teammate, world champion Max Verstappen, is one driver who felt the series had stretched reality a bit too far.

Verstappen opted not to be a part of the latest season and declined to be interviewed for the show, claiming the series had created false storylines.

“They faked a few rivalries which don’t really exist,” Verstappen said of the series.

“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.

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

Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi said the series was great for the sport – so long as it did not cross the line.

“It is casting a light on the human side of Formula One that is very important and it draws a lot of people and a new audience which is good because it cannot only be for petrol heads for sure,” Rossi said.

“I like the fact that they are painting a picture that is a bit different and that is more showing the sport for what it is (rather) than just a technical prowess

“But sometimes they are borderline on interpretation. As long as they stick to the facts that’s OK. We must be careful of them never crossing the line of putting words in our mouth or changing a little bit the course of relationships or even by simply narrating it differently.

“One person who was very vocal about it was Verstappen, he does not want to be part of it. “We are all still OK with it for now but I can understand and can appreciate why Max was upset because there might be moments where you are like ‘This is borderline, this is the way you see it’ and you just grab something the way you see it and it might not be exactly the way that it unfolds.

“I can see where this desire to investigate the human side, which is the real pro of that show, can become the con if you go too far in the interpretation of the human side.”

Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft said there had been some “creative licence” used in the series but could not argue with the growth it had fuelled.

“(There’s) a bit of creative licence but what it is doing is driving people who have never experienced Formula 1 or have experienced only little bits of Formula 1 to the sport. There is actually no doubt about that,” Croft said.

“I get people asking me all the time about it, ‘Did this really happen? Wow, that was amazing’. It obviously cherry picks all the best bits but it’s a great introduction to the sport.

“We are getting audiences now for a qualifying session that we used to get for a race once upon a time. There is a massive growth in it and long may that continue.”

/r/formula1 Thread Link - heraldsun.com.au