Last year’s heated title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen caught the eye on Season 4 of ‘Drive to Survive’, the Netflix Formula 1 series, which was released last month.
The streaming series has been a hit for the sport, attracting many new fans by highlighting the personalities of the pilots inside the cockpit.
But those who watch “Drive to Survive” to get the inside story on the championship battle, I noticed a significant absence. Verstappen became the only pilot to decline to be interviewed for the series because he believed it was simulating overblown rivalries and mishaps.
“I’m a pretty down to earth guy, and I just want it to be facts, don’t hype it up,” Red Bull’s Verstappen said.
“I understand of course that it has to be like that for Netflix. It’s just not my thing.
While Verstappen has always appeared on the show through the use of Formula 1 footage, the story of his title fight has been widely told through interviews with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. Mercedes’ Hamilton has taken an active part in the series, engaging in interviews throughout his battle with Verstappen.
The rivalries between pilots are central to the narrative of the series. An example came in Season 3, when an episode featured McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. Although they were known to be good friends who worked well together in the team, the episode sought to portray the tension in their relationship that Sainz felt was ‘taken a bit too far’
“I think the rivalry was there, but it was in a friendly way, and maybe they portrayed it a little less friendly than it was,” McLaren Racing managing director Zak Brown said. , in an interview. “Deep down the rivalry was there, but outwardly they never showed it.”
Norris thought the show’s editing “may make you feel like you said something at a time and place that’s definitely not right”, but was happy until the truth was completely out. distorted.
“As long as they don’t overdo it and literally make it look like someone did something they definitely didn’t do, that’s fine,” he said.
Verstappen was more blunt about how Norris was portrayed, arguing that it made Norris look a bit of a jerk.
Formula 1 has spoken to the show’s producers and teams after Verstappen’s complaints. Ian Holmes, Formula 1’s media rights director, said producers “need to be aware of his concerns” and that it was important for teams and drivers to feel comfortable participating in the series.
But he disagreed that the show had faked rivalries. “This idea that some things are made up, it’s just chatter,” Holmes said in an interview. “At the end of the day, it’s authentic. The other thing to remember too is the people walking around the paddock, they’re a bit too close to the sport” to step back and see the big picture.
Balancing authenticity and dramatizing events to appeal to audiences is a challenge that documentary series often face. But Horner, whose rivalry with Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff featured prominently in Season 4 with insults and personality clashes, felt the purpose of ‘Drive to Survive’ should be kept in mind.
“At the end of the day, it’s a TV show,” Horner said. “They take snippets of a season-long battle and turn it into a TV show. You have to remember that it is ultimately designed to entertain.
Brown felt the makers of ‘Drive to Survive’ were “on the edge” of ensuring the show was entertaining while also pleasing die-hard Formula 1 fans. But he also said it was about “of a television program, intended above all to be entertaining”.
“The numbers say people love it,” Brown said. “It attracts a huge number of people into the sport, and I don’t think they present it as a pure documentary. They present Formula 1 to you in an entertaining way.
“A bit of creative license, I have no problem with that.”
The show has turned new viewers into fans of the sport, with record crowds attending races in the United States and Australia over the past six months.
“We’re happy to report, and I think our Netflix friends would be happy to report, that it was already the #1 show in 33 countries around the world,” said Greg Maffei, chief executive of Liberty. Media Corporation, which owns Formula 1.
“Season 4’s viewership is already bigger than Season 3’s, so it’s a huge success.”
Brown discovered firsthand how much the show has helped boost Formula 1’s popularity when he stayed at the same hotel as the Los Angeles Lakers last year.
“Some fans were asking for autographs, and two players turned around and said, ‘Sorry, we’re not signing.’ Fans said, ‘No, no, not you.’ They would ask Brown, “‘We’re Formula 1 fans,'” he recalled saying.
“You’ve seen the players look at them and say, ‘Who is this guy?’ I can no longer walk through an airport unrecognized, and it’s all because of Netflix.
Filming for Season 5 is already underway. With the exception of Verstappen, all the drivers continue to participate, aware of the good he has done for Formula 1.
“People have talked a lot about dramatizing it a bit, but at the end of the day you always want to show the best of your sport,” Mercedes’ George Russell said.
“As long as it has a positive impact on Formula 1, I don’t think there is really a problem.”
Sainz, who now drives for Ferrari, said Netflix was good for sports. “It’s a good thing for me, for the F1 brand, and I will always participate if they want me to participate.”
But Verstappen said his mind would not change. “I’ll probably watch it and see how over the top it is, and get on with my life.”