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9th April 2024

Drive to Survive season 6: Get strapped in for more F1 drama

The latest season of Drive to Survive is here, but how does it stack up against previous seasons after another spell of RedBull dominance in 2023?
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Drive to Survive season 6: Get strapped in for more F1 drama
Credit: Drive to Survive @ Dan Vojtech / NETFLIX

After 84 days of the winter break, Formula 1 is back in the form of Drive to Survive. This Netflix docu-series gives fans behind-the-scenes footage of the garage and the drivers’ lives as well as interviews and, of course, clips of the races. Each season covers the race season from the previous year so the newest season (Season 6) is all about F1 in 2023. Its release is timed so that fans can watch a recap of the previous racing season about a week before the sport starts up again. Put simply, Drive to Survive is like Christmas Eve for F1 fans – it’s exciting and you’re done counting down the days but the big event hasn’t quite arrived yet.

Whilst insightful and entertaining, the show has faced criticism for not being entirely factual despite being produced in collaboration with Formula One themselves. Drive to Survive is known for dramatizing an already dramatic sport by portraying drivers as heroes or villains through fake rivalries or using interview footage and reaction shots misleadingly. However, the show has also brought a new generation of fans into the sport as well as help popularise F1 in America. If you’re willing to accept that some things are over-exaggerated then it’s a great series to watch whether you know nothing about the sport or are an F1 super fan.

The series follows the racing season roughly chronologically with one episode typically focusing on a particular team making it great for new fans who are maybe looking for a team to support and want to know about each team without watching an entire F1 racing season before the first Grand Prix on March 2. This format of focusing on all 10 teams as opposed to a single one as in Cheer (2020) revolutionised the future of sporting documentaries. Subsequently, Gay-Rees applied this methodology to Break Point (2023), Full Swing (2023), and Six Nations: Full Contact (2024) which look at tennis, golf, and rugby, respectively.

Another aspect of Drive to Survive which makes it particularly successful is how it brings a more human element to the sport. With the growing popularity of F1 drivers on social media, it’s no surprise that fans want to know more about their favourite drivers. Ultimately, the show makes Formula 1 ‘less about the cars and more about the men who drive them’ arguably making the docuseries less like a documentary and more like a reality show.

But what about Season 6? Not much is new in terms of the show’s structure and dramatization of the sport. F1 journalist Will Buxton is joined by Danica Patrick who takes over from Jennie Gow after she suffered a stroke last year. Gow seems to be recovering well and is still a BBC F1 presenter, but her presence will be missed in the sport – especially since she was the first female F1 journalist on the series. Having an American F1 expert on Drive to Survive is certainly an interesting development as it shows the sport’s growing fanbase in the States especially now it has three races on the calendar (more than in any other country).

It’s also interesting to get a former driver’s perspective as opposed to that of a journalist or presenter. In a similar vein, ex-Williams Team Principal Claire Williams also gives her take on the sporting season which, I think, is another voice worth spotlighting. Initially, then, Season 6 seems to move into the right direction. So why have The Telegraph and The Independent rated it so poorly?

Despite Verstappen’s dominance with 19 out of 22 race wins, the season did have action that Drive to Survive filmmakers probably couldn’t wait to include such as AlphaTauri (now Visa Cash App RB) dropping Nyck de Vries less than halfway through the season and replacing him with fan-favourite Daniel Ricciardo, as well as the first race in Las Vegas since the 1980s. As such, there are two whole episodes dedicated to these ‘storylines’.

However, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on moments like these as opposed to Verstappen’s record-breaking season which is not to be taken lightly. Perhaps this is the limitation of a documentary which tries to give equal coverage to each team when one is so clearly ahead of the others in the Championship. I have no doubt that this won’t actually be a hindrance to the show’s future seasons as, at the time of writing, it currently ranks number four in the Top 10 TV Programmes in the UK Today.

Drive to Survive also provides little insight into the season’s remaining rookies Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant. Not only did Piastri impress in his debut season scoring two podiums and winning the Sprint Race in Qatar, but he also seems really personable in interviews and through his tweets which are constantly going viral. Whilst Sargeant, on the other hand, unfortunately came last in 2023, he was the first American driver in F1 since Alexander Rossi in 2015 which should have been at least a talking point given how popular Drive to Survive is in America.

Overall Season 6 is nothing new compared to its predecessors – it’s still entertaining and provides a decent recap of the 2023 season which is ideal for new fans or die-hard ones. It will certainly be intriguing to see how Drive to Survive holds up in the future if Verstappen’s winning streak continues, however, given the winter break news which shook the world of Formula 1, I’m sure it’ll do just fine.

Imogen Mingos

Imogen Mingos

Head Fashion & Beauty Editor 2023-24 | Awarded Best Newcomer (The Mancunion) at MMG Awards 2023 | Highly Commended for Section Editor of the Year at MMG Awards 2024

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