Netflix’s Drive to Survive series has done a superb job of wooing a new audience for Formula 1, while also giving the established hardcore fans unprecedented ‘behind the curtain’ glimpses of the reality of recent seasons’ biggest storylines.
So news that the streaming service was pushing on with filming season three amid the pandemic-disrupted 2020 championship was greeted warmly by fans, as was the announcement on Friday that the series will launch on March 19.
F1 and Netflix have only given the slightest hints of what the new series will focus on so far.
But what are our writers hoping it will reveal? We asked our team for the behind-the-scenes moments they’re most keen to see.
The reality of Honda’s exit
Despite it flitting in and out of F1 for the last half a century and more, Honda’s latest exit still shocked some when it was announced last October.
The epicentre of the fallout was at Red Bull Racing and being ‘in the room’ as Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Helmut Marko found out would be fascinating. As would the call to Max Verstappen!
Fernando Alonso’s F1 return beginning
By Abu Dhabi last year Fernando Alonso was chomping at the bit to get back even though his comeback didn’t begin until the following season.
He was clearly in full-on attack mode regardless, even when demonstrating his old V10 Renault and setting stunning times and pushing for adjustments between runs.
Then having got himself included in the ‘young driver’ tests after the weekend, he drove the current car faster than it had been qualified by its regular drivers. A ‘from-the-garage’ perspective of that, with feedback from the Renault team, would make a great episode.
The emotions of the Williams family’s farewell
Rarely do sporting dynasties last as long as the Williams family’s, and even the most unsentimental of observers must have found the race at Monza an emotional experience as it bowed out of F1.
Of course, its name lives on, but there’s something that doesn’t sit right about Frank Williams and daughter Claire no longer being involved in F1.
I don’t want to re-live that Monza farewell for enjoyment as that would be the wrong word, but hopefully a well-cut episode dedicated to the event and to all that Williams has achieved under Sir Frank would outweigh or at least balance the sadness of the exit.
Ferrari realising how bad its year would be
Ferrari will have known it’s in for a tougher season due to the whole engine situation, but it will have still surely expected the SF1000 to be more competitive than this. And there will have been one particular moment – whether in Barcelona testing or the first race in Austria – where the penny properly dropped on just how difficult 2020 would be for the Scuderia.
It’d be deeply (maybe somewhat morbidly) fascinating to see the authentic reactions from its drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel as they came to terms with the initial realisation that the year would be a write-off, especially against the backdrop of the latter facing either an uncertain future (if the car’s midfield status was already certain in Barcelona) or a certain exit (if it became clear in Austria).
The Australian GP’s last-gasp cancellation
The build up to the cancellation of the Australian Grand would make the perfect drama. From the moment the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 pandemic on the Monday through to McLaren’s announcement that a team member had tested positive and the team’s withdrawal on Thursday night, the disagreement between teams on whether or not to continue during the long wait for cancellation on Friday morning – by which time fans were queuing to get into the track – would make the perfect slow-burn drama.
Sadly, some of the behind-the-scenes wrangling we’d like to see couldn’t be showcased, but this is an obvious storyline to hit.
Inside race control as Grosjean crashed
It doesn’t matter how hard bitten or how professional you like to presume you’d be when a serious accident such as Romain Grosjean’s takes place – the shock of it can easily take the breath away and render you terrified and awed in equal measure.
Just imagine being in race control at the precise moment and seeing the race director Michael Masi and his team spring into action.
Not only that, but Masi revealed at the FIA’s annual stewards’ forum earlier this month that FIA president Jean Todt was present in race control just as Grosjean’s Haas exploded upon impact with an armco barrier.
Now that really could have been the ultimate reality TV moment.
The end of Kvyat’s F1 career (again)
The resolve and equanimity of Daniil Kvyat even after he knew he was being replaced at AlphaTauri for 2021 and that his second F1 career was probably over and there was unlikely to be a third was genuinely impressive.
It was in stark contrast to how he’d come apart as a younger man when it had gone wrong first time around. Getting to see that in greater depth behind the scenes would be fascinating.
The drivers’ debate over taking the knee
There was much debate in 2020 over the appropriate way for athletes to participate in anti-racism protests, and F1 was no exception, with no consensus among drivers.
The discussion leading up to the season opening Austrian Grand Prix would be fascinating to re-watch from behind the scenes, within the GDPA, with the drivers and teams, whichever side of the argument you fall on.
Getting a deeper look at F1’s kneeling debate would offer a whole new dimension to some of the championship’s characters. After all, that behind-the-scenes insight of F1 is what made Drive to Survive a hit.
George Russell’s wild Sakhir GP weekend
This is the story that has everything. From Lewis Hamilton’s COVID-19 diagnosis to the scramble to secure George Russell’s release by Williams then his rapid-fire preparations before his glorious run to the brink of victory, it has the perfect dramatic arc.
But with a kick, as the Mercedes pitstop disasters cost it a victory and allow Sergio Perez to take his long-awaited first F1 win. One person’s triumph is another’s disaster, as Russell comes to terms with his astonishing performance being rewarded only by ninth place.
Ocon and Renault’s real relationship
Remember Esteban Ocon’s team radio expressing his displeasure at the result of the Italian GP, and then being rather sternly told off by both his race engineer and team boss Cyril Abiteboul? You don’t need to be a psychologist to see that these were some hidden tensions boiling over, and that there’s a deeper story to tell there.
Ocon’s whole 2020 was intriguing, and F1 fans would appreciate a look at how he coped with a season in which he was a clear second-best to his team-mate – not exactly a common occurrence in the previous years of his extremely accomplished career. But it’s the relationship with Renault in particular that’s a fascinating angle, which can also be informative about his chances of staying at Alpine beyond 2021.
Hulkenberg being thrown in at the deep end
Rarely do we see a driver leave F1 and then be called up again so quickly, and it’s clear Nico Hulkenberg had not maintained the training that kept him at the top of his game until he was dropped by Renault at the end of 2019.
However, his call-up at Silverstone to race in place of Sergio Perez was entertaining and successful non-the less. Delving into this chain of events would be interesting from start to finish, from the surprise call-up, the hoops to jump through owing to the pandemic and him getting back up to speed in the car.
Ultimately he showed that being away hadn’t hampered his performance in what was a top stand-in job the likes of which we rarely see anymore.
What you want to see
We also asked The Race’s social media followers which storylines and incidents you wanted to see in Drive to Survive season three. Here are a few of the most popular suggestions:
“Albon disintegrating over the season” – @clippingtheapex via Instagram
“Checo’s amazing year! From getting the ‘rona to his first win” – @exloe via Instagram
“The shock win in Monza and the miracle in Bahrain” – @emilrenang via Instagram
“Vettel/Ricciardo/Sainz all knowing they would be leaving their teams before the season began. How did Ricciardo’s decision affect his relationship behind the scenes at Renault?” – @dave.peal.9 via Instagram
“Checo’s redemption. I didn’t like how they portrayed him before, when he was racing with Ocon – made him look a rich kid who didn’t deserve his seat, but they never mentioned that he beat Esteban or the podiums he’s got” – Pablo Matus via Facebook
“How Bottas swallowed another defeat, how Lewis can still perform at 110%, Russell shining” – Attila Dezso via Facebook
“Maybe something behind Haas’ thinking on sacking both drivers unceremoniously” – Chris Sagosz via Facebook