Max is Back and good-bye Seb: Drive to Survive shows why it’s Netflix’ original docuseries

Formula 1 bids another farewell to Sebastian Vettel in Drive to Survive Season 5

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo reunite for 2023 season at Red BullMax Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo reunite for 2023 season at Red Bull
Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo reunite for 2023 season at Red Bull

Golf has never been my preferred sport but the upcoming Drive to Survive series just highlights its status as the original Netflix Sport docuseries. There can be several reasons why Drive to Survive is and always will have this status but the main difference is that the stakes are so much higher in Formula 1.

Both Break Point and Full Swing stars talk about the idea that the stakes could never be higher, it’s a ride or die situation - but this could not be more accurate and less metaphorical than it is in Formula 1.

The opening episodes, at some point or other, show the incredulous Zhou Guanyu crash which took place at Silverstone in 2022. Fortunately, the Chinese driver came away with barely a scratch, and of course in some morbid reality, these events bring those unbelievable and eye-watering TV moments that fans love.

The Alpine Team Principal, Otmar Szafnaeur describes Formula 1 as ‘more ruthless than any other business’ and Drive to Survive continues to highlight the cut throat nature of it with this season seemingly exhibiting this at an even higher level.

Episode 1 once again takes a look at Guenther Steiner’s continued trials and tribulations. Just when you thought he’d finally caught a break, suddenly another dramatic phone call to Gene (Haas) is required.

Formula 1 says good-bye to Sebastian VettelFormula 1 says good-bye to Sebastian Vettel
Formula 1 says good-bye to Sebastian Vettel

We then move through to the difficulties Mercedes faced last season, particularly with the car’s porpoising issue, which seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton points out has given him severe back problems.

The series follows on by going through the misfortunes of Mick Schumacher’s time at Haas as well as Daniel Riccardo’s two years at McLaren and their respective companies’ deliberations over their future. In fact, Ricciardo is even reminded by a former colleague “I told you not to trust Zak (McLaren Team Principal)”.

Both ultimately found themselves without a seat on the grid for 2023 but will be reserve drivers for Mercedes and Red Bull and for the first time since 2011, Formula 1 will be without their favourite Honey Badger.

But, as the docuseries points out, emotion does not come into the process of decision-making.

And none of this is made more clear than when Oscar Piastri’s move to McLaren is documented. A near lawsuit is involved as Alpine lose their reserve driver to a rival team but with Zak Brown once again appearing as one of the many villains of the show.

None of the figures in Drive to Survive come across as overwhelmingly likeable - for my part excluding Ricciardo and the hilarity of chaos that follows Steiner around the paddock - but this just remains in keeping with the nature of the sport.

The majority of Team Principals in particular show their colours when Red Bull are accused of their budget cap breaches and a playground style witch hunt ensues.

As much as possible is covered by the docuseries with Netflix seemingly sparing no-one in their portrayal of the 2022 season. Everyone is placed under the microscope and with the politics that is so intertwined with the sport, Drive to Survive once again hits the money as we start fearing for drivers’ livelihoods - both in a financial and physical capacity - and beautifully begins gearing up for what is set to be another fraught season.

It’s hard to avoid comparison with Netflix’s two other recent Sport documentaries given the structure and nature of the shows but I struggle to see how Full Swing and Break Point are set to compete with Drive to Survive.

Having now watched all three, I will once again be counting down the days until the Bahrain Grand Prix, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the next PGA Championship or French Open.