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Series / Formula 1: Drive to Survive

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This documentary series may contain unmarked spoilers from previous seasons of Formula One up to the 2017 season, as well as spoilers post-Season 1 and beyond. You Have Been Warned.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive is a Netflix produced documentary style show following Formula One with multiple ten episode seasons.

Season 1, which came out in 2019, follows the lives of Formula One drivers during the 2018 World Championship with special focus on Daniel Ricciardo making a decision to leave the Red Bull team for 2019, the Haas team's struggle to be more competitive, and the difficulties faced by the Force India team which almost went under mid-season.

Season 2, which came out in 2020, follows the lives of Formula One drivers during the 2019 World Championship with each episode more focused on a single storyline rather than following stories over the whole season. The Ferrari and Mercedes teams that had opted out of participating in season one were also featured.

Season 3, which will follow Formula One during the COVID-19 Pandemic affected 2020 World Championship, was released on March 19, 2021.

Season 4, which focuses 2021 World championship, was released on March 11, 2022.

Season 5, which follows the 2022 World Championship, was released on February 24, 2023.

Season 6, which follows the 2023 World Championship, is scheduled for release on February 23, 2024.

Tropes in the series:

  • Anachronic Order: Each season doesn't follow the order of the Formula One season it's following, with episodes following specific stories, teams or drivers rather than the season in order. Season Two is especially out of order as each episode focuses mostly on a single team or driver, with episode 9 showing events with the Williams team which happened before the schedule began that year.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Season 4, Episode 2 depicts the Monaco Grand Prix from the perspective of Charles Leclerc, who qualified for his home race on pole but was unable to start the race due to gearbox issues. Episode 3 depicts the same race from the perspective of Max Verstappen and reveals how Leclerc got those gearbox issues: he crashed at the end of qualifying, ending the session and coincidentally preventing Max from beating his time.
  • Badass Driver: The main focus of the series are Formula 1 drivers, who are extremely good at their job by design as they wouldn't be able to qualify for their FIA Super Licence without proving themselves.
  • Berserk Button: Steiner has the rather understandable one of being absolutely furious when the Haas team drivers run into each other, which happens more often than one might expect for drivers at such a high level on the same team.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Daniel Ricciardo might be rightly known as a very friendly guy, but he's still incredibly competitive and despite being known for smiling near constantly does indeed have an explosive temper when things fall apart.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The drivers, team principals and others are making plenty of money and do not feel indebted to Netflix, so are quite willing to criticize the documentary's focuses, manipulative editing and make jokes at Netflix's expense.
  • Breakout Character: Daniel Riccardo has definitely earned a lot of new fans from the show. Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has also become a fan favourite for his many quotable lines and general curmudgeonly attitude.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Season 5 saw the return of Kevin Magnussen, following his departure from Haas at the end of the 2020 Season with Nikita Mazepin filling in his spot in the next season. Only for Mazepin to have his contract terminated along UraKali being removed from Haas' list of sponsors in light of international condemnation over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Magnussen is called in to take over Mazepin's seat.
    • After being a reserve driver for Aston Martin (formerly, Racing Point) for two years, Nico Hulkenberg finally gets a race seat for Haas.
  • The Cameo:
    • Several stars are shown in brief shots of fans at races, including Will Smith, Daniel Craig, Jackie Stewart, Michael Douglas, Geri Horner, and Matthew McConaughey. Geri gets much more spotlight than the others due to being the wife of Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner.
    • While many viewers were looking forward to getting to see more behind the scenes of McLaren's 2019 rookie and internet personality Lando Norris, he only gets seconds of screen-time out of his car, in which he's asked if he was on Netflix this year, and his vulgar response lampshades the fact that they didn't film or interview him at all.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Claire lampshades the fact that Kubica's near fatal 2011 accident was thought to have cost him his Formula 1 career years ago, and that his return to the sport is like something out of a story. Unfortunately the Williams car was not competitive in 2019 and, though Kubica managed to get the team its single point of the season, he opted to leave the team at the end of the year and become a substitute driver for Alfa Romeo.
  • Career Resurrection: invoked Robert Kubica returns to the grid after an eight-year involuntary retirement in 2019, but leaves the team at the end of the season to focus on his career in other types of racing though he does retain a position as a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo.
  • Car Porn: Formula 1 cars take center stage, and off the track supercars abound.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Steiner is just a fountain of foul language when things are going wrong for the Haas team.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each team has an associated color which helps viewers keep things straight; Red Bull is navy blue, Racing Point is pink, Ferrari is red, Mercedes is silver, McLaren is orange, Renault is yellow, Williams is blue (although their car is primarily white), Haas is black, and Alfa Romeo is dark red.
  • Cool Car: Not only are Formula 1 cars front and center the fact that the drivers are shown in their personal lives means some very cool road cars are shown as well.
  • Country Matters: In Season 2 Daniel Ricciardo laughingly calls Netflix a bunch of cunts. Being an Aussie the word isn't near as taboo as it is in the states.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The way the show frames Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull for Renault implies to the view that he's leaving and shocking Christian Horner because the team is focusing on Max and giving the other driver preferential treatment, though there's also dialogue that implies it's because he's always raced on with a Renault and Red Bull switching their supplier to Honda's untested power unit has Daniel uneasy.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: While given the documentary format this isn't actually true, the second season (which covers the 2019 season) frames Williams' dismal situation in this manner, with their chief technical director Paddy Lowe being fired before the season even starts and excluding the team's single point of the season from coverage.
  • Dramatic Irony: If you're already familiar with the races and stories being depicted, you'll likely identify a lot of statements and predictions that you already know won't come to pass or will otherwise age badly. Even if you're not, the show's Anachronic Order can still lead to moments of this; for example, Red Bull and Mercedes talking about how important it is that they get pole at Monaco in Season 4 Episode 3, when the viewer already knows from the previous episode that neither of them will get pole at that race.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Most of the drivers are good friends off the track even if they're rivals on it, and even this show's attempts to make them look like they're at each other's throats can't disguise it.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: The cars often take damage that prevents them from finishing a race, or even starting one.
  • In Harm's Way: Despite the sport being much safer today than it was in the mid-late 20th century, it is still quite dangerous and the fact that anyone who has worked so hard to race at such a level has different motivations and concerns than the average person is pointed out.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: Lewis Hamilton is the first black driver to race in F1, and was the victim of many a racist insult as he raced his way to and within the sport.
  • Magic Countdown: In one Season 4 episode, Lewis Hamilton is shown coming into the pits to serve a ten-second time penalty. Thanks to a constant barrage of camera cuts, this ten-second penalty is stretched out to 32 seconds. It works, though, as it effectively conveys how long the penalty would have felt to Hamilton.
  • Manipulative Editing: In order to support the narrative they've built for each F1 season covered, the "documentary" carefully selects clips and bits of interviews which support that narrative. None of the drivers are particularly happy about this, and while most are willing to accept it since the show has brought new fans to F1, some of the drivers who are presented as antagonistic by the show are unwilling to forgive the editing that makes them look like jerks off the track to people who they are friends with in real life.
  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: The financial struggles of the teams at the bottom of the constructor's championship are explicitly a part of the reason they're having so much trouble making their cars competitive, and their poor performance means that it's difficult for them to acquire and keep sponsors.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Romain Grosjean's horrific crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, where his car was buried in a safety barrier and immediately burst into flames. Either of these factors would have killed him outright with the safety standards of 30 years before, but within 30 seconds of the crash, he was up and out, with only burns to his hands and ankles due to the gap between the safety suit and the gloves and shoes.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Daniel Ricciardo is well known for near constant smiling, especially in front of the cameras. The fact that the way the show focused on his frustrations and eventual decision to leave Red Bull for Renault does place it in this territory.
  • Picked Last: Drivers who find themselves without a drive for the next season as the current one draws to a close are those the show focuses on, as the tension over whether or not they will be able to remain in the sport or will lose their spot on the grid is how and why the show has its name.
  • Product Placement: As the show is following Formula One the companies which run and/or sponsor racers and teams are featured very heavily. The brands with the most prominent visibility are Red Bull (with two F1 teams), Renault, McLaren, Williams, Haas Automation, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, Ferrari, Petronas (National Petroleum Limited), Pirelli, Honda and Rich Energy (while they sponsored Haas in the 2019 season. Other sponsors whose logos are seen regularly, but less prominently, on drivers and cars include Acronis, Alpinestars, Bose, BWT, Castrol, Dtex, Epson, Financial Times, Infiniti, Lavazza, Life Fitness, Mapfre, Microsoft, "Mission Winnow" (Philip Morris cigarettes), NEC, Ponos, Puma, Ray-Ban, RBC, ROKiT Drinks, Sofina, Symantec, Thales, Tommy Hilfiger, UBS and more as the show is inundated with them.
  • Put on a Bus: In the off-season before the 2023 season, Daniel Ricciardo's future looked uncertain ever since his contract with McLaren is terminated effectively after the 2022 season. However, he decides to return to Red Bull as a reserve driver. It was only 10 Grands Prix later in the 2023 season Daniel finally returns to the grid, replacing Nyck De Vries in AlphaTauri, who was unceremoniously fired for his abysmal performance at the end of the British Grand Prix.
  • Revolving Door Band:
    • The fact that there are only 20 seats and drivers who fail to fulfill contracts or are at the end of their contracts can be out of a place on the grid in favor of a new driver is one of the major sources of tension and drama in the series.
    • There's also the fact that Toro Rosso / AlphaTauri is, for all intents and purposes, Red Bull Racing's reserve team, and the company tends to switch around drivers between the two teams, with Gasly being promoted from Toro Rosso to Red Bull after an impressive 2018 season only to be demoted back into Toro Rosso mid-2019 after struggling with Red Bull's car. (The demotion works out surprisingly well for Gasly, though, as he scores his first podium finish — a second place — in Brazil 2019 and later takes his first win in Italy 2020 in the first season with the AlphaTauri branding.)
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Each team has two drivers, and any points the drivers score in a team's car are also added to the team's tally in the constructors' championship. Therefore, no team wants its drivers to crash into each other, but it's not unheard of, and is rightfully considered the ultimate embarrassment for a team principal.
    • Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen take each other out in the 2019 British Grand Prix.
    • Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collide in Azerbaijan in 2018.
    • Racing Point/Force India drivers Ocon and Pérez have a history of collisions while trying to overtake one another, one of which is shown in episode 6 of the first season when they collide in the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.
  • The Rival: Regardless of how friendly any drivers are off the track, anyone who makes it to Formula One is incredibly competitive, and the show repeatedly brings up and demonstrates how drivers' biggest rivals are their teammates since they're the only other person on the track with the same equipment and support staff. This is especially prevalent in teams with a history of ordering their "number 2" driver to make sacrifices for their number 1, though many teams claim not to rank their drivers this way anymore. Then, of course, the teams and companies have longstanding rivalries as well, many of which have been thrown out of wack by the recent domination of Mercedes and Red Bull and Williams' trouble making their modern cars competitive.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: There are plenty of very thinly veiled accusations of getting away with cheating with just a financial slap on the wrist.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: As top tier competitors all of the drivers have such a mentality, so the fact that the series is documenting a period in which Mercedes has been absolutely dominating the podium for a decade means that tensions within the teams ratchets up as they try and fail to unseat Hamilton from his seemingly eternal position at the top of the grid.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: In a series where most people make only minor attempts to censor their language, Guenther Steiner, Haas' Team Principal, stands out for cussing far more frequently than anyone else.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: For those viewers unfamiliar with the sport Anthoine Hubert's death in season 2 is an unexpected surprise, even more so because the show does not follow Formula 2 and the crash is introduced via footage of Hamilton giving answers to reporters in the paddock, and then interrupting himself out of surprise and concern for the driver as soon as the crash occurred.
  • Talking Heads: Drivers, team principals, owners, engineers and Will Buxton are all interviewed sitting against a black backdrop.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The documentary plays up rivalries between teammates with careful editing and interviews, during the first season making Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen appear to be at near blows when their relationship off the track was never so dire (Max and Ocon on the other hand…). Ocon and Pérez's rivalry is likewise played up in their final year as teammates. Carlos Sainz Jr. has said that he doesn't mind the dramatized and exaggerated portrayals as the show continues to draw new fans to Formula 1, though it may help that rather than dramatize his friendship with teammate Lando Norris the documentary rarely mentioned his younger teammate instead in Season 2.
  • Training Montage: There are occasional montages of a driver training while they're talking in voiceover about how they prepare for a race and work to remain competitive in F1.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: As the series is mostly aimed at viewers who are not traditional F1 (or F2) fans and events are not covered sequentially the coverage of Anthoine Hubert's death during the 2019 Spa-Francorchamps Formula 2 round can come as a major downer, and the episode is understandably morose; especially as it was focused on the driver swap between Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, the latter of which was a close personal friend of Anthoine's.