Netflix F1: Drive to Survive Season 2 review - more raw drama

F1

Full review of Netflix F1: Drive to Survive Season 2, as it goes behind the scenes of the 2019 championship, with more unseen footage and more Günther Steiner - includes a synopsis of each episode

DtS grid

Netflix

Preseason testing is over and there are two weeks until the first race of the F1 season, but there’s still plenty of mileage left in last year’s racing, as Drive to Survive, the behind-the-scenes Formula 1 documentary, returns on Netflix.

The first series was a hit, peeling away F1’s often robotic spectacle to reveal the contract discussions, clashes and emotions rarely seen in race weekend coverage.

It brought new insight to die-hard fans, and entertained viewers unfamiliar to F1. So Drive to Survive is back for the difficult second season – this time, with added Mercedes and Ferrari. Click to jump to the synopsis below

Gunther Steiner Drive to Survive

Steiner returns, as uncensored as ever

Netflix

It starts with a slight misfire, the stuttering first episode becoming a little tedious through its constant team introductions and explanations of how F1 works.

However, we soon move on to one of the heroes of the first season, Haas team boss Günther Steiner.

Taking his quotient of effing and jeffing to ever-new levels this year, the Italian only adds to his cult-hero status in the F1 world.

The American team’s cars are slow, the drivers keep crashing into one another, its sponsor pulls out mid-season and Günther turns several new shades of purple.

His assessment of one race – “f*cking everything’s f*cked up” should perhaps be the title of his team’s highly entertaining episode.


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The series goes on to captivate with much more behind-the-scenes drama.

We are witness to the pain of Pierre Gasly losing his seat at Red Bull and Nico Hülkenberg being ejected from the sport altogether.

It emerges the latter had performance clauses in his contract related to keeping his Renault seat, which he comes agonisingly close to meeting but just misses out on.

DtS Hulkenberg

There’s fresh insight into why Hülkenberg lost his seat at Renault

Netflix

An episode which is in part a tribute to Anthoine Hubert is also touching, with Gasly speaking emotionally about the loss of his great friend.

Earlier on the series, we also see Gasly on the point of tears when he realises another below-par performance means his time at Red Bull is up. This kind of emotion, rarely seen in public from Formula 1 personnel, brings an unfamiliar warmth to the characters in the paddock.

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One of the big selling points of this new series is that Mercedes and Ferrari are now involved, with the former featured for two episodes and the latter for one, after refusing to participate in the first season.

The Mercedes episodes have been much anticipated. Originally pencilled in for just the German Grand Prix, their performance was so appalling that they invited Netflix back for a second go later in the season.

In the first episode, Mercedes pulls out several stunts to commemorate 125 years of involvement in motor sport, one of which involves team members dressing up in 1950s costume.

Much befitting their gimmicky get-up (and to the delight of many F1 fans), Mercedes deliver a Wacky Races-style Grand Prix performance, with wheels going missing in pits, both cars hitting the barrier and Lewis “Still I Rise” Hamilton asking if he can park the car and go home.

Lewis Hamilton Drive to Survive

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have taken part in the documentary for the first time

Netflix

This episode is another which demonstrates the series’ strength in displaying the excitement and anguish of Formula 1. Hamilton’s contrition post-race illustrates the levels the team expect of itself at every Grand Prix weekend. Or perhaps he’s just being a bit overdramatic.

Viewers deal with, rather than watch, the insipid Ferrari instalment, where Sebastien Vettel, Charles Leclerc and others wax lyrical about “what it means to drive for Ferrari” without really explaining what they mean.

The moment we see what it actually does “mean” is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which Leclerc wins to send Ferrari’s loyal tifosi into complete ecstasy.

This is not where we get to see “behind the scenes” though. Instead we are invited sit through a rather dull US Grand Prix weekend, where proceedings are marginally livened up by one of Vettel’s rear wheels falling off at one point.

Filming F1 Drive to Survive

A painful but also fascinating watch is the implosion of Williams during pre-season preparation.

Its challenger isn’t ready in time, the car lying in bits at their Grove factory only hours before it is supposed to be in Barcelona for the first test.

Things reach Basil Fawlty-levels of desperate when team boss Claire Williams is seen loading her own boot with various parts of the new car on her way to the circuit.

This episode also features one of the series’ great moments, as Technical Director Paddy Lowe nervously approaches Williams as she arrives.

At first she ignores him, before turning round to give him a look so icy you feel like half of Catalunya might freeze over.

These kind of moments are simply not captured in a typical race weekend coverage and ultimately make the series a very worthwhile watch.

Some aspects of the series’ presentation become overly repetitive. Is Will Buxton the only person in the whole of the F1 community who can provide informed analytical commentary for Drive to Survive?

Not only is he the only talking-head featured who isn’t employed by a team, he also seems to have been the only person conducting every interview and pre-race fan presentation throughout the whole of 2019.

Are there no former drivers, team principals or tech-heads up for the challenge? “Where’s Eddie Jordan when you need him?” – you find yourself asking (for the first time ever).

The first season of Drive to Survive meandered through the year in a vaguely chronological order, featuring several subjects per episode, whose stories progressed as the series went on.