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.

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Now though, each episode features on one particular driver or team’s experience through the season.

This does make the narrative of the 2019 season somewhat what difficult to follow, particularly for the broader parts of the market that the series is looking to reach.

However, whilst zipping back and forth in the championship from episode to episode, we do gradually amble our way through to the end of the season, with reasonable clarity.

So, is Drive to Survive still worth watching? Whether you’re an avid race fan or a casual observer, the answer is yes.

True, anyone with a basic knowledge of grand prix racing will have to endure explanations of how F1 works every five minutes, but the level of detail and behind-the-scenes footage still makes it highly viewable.

For those new to F1, the drama, excitement and at times comedy of the series is certainly enough to make the series appeal to a wide market.

In short, there’s something for everyone.

 

Netflix Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 2 synopsis – episode summary

Episode 1 “Lights Out”

This slow start to the series takes us through an introduction to the sport and its various teams and drivers. It particularly focuses on the main teams followed throughout the series, Haas, Renault and Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo is taken round the Renault factory, meeting and joking with his new team. However, the dream start turns sour when he drives over a concrete block on the first lap of 2019.

 

Episode 2 “Boiling Point”

Haas launches their car, as a new backer flies in via helicopter. The season quickly falls apart after it emerges the car particularly enjoys eating its own tyres. The American outfit is left surprised when William Storey, the highly eccentric entrepreneur selling a drink no-one has ever seen, pulls his backing mid-season.

The drivers then proceed to crash into each other, leaving all levels of management and team very sweary.

 

Episode 3 “Dogfight”

Latino heartthrob Carlos Sainz takes his charms to Woking, driving for McLaren. After a slow start, Sainz vamoses his way up the championship rankings, even finding time to spear some tropical fish.

 

Ep 4 Dark Days

Mercedes deals with the loss of Niki Lauda. The episode features German team’s atrocious German Grand Prix performance, where Lewis Hamilton’s flu seems to spread into a team-wide meltdown. Principal Toto Wolff gets very tetchy with reporters and Hamilton looks very sad after not winning an 86th GP.

 

Ep 5 “Great Expectations”

We see Christian Horner at home with Geri Halliwell, where his children express their love for every driver that doesn’t drive for Red Bull. Pierre Gasly immediately starts to feel the pressure as Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement. Famously empathetic boss Horner tries to give some encouragement.

 

Episode 6 “Raging Bulls”

We find out Pierre Gasly’s replacement Alexander Albon is a buddhist, that his mother was jailed for fraud and the family put their faith in religion to help him through the trials and tribulations of a junior racing career.

F2 driver Anthoine Hubert tragically loses his life in the support race at Spa-Francorchamps, with the collision witnessed by friends Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.

 

Episode 7 “Seeing Red”

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc explain “what it means” to drive for Ferrari. Leclerc sends the tifosi into raptures by winning at Italian GP, Monza.

The US GP goes less well, with Vettel’s wheel falling off, as his Ferrari’s attempts a Reliant Robin impression. Vettel then disobeys teams orders twice and does some more crashing, leaving both drivers and team looking a bit moody.

 

Ep 8 “Musical Chairs”

Nico Hülkenberg is under pressure to keep his Renault seat. It emerges he has a performance clause in place to secure a contract extension.

Daniel Ricciardo does his best to put Hülkenberg off in a publicity session by saying his team-mate’s name in various comedy accents.

Then, during the race, the German successfully torpedoes all chance of this by burying his Renault in the wall at Hockenheim. Ricciardo does not take the blame.

 

Episode 9 “Blood, Sweat, Tears”

Williams is in a mess before the new season starts. It emerges that they don’t even have wheel nuts.

Technical director Paddy Lowe shuffles round the factory looking very sheepish and is then almost turned to stone by team boss Claire Williams when the team arrive at pre-season testing having neglected to bring an F1 car.

 

Ep 10 “Checkered Flag”

The teams arrive in Interlagos for the season finale. Albon is punted out whilst in second place. His mum looks very upset.

Gasly reaches the podium and shouts a lot, having gone fast in the slow car after he went slow in the fast car. Sainz drives from 20th to 3rd, giving McLaren its first podium in ages.

Hamilton celebrates with his team after having “crushed” the opposition through successful “war planning” (Toto’s words). Hamilton instructed not to spend too long thanking team for tireless work in case he’s late for lunch.

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