One Good Thing: Netflix’s Drive to Survive is the perfect entry point for Formula 1 racing
Four months ago I started to watch Formula 1: Drive to survive, a Netflix racing series with a hilarious high octane name. It changed my life.
For context, I have never been a sporty person. Until last May, I’m not sure I made it through an entire show of any sport, ever. Instead, I watched people in bars and lounges as they stared at the movements of tiny people on a screen, and laughed to myself a bit.
But in my message Drive to survive life, I sleep at my friend’s house on a Saturday night so we can wake up at eight in the morning on Grand Prix Sundays and watch what I will freely admit is glorified publicity for a car and an energy drink. I’m now the one glued to the screen, shouting obscenities and making crazy predictions. I am a committed athlete. So how did this happen to me?
Drive to survive concerns Formula 1, but they are in fact interpersonal dramas. There’s a reason it just got renewed for a fourth season.
He has rich young men who have long standing oxen and / or tragic stories. It has team leaders shooting each other over engines and obscure regulations. And there are a lot of drivers bumping into each other in funny cars. Basically imagine the Real housewives, if the housewives were traveling at 300 km / h, and if occasionally one of the housewives caught fire.
When I review the series now, I realize that it takes a lot of creative licensing with the driver relationships, and that’s been a few quite questionable with timelines, sound effects and commentary on race day. He also doesn’t spend significant time on the issues the sport has with inclusiveness, reducing them to minutes at the end of a single episode. He spends even less time acknowledging F1’s tendency to choose host countries with problematic policies on LGBTQ issues or human rights violations. But what Drive to survive fact is to welcome viewers like me with open arms and give us a ramp in the sport. And he does it very, very well.
The Netflix show is actually part of a bigger shift for F1 in general. Under the new ownership of Liberty Media, the sport tried to reach new fans. (This contrasts with the approach of a former owner, Bernie Ecclestone, who preferred – and I’m not making it up – rejecting social media and young fans in order to focus on attracting the 70-year-old.)
Some of the sport’s new campaigns have been quite successful. Liberty Media has created a vibrant social media ecosystem, filling its YouTube, Instagram and Twitter channels with cute pilot audio animations and mini-competitions that showcase the pilots’ knowledge (or lack thereof). Other initiatives have not worked as well. In an effort to attract more women to the sport, F1 has partnered with a women-only championship which is extremely difficult to access in the United States. (Put it on F1TV, cowards! I desperately want to support Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in real time!)
But I would say Drive to survive is the best F1 tool to attract new spectators. In a July New York Times article, ESPN said the number of viewers for the sport had grown from around 547,000 people in 2018, when the Netflix show launched, to nearly a million in 2021. And that’s not even the number of people watching the sport. global audience. The show also increased female participation in races by 30%, according to the president of an organization promoting F1. I’m not even the first person to write about its effect on them.
This was all accomplished by introducing people to the human side of motorsport, instead of overwhelming them with a tidal wave of car aerodynamics facts and hoping they eventually follow suit.
And it turns out that once I got into sports, I was interested in automotive aerodynamics. Over the past few months, I have watched dozens of YouTube videos and listened to several podcasts about car rake philosophies and downforce generation and the twisted history of F1. I read some great articles on the 2022 rule changes. I texted my friends in the middle of the night with links to essays written by F1 drivers.
But what I love most about Formula 1 is that it has helped me feel happy and connected to people at a time when happiness and connection are so scarce.
After getting vaccinated, I had to figure out how to properly socialize again. But it all felt harsh and vaguely dangerous. I would cycle to a cafe to sit outside with a friend and go through variations of the same conversations: nothing was really new yet. Everything was grim. We were all struggling.
So when my best friend Shane invited me to a bar with his friend Sam and we spent the evening debating the merits of various drivers (notably Pierre Gasly and George Russell, the kings of my heart), it was a relief to feel like this Ordinary.
Now, Grand Prix races are a built-in excuse to visit Sam every few weeks. Sam, Shane and I can relax on the couch drawing support diagrams, or I can tell them what I read about Adrian Newey’s engineering skills, or we can look into the super license points system. I also started reaching out to people on Twitter who write about Formula 1, and discovered a community of silly, wonderful nerds who want to talk about everything from tire strategy to driver fashion choices.
I’ve even subjected non-fans to (far too much) Formula 1 content, going to backyard parties and talking at length about when Jaguar stuck a $ 300,000 diamond on the nose of a car during a Monaco Grand Prix, and then quickly lost the diamond when the car crashed. (To friends to whom I have done this or the equivalent: I’m sorry, but I will also probably do it again.)
And of course chatting about Formula 1 isn’t really the same as sharing stories about my own adventures. Hopefully someday soon we can all relive a busy life instead of constantly worrying that if we are too careless we will accidentally infect someone’s grandmother with a deadly virus. But until then, watching Formula 1 is a way to have something to look forward to, and it’s a way to feel human.
So I am infinitely grateful to Drive to survive for teaching me something that so many people already know: sport is awesome, Actually. And they give us motivation to survive.
Formula 1: Drive to survive is Diffusion on Netflix. For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the A good thing archives.