Drive to Survive season 3: The heat and heart of Formula 1

Formula 1: Drive to Survive 3 is the third season of the Netflix docuseries that follows the 10 constructors and their drivers through a tough F1 race calendar.

The 2020 Formula One season was unique in many ways and Netflix's F1: Drive to Survive docuseries captured all the drama and delivered yet another breathtaking season.   -  Getty Images

The 2020 Formula One was no ordinary championship. Burning rubber under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, the season saw records broken, Romain Grosjean walking out alive after a horrific crash, Lewis Hamilton also taking the lead off the track and many spellbinding moments.

Through this drama, a Netflix crew that travelled with the teams the last two years delivered yet another season of the Formula 1: Drive to Survive docuseries.

The first part opened the world of motorsport to a larger audience, and season two expanded the F1 universe, but the third edition is the most ambitious.

There are quite a few directorial changes. Also, unlike the previous two seasons, which open with the first race on the calendar — the Australian GP — the third begins with pre-season testing. It also doesn’t dwell much on the families of drivers and other officials. The focus is more on the dynamics between members within fiercely competitive teams.

- LAWRENCE STROLL’S PINK MERCEDES -

The first episode doesn’t focus on fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo. Instead, it emphasises how Racing Point produces the third-fastest car on the grid, behind Mercedes and Red Bull Racing. The other teams aren’t able to digest what Otmar Szafnauer and Co. have done, with the backing of billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance drives for the team. But was it legal?

When the car was unveiled for the first time, it didn’t look obvious, but when the team took it for testing in Barcelona, rivals couldn’t help but notice that the car looked exactly like the Mercedes from 2019, albeit in deeper pink.

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As most of the constructors itched to find out potential wrongdoing by Racing Point, Otmar argued his crew did nothing illegal. His team’s initial race performances were top-notch, and Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul raised the first appeal to FIA before being joined by Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

This turned out to be a big talking point. The way Drive to Survive covered the British constructor’s fight against its adversaries, from the exchange of words to the fine and docking of points, accounts for a gripping hour of streaming. The portion where Lawrence walks down slowly to deliver an interview, justifying his team’s actions, with Dhruva Aliman’s ‘Bottom of the Sea’ playing in the background carries a gangster movie feel.

- TRANSFER WINDOW: DRIVERS WITH A POINT TO PROVE -

Except for Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Williams, every other constructor signed at least one new driver for 2021 midway through the 2020 season. Ferrari dropped Sebastian Vettel, and Racing Point, now renamed Aston Martin, decided to let go of Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz and Ricciardo were also part of the chain reaction, and all of them had a point to prove.

Pierre Gasly and Perez’s first race wins with Alpha Tauri and Racing Point, respectively, pushed Red Bull into making some hard choices. Boss Christian Horner was in the dilemma of choosing between Alexander Albon and a new driver to partner with the fearless Max Verstappen. He confirmed that Red Bull wasn’t too interested in going back to Gasly and eventually handed the seat to Perez, who was replaced by Vettel at Aston Martin.

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Meanwhile, with Sainz moving to Ferrari in 2021 to join Charles Leclerc, McLaren decided to focus more on Lando Norris, which was evident during the Styrian GP when Sainz was ordered to let Norris overtake him. There’s even a conversation in Drive to Survive between CEO Zak Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl about not giving too much information to Sainz ahead of his impending departure. A similar situation arises in the Renault camp, currently called Alpine Racing, as Abiteboul isn’t comfortable conversing with Ricciardo, who switched to McLaren.

The series explores these moments and lingers tellingly on the driver-team principal relationship. Some scenes showing the chemistry between racers and senior officials giving them orders are shot brilliantly. An astounding segment in this regard is Valtteri Bottas devising his master plan to win the Russian GP after qualifying P3. He talks about the tow that drivers get in Sochi, insinuating that he helped Verstappen qualify second by going against team orders. On race day, his move earned him the fastest lap, too.

- GUENTHER’S HAAS AND GROSJEAN’S MIRACLE OF BAHRAIN -

Can we ever forget Guenther Steiner and his “underdog” Haas team? Operating at a relatively low budget, Guenther’s job for the 2020 season revolves around finding new sponsors and working out a plan for the long run. The series showcases the futuristic approach of the Haas boss.

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Guenther even has an episode named after him, the first one titled after a person in Drive to Survive. He had to make a tough choice of choosing one driver — between Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen — to cut ties with at the end of the year. The outspoken team principal eventually goes with two fresh faces to secure funds from German and Russian investors. His choice of dropping both his current drivers shows how tough decisions can be made in the sporting world keeping business interests in mind.

Thinking about the forthcoming exit, Grosjean looks determined to extend his F1 stay. And that sets the stage for the Bahrain GP, which witnesses a horrific crash and a car split into two. Grosjean’s survival in an accident of such magnitude is nothing short of a miracle. His explanation of the entire incident with his wife Marion Jolles – who thought he was dead for two minutes and 43 seconds – is likely to touch a chord. Drivers risk their lives to achieve greatness, and not all of them get there.

- THE FIGHT FOR THE THIRD SPOT -

With Ferrari underperforming in 2020 due to FIA-suggested modifications to its “uncompetitive” engine, McLaren, Racing Point and Renault were all involved in a battle for third place in the constructors’ standings.

Just like Mercedes last season, which underperformed during its 125th-year celebrations and 200th F1 start at home in the German GP, Ferrari couldn’t deliver at the Tuscan GP, the 1,000th Grand Prix in its history.

Ferrari’s misfortunes boosted the chances of other midtable teams to secure a good payday. The series offers an insight into this intense war for supremacy. The fight went on till the last day of the competition, and McLaren snatched the prize away from Racing Point and Renault, whose disappointing reactions showed how much it meant to each team.

- CORONAVIRUS, RACISM AND THE ‘GOAT’ LEWIS HAMILTON -

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, employees all over the world, corporate or otherwise, would be familiar with terms such as job redundancies, pay cuts and work from home. Drive to Survive makes generous use of these phrases.

The uncertainty of whether the 2020 F1 season would go ahead was the primary concern of the staff working with the 10 teams. The first episode titled ‘Cash is King’, a name termed by the champion Hamilton, brings out the various levels of people affected by the pandemic.

Officials were initially hesitant to postpone the season-opening Australian GP and were forced to do so only after the McLaren team withdrew due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests. The teams’ return to action in Austria is well documented.

The series also focuses on the fight against racism and Hamilton leading the battle from the front. The acronym GOAT is thrown around a lot in the sporting world, but how many people deserve it?

Drive to Survive season three not only portrays Hamilton as a record-breaking winner but also highlights his rise to stardom as the first black F1 driver. The British superstar is now eager to give back to society. You may or may not like him, but he’s here to make a change.

- THE MISSES -

Nico Hulkenberg’s exclusion seems a bummer, especially after he emerges as Racing Point’s super-sub at short notice thrice. Hulkenberg, who did not have a seat at the end of last year, finished P3 during the qualifying for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone and was voted Driver of the Day at the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany. The German racer’s exploits would have added to Drive to Survive’s appeal.

Next up, the coverage of the Williams family’s exit from F1 at the Italian GP and their driver George Russell representing Mercedes at the Sakhir GP in place of Hamilton, who had tested positive for COVID-19, could have been better.

Last but not least, certain moments deserved more screen time in Drive to Survive. A case in point: the Turkish GP, where Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles and Vettel produced one of the drives of the season. Who doesn’t love a race in the rain?

The Black Lives Matter movement is a mere six-minute segment during the season finale. The fact that one of the greatest champions in the history of sport has been facing racism since the tender age of eight shows us how it’s important to spread awareness on the subject.

Docuseries: Formula 1: Drive to Survive 3

Where to watch: Netflix

Episodes: 10

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