Drive to Survive 2 review: Old heroes thrive while F1 giants hop on Netflix bandwagon

F1: Drive to Survive 2 is the second season of the Netflix docuseries that follows teams and their drivers as they get through a high stakes racing calendar.

More drama, many triumphs, many more hurdles sum up the second installment of Netflix's docuseries,Formula 1: Drive to Survive.   -  Netflix

When Netflix came up with the first season of ‘Drive to Survive’ last year focusing on the 2018 Formula One season, it not only opened the sport to a wider audience but also opened up the wider world to the sport, which often lives in its bubble.

The F-1 paddock is an insular place and has made little efforts to open its arms to the world beyond just adding new races in countries which were willing to pay top dollars without any reciprocating approach.

In a sport where standing still means going backwards, the teams were very slow to adapt and tap evolving mediums to take the sport to a larger audience. However, the success of the first season has finally made an impact and that comes through in Season 2 that released last month.


Bigwigs aside, Guenther the hero once more

Last year, the main teams Mercedes and Ferrari did not allow the Netflix crew to film them, with the first season focusing predominantly on the mid-field teams. Season two does better on that front with both these aforementioned teams allowing greater access, although the episodes featuring them are fairly dull.

Season two opens much like its predecessor, with Daniel Ricciardio. In focus now this time is his arrival at Renault and a bit on Haas and Red Bull before diving into the Haas team’s struggles in the second episode.

Thanks to the liberal swearing and unintentionally humorous quips when Romain Grosjean was crashing into everything last season, Haas' boss Guenther Steiner attained celebrity status in season one. His fine form continues in the second installment as well, as the team struggles with tyre wear issues and with the drivers clashing with each other in what turns out to be a torrid season for the team.


Haas' boss Guenther Steiner attained celebrity status in season one. His fine form continues in the second installment.   -  getty Images

Perseverance, a podium finish and the right way to celebrate

The series then move on to Carlos Sainz who arrives in McLaren. The Spaniard has a few tough races before bagging strong results later on in the season. Viewers are now privy to his journey with footage ranging from his training regimen in the UK to his fishing escapades and time spent with the family. Sainz's story culminates in the final episode where he secures McLaren's first podium in five years after a penalty awarded to Lewis Hamilton. Who can forget that Sainz couldn't celebrate this like a normal victory with the FIA taking its own time to penalise Hamilton. One sees some genuine moments between Sainz's cousin and manager and the McLaren team as they debate how the driver is to celebrate is his result.


That our first view of the Mercedes camp in the series is during the German Grand Prix couldn't be better planned. The team was celebrating 125 years in Motorsport. What a race it eventually turned out to be! The team had a forgettable race in wet conditions with both drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, clipping the barriers and the latter retiring from the race. Team boss Toto Wolff was furious, losing his cool with the press as well.

Taking the bull by the horn and the curious case of missing Max

The best episodes this season were undoubtedly the ones featuring Red Bull. Pierre Gasly's performances left boss Christian Horner frustrated and eventually saw Gasly demoted to the junior team Toro Rosso. Parallely, the intriguing story of Alexander Albon, Gasly's replacement at Red Bull, unfolds. The half Thai-half Brit driver's backstory and struggles, being dropped from the Red Bull junior programme to finally ending up with the first team after just half a season at Toro Rosso will see one finding oneself rooting for the 24-year-old.

Interestingly, there isn't much of a deep dive on Max Verstappen, the sport's most entertaining driver on the grid at the moment.


Netflix oddly chose not to track the competitive relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in this season of DTS.   -  Getty Images

Of drama, the lack of it and misfortune

One of the biggest talking points of Ferrari's run last season was the drama between drives Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. The episode featuring the F1 giant was a letdown on that account turning out to be a damp squib, with none of the turmoil coming through. While the Mercedes episode was timed to perfection, it is surprising that Netflix chose to not track Ferrari as much during the Italian Grand Prix - a race Ferrari won with Leclerc giving the side its first home win in nearly a decade.

Focusing driver market uncertainties on Nico Hulkenburg was a good call and it was fascinating to learn that he had a chance to activate an extension to his contract at Renault had he taken a podium during the season. The German ran well during his home race, finding himself in third place before crashing out. He now finds himself shut out of the sport for good.

Denial, dismissal, dread

The standout moment of the series though was during the episode featuring Williams, one of the sport’s most successful teams now languishing at the bottom. The team's troubles led it to missing two days of testing - unthinkable for teams ahead of a season. Their misfortunes in the season were expected after a start of that quality.


The team's troubles led it to missing two days of testing - unthinkable for teams ahead of a season.   -  Getty Images


To see team boss Claire Williams personally bring parts for the car with her on the third day of testing was indication enough of the issues facing the Williams camp. The best shot of the whole series comes when Claire grits her teeth and does her best not to acknowledge technical boss Paddy Lowe when the latter walks up to her nervously in the paddock in Barcelona. Lowe lost his job following the testing fiasco but through it all, one wishes we get more of what happened behind the scenes leading up to his dismissal.

Despite the constant rule explanations and exaggerated attempts to create excitement, the second installment of the series is an improvement on the first. It hardly matters that teams like Alfa Romeo and Racing Point were not featured at all considering not much happened with these teams.

These are small quibbles in what is a great ten-episode arc of a season in which the individual races were exciting but the overall season was not the most exciting on-track or off it.

With the coronavirus pandemic already altering the first half of the racing calendar, one hopes we do get a few races if and when the outbreak is contained world-over.

If season three is coming up, there is great potential surrounding the Australian GP fiasco a few weeks ago and can be titled ‘Do not drive to Survive’.

Docuseries: Formula 1: Drive to Survive 2

Where to watch: Netflix

Episodes: 10

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