Drive to Survive - F1 Netflix series season one episode one - All to Play For

“Drive to Survive Episode 1: All to Play For” reviewed

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“Drive to Survive”, the highly-anticipated new Netflix series on the 2018 Formula 1 season, will arrive on the platform this Friday.

It’s not hard to imagine why Liberty Media were so eager to showcase the sport to Netflix’s 139 million-strong subscriber base. Unfortunately Ferrari and Mercedes turned their noses up at the project and refused to allow the Netflix team into their garages and factories.

Does the absence of the sport’s two biggest teams spoil the show? And what kind of balance has Netflix struck between offering an entertaining product to new viewers without dumbing things down too much for the hardcore bobblehats who read sites like RaceFans?

Over the course of 10 articles we’ll binge-watch our way through the series, flag up the key talking points and cover the juicy new bits of information in a special spoiler-proof section at the end. Here’s episode one.

All to Play For

By tradition, Formula 1 season reviews must have dreadful titles. Think “They Tried Their Best”, “Not in a hurry” or “It was fair”. With “Drive to Survive”, Netflix aren’t plumbing the depths of banality we’ve come to expect.

Encouragingly, after the first few minutes of episode one it’s clear the show’s producers are not going to play up the “survive” angle to make every minor prang look like a brush with death.

With Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas off-limits to the Netflix team, Daniel Ricciardo steps up as the first star of the series. He does so in typically playful fashion: Prompted to introduce himself, he replies “I’m Daniel Ricciardo and I’m a car mechanic”.

The team follow him back home to Perth, meet his family and glimpse the opening round of the championship through their eyes. Here the ‘drive to survive’ angle makes its presence felt, as Gracie Ricciardo talks candidly about the fear which comes with being a racing driver’s parent.

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While Netflix’s own material makes up the majority of the show, the race footage is familiar FOM material spliced together with an intensity to match the action on-track. And, it must be said, sometimes exaggerate it, particularly in the case of the cartoonish sound effects.

While Ricciardo’s progress in his home race provides a positive ‘A-story’ for episode one, the ‘B-story’ is more downbeat. Nonetheless, Haas’s ‘hero to zero’ weekend in Melbourne season makes for gripping viewing even for those of us who are already know with what happened. As their spectacular start to the season falls apart, the Netflix crew pick up fascinating smatterings of pit wall chatter and team boss Guenther Steiner’s excruciating post-race telephone debrief with Gene Haas.

The two threads are woven together expertly and provide a compelling narrative through the first episode’s 35-minute running time. As an opening salvo, “All to Play For” sets the bar high, and had me quickly reaching for the next instalment.

Drive to Survive Episode 1: All to Play For – Spoilers

The nightmare at Haas begins to unfold as one mechanic confesses to another “I don’t think that’s tight” following Kevin Magnussen’s pit stop. There is incredulity on the faces and in the voices of the team as first one, then their other car retires due to loose wheelnuts.

Steiner gives it straight to Gene Haas on the phone afterwards: “We look like a fucking bunch of wankers.” Afterwards, a sullen team member reports back to Steiner on how the errors happened.

On camera, both Steiner and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner remark “the buck stops with me”. It appears to be a favoured phrase of the show’s producers: in a later episode McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown replies “you’re absolutely right” having apparently been asked the same about where the buck stops.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 21 comments on ““Drive to Survive Episode 1: All to Play For” reviewed”

    1. Even without those 2 teams for average netflix viewer this show might be getway drug needed to find new F1 fans. Will be watching the show regardless of those teams giving a snub.

    2. Am I the only one glad that Merc and Ferrari didn’t cooperate? We’ve had enough coverage of the WDC and WCC battle in 2018 via other media; it’d be nice to have a good amount of behind-the-scenes focus on the other 8 teams as well.

      1. No, you definitely arent.
        Coverage is bound to be split much more evenly without the top two and their championship fight, and I don’t think there’s as much for us to find out about them anyway at this point.
        Am very excited to start watching.

      2. I am an F1fanatic, and a Netflix subscriber, and the idea of a season review without the Big Two sounds great to me. Redbull, Renault, Force India, and Sauber all had great stories last year. As a Kimi fan, I also am happy. He wouldn’t have really cooperated anyway ;).

      3. The title itself is relevant only to the 8 other teams, Ferrari and Merc. are fighting for the championship, not survival.

      4. @phylyp I think it presented the film makers an opportunity to create virtue out of necessity and in this episode they did it very well. But I don’t think the series is better off without F1’s most famous team (Ferrari) and driver (Hamilton).

      5. Indeed. I know most people only care about the battle at the front, but it seems like Channel 4 and Sky’s coverage is biased 95% in favour of Mercedes and Ferrari, 4% in favour of Red Bull with the rest getting the scraps. Really looking forward to this, will have to ask my father in law for his Netflix account details!

      6. Watched it today. Pretty good stuff. Missed a bit more of Kimi, but seriously, the less Sebastian and Lewis on screen, the better

    3. Many years ago Gillette sponsored a behind the scenes look at Benetton (Benetton F1 How to Build A Race Car – part 1 is posted on YouTube) and it was quite fascinating. I hope this series is as insightful.

      1. @velocityboy I remember that, it’s a great series. There was a very good one on McLaren in 1993 as well.

        1. Cheers, Keith, that’s a fair point. I’d have loved to be a fly on the Ferrari pitwall/garage at a) Germany b) Monza!

        2. “The Team – A season with McLaren”…that was a great series for the time. It was also put up onto YouTube the last I checked.

    4. Only 35 minutes of run-time? I would of expected hour long episodes.

      1. But it is 35minutes at a good pace with 2-3 stories (with various angles) per episode.
        I’m impressed, @ijw1.

    5. Just finished watching the Williams doc on Netflix. Have a greater appreciation for both the personal tragedies and obsessive compulsions of Frank’s F1 pursuit.

      And more disturbing, of how the ‘garragista’ era in F1 is truly and probably forever, over.

      Wish Claire good luck. That and a few billion dollars in sponsorship. And a couple million for therapy, post-F1 career.

    6. Probably in the minority here, but if Ferrari isn’t in it, I’m not interested.

      1. BlackJackFan
        6th March 2019, 9:44

        It’s a shame your only interest in F1 is with Ferrari… You’re missing a lot… ;-)

    7. “And, it must be said, sometimes exaggerate it, particularly in the case of the cartoonish sound effects.”

      So, no different to actual broadcasts then.

    8. So just who is calling us “hardcore bobblehats”.? I resemble that remark. Nodding quietly on the dash.

    9. Quote from LH today, “It is the fans that makes the sport what it is, so the more you block them or deter them the worse the business is going to be for the people that own it.”

      I agree with him, but he might want to talk to his boss about why they didn’t participate in this show.

    10. The scenes until the lights out for the race was quite gripping and well produced/edited. The way Rics mom’s legs were shaking and the fear and anxiety on her face – that was something to see…and gives an interesting perspective of whats going on in the background. Quite enjoyed that first episode.

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