Drive to Survive - F1 Netflix series season one episode two - The King of Spain

“Drive to Survive Episode 2: The King of Spain” reviewed

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With Ferrari and Mercedes unwilling to give Netflix behind-the-scenes access to the championship battle, the programme makers had to look elsewhere for rivalries.

In episode two they focused on F1’s two Spanish drivers in the 2018 season, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jnr. It makes for a study in contrasts, and the story of Sainz arriving in F1 in time to race against his childhood hero writes itself.

Even so, you get the sense the pair don’t quite fit the bill of rivals in the way the authors hoped they might. “I really want payback” remarks Sainz in a voiceover following some confusingly-assembled footage of the Chinese grand Prix. Payback for what? It’s never made clear.

As with Daniel Ricciardo in episode one, we follow Sainz to his home town and get some fascinating glimpses of his life with his double world rally champion father.

Alonso and McLaren are introduced as former champions struggling to recapture their past glories. No reference to McLaren’s ill-starred three-year association with Honda are made – a conspicuous absence.

We see the team’s tentative first runs with its MCL33 in testing. The moment a wheel failure pitches Alonso off the circuit at speed serves as the viewer’s first indication that all is not well at the team.

But while the first episode showed Riccairdo’s triumph and Haas’s despair, in episode two both stories have a positive ending. The pair battle through a tough race in Baku, which begins with Alonso growling on the radio that his rivals should be black-flagged for their lap one antics, to deliver strong points finishes ahead of their home race.

The Spanish Grand Prix begins with the drama of Romain Grosjean’s crash and an ‘is-it-isn’t-it’ moment as the Sainz camp wait to identify the wrecked Renault which belongs to his team mate. The race ends with Alonso breathing down the neck of Sainz, who is coaxing his failing Renault to the line. Even if you remember it all from last season, the story is constructed so expertly you can’t help but get swept up in the tension.

At its best, ‘Drive to Survive’ proves there is ample drama in F1 even without the involvement of the two big teams.

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Drive to Survive Episode 2: The King of Spain – Spoilers

Alonso’s description of how he fell in love with karting distills the pure joy of motor racing to its essence. It contrasts sharply with a rare aside between Alonso and Hamilton at the Circuit de Catalunya, where the five-times world champion admits it’s been years since he sat in a go-kart.

It also contrasts with the sad reality of racing in the ‘high degradation tyre’ era. Sainz’s pursuit of a rival during his home race provokes consternation on the radio at Renault. “Tell him again and tell him to drop back and stop fucking racing,” one team member fumes on the radio. “If you won’t tell him I will tell him. He’s going to wear his fronts out and we’re going to lose this race.”

But the award for most prescient comment of the season has to go to McLaren’s Jonathan Neale, who during the build-up to the start at Spain remarks: “I reckon Grosjean’s not coming around turn one.” He was only out by two corners.


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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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6 comments on ““Drive to Survive Episode 2: The King of Spain” reviewed”

  1. Luke S (@joeypropane)
    6th March 2019, 10:20

    Man, as the season draws closer, it’s becoming more and more evident how much of a impact Fernando’s retirement has dulled my enthusiasm for the sport.

    And it’s made my Fantasy F1 selection a bloody nightmare, too!

  2. Steve Clark
    6th March 2019, 10:23

    I’m looking forward to watching the series. I’m sure it’s been mentioned already but Mercedes and Ferrari’s refusal to participate is a massive own goal for the teams and the sport. Especially a sport where they seem to have trouble filling the seats and getting eyeballs on TV.

    I have watched the Sunderland and Man City TV series and thought them both very watchable. They’ve rekindled my interest in football. Now I’m reading stories online, pulling my friends leg about Arsenal and looking at team clothing. I’m thinking about attending some Toronto FC games this year. No plans for the Montreal GP though.

  3. apex (@f1fanaticlin)
    6th March 2019, 17:20

    Fernando will be back. The worst case would be the second Kimi Rikkonen to restart from where he started. Probably Renault/Mclaren.
    I guess he is a true F1 fanatic.

  4. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes and whilst there are some ‘Hollywood’ cringe moments e.g. retrospective race commentary, it certainly has something new to offer old and new fans. Really enjoyed following Sainz and Haas. Brutally honestly too (Crash-jean ☺).

  5. ColdFly (@)
    9th March 2019, 15:28

    Just watched episode 2, and (almost) as good as the first.
    As Keith said “‘Drive to Survive’ proves there is ample drama in F1 even without the involvement of the two big teams.”
    I’m looking forward to the next episode – great daily food before Melbourne next week.

  6. This episode really made a bad move of focusing on Sainz’s Baku drive when Alonso’s was so so much better. After his accident, Alonso didn’t just suffer tyre punctures and a front wing damage, the floor part has a hole and missing aerodynamic pieces. Alonso put on a masterclass of driving. Overall he lost 20 points of downforce which translates to half a second a lap slower but he was none of that. His drive was absolutely heroic and yet the series focuses on Sainz gaining places because of other drivers DNF.

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