No concerns over “creative licence” in Netflix’s Drive to Survive, say team bosses

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Formula 1 team bosses say Netflix’s behind-the-scenes documentary Drive to Survive has raised the profile of the series, and aren’t concerned by the “creative licence” the programme makers have taken.

McLaren racing CEO Zak Brown and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who both featured in the first three seasons of Drive to Survive, said it has broadened the sport’s appeal.

Horner said the series should be regarded more as entertainment than reportage.

“With DTS, what you have to remember unlike [live broadcasts] it’s more of a TV show rather than an in-depth look at the sport,” he told Sky.

“It reaches a completely different and new audience. The way it’s cut, the way it’s edited, it’s slightly different. But it’s engaged the market.

“Off the back of it, we’ve brought in exciting new sponsors and partners, one of which – Oracle – we’ve introduced and announced this weekend. I think it’s a positive thing for F1, it’s a new audience that it brings to the sport.”

Netflix Drive to Survive season three
Review: Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” season three
Brown also praised the series. “I think Netflix has been great for F1,” he said. “It’s been trending number one, I think it was number one in 25 countries. The primary goal of Netflix is to entertain and bring new viewers to F1.”

However the McLaren Racing CEO admitted the version of events presented in Drive to Survive doesn’t always correspond to what paddock regulars would recognise. In the recently-launched third season, the relationship between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr is presented as being more fraught than was actually the case.

“Of course all of us living in the sport know that Carlos and Lando have a great relationship and there wasn’t kind of the tension portrayed there. But I think any time you get into a television show, they’re going to create some entertainment that we all within the paddock know maybe wasn’t quite like that.

“But I think that’s okay. And I think what’s most important is some wonderful things to bring in new fans around the world. So we’re very supportive of Netflix and what they’re trying to accomplish, even if they take a little bit of creative licence here and there.”

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Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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22 comments on “No concerns over “creative licence” in Netflix’s Drive to Survive, say team bosses”

  1. It’s quite weird as a show because for the fans who follow the sport closely you can clearly see the stories are exaggerated and sensationalized at times but it does give you some unseen dialogue you don’t see on the TV coverage. I enjoyed all that aspect yet also found the story telling fun at times.

    It was apparent from the first year that the show wasn’t designed primarily with fans who already follow the sport in mind and I think in that respect it’s probably done very well to attract the audience it has. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get cut by Netflix anytime soon as it’s good fun to watch in the off season, although I’d prefer if they could get it out a little earlier in the year and not so close to the season start.

    1. The weirdest thing for me is when my friends who don’t follow F1 ask me “have you watched the last season of Drive to Survive??” full of excitement because they loved it. Meanwhile I can’t bring myself to watch more than a couple of episodes because I hate the dramatisation in the series.
      I have actually a friend who actively avoids any F1 news during the year so that he doesn’t get “spoiled” what will be shown on Drive to Sutvive.

      1. @paeschli I have the same comments from a lot of friends who got hooked on F1 because of the series. Meanwhile, me, a diehard fan since forever, cannot go through it… it’s tediously boring and overexaggerated. Like every single lap is amazing, but I watched everything and it wasn’t like that at all.

        Also, a lot of my friends had the same comments about particular drivers. Perez for instance. They all hated him, I suppose because the way he was portrayed during his year with Ocon and that rivalry that developed inside the team. I spent all of last year telling them he was a very good driver, until they admitted it when he won and now they are excited for him at Red Bull.

    2. Anon A. Mouse
      26th March 2021, 14:58

      I had to stop rather quickly into Season 1 Ep. 1 when they dubbed V8 sounds over the V6s. I knew then and there, it was not a program that would be true to what Formula 1 actually is.

      1. Also they kept showing too much footage of the Monza race. It was very disjointed. Maybe the circumstances didn’t help.

        Reply moderated
    3. It’s quite weird as a show because for the fans who follow the sport closely you can clearly see the stories are exaggerated and sensationalized at times but it does give you some unseen dialogue you don’t see on the TV coverage. I enjoyed all that aspect yet also found the story telling fun at times.

      Fully agree @slowmo.
      I love it for what it is and it is nicely complementary to my pure sporting/technological interest during the race weekends. When I want to see more of the races I simply rerun that part on F1TV.

      Also it is for many fans an eye opener in that a ‘popular’ documentary is hardly ever (never?) a 100% complete and chronological correct reflection of what really happened.

    4. That feels like a pretty good approach to it IMO. I have found the way in which they’ve constructed a narrative that isn’t there, or greatly exaggerated an aspect to tell a particular story, quite jarring but the additional footage and snippets from the drivers is fun to see and if you can mentally take it out of the DtS context then it’s watchable. I was dreading the McLaren episode from the comments on how it’s been set up as the conflict narrative, so I was fully prepared and I think you can watch it in the knowledge that Norris and Sainz do get on quite well (for direct competitors) and take some fun from it.

      One glaring point was Will Buxton’s talking head pieces, which seemed to be used to set up a lot of the (as I saw it) misinterpretation of events. I wonder how much was based on his views of the goings on and how much were the DtS producers trying to overlay some drama?

    5. My wife, who has seen me watching F1 for a decade without interest, binged DTS and now is excited for the season opener this weekend.

      DTS is aimed at people like her. And at that market, it’s a huge success.

      Reply moderated
  2. It has a bit of a “Pulp Fiction” feel to it as it jumps back and forth through the season e.g. the Ferrari episode at Monza is out of sequence.

    I did laugh as (I think) someone walked off the pitwall at one track and arrived in the next shot in a different track’s paddock (I think it was the Riccardo-Renault episode & Silverstone pit).

    As for the complaints of teams not being featured enough: well do something interesting then! Is the fact that the main complainants are owned by shadowy private equity companies/family offices a common point?

    One of the McLaren boys pulling the other’s chair away is a bit tiresome. As is (irony alert here) Zak Brown having an opinion on everything.

    1. As for the complaints of teams not being featured enough: well do something interesting then!

      Yeah, when people say they would’ve liked an episode on Russell in Sakhir, it was definitely unfair of them because George wasn’t doing anything interesting that race.

    2. As for the complaints of teams not being featured enough: well do something interesting then!

      And even before doing something interesting, do give the filming guys some access. @Not George

      Don’t complain about the menu if you didn’t reserve a table.

  3. I have no issue with DTS, in fact I love it!

    Series 1&2 were better than 3, but I imagine COVID restrictions had something to do with that.

    Bring on the drama & confrontation

  4. Each and every season of F1 is full of rich storylines, memorable events and fascinating characters. If you need to resort to ‘creative licence’ to make an engaging series out of that, you’re a pretty poor story teller.

  5. I was more annoyed that they missed 2 of the most interesting races all year than anything.

    Reply moderated
  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    26th March 2021, 16:16

    Season 3 Spoiler Alert

    The episode with Bottas’ to “To whom it may concern, Fu”.

    What exactly happened at the end? There was a huge discussion of Bottas giving Max a tow so he can be behind Lewis. We also see Bottas celebrating alone at the end. I always assumed the statement was for all his critics. Was it meant towards Toto and Mercedes? It certainly looks that way in that episode.

    Also, the episode with Vettel’s departure, you can see so much is left unsaid and the body language speaks volumes…

    1. @freelittlebirds On the morning of race day, Bottas was talking about how a particular negative tweet from a fan got to him, so I assume the comment was meant to his internet critics.

  7. I have very mixed feelings about the program because while on one hand I enjoy some of the behind the scenes stuff I also cannot stand a lot of the ‘fake’ stuff they throw in to try & create a bit of extra drama.

    The storytelling is one thing but for me it’s the stuff like the fake sound effects (V8 engine effects, Tyre skids & loud crunches during accidents) & the obviously re-recorded voice over done to try & sound like live commentary on top of things like adding a woman screaming over one of the shots of Grosjean’s Bahrain accident.

    It’s all stuff which I can see through & that sort of takes me out of as it makes it feel more like a dramatization rather than a true documentary series & I am not that keen on that.

  8. The series is great, end of

    Reply moderated
  9. It is what it is, desperately for some of us.

    My love like it as she’s new to the sport, as a lifetime fan I was nonplused by the show.

    The only quote I’ll remind is « I’m ze man who walkt out of fyre »

  10. Well I’ve just watched season 3. I dunno if it’s because I only get to watch the highlights on channel 4 but it was unrecognisable! The whole bit about Vettel driving crap because Ferrari was cheating? Was that a thing? You would of thought that if the greatest in F1 (Christian Horner et al) were going to nix some of the story lines, they would have marked that one down for a bit of row back but no – they harp on about Norris and Saintz not having a spat.

  11. As a lifelong F1 fan I really REALLY struggled with each season of Drive To Survive.

    However, as a father of an 8 year old who I let watch season 3 with me (we talked about the swearing beforehand!) he is utterly transfixed by the drama. He’s always been around when I’ve watched races and has been with me at a couple of British Grand Prix, but this particular season has had him chomping at the bit for the upcoming F1 season. I guess that’s the crux of it. Drive To Survive isn’t aimed at someone like me, someone who’s watched F1 all their life, it’s aimed at giving non/casual fans a flavour of the action and dynamics of F1. It’s an advert. On balance I think that’s got to be a good thing.

  12. DTS is bringing in more fans towards the sport but the question is, will those fans stick around? The overly dramatized and sensationalized series is that has hooked non-F1 people to love the series and possibly some will try and follow the sport but how many will continue when they realise that it’s not all so “tv-like”.

    I feel DTS will bring more fans to Netflix than long term fans to Formula 1.

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