Which Drive to Survive scenes triggered Verstappen’s accusation of fakery?

2021 F1 season

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The ‘Drive to Survive effect’ has been widely credited for the vast crowd which descended on the Circuit of the Americas for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

But not everyone has been as complimentary about the Netflix series, which began in 2019 and is widely regarded as the key to F1’s apparent growth in popularity in the USA.

Before the race weekend began Max Verstappen revealed he hasn’t co-operated with the programme-makers since the first season, which followed the events of the 2018 championship, because he felt its portrayal of him was inaccurate.

“I understand that it needs to be done, especially to boost the popularity here in North America just to get people a bit more of an insight about Formula 1 because normally you don’t really get that,” he said.

“But from my side, as a driver, I don’t like to be a part of it because you do interviews and you don’t know what it’s going to be used for. So, for example, in my first year I gave interviews but, of course, when I watched the series I know when I said these things and then they use it on a different kind of footage, they would fake a lot of stuff.

“For me that – as a driver, I don’t look at it as a fan – I think that’s not correct. But I understand as a Netflix show, they want to make it more dramatic for people and make it look like this epic kind of battle. Where sometimes they faked a few like rivalries or whatever which, they don’t really exist.

Report: Verstappen unhappy with his depiction in original ‘Drive to Survive’
“So I decided to not be a part of it and I didn’t give any interviews after that anymore, really, just because then there is nothing to show. There is nothing they can fake about you.”

Verstappen had indicated his displeasure with the first season of Drive to Survive previously. Early last year, shortly before the second season launched he claimed the programme did not show “the real me”.

“The problem is they will always position you in a way they want, so whatever you say, they will try to make you look reckless or trying to make you… whatever fits the story of the series.”

What did Netflix show in the first season of Drive to Survive which prompted this reaction from Verstappen?

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Drive to Survive was one of the first broadcasting innovations announced by Liberty Media after it took over the sport in 2017. But not everyone was convinced: Title rivals Ferrari and Mercedes refused to allow the series producers access to their team during the first season, a decision they reversed for the second.

Verstappen’s team mate Ricciardo starred in season one
Therefore the only team Drive to Survive had access to in 2018 which won a race that year was Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo won two of the opening six races, while Verstappen added wins later in the season in Austria and Mexico.

As RaceFans’ review of Drive to Survive season one noted, Verstappen was treated less sympathetically than his team mate. The grinning, wise-cracking Ricciardo is the first and last face seen in the season.

The narrative followed Ricciardo’s decision to leave the team and indicated his relationship with Verstappen was a contributing factor. It played up Red Bull’s desire for Verstappen to become the sport’s youngest world champion – while also showing team principal Christian Horner denying that in a conversation with Ricciardo’s father.

Verstappen and Ricciardo featured prominently in the third episode, ‘Redemption’. This covered the collision between the pair at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – “I was made to feel guilty” says Ricciardo over a slow-motion shot of his unsmiling team mate – and Ricciardo’s victory two rounds later in Monaco, where Verstappen ruined his chances by crashing his car during practice.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Report: Steiner supports Verstappen’s decision not to take part in Drive to Survive
Several portions of interviews with Verstappen appear in this episode, though nothing especially contentious. At the end of the episode he describes how he felt like taking his frustration out on Red Bull’s Energy Station motorhome.

“I should have won that race,” he told the Netflix crew. “Seeing the whole team happy, it’s hard, because you’re standing there, you have to try and smile and be happy because the whole team is happy but for me it was definitely the worst moment and I was really not happy. I could literally break down the whole Energy Station by myself.”

Verstappen doesn’t reappear at length until the final episode of the series, which features some more contentious moments. ‘Crossing the Line’ features the collision with Esteban Ocon which cost him victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s final race for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi, and a curiously edited closing sequence involving Verstappen and several other drivers.

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The Interlagos incident was widely covered at the time: The lapped Ocon knocked Verstappen into a spin which handed victory to Lewis Hamilton, following which the Red Bull driver confronted and repeated shoved his rival in the pits, for which he was punished by the FIA. “He was being a pussy” Verstappen explained, as reported at the time.

Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2018
Verstappen described Ocon confrontration to Ricciardo
What Drive to Survive added to the coverage of that incident was an overheard conversation between Verstappen and Ricciardo at the following race, the Abu Dhabi season finale, in which Verstappen explained his reaction.

“I said at one point he should understand my reaction after. If he could hear what he said to me on the scales because he basically started laughing at me and then he was like ‘I was faster than you, I wanted to overtake you’. He didn’t even like apologise for the crash. That triggered me to push him.”

In Abu Dhabi Verstappen came from behind Ricciardo to finish ahead of him, aided by Red Bull pitting him before his team mate. The voiceover describes Ricciardo being “shafted” by the team in his last race alongside Verstappen.

The season closes with a montage teasing the next season, the driver moves and newcomers. A series of quick shots of Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly (Verstappen’s incoming team mate at the time), George Russell, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lance Stroll introducing themselves is followed by a shot of Verstappen saying: “To be honest, I don’t think they are even close to our level.”

“No hard feelings, I’m just looking ahead to the ones we have to beat,” he adds in another clip among shots of other drivers.

Verstappen hasn’t specified where in the first season he feels he was misrepresented, and without seeing his original interviews for Netflix there is no way to judge. He declined to elaborate on his criticism when asked on Thursday.

Netflix Drive to Survive season three
Review: Netflix Drive to Survive season three
However he made it clear his view of Drive to Survive hasn’t improved since he decided to stop giving interview for the programme makers. He indicated he wasn’t impressed with their use of footage of his angry reaction to his power unit failure in last year’s Austrian Grand Prix, and re-using earlier interviews he’d given.

“The last season, I don’t know how many times we switch it back to Austria in terms of footage” said Verstapen. “And then things which had been said in previous years they still use in the last season.

“So as a driver I don’t like it. I’m anyway not really just really a dramatic ‘show’ kind of person. I just want facts and real things to happen.

“But like I said, I understand as a fan perspective and trying to make it more attractive that they do these kind of things. But that’s not for me. I prefer not to be a part of it.”

Report: Verstappen’s rivals don’t share his concerns over “fake” Drive to Survive
Verstappen has authorised other documentary makers to profile him, as Fernando Alonso has done with Amazon Prime. That may offer him greater control over the presentation of his image than he has in Drive to Survive.

Several of Verstappen’s rivals were asked about his comments but none raised similar concerns over fakery. They have positive accounts about the success of Drive to Survive and their experiences of being filmed for it.

I’m fine with it, you can choose a lot of things which almost go in and don’t go in,” said Lando Norris when asked by RaceFans.

The success and popularity of Drive to Survive and its beneficial effect for Formula 1, especially in the vital US market, is not in doubt. But Verstappen isn’t the only person to have made these kinds of criticisms. Some fans of the sport have likewise mocked what they consider its attempts to manufacture rivalries.

Spectators, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Drive to Survive is credited for F1’s rising popularity in America
The upshot is Drive to Survive has lost the co-operation of Formula 1’s most popular driver, the current championship leader and heir to Hamilton’s mantle as the benchmark among F1 competitors. That’s obviously undesirable.

But it need not take the shine off F1’s great streaming success story. Verstappen will not disappear from the next season of Drive to Survive any more than he has the previous two. The programme makers will continue to receive ample material featuring him from FOM, including his many media appearances.

Meanwhile the stands are packed at the Circuit of the Americas and F1 is expanding its roster of races in America. For the time being at least, Verstappen and Drive to Survive seem not to need each other to be successful.

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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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31 comments on “Which Drive to Survive scenes triggered Verstappen’s accusation of fakery?”

  1. Sure Max, the problem is everyone else and not you. The other nineteen drivers continue to participate. Perhaps don’t play the pantomime villain?

    1. Perhaps understand that as one of the main protagonists in F1 Max would be much more the focus than many of the other drivers for whom Netflix would see much less value in manipulating the storyline.

    2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      24th October 2021, 16:39

      The other nineteen drivers continue to participate

      No. They don’t.

    3. Yes, shame on the racer that wants to race and not participate in a reality show…

    4. Max is above that fake rubbish, it’s what many of us like about him the most. Good for him.

  2. It’s a show catered to the uninitiated. True fans appreciate the access, but for me and I would imagine many of the die-hards, DTS has missed a massive opportunity to shape the uninitiated in the following seasons to become true F1 fans. Show the details, the strategy, the technical aspect, focus on what separates the top drivers from the rest, share more details on the weekend they present, together with standings and the real battles. The sport we follow for decades is too interesting and deep to simply focus on surface level drama and rivalries. Do it for a season or two, to bring people over, and then make them stay by showing them what really matters and where the beauty lies. Still, the F1 is better with DTS the way it is than without it and Max should not give a rat’s ass about the editing, at the end it’s just a show not history.

    1. Achilleas Well said but I would just say to your last sentence it’s hard to tell Max not to care about the editing when that is his exact issue with the show. I’m sure if it weren’t for that he’d happily participate with direct interviews to Netflix.

    2. You just can’t do that to people with just enough attention span for 10 second videos of teenage girls dancing in TikTok.

  3. I have to say, Racefans’ fascination with this topic is getting rather puzzling. How many articles does this make and what does this add after the initial couple of articles? Verstappen made a personal choice not to participate in the dramatized documentary series, which seems like his right. That should really be the end of that discussion, shouldn’t it?

    1. @sjaakfoo For me I appreciate the article above as I haven’t watched enough of the series to know what exactly would have lead Max to his decision not to participate directly. I totally understood what he was saying about the editing even without seeing much of it, but now I have a clearer picture of what went on.

    2. It’s actually at the heart of something wider @sjaakfoo. The way F1 is being portrayed to woo in the US market whilst it should be trying to retain some dignity in the process. Clearly Max thinks it’s gone too far as do many of us, it’s not just this. The medals, sprint race crypto wagon, etc. It’s tacky, overdramatic, and fake and drivers need to start making a stand now so that it doesn’t get worse.

  4. A well summed up article for someone like myself who hasn’t watched enough of the series to know what parts would have bothered Max. Totally understandable that he feels the way he does while at the same time he understands the virtues of the series for attracting new fans too. Fair enough. And really, Netflix will still have plenty of stuff to go by anyway, even without direct interviews with Max, and I’m sure they will still do some creative editing without his direct help, as the article above implies. Good on you Max for being strong in your convictions.

  5. Drive to survive: “Let’s spice up this storyline with fake commentary and mix in in some footage from last season.”
    Max Verstappen: “I don’t like how they add fake stuff and outdated footage to fit their narrative, I’m out.”
    RaceFans: “Let’s have three articles and ask the entire paddock about Verstappen’s quotes!”
    Now out of these three, I wonder: who’s being most overly dramatic about what?

    1. DTS is. Max is giving his real opinion and Racefans is giving a real analysis.

      1. Fair enough, reading your comment above I can see how the analysis is helpful if you haven’t seen much of DTS.
        For me three articles seem a bit over the top too, but we’ve had another race to write about so I guess this story will fade away as quick as it came.

    2. Yeah, this is too hysterical

  6. It’s a whole season of racing condensed down into byte-sized nuggets – there are stories throughout the grid at each race, and 20+ races on the calendar. Stands to reason they’ll miss some of the nuance or miss narratives entirely – George Russell heartbreak in a Mercedes at Bahrain anybody!?

    Understand why it might be an unnecessary distraction for a driver – especially one fighting for the championship.

  7. Remember Max was about when they featured Riccardo’s Monoco win, which lead to him quiting RB.
    I have a feeling there’s a whole other back story there.

    Plus word gets around, Im pretty sure this would be talk amoungst the drivers. eg they way they’ve been portrayed.
    or what they did or did not mean, or what was misinterpreted or falsified in editing… it media chasing ratings, so
    what can we expect.

  8. I didnt know DTS was so important, except for season 1, I haven’t seen any.

  9. Probably not the topic of the discussion… I understand what people is saying about that the other 19 drivers participate and plenty of them plus team owners, bosses, etc are happy with DTS. They are happy because it drafts popularity around F1 and it makes F1 more interesting for the general, non hardcore viewers. But, is F1 so boring that Netflix have to fake things to make it look interesting? I think that roundly NO. So I think that, where Netflix have made a good job (I enjoyed most of it, and I’m not new at all, I’ve been watching F1 for 25 years) they need to stick strictly to real things and rivalries and facts. F1 have sufficient of this to not to have to fake nothing.

    1. @esmiz

      I understand what people is saying about that the other 19 drivers participate

      It’s untrue, which proves a point in a way. The people who have no problem with telling falsehoods themselves are fine with being told falsehoods.

  10. Judging from what Americans like with wrestling, it’s all about a good guy vs bad guy isn’t it. I could have told you before the start what Verstappen would end up as. I’m actually surprised he didn’t see it coming.

    But again, he’s the most popular, so I guess people have seen through the fakery.

    1. Good versus evil and all that @balue. Its difficult, on the one hand we don’t want to stereotype the US, but the popularity of DTS and it’s fakery does seem to have done well over there. The fake crash noises are for me the worst thing about the series, it’s cringeworthy.

  11. A series of quick shots of Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly (Verstappen’s incoming team mate at the time), George Russell, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lance Stroll introducing themselves is followed by a shot of Verstappen saying: “To be honest, I don’t think they are even close to our level.”

    I think that it is far more likely than not that he said this about the Formula 1.5 teams, not about the drivers themselves. Yet it’s edited to make it look like he is dissing the other drivers.

  12. This being a Reality TV show is all the justification anyone could need to not participate willingly.

  13. So the petulant child act is not fake?

    1. Nope, it’s really you.

  14. DTS may be a factor, as much as I’d like to be proven wrong, but I’m unsure if this will have a lasting effect.

    I believe the primary reason for record crowds in COTA is COVID. Pent up demand from the general public. Not sure if this is an exception rather than the norm….wait! What am I saying??!!

  15. Welcome to American media.

    Experts at selling narratives as the true.

  16. Enough. We get it. Max isn’t British. Find something worth writing about instead of this drivel.

    1. Most Brits support Max with this, so I don’t know what your problem is. It’s an important topic because it’s at the heart of how F1 is conveyed.

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