Drive to Survive season four review: Still as fun, flawed and unmissable as ever


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This article contains details of the upcoming series of Drive to Survive, which will appear on Netflix on March 11th.

“It’s no doubt that Drive to Survive has had an incredible effect mainly on the new audiences and also in other new markets like US,” hailed Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali during a call with investors last week.

While Netflix hasn’t disclosed details of the series’ viewing figures, Domenicali is one of many figures in the sport who cite it as a key factor in F1’s growth, particularly in America.

Does the fourth season, which arrives next week, live up to the ever-growing anticipation? RaceFans has seen the first eight of 10 episodes released to the media by Netflix.

While Drive to Survive has undoubtedly been a success story for Netflix and Formula 1, not everyone is a fan. Many have said it takes too many liberties with the truth, examples of which can be found in past reviews.

Its most outspoken critic is Max Verstappen, who first raised his objections during 2020 in response to the original season, which covered the 2018 championship. Last year he revealed he does not co-operate with the programme makers.

Horner features heavily in early episodes
That left the team behind Drive to Survive with the problem of telling the story of last year’s spellbinding championship contest without access to its eventual winner. Their solution appears to have been to substitute Red Bull team principal Christian Horner in his place.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff have long got over the initial scepticism of Drive to Survive which led them to sit out the first season. Now they are regulars before the Netflix cameras while, for the most part, Verstappen is seen only through F1’s footage.

It therefore falls to Horner to supply the Red Bull end of the rivalry. He clearly has venom enough for two, the cameras catching several barbs directed at his opposite number’s television appearances.

We also see Horner at home, Horner with his children, Horner with his pop star wife, all of which feels familiar from past seasons. Geri Halliwell seems to get more screen time this year than world champions Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen combined.

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While Verstappen’s no-show (so far as can be seen) was one constraint, the other was the continuing pandemic, which forced drastic compromises upon the previous season. This time the producers have strived to keep Covid out of the picture, except where it is relevant to the story, such as when Hamilton discusses his fear of being infected again.

Jos Verstappen, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2021
The world champion was unwilling to participate in Drive to Survive
Although restrictions in the F1 paddock and elsewhere eased over the course of 2021, normality never entirely resumed. In-person press conferences only returned in last week’s test at Circuit de Catalunya. Opportunities to capture the kind of banter between members of different teams which felt so fresh in those first two seasons of Drive to Survive were, therefore, limited.

We still see plenty of what goes on within individual teams, and there are entertaining and revealing moments to enjoy. McLaren CEO Zak Brown is “not surprised in the slightest” when new hiring Daniel Ricciardo out-qualifies Lando Norris first time out, but the situation is quickly reversed, and the newcomer endures a painful season before grabbing a redemptive victory at Monza.

The rivalry between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, as the latter attempts to prise the former out of his Mercedes seat, and the pair collide spectacularly at Imola, is an almost ready-packaged Drive to Survive storyline. Some of the scenes feel orchestrated and exposition-heavy, however.

The most entertaining episode contrasts the fortunes of Esteban Ocon and AlphaTauri newcomer Yuki Tsunoda. Acknowledging the latter’s obvious potential but remarking on his “lazy dog” tendencies, AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost plucks his young charge from Milton Keynes (“the most boring place in the world” – Tsunoda), where he’s struggling with the local cuisine and a mountain of laundry, and relocates him closer to the team’s base in Italy. Tsunoda’s unfiltered observations will be all over social media when the season lands next week.

But on the strength of the first eight episodes Haas have again stolen the show with their contribution to Drive to Survive. The key revelation in episode four, A Mountain to Climb, is covered at length elsewhere, but there’s far more here besides.

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Along with Horner and Ricciardo, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has emerged as a break-out star of Drive to Survive. Here we see him walking a brutally tough line between the interests of the team’s title sponsor, Uralkali, in the shape of Dmitry Mazepin, and the need to sustain team morale in the face of criticism from Mazepin’s son Nikita, who came as part of the deal. It puts the subsequent departure of several Haas staff later in the year – which is not covered here – in a new light.

Report: Uralkali warned Haas it would pull sponsorship in row over Mazepin’s car in 2021
Having explored the Mazepin camp’s doubts over the parity of equipment between the two drivers, the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi is built up as his chance to shine. Leaving aside such apparently insignificant details as Mick Schumacher out-qualifying him by almost four seconds, and overtaking him before retiring with a hydraulic problem, Mazepin’s decision to pit when rain fell late in the race is played up as a tactical masterstroke.

He’s told he “ended up beating Latifi and Mick”, though neither were running at the flag. It’s a shame this contrivance was manufactured when programme makers could have told real and better stories, not least Schumacher wrestling the car into Q2 later in the year.

It’s all the more baffling because if there was ever a season which didn’t need embellishment to entertain, it was 2021. The string of contentious decisions by race control in the latter stages of the season gave rise to suggestions the sport itself was putting spectacle first.

It remains to be seen whether the Drive to Survive team unearthed more about the scandalous conclusion to last year’s championship. Look out for our full episode guide which will complete this review once the final instalments arrive.

But on the strength of what’s appeared so far Drive to Survive season four serves up more of what you’d expect – it’s as fun, flawed and unmissable as ever.

Past Drive to Survive reviews

‘Drive to Survive’ season four trailer


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Author information

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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30 comments on “Drive to Survive season four review: Still as fun, flawed and unmissable as ever”

  1. Spoiler Alert

    1. @stigf1l I don’t hugely mind as most things are already familiar anyway.
      I truly care about not getting much plot info beforehand, only for films & scripted TV series episodes.

      1. Whoosh!?

  2. In fact, it’s totally missable.

    1. I have to agree… still haven’t made it through the first season….

      1. It’s a popular PoV amongst die-hard race fans to dislike DtS.
        But at the same time on sites like this many of those fans discuss more often the colour scheme of cars than the underlying technical parts.

        To me DtS is a welcome addition to the whole F1 experience. I know what to expect and get exactly that.

        1. Yeah but even on sites like this, if you follow F1 throughout the year, watching DtS is painful. You already know how the story goes and then you get a fabricated story. I would love to have a netflix series that stays true to the season but gives us a look behind the scenes with more indept footage.
          I barely made it through season 1 and the only reason was because the “behind the scenes” footage was nice to see. But then you find out even the behind the scenes footage has been tampered with.
          Imagine becoming an F1 fan after watching the series only finding out all the information you consumed is all fabricated. Its basically how history is rewritten.
          Worst part is that its the netflix series that will survive the test of time because its so easily accessable on the internet.

      2. Same here. Not finished the first season. So unlikely I will watch any other season

    2. Haven’t bothered to watch any preview of any season not to my taste but that shouldn’t stop others from enjoying such stuff.

    3. ain’t nothing wrong to open your mind and enjoy a little

    4. Why would anyone want to watch thy show?

      Because it’s on television!

      Not yet …

      Now, La Coucina, that show looks interesting

  3. Will be shame if they missed out on stories like:

    – Leclerc’s rollercoaster Monaco weekend
    – Williams’ Hungary and Spa breakthroughs
    – McLaren’s Monza 1-2 (although I believe Netflix was with them that weekend I fully expect it to be there)
    – Alonso’s first podium in over 7 years
    – Hamilton’s weekend in Brazil

    I’m sure I’ve missed more exciting moments.

    1. @mashiat I agree, & yes, Netflix was with Mclaren in Monza.

  4. Article should read preview, not review as the series is not out yet.

    This article also operates like those Netflix synopsis snap shots you get when hovering over a title, it reveals too much.

  5. I don’t usually subscribe to Netflix, but I signed up for a month last year specifically to watch Drive to Survive and will do so again this year.

    I know some people are not fans of the way certain events are presented for dramatic effect, but if you’re after a factually accurate play-by-play account of how the season unfolded, I believe the official F1 season reviews still exist, although they’ve been dreadful for years. This serves a different purpose, and is brilliant at what it does.

  6. Drive to Survive is the TV equivalent of DRS.

    1. @Sx15 How exactly? I don’t get this reference.

      1. It’s made for normies and fans think it’s fake

      2. It’s just a joke. A TV show as an emphasis of reality. Like overtaking with a DRS.

    2. It’s no the best TV show ever but is a window where you can know a little bit more about drivers and teams experiences during GPs

  7. John Ballantyne
    3rd March 2022, 9:11

    It’s an empty threat, the ruble is now almost worthless and they can’t get any money out of the bank anyway.

  8. I guess it depends on personal preferences whether you like the drive to survive approach to a sport. I personally don’t like it at all as I am a Kimi and a Max when it comes to this sport; it should be about what happens on track only. But I can imagine others like some entertainment around it. What I do notice however is that FIA and Liberty are struggling keeping F1 a sport. They have a tendency to circus up the sport, driven by a desire to increase revenue. Last year I feel they started to lose their balance. In that light, a drive to survive element doesn’t aid them in getting back to primarily keeping this a sport.

  9. I’ve been watching F1 for 25 years, and I am looking forward to Drive to Survive. There’s things which I would change, like over suspenful music when it’s not needed, and there are definitely some filler episodes.
    But it’s great as a recap of the previous season, before the action starts again.

  10. This is more of a by Americans for Americans kind of show. It can be endured, but it tries to make something (and a lot of something) from nothing and is often absolutely misleading, or to be more plain – they fake it until they make it. You watch an entire season of actual F1, then watch this show and realize that your memory is so bad because you remember almost none of it the way Netflix presented it. I’m sure the numbers are good, but then anything you place of Netflix will have the numbers. I’ve watched it too, but the last season was truly bad. Not just fake and missing most of it, but also boring and repetitive. They find/invent a narrative and milk it throughout the series. I wish they would make a serious recap for the rest of us, something between this show and the old-style season recaps that are more factual. A real documentary with just a bit of oomph with a director that is capable of finding interesting stories in a year of F1, instead of writing his own.

  11. The rivalry between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell

    What rivalry?

    1. Well they needed one… There is not a single rivalry in F1, except for those circumstantial ones (fighting for the title etc.). That doesn’t sit well with the targeted audience.

    2. I presume they’ll string out the Mercedes decision over a few episodes and give the impression it all came down to one incident that tipped the scales. Rather than the more likely scenario of it being pretty much decided before the season started.

  12. Coventry Climax
    3rd March 2022, 14:04

    Watched a couple episodes of the first season, but the manufactured intrigue failed miserably to interest me, so in a sense, I couldn’t care less about what they do or don’t. Sometimes watch -part of- a recent episode, but there’s no difference to Peyton Place, As the World Turns and the likes.
    What I do care about however, is the distorted view and propaganda that the audience and specifically the unaware new ‘fans’ get about F1.
    Those are the ones that have no interest in F1 as a sport, but only as entertainment, show.
    Those are the ones that think that all the artificial jumbo to improve the show is a good idea.
    Those are the ones that F1 uses to claim they have a huge fanbase for their pitiful decisions.

  13. Please share magnet link!

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