Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2021

Drive to Survive did not provoke Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy, says producer

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In the round-up: The controversial conclusion to the 2021 Formula 1 world championship was not provoked by a desire to create better television, says the producer of Drive to Survive.

In brief

‘Masi wasn’t thinking about Netflix’ – producer

Drive to Survive producer James Gay-Rees says there is no connection between the series and the deeply contentious 2021 title-deciding race at Yas Marina. Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to win the world championship after race director Michael Masi broke the regulations by organising a restart.

Analysis: Abu Dhabi’s legacy one year on – How the controversial 2021 finale changed F1
Some drivers at the time, such as Lando Norris, claimed Masi ignored the need to let any drivers not on the lead lap to pass by in order to ensure a racing finish to the end. “It was obviously made to be a fight,” said the McLaren driver. “It was for the TV, of course. It was for the result.”

However Gay-Rees disagrees. “I think [Masi] was just under a lot of pressure and got things slightly wrong,” he told The Guardian. “I don’t think he was thinking ‘What does Netflix want?’”

Masi has not explained how the decision was taken. An interview with him last year revealed the former race director signed a non-disclosure agreement with the FIA over the incident which led to him leaving the federation.

Gurney’s Eagle goes under auction

A 1966 Anglo-American Racers Eagle raced by world champion Phil Hill and team founder Dan Gurney will go up for auction early next month with an expected fetching price of between $3-4 million (£2.49-3.32m).

The Eagle mark one chassis number 101, which was displayed at the Donington Grand Prix Collection at Donington Park for nearly four decades, was the first Eagle built by the Anglo-American Racers team, founded by Gurney and which operated from an English base. The car made its debut in the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix, with the team going on to take victory in the following year’s race at Spa-Francorchamps in 1967, the first F1 victory for an American-built car.

The Eagle will be auctioned by Gooding & Company at its Amelia Island Auctions event in Florida on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd March.

Van Hoepen wins New Zealand Grand Prix

Laurens van Hoepen claimed victory in the New Zealand Grand Prix in dominant fashion, completing a hat trick of pole, fastest lap in the race win.

The 17-year-old started on pole but lost the lead to Louis Foster at the start before moving back ahead of Foster by the end of the opening lap. Van Hoepen went on to beat Foster to the chequered flag by less than a second, with the pair far ahead of third-placed Callum Hedge. It was Van Hoepen’s first win in cars.

Veteran Chris van der Drift finished fourth, while Charlie Wurz reclaimed the lead in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship with seventh place after taking victory in an earlier race.

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Comment of the day

This weekend’s Caption Competition winner is @rdotquestionmark!:

Some things never change, Checo sees the black and white after Max.
Roth Man

Thanks to everyone who came up with caption idea this week and a special mention to Sonny Crockett, Ian, Jack and Bullfrog who all came up with particularly good captions.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Chris Gordon-Smith, Charlieshan, Motor_Mad and Alec!

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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50 comments on “Drive to Survive did not provoke Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy, says producer”

  1. DTS is encouraging the show over sport trend because the producers of the series as the casuals it brings in have no interest in the sport because they just see a show that introduces as much fake drama as they can get away with and that therefore makes the newer fans it brings in expect something that f1 has never been & never should be… A fake show pretending to be a sport, Like nascar.

    That in turn puts pressure on the sport to cater to that audience which is why we have so many artificial gimmicks and other show elements been forced down our throats.

    F1’s temporary boom is coming at a cost that will end up been it’s downfall once all the newer, casual fans leave and the gimmicks have turned off all the dedicated fans leaving f1 with far fewer fans than it had before. Just as happened with nascar & other things that went down the show over sport route. I don’t think anything that tries this ends up better after the initial 5-10-ish year boom bursts.

    1. We’ve seen this with NASCAR 20 years ago. Rip the soul out of the sport for a temporary boom. The new “fans” will be around for a couple seasons and the real fans will be disgusted and gone at the same time the new ones are bored with the gimmicks.

      1. Aside from what I’ve described, I don’t have any issues with other forms of physical activity, such as going to the gym, doing weight training, walking, and so on. You don’t need any medicine at all, and you don’t have any recognized ailments. Have a number of acquaintances who suffer from cardiac diseases such as atrial fibrillation, but the best way to avoid getting your pulse up is to take it easy.

    2. F1’s temporary boom is coming at a cost that will end up been it’s downfall once all the newer, casual fans leave and the gimmicks have turned off all the dedicated fans leaving f1 with far fewer fans than it had before.

      That’s a huge assumption, I’ve seen it said here constantly since DRS was introduced, yet F1 has done nothing but grow. Ultimately F1 is a business, it needs to be making money or growing to survive, ideally both. It used to thrive of its exclusivity, but then sponsors dwindled especially as the only audience was the problematic old boys club with their preference for scantily-clad grid girls and million dollar watches, this alternative track I think is much more viable.

      Doomsaying might make you feel better, but ultimately it achieves nothing. Doesn’t matter how much you pine for some non-existant yesteryear where sporting integrity was supposedly great in F1 (it wasn’t.) F1 will continue with it’s new audience with greater engagement and exposure with teams and drivers, gimmicks and all.

      Comparing F1 to Nascar is like apples and oranges, one is the fastest motorsport in the world with a global presence across a diverse number of tracks. The other is an American-only majority oval series… There’s not even any evidence that it’s failing because of this “show over sport” theory, that change could be the only thing keeping it alive.

      1. @skipgamer you’re quite right. F1 will continue and because it’s now leaning more towards being a business I’d guess that Liberty has at best a 5-10 year forward plan.
        As you quite rightly say, it’s all about growth and income.

        What remains to be seen is what other things will change in those years to keep the audience “engaged” in order to maximise growth and the associated income. Will F1 in a few years time even closely resemble what it’s been for the last few decades? I suspect not.

        The real question is whether or not the existing fan base that was there when they took over the sport remains and whether the new fan growth exceeds the drop off of older fans. They’re betting it will and that drop off will be minor – time will tell I guess.

  2. How to stop fake car launches.
    Make a rule that says you have to launch the real car. Simple as that

    1. @qeki Or all teams could simply wait for the first pre-season testing day.

    2. Just delete the first two words of your first sentence. Problem solved.

    3. @qeki How would you enforce such a rule? Make it so that the car revealed at the launch has to be identical to the one the teams run during pre-season testing? So basically parc ferme rules from the date of the launch? If so, then the teams would just forgo the official launch and reveal their cars at testing, unless there is also a rule saying teams must reveal their car by a specific date prior to testing.

      1. @keithedin I didn’t think that so far I can answer that but at least it would prevent fake launches. Which are livery launches even though some part of media calls them official car launches and even teams in social media say Say hello to RB19 which it is not.

  3. I wonder where Alpine’s ice/snow driving thing was filmed.

    1. If i have to gues it’s on the lakes of Finland….

  4. I don’t know if you disagree with me but the way Drive to Survive described Abu Dhabi’s race was quite disappointing. The drama in the end, the change in the race direction’s decisions, the uncertainty as to whether the race was going to end in yellow flags, Mercedes’s decision not to pit, RedBull’s decision to pit, it is all superficially covered but no emotion. For once, there was more drama in real life than in Drive to Survive.

    1. I actually thought last season was the weakest DTS, despite having the strongest material to work with.

  5. DTS didn’t provoke Abu Dhabi. It was DTS’ popularity that provoked Masi’s decision-making in Abu Dhabi. And not just in Abu Dhabi. Masi’s decisions in Brazil and Saudi showed that he was on a slippery slope.

    IMO, Masi didn’t care who won. He would have been fine had Hamilton defended Verstappen on the last lap or both of them had crashed or Verstappen overtook Hamilton. Masi loved being in the limelight of such a crucial title decider and went overboard. Look at how much footage he got in the final races and also in DTS. In the end, he paid the price for it.

    1. Exactly my thoughts. Even though I’m fairly certain that Liberty is absolutely pleased with Masi’s decision and if he would have ended the race under the safety car he would have received as much hate as he does now, for the opposite reason.

      1. Considering Brazil 2012 didn’t promote backlash for finishing behind the safety car I fail to see how Abu Dhabi 2021 would have, especially as the battle for the lead was long over.

        1. Craig, Brazil 2012 finished within the regulations. That made a big difference. People definitely complained at the time, but that was in hope that further racing was possible, not feeling like a championship was decided on a wrongful basis.

      2. if he would have ended the race under the safety car he would have received as much hate as he does now, for the opposite reason

        It wouldn’t have been popular (even I, as a Hamilton fan, would have felt a little deflated to have the championship end behind the SC), but the difference is that it would have been done within the rules. As soon as he stepped outside the rules and did something in contravention of them, the criticism legitimately ramps up massively. He made the choice/mistake to do something which the rules did not permit him to do, and in doing so changed the result of both the race and the championship.

    2. I would add Silverstone where the local guy took his opponent out and then, let by race direction, won the race so that he could put a show at the end of race as if he had done something heroic …

      1. Agreed. Masi’s decisions across the season were questionable. Hamilton getting the 2nd lightest penalty for that racing incident for which he was predominantly to blame was far too light.

        The 2 lap standing start at Baku was another farce done by Masi.

        But his slippery slope became evident only towards the end.

        1. He got a 10 second penalty which is standard for that sort of incident (the impact is utterly irrelevant), which he then overcame.

  6. Maybe, but it definitely provoked the two being on equal points before that final race. What a farce of a season. May we never repeat it again.

  7. The non-disclosure agreement discloses that someone called Masi and told him to change his mind. Nothing else makes sense.

    It goes with the second lap at Spa, which only makes sense as a way of giving a few points towards a new WDC.

  8. “Drive to Survive did not provoke Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy, says producer”

    In the words of Mandy Rice-Davies (google her…)…. “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

    1. Thanks for the memories. They were the days (no offence Mary Hopkins). Proper espionage. Wasn’t there a story at the time splinter v whole cabinet.

  9. If we have gotten to a point where we question whether sporting decisions have been made or not in order to boost popularity of a TV show rather than the sport itself, then we have gone down bad.

    Me personally I dont think the decision was for Netflix, I refuse to believe that. It was just on the same trend that started a couple of races before where Masi, presumably at the words of others, had to make sure that the title fight will go down to the last lap of the season, because it was just too big of a deal to let it happen naturally. And when the final laps of the Abu Dhabi occured, he simply did what he was doing up until that point. Even though the rules said the race should have ended under the safety car, I’m 100% sure fans (mostly DTS fans, the ones Liberty cares about) and even Liberty would have been mad. So this was a perfect opportunity, I mean PERFECT for them. It was really holywood like so he capitalize on it. It wasn’t done to help Verstappen or whoever, it was, to respond to the first sentence of the article, precisely to create better television, publicity, drama etc.

    1. Supercars, Masi’s proving ground, adores a manufactured finish.

      1. Three questions:
        A) When did Masi work for Supercars prior to F1?
        B) Can you actually name at least 1 finish manufactured by the governing body?

        I know both of these answers – so my third question is:
        C) Do you?

    2. I agree what happened likely had nothing to do with Netflix and more likely an edict from elsewhere insisting on a finale showdown of some sort, likely hoping to capitalize on increased popularity because of Netflix. It can’t, sadly, be denied these decisions didn’t benefit Vestappen more then anyone else.
      I doubt ‘100% of the fans’ would have been angry if Abu Dhabi ended behind the safety car. Sure there would have been disappointment but as no rules would have been broken it ultimately would have been accepted (like Brazil 2012), especially as the battle for the lead was long over.

      1. F1’s audience in 2012 was quite different to their audience in 2021….
        I’ll bet you’d have heard quite a bit of discontent if it had limped home under SC – especially as so very little would have had to change to allow for an undeniably legal and correct restart.

        1. The audience wasn’t different and you would have had the same long term reaction of “it was a shame but it happens”.

          1. F1’s audience evolves as much as F1 does. Actually, I’d say more – especially over the last several years. The new viewers who are coming in now are absolutely not at all the same as the ones who were into it when I started watching.
            And no, I personally wouldn’t say “It was a shame but it happens” – I would say it was a completely avoidable stuff up by those involved to destroy the best part of the whole thing.
            2021 ended under circumstances that may be described as not completely right, but not wrong either.
            Perhaps you just need to not care who wins to see it that way. It’s about the competition, not the result…

          2. 2021 ended under circumstances that may be described as not completely right, but not wrong either.

            I couldn’t disagree with you more.

            Had the race managed to restart within the rules, there would have been no problem. But it didn’t and, by the time he began the restart procedure, it was impossible to do so and get a lap in within the rules. Masi knew this, he’d spoken in detail about it less than 2 years ago, but he chose to break those rules “for the show”. That cannot be described as anything but wrong.

            Now, some say that he could have began the restart procedure earlier. That may or may not be true, but it certainly wasn’t against the rules for him not to. Even if it was, breaking the rules again later, even to “fix” that, doesn’t make that any better. In fact it would make it even worse.

          3. @S If we go off that logic, how was the audience “different” to the audience at the 2019 and 2020 Bahrain GPs or the 2022 Italian GP?

          4. In both cases at Bahrain, there genuinely wasn’t enough time to restart.
            Monza was an absolute disgrace – that definitely should have been cleaned up and restarted, and loads of people were very vocal about it.
            As I said, audiences are constantly evolving. There’s rarely a revolution.

            Are you genuinely telling me you haven’t noticed a shift in F1 audience behaviour since 2019?

          5. @S I have seen it but it’s actually entirely irrelevant. Those examples prove my point; people arn’t concerned about finishing behind the safety car if a race has to. Sure there’ll be grumbles but they’ll be learned from and we’ll ultimately move on.

    3. @apophisjj I think we can safely assume Netflix wasn’t the culprit here. I don’t think Netflix benefited in any way from the decision.

  10. It’s about the competition, not the result…

    Completely agreed, but the competition is nothing without the rules. If the officials, the ones charged with upholding the rules, break them the competition is meaningless.

    1. Competitions require rules, and requires them to be followed.

  11. controversy? He just restarted a race. No clue what DTS got to do with that.

    1. He broke the rules to do so. In anybody’s book that’s controversial.

    2. Only a driver or team can brake the rules a race director enforces the rules. You can agree with it or not but he made a decission and thats it. Restarting a race is not controversial.
      If you look at it from a sporting perspective the one thing that is controversial is the Safey Car rules. Is there any other sport where you can unlap, or a sport where gaps dissapear while everybody has to wait. This is something that is never questioned because the current SC rules makes it more entertaining. It’s not that difficult to close the pitlane, reinstate gaps before the restart but it would make it less entertaining and more a real sport.

      1. Only a driver or team can brake the rules a race director enforces the rules.

        The Race Director is still bound to follow the written regulations. He can make some calls on how to interpret them, as can the stewards, but it is not within their remit to ignore them.

        Masi completely ignored large chunks of the SC regulations, rules which he has been on record previously as saying he has no choice but to follow. Surely that is the Race Director breaking the rules.

        Also, restarting the race is not controversial in itself. Restarting the race without following the rules laid down for how the race director must restart the race is.

        Finally, I am a great advocate for getting rid of the safety care entirely. The vast majority of situations could be handled under the VSC, and for those where it can’t be, I’d rather have a red flag. SCs do not make great entertainment, IMHO, they just lead to racing laps being wasted running slowly, and they certainly are not fair from a sporting perspective. However, they are a part of the rules, there are strict rules governing their use, and Masi broke those rules in a way which changed the result of the race and the championship.

        1. I think we can agree to disagree. The SC itself is not the entertainment I was refering to. The point is that after a SC or red flag restart the gaps disapear and that leads to more close racing and entertainment but also results based on luck. In the 90’s only a few races had a SC or red flag this slowly increased and now we almost don’t have races without a SC or red flag anymore. This is current F1 a sport or entertainment ?

          1. Personally, I think AD proved it’s not a sport any more, it’s pure entertainment. Which is why I’ve gone from being an obsessed super fan to a mildly interested spectator. I was happy to invest a huge part of my life into a sport, but when a race director can ignore the rules and change the result of a championship, I’m not willing to be as invested.

          2. And in all honesty, no, I don’t agree to disagree. Masi broke the rules, there is absolutely no question of that. He didn’t allow all lapped runners through, which I can accept may have just been human error, but he also restarted a lap earlier than the regulations allowed him to. These are facts, you can go read the regulations if you’d like, and I can’t “agree to disagree”.

      2. There are entire appendices of the International Sporting Code about how officials are required to behave in motorsport. F1 has a few extra rules for series-specific obligations. Race directors can definitely break the regulations, and it’s not an “agree to disagree” thing, because it’s right there in places like Appendix O of the International Sporting Code and Article 45 of the F1 Sporting Regulations, among other locations.

  12. Doesn’t need to be a link to DTS, the F1 establishment from folks in the pitlane at teams to pundits, Liberty/F1/FIA & even race promoters had a underlying desire for the Hamilton reign to end. Heck it was even picked up in DTS with the Bahrain promoter estatic that anyone but Hamilton would win to Karun Chandok who equally agreed. DTS the wider culture influencing decisions as is the premise of this has strong arguments, but even putting that aside the establishment clearly made it clear anyone but Hamilton winning is great. Ross Brawn himself was in that camp & per countless Ted’s notebook was always seen paying a visit to FIA race control & was always in the ear of Masi. The general theme says it all.

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