How Netflix’s F1 Drive to survive changed my tune on the sport

In 2018 it took a young weightlifter to make me give even a whiff of passing interest in the Commonwealth Games. Now it’s taken me just a handful of Drive to Survive episodes to turn me into a formula one nut..

In 2018 the Commonwealth games were on the Gold Coast

And for the first two days, I was absolutely thrilled they were happening – but not for the actual Commonwealth nations duking it out for medals, no for a completely different reason. Special Commonwealth Games lanes had been set up to ferry athletes and officials around and if you were caught driving in one without a valid pass, you’d cop a nasty big fine.
State officials even suggested giving them a wide berth, to help with traffic flow which hilariously backfired as many people took that suggestion as avoid any and all fines by staying at home. Which they did in droves.

Stay away! Big fines if you don’t!

Which meant for me and my 35 klick trip from home to work, suddenly there were hundreds less cars between start and finish and consequently I had the cruisiest drive for those two days, arriving far earlier than I needed to. Sadly the same state officials had another press conference short after where they told the coast it was okay to drive, just stay out of those lines and the traffic returned. Bugger.

My original article on this also reminded me about suddenly having roaming security people in our building for the first time, just in case someone broke in during the games and…played more Bon Jovi perhaps? There was the guard who spent most of the time reading his bible, another just whiled away the hours with movies on his phone. Usually it was just me in the building late at night doing my show but all of a sudden I had a pair of bored guards to entertain additionally as they swept the very quiet hallways. Did anything happen? Of course not, but management didn’t want to take any chances.

Anyway a few days in with the games blaring on the TV’s setup in the work kitchen area, I just happened to stroll past for my late afternoon feed when the weightlifting was on (the women’s 90kg final) and I paused my stroll at just the right time to watch Eileen Cikamatana literally rip s*** up.

Which inspired me to write this back four years ago: Because she didn’t just clean the 130kg off the floor, she ripped it right through the air like she should be in comic book form instead of standing in the stadium. I couldn’t help but cheer out loud when she effortlessly and I mean effortlessly got it to her shoulders. It was like watching Superman’s daughter from Fiji put on a brutal raw strength clinic for the world to bow down to. She made the first part look so incredibly easy. She got it over her head long enough to secure Gold and danced like crazy when she threw the weight down, the announcer explaining that she had now landed Fiji’s 4th Commonwealth Gold medal EVER. What a monumental feeling that had to be!
And here’s me, very rarely getting emotionally involved outside of the one time in my lifetime when I got to see my AFL team win a grand final, finding myself absolutely getting swept up in the victory emotion and wishing I was part of the massive cheer at the venue when she scored the win.

And suddenly I was in. I was interested and looking for my next winning triumphant swept up in the emotion moment. I got into part of the boxing and loved the story of the Aussies waiting at the finish line for the last runner in the 10k slog just to give her a hug for making it to the end. Eileen changed my tune in a single moment.

Netflix did the same with a single episode.

Drive to survive? Maybe we’ll give this one a go.

Growing up, I was never really late for a party. Not even fashionably late (in truth anything fashionable and I don’t usually gel, I’m certainly not a slave to it) but in this case I was hilariously late to this Formula One party to the tune of 3 and a bit years. People had raved about it around the office and I’d nodded, smiled and continued to sip at my takeaway coffee while thinking ‘Well it’s not exactly Game of Thrones is it?’

And the reason for that was a lack of Formula One passion growing up. Dad loved it and taped just about every race every year to absorb later but the closest I got to anything even F1 related was Super Monaco Gp on the humble Sega Master System.

Not really the same though

Later on I had a weekend job at a newsagent and on Grand Prix weekend I could hear the sound of the cars bouncing off the walls in the back of the place. I even attended my one and only GP a few years later when my best mate got married and we all hit the track the next day for something to do. (Who won? Can’t remember. Probably Schumacher.) But even those failed to inspire anything more than a passing interest in the sport and outside of the occasional punt when the cars hit Melbourne (none of my bets on the Jaguar race team placing ever came good) I really couldn’t tell my Barrichellos from my Brundles.

(Although I will admit that I did get to go for a drive in a Swisse 2 seater F1 car with Minardi boss Paul Stoddart at the time. While it only got to hit the street legal speed of 60kph in downtown Bendigo, it still was a thrill having that monster engine fire up directly behind me..)

July 2016. Hilarious fun.

And then one bored night earlier this year when I was crawling through Netflix for something to watch, finally I decided to give F1 Drive to survive a go and see what all this hype around the office was all about.

Entertainingly the first episode of the series kicks off following fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo around as he looks to make a name for himself as a Red Bull driver. And while that was a good start, things really started to build up from there and soon entertaining became captivating. Because up until this point all I’d see from the world of F1 was highlights (and occasional low lights) of what was happening on the track. Here Drive to survive pulled the curtain so far back, suddenly everything could be seen. From the drivers hopes and aspirations to the team principals pulling their hair out when things went seriously sideways – how Team Haas’s team principal Gunter Steiner hasn’t gone insane after everything that’s gone pear shaped for the team is completely beyond me, especially when this was an early taste of their bad luck to come.

But I got tours of research and development, I watched car’s fall apart and drivers lose their mind over simple mistakes. There was triumph, tragedy and even explosions (again poor team Haas having a race day when nothing went right), there were teams drowning in money and others where the staff wondered if they still had jobs after being sold time and time again. Eccentric billionaires, cocky rookie upstarts, bitter rivalries and make or break moments. From the drivers to their support crews to their parents and their personal trainers, their wives and girlfriends and everyone in between, Drive to survive gives you so much more of a perspective of the racing world than a skilled commentator ever could and I think that’s what I love the most. We’re seeing a lot more of the world here and that’s a huge appeal for a former barely casual fan like I was.

Suddenly when people were talking to me about what was going on in the racing season, I couldn’t wait to add my own thoughts.

It also made me discover my favourite Formula One driver of all time.

Class of 2018 represent

I quite enjoyed the ongoing rivalry between Verstappen and Hamilton. Max seems really focused where Lewis looks really in control (except when he does things that incur a penalty strangely – he’s good enough without trying to upset the system) and that battle in Abu Dahbi as controversial as it was after the fact was incredible. I admire the confidence of George Russell and I think he’s just going to get better and better. Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz Jnr are the most entertaining where I wouldn’t want to annoy the cagey veteran that is Fernando Alonso.

But my top driver? Well it’s got to be Checo aka Sergio Perez. As Red Bull’s own Christian Horner once exclaimed, ‘He’s an animal.’ Yeah but what an exciting animal!

On Drive to survive there were some truly edge of your seat moments for Perez, including the 2020 Sakhir GP where an incident dropped him to last space on the grid which would usually spell doom for any race driver well seasoned or not.

However deciding not to take an early mark and call it a day from there, he stormed back into action and over the rest of the laps remaining clawed his way right back in front. I still giggle at the point where he innocently asks his racing crew how his pace is when it’s beyond obvious that his pace is at blistering levels.

Then there was Abu Dahbi in 2021, the last episode of Drive to survive for season 4. It’s going to be a Verstappen or Hamilton driver championship because no one else is even close. Whoever crosses the line first will be champion.

At one stage Verstappen pits and orders come through to Checo to try and hold Lewis back as best he can to allow teammate Max enough time to catch up again. And in one of the best ‘hold my beer’ moments, that’s exactly what Sergio does, he holds him back so well that Max ends up on his tale soon after. I’d describe it further but it wouldn’t do the skilled display justice. Watch that episode and regardless of what you thought of the outcome (yeah that was messy for a lot of people behind the scenes it seems) there’s no doubting the display of skill Sergio displays proving why Red Bull was correct giving him a seat.

Because of this and so much more, I can’t wait for Drive to survive season 5

I know from many articles that Ricciardo has had a rough year. I’ve read about the dislike currently building between Max and Sergio. I wondering what Alex Albon is up too. And that means when Netflix’s Drive to survive returns in 2023, I’ll be one of the first glued to my TV screen. The passion, rivalries, animosity, distrust, scheming and so much more – I want it, I want it all.

Not bad for a kid late to the party by a few years..

Edit: When does Drive to Survive season 5 start?

Well some good news:

The countdown is on!!

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