It’s hard to overstate just how successful Formula 1: Drive To Survive has been.
The Netflix documentary series – which gives a unique behind-the-scenes look at the drivers and teams competing in the Formula 1 World Championship – has completely transformed the sport. It’s been responsible for bringing in a huge number of new fans, particularly in America, and turned many F1 drivers into mainstream, international superstars.
But it’s not been without its criticism. Fans and insiders alike have criticised the series, now in its fourth season, for misrepresenting race outcomes and relationships within the F1 paddock… And there’s perhaps no greater critic of Drive To Survive than Max Verstappen.
The reigning World Champion refused to participate directly in the filming of the last two seasons, citing his unhappiness with how himself and other drivers have been depicted by the show. He’s called Drive To Survive “sensationalist” and has said “a lot of it is fake.”
Now, he’s gone even further, expanding on his displeasure during a recent interview where he’s accused Netflix of manufacturing rivalries between drivers.
“I watched two episodes [of season 4], but I was not very impressed. It’s just not my thing, faking rivalries,” the 24-year-old Dutchman tells BBC Sport.
The Red Bull driver singled out season 4’s depiction of McLaren teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris‘ relationship – which was painted as being quite fractious and petty – as being particularly disingenuous.
“Lando and Daniel are two great people I know – they have really great characters and immediately at the second episode it looks like they are not very friendly to each other, and for me that’s not correct and that’s why I’m also not a part of it.”
It’s worth pointing out that many fans think the trigger for Verstappen’s snubbing of Drive To Survive was how they depicted his relationship with Ricciardo when they were teammates at Red Bull in the first season, too. The show depicted the pair as being fierce rivals, really painting Max as a villain, when in reality they have an exceptionally close relationship – with the Australian being perhaps Verstappen’s best mate on the grid.
“At one point [it helps to bring in an audience] but that effect also runs out. I think we’re beyond that stage now and it’s more like a reality show in my opinion,” Verstappen elaborates.
“Plus it takes way too much time anyway. I need to focus on the racing and have private time and not spend another half an hour at the race weekend when they need to talk to you.” A very Kimi Räikkönen attitude…
Regardless of what you think about Drive To Survive’s editing, it’s uncontroversial to say that Verstappen’s absence doesn’t do the show any favours. That’s particularly true for this most recent season, which saw his rivalry with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton reach boiling point and the young Dutchman secure his first World Championship (under controversial circumstances). We’re missing a lot of the story.
As Jalopnik put it back in 2021, “it sucks, because Verstappen is like this unspoken presence around which everything in Red Bull circles, and you miss out on that important team dynamic that tends to prize Verstappen over everyone else and thus makes Red Bull the cutthroat atmosphere it is.” It doesn’t help that the series focuses more on Red Bull than most teams, too.
Ah well. All we can do is make sure we all tune in to this year’s F1 season so that when season 5 of Drive To Survive comes out next year, we’ll be able to sort the facts from the fiction.
The 2022 Formula 1 World Championship kicks off this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix.