What we learnt from Season 2 of Netflix’s “Drive to Survive”

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Netflix released the second season of their Formula One Drive to Survive documentary following the second winter test last week. With the entirety of both tests available to watch on F1TV and now ten episodes to binge on, we F1 fans are spoilt for choice with so much off-season content.

Season Two of the show picked up on stories occurring during the 2019 championship and offers brilliant entertainment whether or not you are a follower of the sport. But viewers who watched all the races last year may feel like there was little in the way of new information to glean from Drive to Survive’s second outing. In terms of revelationary stories, that is probably true. However, there were many tidbits which were easy to miss if you binged all six hours of the show in one or two sittings (I totally didn’t do that…*ahem*).

If you’d like more thoughts on F1, be sure to check out my other stories on Medium too.

Verstappen could’ve been driving a Ferrari or Mercedes in 2020

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Image: motorsports Photographer/Shutterstock.com

There was speculation that Max Verstappen had an exit clause, but no one could agree on the specifics. Christian Horner confirmed in the first episode that Max could leave the team if he hadn’t made the top three by the summer break. Two wins in Austria and Germany helped Max be clear of the Ferraris, and he remains a Red Bull driver for 2020.

Haas may buy even more from Ferrari than we knew

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed something in the background of some Haas team meetings. The wallpaper or the software on the computer monitor clearly showed a Ferrari SF90. Later on, when we see shots of the Ferrari debrief, the same image is present on their monitors too. Perhaps it’s a requirement for the telemetry when using the Ferrari engine, or maybe Haas save money with second-hand PC’s. With the absence of Alfa Romeo in Drive to Survive Season Two, we may never know.

Grosjean complains louder than Magnusson

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Image: Ivan Garcia/Shutterstock.com

It ultimately didn’t matter as Grosjean and Magnusson took each other out on the first lap at Silverstone. But what is new information is that Magnusson was in the running to be the beneficiary of Haas’s Australia spec car for the British Grand Prix. In episode two we saw that Steiner couldn’t care less which of the two drivers were going to drive the old car. The team boss just wanted something to change the fortunes of the American team.

William Storey does pay up

Many hardcore fans of Formula One would be disappointed not to have full details of the Haas vs Rich Energy implosion. We did know that William Storey (CEO of Rich Energy) reneged on the sponsorship deal citing poor performances. But suspicions were that it was actually due to his lack of funds to pay the team. It may be that those who clapped for him at the Haas car launch in London were the ones to receive the outstanding £35 million. “I paid them, don’t worry,” Storey joked after receiving a round of applause at the launch. Well, at least he paid somebody.

Gasly leaves quite a bill behind

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Image: LiveMediaSrl/Shutterstock.com

Although Gasly’s winter testing wasn’t quite as bad as the Williams team’s, Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, might have preferred that his French driver had also sat out for two days. We learnt in episode five that Gasly’s crashes racked up a cool €2million of damage. Even if you are an internationally renowned energy drinks company, that is one hell of an invoice to receive.

F1 bosses are just like every-day office bosses

Something that people noted in season one of the Netflix show was that F1 team bosses are just like the bosses you and I have. With the inclusion of Ferrari and Mercedes in season two, it reaffirmed that. The top brass at the two leading teams are no different from Abiteboul, Steiner, Williams, etc., they just manage different people. Mercedes’ Wolff is like the founder of a trendy start-up with a no-blame office culture and schmoozing other team bosses. Ferrari’s Binotto seems to play the ever-calculating Mafia boss; despite his quiet voice, the room falls silent when he speaks. You have probably worked for a manager similar to one of those who starred in the show: someone too nice for their own good (Claire Williams), too angry to share creativity with (Gunther Steiner), or who gives stale by-the-book pep-talks (Christian Horner).

F1 Drivers love the sea

In season one, we saw LeClerc and Ricciardo enjoying a dip around the shores of Monaco. In season two, Carlos Sainz dived underwater armed with a spear for some fishing. And Magnusson showed us how he navigates the waters of Denmark in his sailboat too. A new hobby, he says, but the drivers do seem to get drawn to the sea. Remember when Kimi Raikkonen returned to his yacht, “One More Toy”, following a crash at Monaco in the 2006 Grand Prix?

British tabloids aren’t popular in F1

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Image: SpazGenev/Shutterstock.com

It will come as no surprise to British readers that journalists writing for tabloid papers didn’t come across well in the show. There are two occasions in particular. Mercedes’ Toto Wolff superbly put down a reporter for The Sun following his teams calamitous German Grand Prix:

“You want a headline for The Sun from me? I’m not going to give you a headline,”

the annoyed Wolff establishes.

“I’ll do that, don’t worry,”

the smarmy journo chimed back.

“Should I actually respond to you when you give me such an answer?”

Wolff rhetorically asked.

During the “Raging Bulls” episode which focussed on Alexander Albon, his press officer firmly fights Albons corner when the line of questioning steered towards his mother’s jail time:

“This isn’t going to be a one-to-one about Alex’s mum. I can tell you that now,”

he warns.

“There’ll be an element of that, I’ve got a job to do,”

claims the interviewer.

“Well, you can do that another day,”

is the deft put-down from the press officer who earned his month’s salary with these punchy sentences.

Gunther Steiner’s hometown is stunning

Guenther Steiner, the undoubted star of the show, definitely must get all of his trouble at the office. It surely can’t be at home with such blissful views around his windows. The scenes at his home in his birth town of Merana are a sight to behold. The Alpine town in Italy’s Tyrel region looked spectacular in the show. If you fancy a Google image search, you’ll see it looks even better in promotional photos.

Wolff and Steiner have a bromance we didn’t know we needed

Formula One creates some rather unconventional comedy pairings such as Sainz and Norris, Ricciardo and Verstappen, and Vettel and Raikkonen. And one that surprised us in season two of Drive to Survive is that of Guenther Steiner and Toto Wolff. Perhaps it’s their overly Germanic ways? Netflix struck gold when filming their brief shared scene in episode four, where they were on their way to a team principles meeting.

“Be a bit more intelligent than normal today,”

joked Wolff to Steiner who replies

“I’m always intelligent, you just don’t get the humour.”

They switch to German:

“You have less oxygen in the mountains,”

says Wolff, speculating why his Italian peer doesn’t act how he does.

“But when we come down we are the best runners,”

is the hilarious defence.

I’d happily watch a spin-off show of these two ribbing each other. Netflix if you’re reading this, you have the footage. Make it happen!

Ocon talks were ongoing even in Germany

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Image: SpazGenev/Shutterstock.com

One of the tougher episodes to watch in this season of the Netflix show was “Musical Chairs” focusing on Renault. Specifically Nico Hulkenberg’s relationship with team boss Cyril Ebetoubol. It transpired during the episode that talks were ongoing with Toto Wolff, the manager of Esteban Ocon, and the Renault Formula One team from as early on in the season as at least Germany. With the, let’s say, “unique” outfit that Toto was wearing that day, we can surmise that the dinner date between him and his Renault counterpart was on Saturday night. This makes Renault’s decision to drop Nico even more heartbreaking as he was challenging for a podium, what would’ve been the first in his career, just 24 hours later.

Williams’ Scalextric track is amazing

Though the team had a disastrous run throughout the 2019 season, Williams can take a silver lining from the fact that their Scalextric track is terrific. It’s cleverly placed in the trophy room, showcasing what a successful team they used to be. We saw a snippet of Kubica and Russell racing each other before team boss, Claire Williams, showed them how it’s done. Racing is in her blood, you know? The Williams documentary (also on Netflix) is well worth a watch.

Williams taking parts in the back of a minivan

It’s embarrassing enough to turn up to the pre-season test two days later than your competitors. But the depth of the problems at Williams ran deeper than we previously knew. Sending equipment with the team principal on her flight to Spain is what you would expect from a go-karting team, not ex-world champions. And they did so in front of streaming-giant Netflix to broadcast to the world too. At least we know Claire Williams has a future as a delivery driver if Formula One becomes too much.

Hamilton struggles with automatic doors like the rest of us

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Image: Cristiano Barni/Shutterstock.com

The final scenes of Drive to Survive allowed us to see how human Lewis Hamilton is. His difficulty in escaping through automatic doors is something most of us can relate to. He may have six world championships under his belt, and most likely have seven by the end of this year. But that’s where the differences end between him and us now we’ve seen his very mundane struggles… Y’know, aside from the small things like his money, fame, fitness, looks, jet-set lifestyle and supermodel dates.

Gasly had pressure everywhere

Speaking of press officers looking out for their assigned driver, Gasly had the same help. However, it seemed to inadvertently add pressure, not reduce it. During his difficult time finding pace during the first half of the season, problems were mounting up off-track too. Criticism about answering questions incorrectly by taking too long got brought up. And his boss, Christian Horner, complained that his driver spent too long looking at data. It’s easy to forget that Gasly was just 23-years old in 2019 and seemingly couldn’t do a thing right until his move back to Toro Rosso. My sympathies were with him throughout the Netflix show.

The F1 paddock swears… a lot

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Image: LiveMediaSrl/Shutterstock.com

“We look like a bunch of fucking wankers” was the Season One line that gained Haas’s Gunther Steiner stardom amongst fans. Netflix seriously doubled down on that cursing in Season Two. You would get pretty tipsy in just one episode if you took a drink every time an F-bomb was dropped. In the pre-credits scene for episode three, “Dogfight”, Ricciardo decides “Netflix are a bunch of cunts, aren’t they? I’d love for them to play that,” and sure enough they do. I don’t think there was a single driver or team boss that the show focussed on who remained PG-13. The sport is all glamour and sponsor-pleasing during regular broadcasts. For me, the swearing made these accidental television celebrities far more relatable.

Netflix’s cameras have already been spotted in Barcelona filming for season three. It doesn’t look like this docudrama is going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, the show is overly dramatic and edits heavily for the greatest impact. But it’s a high-quality show about our sport. Devout fans can pick out which parts are sensationalised anyway. If the show lures in a new audience, then it’s doing its job; Formula One can’t survive without new fans. Long may Drive to Survive continue. The racing hasn’t even started, but I’m already looking forward to Season Three.

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Originally published at FORTLOC (For The Love of Cars) where you can find more motoring news and reviews.

A tall man, living around the world, watching fast cars

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