sat 02/07/2022

Drive to Survive, Season 4, Netflix review - bitter rivalries on and off the track | reviews, news & interviews

Drive to Survive, Season 4, Netflix review - bitter rivalries on and off the track

Drive to Survive, Season 4, Netflix review - bitter rivalries on and off the track

Ratings-grabbing F1 docuseries revisits the explosive 2021 campaign

F1's class of 2021 assemble in front of the Netflix cameras

Netflix’s fly-on-the-pitwall series has rapidly established itself as a vital ingredient in the tapestry of Formula One coverage, and is credited with giving the sport a huge boost in visibility and popularity, not least in the USA. This fourth outing (now featuring even more undeleted expletives than ever) takes a look back at 2021’s dramatic racing season, which ended in uproar and controversy in Abu Dhabi last December.

The headline event of the year was the increasingly bitter struggle between Mercedes and Red Bull, as they battled to win the driver’s and constructors’ titles. Max Verstappen’s much-improved Red Bull car had immediately put Mercedes under pressure, even if Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton managed to snatch a dramatic win in the opening race in Bahrain. The contest see-sawed tensely throughout the year, bringing the duelling duo to the final race equal on 369.5 points each.

Verstappen eventually took the title thanks to a novel – indeed, illegitimate – interpretation of the rules by race director Michael Masi, which basically handed him the win in Abu Dhabi on a plate. Given the extraordinary access the Netflix crew were granted, it's disappointing that there's no attempt to throw any new light on how this unprecedented brouhaha unfolded. Still, this was just the culmination of a crescendo of psychodramas which gave the season its compulsive edge. Hamilton and Verstappen’s rivalry provoked two spectacular crashes, the one at Monza causing Verstappen’s car to land on top of Hamilton and leave tyre marks on his helmet.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner reached poisonous proportions, with the pitbull-like Horner stomping around the pitlane growling menacingly that “we’ll get the fuckers next weekend.” The mood is best expressed here in the scene where the pair hold a joint press conference. Asked whether there is still mutual respect between them, there’s a long silence while neither will answer the question. Horner eventually grunts that “there is no relationship” between them. To ease the teeth-gritting tensions of his job, we see Horner taking bucolic horse-rides in the Oxfordshire countryside with his wife Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell.

Despite all that, perhaps because the season’s climax has already been so widely and exhaustively examined, some of the most interesting bits of DTS4 occur in the teams further down the batting order. We see a distraught Daniel Ricciardo trying to understand why he can't make his new McLaren go as fast as teammate Lando Norris, while there’s an amusing moment when Jost Capito, the new boss of the ailing Williams, describes how he dreads the “walk of shame” through the paddock, since Williams are relegated to the bottom end and he keeps having to walk past all the more successful teams. The pain of continued failure is rammed home as the Williams drivers struggle to finish in the top 10 and score even a single point. When they eventually manage it, even their usually super-calm and analytical driver George Russell is reduced to tears.

Given the now prevailing state of Dr Strangelove-like global tension, the episode about the Haas team is hot-button stuff. The team were being kept afloat by investment from Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, boss of the Uralkali fertiliser company, part of the deal being that his son Nikita got to drive for the team. There are farcical scenes here of the evidently none-too-capable Nikita protesting that the car is undrivable (“he’s a fuckin’ disaster” is Christian Horner’s evaluation), and therefore the team must build him a new car. He’s backed up by his grumpy dad, who threatens to withdraw his funding unless Haas ensure that Junior – who looks exactly like a scale model of his parent – is given the chassis being used more successfully by teammate Mick Schumacher.

Back live in March 2022, though, Haas have now severed the Mazepin connection in the wake of the Ukraine emergency, leaving them struggling for a new driver and a new source of cash with the new F1 season just days away. As Haas’s ever-entertaining team principal Guenther Steiner puts it, there’s “a long fucking way to go.”

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