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F1 2023

Drive to Survive Season 5 review: Engaging, truthful, but still sensationalised

RacingNews365 has taken the time to watch and review the latest season of Netflix's Drive to Survive. Here is the joint-verdict of Jake Nichol and Rory Mitchell.

Formula 1 Drive to Survive S5 E4 00 09 15 07
To news overview © Netflix

The fifth season of Netflix's hit Formula 1: Drive to Survive will launch globally on Friday 24th February, with the show responsible for fuelling the explosive growth that the series has enjoyed worldwide.

Opening up Grand Prix racing to swathes of newer and younger fans, the launch of a new series is now as eagerly anticipated as pre-season testing or indeed the first race of a new campaign.

RacingNews365 was granted early access to the 10-part series - with the following review being a combined verdict of Jake Nichol and Rory Mitchell.

Much improved story arcs

Season 4 of the show which charted the 2021 season earned a 17% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes - with feedback largely being negative based on the perceived manufacturing of rivalries to suit a narrative instead of being faithful to the actual relationships within the paddock.

Indeed, World Champion Max Verstappen boycotted the show in this season because he did not like the fact that liberties were taken with the truth.

It seems that criticism has been heard at Netflix HQ, and is therefore refreshing to see story arcs (largely) faithful to what actually transpired during a season dominated by porpoising and the cost-cap saga.

The closest we come to any such rivalry comes when Alpine are looking for a replacement for Fernando Alonso and, with the team being publicly rebuffed by Oscar Piastri, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo become the protagonists.

Zak Brown trying to broker a deal with Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi and Otmar Szafnauer to swap Piastri for Ricciardo is hilarious, when you consider the financial implications of the Australian's eventual move back to Red Bull as a third driver.

Szafnauer quipping "Good luck to Oscar" after Alonso rose from 13th on the grid to finish ahead of Lando Norris at the Dutch GP was equally a fun moment that showed how Alpine rose to the occasion on track despite losing out in the Piastri contract saga.

Perhaps after five seasons of gaining trust and figuring out what works and what doesn't in F1, it is no surprise that Drive to Survive has grown up a bit. That being said, all is not perfect with the sensationalised aspects now sticking out like a sore thumb.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Sensationalised aspects are disappointing

In one episode, Red Bull have the Netflix crew embedded as rumours of the cost cap being broken begin to swirl around the paddock.

The handling of Red Bull's breach of the cap is done with enough objectivity for the viewers to make up their minds on the whole controversy, with key interviews where Brown, Christian Horner, Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto all present their case showing just how serious it got between the teams.

While this is fantastic behind-the-scenes content, this segment is badly let down by the ridiculous depiction that McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari were out to hamper Red Bull and Verstappen's title charge in Singapore.

The show makes a point of highlighting Ferrari's double podium in that race, but the fact that Sergio Perez was the winner is conveniently forgotten and overlooked.

However, following Verstappen's title win in Japan two weeks later, footage of Horner receiving the infamous call from Shaila-Ann Rao, in which the former FIA Interim Secretary General explained that Red Bull had breached the cost cap does make the cut.

Elsewhere, it is extremely disappointing that the cherry-picking of radio communications and shots of drivers are crow-barred in to fit a narrative - best seen in an episode which featured Mick Schumacher and his battle to stay at Haas.

When he is being lapped by Verstappen, radio from his collision with Sebastian Vettel in Miami is played - before being conveniently cut off before the second-half of the message.

The same can be said for Lewis Hamilton in Spain where it is made out he wants to retire because of porpoising but the fact he had first lap contact and sustained damage is neglected.

			© Netflix
	© Netflix

Major strengths of the show

Along with the fantastic, in-depth explanation of what the cost cap is and how it affects teams, the series is at its strongest when dealing with porpoising in the early episodes.

Viewers are taken through exactly what it is and why it is so dangerous for the drivers, which all leads up to an explosive team boss meeting where Wolff is given a rather blunt retort when calling for changes.

It is classic Drive to Survive. It is the type of behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Piranha Club that is seldom seen.

As is having Geri Horner (Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls) read out Piastri's memorable 'I will not be driving for Alpine' post to a shocked Christian Horner.

It is exactly what you have come to expect from the show and, while random, demonstrates the connection F1 has to popular-culture.

These, coupled with the fly-on-the-wall moments - such as Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda absolutely butchering an Adele classic during Karaoke - make it unique for die-hard and new fans alike.

Given the success of Drive to Survive for Netflix, is it any surprise therefore that more shows have been commissioned on other sports such as Break Point and Full Swing for Tennis and Golf, respectively?

			© Netflix
	© Netflix

Overall verdicts

Not all the drivers on the grid feature in the series.

Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi are firmly on the missing list, but Fernando Alonso does make a welcome appearance.

Sebastian Vettel's retirement is briefly mentioned, and he is in the chair for a brief few seconds, but his lack of appearance is a downside.

That being said, the series is far less-wedded to the big name drivers like Verstappen, Hamilton and show favourite Ricciardo. Whole episodes can go by with them only mentioned in passing, usually the former a winning a race as the championship chase is spread throughout each episode.

This is a big plus and marks a massive improvement in the product. There are 31 different versions of what goes on in F1 (20 drivers, 10 team bosses and then the truth) and Drive to Survive season 5 begins to explore some of the other drivers, but not all.

Overall, it is a great watch and builds a firm foundation for future seasons.

Jake Nichol's one-line verdict and rating: Feedback on what was not working has been taken on-board and actually used to create a much more truthful show, while some of the liberties must be put down to artistic licence. 7.5/10.

Rory Mitchell's one-line verdict and rating: Fortunately Season 5 of the popular Netflix F1 documentary does not leave us questioning if it can ‘survive’ another series. 7/10.

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