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Formula 1

Drive to Survive Season 6 review: A maturing show that finds the drama in a 'boring' year

RacingNews365's Jake Nichol and Rory Mitchell bring you their review of Season 6 of Netflix's Drive to Survive, with Jake looking at episodes 1-5 and Rory 6-10.

To news overview © Netflix

Episodes 1-5 - Jake Nichol

It was Alex Albon in conversation with Logan Sargeant who probably best summed up the biggest story line of Season 6 of Drive to Survive.

To paraphase, the Williams driver explained how Daniel Ricciardo would be lurking behind Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, waiting for any weakness to strike and take his seat.

We know that this is what happens, with Episode 2 Fall from Grace charting de Vries's time at AlphaTauri and behind-the-scenes footage of that Silverstone test for Red Bull that clinched Ricciardo's comeback and ended de Vries' F1 career.

It is the standout episode, in my opinion, of the entire season in what is a greatly improved offering from a show that finally appears to be maturing having been in the paddock since 2018.

The narrative story arc of de Vries' spell offers an honest look at the unassuming, talented Dutchman without spinning a yarn that previous seasons would have.

A particularly nice touch is the fact instead of getting talking heads Will Buxton and new arrivals Danica Patrick and Claire Williams to lay out where de Vries is struggling in the Red Bull family, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Sergio Perez do it instead, drivers with real-world experience of the pressure cooker that is Red Bull.

Another stand-out episode in this batch is Episode 5 Civil War - the first of two in the season focused around Alpine.

This chapter deals with the tetchy relationship between Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon with some honest revelations about the root cause of their feud that arguably persists. Otmar Szafnauer's departure is dealt with later in the season.

Whilst the narrative around each episode is greatly improved, a constant theme throughout the early episodes is that this feels like a programme that cannot handle motorsport.

The post-fact radio messages jar like engineers talking to drivers on the run to Turn 1 at the start or de Vries engineer telling him to "retire the car" after he's clearly crashed in Azerbaijan.

Throughout the episodes, some of the racing footage does not add up either with camera shots sometimes feeling as if they've been plonked into the middle of a sequence for no real reason or rhyme.

Furthermore, late in the season as AlphaTauri tries to make three drivers fit into two seats, there is some liberty taking in the fact that Liam Lawson was told before the Japanese GP he wouldn't have a 2024 race seat, and not after beating Yuki Tsunoda.

But I realise that it is my job to nick-pick at minor things like this that the audience Drive to Survive is aimed at wouldn't care that much about.

			© Netflix
	© Netflix

Episodes 6-10 - Rory Mitchell

If you take Max Verstappen out of the equation in 2023, you actually had a pretty competitive fight for the Formula 1 World Championship.

That’s exactly what Netflix did with the latest instalment of Drive to Survive. Except for a mention at the end of the sixth series, Verstappen rarely gets any air time amid the drama up and down the pit lane.

The main mouthpiece for Red Bull is actually Team Principal Christian Horner, who is currently the subject of an internal investigation by Red Bull Racing’s parent company, and denies all allegations against him.

There is a rather cringe moment early on when there is a surprise visit during the winter break to the Horner family from ‘Father Christmas’ and he says to the kids “Can I ask, has Dad been good this year?”

Perhaps the saving grace is the follow up discussion over who is faster, Santa or Max Verstappen?

On a serious note, Netflix potentially risks creating another situation like it did with Alexander Zverev in its other Box-To-Box produced series Break Point. The tennis star had his own episode amid the backdrop of fresh allegations of physical abuse from a former girlfriend and an ongoing court case in Germany.

Depending on the outcome of the Horner case, with the Red Bull boss featuring heavily it could spark some backlash from fans.

It’s why there should be a more balanced focus on the stars versus the personnel, so it is not relying too much on one personality.

Talking of Team Principals, one of the biggest moves last year was the sacking of Otmar Szafnauer from Alpine midway through the year following a double DNF between Silverstone and Hungary.

Szafnauer reveals that he did not know about the team’s plans to oust him in the series, with a scene showing him finding out the news like everyone else - via Twitter. Though there is not much insight into the intra-team politics between him, Laurent Rossi, and Bruno Famin, it was clear the team was looking for a change - any change - to get it out of a negative spiral.

After Lewis Hamilton dropped the bombshell that he would be joining Ferrari for 2025, the episode focusing on his future at Mercedes is even more poignant - Episode 6 Leap of Faith.

Hamilton reveals he had an “interesting moment” after warning Mercedes about their potential problems with their car concept, which they would later scrap for 2024.

The origins of Hamilton’s desire to leave the team could be traced back to this, which is why it is surprising Netflix did not make any update to the episode in post-production, reflecting this.

Instead, it ends with Toto Wolff saying “The thought of Hamilton at Ferrari in a red overall, wouldn’t suit him.” Well, it turns out he won’t need to think for much longer.

You wonder how many more seasons Drive to Survive could go on for, but F1 has proven that even in a year when the same guy wins 19 out of 22 races there is still enough drama behind the scenes to keep fans entertained.

That, if anything, is all the more reason why this format will likely continue for years to come.

			© Netflix
	© Netflix

The break-out star

Season 6 ends in the only logical place it could seeing as its biggest star departed his team post the wrap of filming.

Guenther Steiner is shown throughout the series weighing his future up after another difficult season for Haas and even pays an old friend a surprise visit to talk things over.

As Steiner departs the Haas scene and maybe even the F1 one as well, it is fitting that the final shot is of him picking up the phone one more time, as he 'needs to fu**ing call Gene now...'

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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