Nico Hulkenberg has explained how the drivers first reacted when Netflix began filming the popular Drive to Survive series.
The programme makers started following F1 back in 2018, with the first season becoming available to watch in the following year. Since then, the show has continued to grow in popularity, and its fourth series will debut soon.
Whilst the cameras have now become a regular presence in the paddock, Hulkenberg - who was the focus of two episodes in the earlier series - admits that it was quite an adjustment for the drivers at the start.
"I still remember very well the production for the very first season of Drive to Survive," Hulkenberg wrote in his column on LinkedIn.
"'Netflix in Formula 1? What are they doing here?' During our first encounters with the camera teams, we drivers weren't entirely clear about what they wanted in the paddock and, above all, what the result would be in the end."
Hulkenberg has "no regrets" about being filmed
Hulkenberg soon allowed the cameras to follow him and has no regrets about this, as he feels that the programme has opened various aspects of the sport up to fans.
"After some initial scepticism, however, I agreed to be filmed more often," the German explained.
"And in retrospect I have no regrets whatsoever. With the help of the documentary, many fans – and especially many new fans – first understood what the fascination of this sport is all about, how much politics is involved, what effort is put in by the teams and what a high-performance circus F1 actually is."
Hulkenberg also feels that the series strikes the right balance between entertainment and fact.
"The makers of the documentary have found a good balance between Hollywood and reality," he added.
"Sure, not everything is exactly as it is portrayed, but it is very entertaining and available anytime and worldwide in the 27 most important markets."
Increasing audiences in America
Since Drive to Survive first launched, F1 appears to have experienced a boom in popularity in the United States, and Hulkenberg has seen the effects of this himself.
"The documentary has been a huge success in America in particular," the Aston Martin reserve driver said.
"At no previous race weekend have I taken as many selfies with fans and signed as many autographs as I did in Austin in 2021, even though I am not racing currently. The fans recognised me because of my two longer episodes in the first two seasons.
"A few bare numbers that underline the success: before Drive to Survive, there were about 264,000 spectators at the track in Austin in 2018. In 2021, there were over 400,000.
"According to a survey, 70% of them were at an F1 race for the first time. And a very important fact is that they are gaining young viewers again, the very ones they had lost or could not reach in recent years.
"In the month following the release of the Drive to Survive seasons, the F1 Instagram channel gained about 500,000 new followers and the drivers' channels also experienced a huge boost."
Not everybody is a fan of the show, though. Max Verstappen has already explained why he will not be appearing in the upcoming series, despite his title battle with Lewis Hamilton being one of the main talking points in Formula 1 in 2021.
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