So, the fifth season of Drive to Survive was released on Friday, and like thousands of others I’ve already managed to binge all 10 episodes. This season looks to have taken the previous criticisms of the show on board and offers us a much fairer look of the 2022 F1 season, but is it any good?
One of the most noticeable improvements in season 5 are the storylines that weave their way into the 10 episodes, they ring a lot truer to the reality of the 2022 season and, whilst a degree of dramatisation is to be expected, it always seems to have its roots based in real events. The storylines also branch out from what we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Drive To Survive, as they don’t always prioritise dramatic conflict as the being the sole purpose of the episodes. The best example of this is in episode 8, Alpha Male, which invites the viewer to take a more personal look into the friendship that has developed between Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly during their time as team mates. Episodes such as these provide a more authentic look behind the scenes of Formula 1 and give the viewer a break from the constant commotion that guides a majority of the show. In this respect I think season 5 nails the balance of providing enough drama to draw in new viewers and keep the causal fan interested but also presents an accurate enough display of this past season to keep the more hardcore F1 fans satisfied. Although this season has made significant steps forward, there were still a few drawbacks that limited its potential.
The first downside to season 5 is that it somehow manages to exclude some of the most prominent stories of the 2022 season. Now, I don’t think anyone was expecting the Netflix team to include every single story that cropped up last year, due to the sheer amount that goes on within a year in Formula 1, but crucial moments, such as Brazil, and significant stories, like Sebastian Vettel’s retirement, absolutely deserved more time dedicated to them as they were amongst some of the most notable news stories that gripped the world of F1 last year. This leads on to my second grievance of season 5, the constant rerunning of the same scenes throughout the year. For those who have watched season 5 you’ll know that Silverstone featured very heavily in quite a few episodes, primarily focusing on Zhou Guanyu’s horrific crash. I can appreciate that the implications of this crash affected many teams/drivers and Drive To Survive attempts to provide a different perspective on the same event, but the viewpoint of these different teams and drivers don’t vary enough to justify the repetitiveness of this scene being shown over and over again. The time that was taken up from showing the same races on repeat detracts from the overall quality of the season as it leaves no time left to explore other storylines that formed central parts of the 2022 season.
The final point that took away from the engagement of season 5, and that I think was actually done better in the previous seasons, was the lack of behind the scenes footage. The show opens up by giving us a glimpse into the lives of Mattia Binotto and Guenther Steiner as they travel through Italy, this access to F1 figures away from the track gives us something new that we are unable to see during the course of an F1 season. It allows the viewer to see a different side to the recognisable face’s that they’ve only seen within the confines of a Formula 1 race weekend. The races that we see on TV during the course of the F1 calendar make up a large portion of what is shown in season 5, and whilst we are privy to a few conversations that we may not have otherwise heard, we are generally aware of what the outcome of these races will be and this led me to lose concentration during the show at certain points. It’s understandable that Netflix would not be granted access to the personal lives of F1 figures but there are many interesting scenes that take place during a race weekend that could be incorporated into the show. One of the best scenes this season was when we were given a behind the scenes look at the team principle’s meeting, this gave unprecedented access to meetings that we haven’t seen before and, whilst I doubt that this will become a regular occurrence, it was definitely one of the most interesting parts of season 5.
So, was season 5 good? Yes, it was good but not great. I thoroughly enjoyed this season and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is new to Formula 1 or even those that have been long time fans of the sport. I think this season will meet your expectations providing you go into the show bearing in mind that it’s main purpose is to entertain and not necessarily to provide an accurate review of the past season. There are areas to improve on, but overall I think this season was done really well and is heading in the right direction.