F1: Drive to Survive Season 5 another Netflix hit

by Mark Cipolloni

F1’s Drive to Survive Season 5 hit the airways on Friday, and already it is the 4th most popular show on Netflix….and climbing.

The 10 episodes of Season 5 remain on point and delivers the same expected intrigue as previous seasons. The producers and editors again do an excellent job of not messing with success.

Formula 1 is unique to all other sports and makes for great TV.  It has:

  • A globally diverse, good-looking and the world’s most talented array of drivers delivering heightened passive behavior out of the car, but when the visors go down, the fiery aggression leads to competitive drama.
  • Team principals who are good at playing up the intrigue of what is going on inside the sport
  • A refreshing, life-altering TV show dedicated to the bitchiness of grown men
  • Truly exotic world venues, showing how the rich and famous live, with plenty of celebrity cameos, stunning color, all presented with some of the best TV production you will ever see.
  • Exciting racing action
  • Real people not afraid to use colorful language
  • 95% Real drama and action played out off and on the track, not fake reality show bullshit

Despite a runaway 2022 championship by Red Bull and Max Verstappen, there was plenty of intrigue from thousands of hours of footage across an entire season to make you want to binge-watch all 10 episodes in one long night.

A scene in Season 5 features Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in his Italian accent.

“I’m pretty convinced we are just scratching the surface of this market. We are just looking into the future,” Domenicali says after having soaked up the crowd for Miami’s new race. “I’m very excited.”

A Ferrari engineer is overwhelmed by the fans. “Mamma Mia, what have you done?” he quips to Domenicali. “F—— Super Bowl!”

The Miami race on ABC in May and attracted a highest-ever 2.58 million viewers in the U.S.

Soaring viewership means the sport is also reaching new audiences. The 2021 season, which featured one of the most thrilling championship battles in history, averaged 949,000 U.S. viewers, according to ESPN. The 2022 season beat that by 28%, topping 1 million viewers on average per race for the first time. The network reported more female and younger viewers than ever last year.

“Viewership has increased every year since F1 returned to ESPN and ABC in 2018,” ESPN spokesman Andy Hall said.

And a lot of the credit goes to Drive to Survive.

And Season 5 does not disappoint.

It sheds new light on the biggest stories of 2022, including Ferrari’s great start followed by its spectacular collapse, leading to team boss Mattia Binotto being sacked after the season.

The show chronicles Mercedes boss Toto Wolff — still bitter about the 2021 finale — as he copes with a subpar car after years of domination. Seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton isn’t over it, either.

“I’m trying to take back the championship that was taken from me,” he says.  It wasn’t taken from him – his team lost it – outsmarted by Christian Horner and his strategists. You can tell it sticks in Toto Wolff’s craw to this day, bringing Horner immense internal joy.

It all boils to a head at a team principals’ meeting ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix about the bouncing, or “porpoising,” effects Mercedes suffered from the most. Wolff loses his temper and tangles with arch-rival Horner, who tells him to fix your fuc$ing car.

The editors do fantastic context-setting. Some episodes focus on the same events as prior episodes, but from a different perspective. They use smart flashbacks and graphics so the viewer always knows where they are. Viewers are bounced around from storyline to storyline in each episode to keep them engaged, but it’s never overwhelming, confusing, or anything less than “I want to see more.”

The narrator is Will Buxton, and he does an excellent job making the viewer understand the inside line, which is especially important for the casual fan, and really important for all the new fans Drive to Survive brings to F1 each year.

Why do so many women now love Formula 1 because of Drive to Survive?

Amid the super-cute bromances, violent crashes, and incredible skill, the thing that really makes women love this show, and now F1, is the pettiness. There are many shows on TV based on women’s pettiness. For women, Drive to Survive is a refreshing, life-altering joy of seeing a TV show dedicated to the bitchiness of grown men, who are leaders in the sport.

Men love to paint women as competitive, insecure mammals, who view every other female person as a potential adversary.  The Netflix producers turn the table and enable women to see men captured on camera as the catty ones for once. And oh my, does it make great entertainment.

F1 and Netflix have hit another home run with Season 5, and now we can’t wait to see what Season 6 brings in 12 months time. Imagine what it will show at the night-time Las Vegas event.

And to anyone who thinks Drive to Survive is getting stale after 5 seasons, they simply don’t get it.  It’s fun as hell, and just because it’s slightly fictionalized the viewer is still learning 95% truth about an exotic sport in a high-pressure world filled with the most talented race car drivers risking their lives behind the wheel at insane speeds.

Don’t miss it!