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The Drive to Survive dilemma

NEWS STORY
31/01/2022

Might the forthcoming release of Season 4 of Drive to Survive influence the future of Lewis Hamilton and possibly the sport itself.

In the coming weeks (days?) Netflix will drop the much-anticipated fourth season of its highly successful Drive to Survive 'fly-on-the-wall' documentary series.

With its unique behind-the-scenes access to drivers and their teams, the series has been a worldwide success ever since the first series was released in March 2019.

That the series has been particularly successful in the United States, where a whole new generation of fans have been introduced to the sport, has gone down particularly well with the sport's American owners, Liberty Media.

However, the three series to date have come in for a fair amount of criticism, with claims of 'staging' scenes, misrepresenting relationships and even fabricating commentary and radio messages.

Indeed, last year, as he battled Lewis Hamilton for the title, Max Verstappen said he would not be working with the series makers claiming that they misrepresented drivers and their relationships with one another, and that the series deliberately sets out to create bitter rivalries that didn't actually exist.

It's a claim supported by a number of other drivers, team bosses and various other inhabitants of Planet Paddock, but the ongoing success of the series suggests that, despite the criticism, it is what (some) fans want.

In their anticipation of Season 4, which witnessed one of the most hard-fought championships in years, fans can hardly wait to see the behind-the-scenes coverage of the Hamilton/Verstappen battle. However, the highlight of the series and one that surely most will be fast-forwarding to is the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Season 1 was released on 8 March 2019, with Season 2 following on 28 February 2020 and Season 3 on 19 March last year, this, covering the 2020 season, having been delayed due to the late (July) start due to the pandemic.

Consequently, it is likely that Season 4 will appear before the FIA makes public its investigation into the goings on in Abu Dhabi last December.

Regular viewers will be aware that the series takes sides as opposed to reporting impartially, which therefore puts the makers, and thereby Netflix, in an almost impossible situation.

The series can hardly take the side of Lewis Hamilton because, as the official F1 Netflix series, it would be criticising its paymasters. However, if it were to side with the FIA and Liberty it could well prove to be the final straw for the Briton who has yet to make an announcement on his future.

Indeed, how Drive to Survive handles the Abu Dhabi debacle could prove more crucial to Hamilton's decision on his future than anything the F1 Commission or the World Motor Sport Council can come up with.

Whatever one might think, the fact is that Sir Lewis Hamilton is the most famous driver in F1 at present, certainly among those new fans introduced to the sport by Drive to Survive, which is one of the main reasons the sport cannot afford to lose him.

Last season, still under threat from the pandemic, everything was focussed on the championship battle between two drivers, Hamilton and Verstappen. Indeed, at times one would have thought they were the only two drivers on track.

Listening to the commentary, first time viewers might have got the impression that the two had never gone head-to-head before, that the rivalry between the pair was synonymous with F1, such was the hyperbole from the broadcasters and media in this new Netflix-age of the sport.

Yet - his impending decision on his future aside - in July Hamilton signed a two-year extension to his contract, thereby keeping him with Mercedes for 2022 and 2023.

Just two more years of the 'big two' seems a little short-sighted of Liberty, imagine if Bjorn Borg had retired just one year into his legendary rivalry with John McEnroe, and there are many more examples in numerous sports.

Hamilton has been battling Verstappen for the last couple of seasons, but before that there was Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso... the guy's been battling for years... and has seven titles, and finished runner-up three times, to prove it.

Should he walk away now it would appear that, in the wake of Abu Dhabi, he doesn't think F1 is worth the effort and that is something that could very well rub off on the public.

He has spent 15 years busting a gut making history for F1, holding the title in the highest regard, only for his efforts to be repaid with a knee-jerk decision which the governing body upheld.

Furthermore, in the eyes of some, the frenzied mess that is social media has turned him and his boss into a meme, a laughing stock causing him to cease posting to his 6.9 million followers on Twitter and 26.8 million on Instagram.

One cannot help but feel that the events of Abu Dhabi won't merely devalue the title going forward in Hamilton's mind but also cause him to question whether he should have ever held it in such high regard in the first place.

If the FIA thinks the title is only worth a decision on a whim why should drivers not think the same?

Hamilton signed a two year extension to beat Michael Schumacher's record but what's the point in fighting for something which now has no value in his mind? He is a laser-focussed guy, he puts 1,000% into what he does, so if he has any doubt about the value in the end game it is likely he will walk away.

Hence the feeling that much will rest on how Drive to Survive handles Abu Dhabi.

Liberty has long since realised that it isn't going to make the four-fold profit realised by CVC, indeed it will be lucky to even double its money… then again, maybe it should have done its homework before buying the sport.

With revenue limited by the number of races it can stage, little wonder F1 bosses are looking to cut costs dramatically, with talk of the organisation haemorrhaging staff.

Last summer it emerged that one of the potential buyers of the sport, which Liberty is anxious to sell, is Netflix.

Should Hamilton walk away from F1 the value of the sport would plummet, which, ironically, would suit a potential buyer, like Netflix, perfectly.

Now that's genuine drama and intrigue.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Defiant, 03/02/2022 16:35

"I miss Jame's one liners. I really enjoyed him in the commentary box. However my unpopular view of never liking Murray will probably earn some hate here, but I just remember his constantly wrong commentating as infuriating. All I think of when I recall him at the mic was me yelling at the TV... corrections of whatever he'd just said."

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2. Posted by kenji, 02/02/2022 14:13

"@ Max....Those were the days of F1 racing. Iron men and wooden ships hahaha"

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3. Posted by Superbird70, 02/02/2022 14:08

"Thanks for bringing back some memories. Ile Notre Dame 1984. Qualifying noise of the turbos echoing up the St. Lawrence River magnificent. The comment from James Hunt after yet another BMW detonation. "That looks fairly terminal." Brilliant."

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4. Posted by Max Noble, 02/02/2022 13:23

"@Kenji <puts on best Monty Python Voice> “You Lucky Bar*#ard!” :-) Fine times!"

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5. Posted by kenji, 02/02/2022 10:49

"@ Spindoctor...I can fully appreciate what you have posted. I just happened [ ? ] to be in Adelaide in 1988 to launch the film ET into the home entertainment market at the exact same time as the '88 GP was held. What an uncanny coincidence? It was a 3 day smorgasboard of F!. The race was really great and the top six was made up of the who's who in F1 in those days. Senna, Prost et all were superb and it was a weekend never to be forgotten. Great racing and great memories."

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 02/02/2022 9:29

"@Spindoctor - well said. Good summary of the situation.

@Egalitarian - stop! You’re making me all misty eyed! …oh the 1990GP, not Netflix heading for World domination.. :-) Murray, and James were unique. I think Sir Lewis remaining in F1 for another 25 years and winning every season is more likely than another classic duo appearing like those two most remarkable characters…"

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7. Posted by Egalitarian, 02/02/2022 5:23

"@maxnoble - Well, Netflix certainly isn't Sony or Universal... yet.
I watched a replay of the 1990 Australian Grand Prix last night. Adelaide, Mansell, Senna , Prost, Piquet, Berger, Patrese, Alesi. Normally aspirated V10s. (Oh, that Lambo in the back of that Larrouse - brilliant)Only some of 26 , yes 26 cars with semi automatic gearboxes. The rest, right-handed manual shifting One set of tyres. No DRS, no mandatory stops. Excellent, fast clean racing. And of course, Murray and James.
For the young 'uns, take the time and enjoy the relative purity of F1 racing. And to save some of you the trouble - OK Boomer."

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8. Posted by Spindoctor, 01/02/2022 14:38

"Whilst I'm hopeful we'll see Hamilton back in 2022, I still agree with Mr Balfe that events at Abu Dahbi will have given him (& many of us) pause for thought. That, not Hamilton's plans, seemed to me to be the main issue. Indeed Sir Lewis has broken purdah to wish us a Happy Chinese New Year & announce more of his work with Mission 44.

It's extremely easy to be cynical about what F1 is rapidly becoming.
@kenji's observation that :
"F1 is not really a sport but in fact is a series of 'high profile' entertainment segments with a final result engineered as a World Title." - seemingly where Liberty wants to go - is a pretty depressing prediction, even if Abu Dabhi validates it.

Cynicism has its place, but Sport offers us an opportunity to Transend the much of the grubbiness of day-to-day commerce. it's worth noting that the most successful Sport of all (Football\Soccer) manages to largely to do this (despite the huge amounts of cash involved) & keep most people's interest in the on-field action and still makes most revenue from selling this action to fans.
There are naturally some side issues regarding this Manager \ that Player, but these are in a purely supporting role, not the main focus. Closer to F1 "home" a glance at MotoGP indicates a similar situation, where there are lots of dedicated fans interested in Racing, not gossip....

This is not to say that should Liberty succeed in converting F1 into a sort of Soap-like freak-show it won't be very successful. There's a large market for superficially "involving" dross like "Love Island".
But under those circumstances tomorrow's potential drivers\athletes like Hamilton, Verstappen & most of the current F1 grid are unlikely to be that interested & nor I suspect will the likes of Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari or Renault.
Turning 'Romeo & Juliet' into 'West Side Story' was a successful "Entertainment" (& lots better than D2S), but it ceased to be Shakespeare...."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 01/02/2022 9:31

"@Everyone - we are going to have to be careful how much D2S gets us all talking (typing)… as Netflix will want to charge us extra for generating our own entertainment off their protected content…! :-) As they only do it to make money I’m sure our “free to air (type)” joy will annoy…"

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10. Posted by alvarezh3, 01/02/2022 8:27

"Helmut Marko has declared that since even from the beginning of the "Sir Hamilton Silence" soap opera at the end of last year's championship, Toto Wolff's behavior has clearly confirmed to him, that Lewis was going to be present in this year's championship do to the fact that the MB team principal has not been on the phone or performed any actions in order to obtain a replacement.

Seems to me like a plausible and credible conclusion by HM."

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11. Posted by Egalitarian, 01/02/2022 5:26

"@ Chris - Cheers. I merely wanted to acknowledge the other drivers' lest I be accused of being a Hamilton lover. If someone want to be so, that's fine, but I'm way too old to idolise anyone.
@Superbird70 - interesting you say that about Nico. Whilst reading Chris' article I was wondering, briefly, how Nico, and Lewis for that matter, would have fared throughout these last 5 seasons."

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12. Posted by kenji, 01/02/2022 1:12

"@ Max Noble Like you I have not entertained anything other probability than the fact that Hamilton will be on the grid in '22. Most likely driving another super piece of engineering excellence. Where else is he likely to be paid such a humungous fistful of dollars for what he does? The way I see it there is nothing to indicate that he won't be there. Until then...."

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13. Posted by Superbird70, 01/02/2022 1:12

"I have to agree with Max Noble. It looks similar to the way that Nico Rosberg refocussed, and re-energised prior to his only world drivers championship. "

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14. Posted by kenji, 01/02/2022 0:15

"I really do not fully understand why some people get so messed up when the discussion turns to DTS. This is not a documentary, a simple stitch together of footage and commentary with a summary of final results. The main problem I see is that people don't understand, or want to face up to the fact that F1 is not really a sport but in fact is a series of 'high profile' entertainment segments with a final result engineered as a World Title.The definition of '' entertainment can be summarised as 'an event, performance or activity designed to hold the attention and interest of others'. That is, IMO, what F1 represents. What is so different if they, DTS, take some license with [?] the facts...the British daily press do it every day! I happen to enjoy the series for what it is. Yes, they do see things that we never see and that's entertaining but their conclusions are always up for debate. So what? Every race throws up multi faceted differences.

As for Hamilton...well I've said enough about that issue. I like to apply Occam's razor sometimes. Hamilton has an existing contract through to '23. He hasn't said anything, [that I'm aware of ] to state that he won't be on the grid in March! The rest is a simply a media/team construct ....or a fictitious mash up to provide some 'entertainment' during the off season.



"

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15. Posted by Max Noble, 01/02/2022 0:10

"Working fact from fiction in these “alternative facts” times is proving a full time job! I beleive Sir Lewis has simply switched off from it all to totally recharge, as he knows his own mind and will be 100% back on the grid in 2022. Where else would he be at this stage in his career? Meanwhile Liberty, Netflix, and b-grade punters from all corners of the compass can wordsmith as much hyperbole as they desire… for Sir Lewis, and Toto are simply busy building an opposition crushing car, and team for 2022…"

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