Just a week before the beginning of the 2021 Formula One World Championship, the highly anticipated third season of the Netflix documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive was released. It is undoubtedly the proper start to a new season – revisiting the one of a kind 2020: marked by a life-altering worldwide pandemic, multiple driver changes, and historic results.
The amount of highlightable events that took place in 2020 were hard to squeeze into just ten episodes; however, that made every second of every episode unmissable.
Right off the bat, the season began with the expected and awaited footage of the early, pre-pandemic, part of 2020, which included the happenings and atmosphere in Melbourne that led to the decision to cancel the Australian Grand Prix. The following episode chronologically went into the first race of the season, in Austria. Eventually, the show got away from the chronological timeline and focused on certain storylines before returning to the timeline in proper order by covering the final Grand Prix in the final episode.
The middle seven episodes of season 3 looked at Valtteri Bottas’ role at Mercedes, Ferrari’s troubles, Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren, the “Pink Mercedes” controversy, Pierre Gasly’s great season with Alpha Tauri while Alex Albon struggled at Red Bull Racing, the hardships and rebuilding for 2021 at Haas, Carlos Sainz’s commitment to Ferrari, Romain Grosjean’s crash, and Sergio Perez’s rollercoaster ride of emotions from losing an F1 seat to signing with Red Bull.
All in all, Drive to Survive will receive positive reviews because of the drama and the action. Behind the scenes takes and relationships among the Formula One “characters” is the main attraction of the show, which was done well as always, but another positive feature are the emotional moments. This season had a few tearjerkers: Pierre Gasly’s victory at Monza in episode 6, Romain Grosjean’s recollection of the fiery crash in Bahrain and Sergio Perez’s career recollection, the latter two in episode 9.
In the midst of a chaotic year – there were multiple chaotic events. For a hardcore motorsports fan, everything that was included in the third season was exciting to look back at. However, there were three very interesting and important incidents that were disappointingly absent: (1.) Nico Hulkenberg stepping in to replace the Racing Point drivers a total of three times on short notice, (2.) even a mention of Lewis Hamilton finishing the British Grand Prix with a tyre failure on the final lap, and (3.) more focus on Hamilton contracting COVID-19, which paved the way for George Russell to drive the Mercedes car at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Whether it is just because the creators of the show alone decided what storylines they thought were more attractive to the casual audience, or if there may have been some “political” influence from Formula One itself – the unmentioned events would not have only added to the show’s desired drama and entertainment, they took the F1 fans on a turbulent emotional ride in the moment and would have likely done the same to casual fans binge-watching Netflix.
Throughout the season, the series also promoted the slogan “We Race as One” and to some people’s surprise this was not brought up until the final minutes of the season finale. Possibly, with the intention of aiming to promote a positive image on all parties involved, the more controversial topics – like the drivers who tested positive for the coronavirus and had to be replaced, the injuries of Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll in Bahrain, and the social justice fight for equality – were deemed the “darker” parts of the season.
This may conclude that the 2020 Formula One season was overfilled with shocking twists and turns not only on the race tracks but also in day to day reality. But either way, it’s a must-see show for both – motorsports fans who missed the sport during the winter break and people who simply want to see a high-volume and high-drama reality television show based around a sport.
Episode 1 – Cash Is King – focuses on the pre-season of the 2020 Championship and the craziness that COVID-19 brought upon the world, as well as F1 by forcing the cancelation of the Australian Grand Prix, and putting the season in jeopardy.
Episode 2 – Back On Track – looks at the opening race of the 2020 season in Austria and follows Christian Horner, hopeful to give Mercedes a run for their money.
Episode 3 – Nobody’s Fool – starts in Finland and continues in Russia, as it takes a deeper look at Valtteri Bottas challenging his accomplished teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Episode 4 – We Need to Talk About Ferrari – follows the Ferrari team during their rough year at the manufacturer’s home race, the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, and the developments of Sebastian Vettel’s departure and eventual move to Aston Martin for 2021.
Episode 5 – The End of the Affair – begins with Daniel Ricciardo committing to McLaren for 2021 after a short stint with Renault, and then carries on with Renault’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul as he leads the fight against Racing Point.
Episode 6 – The Comeback Kid – takes a look at the incredible season of Pierre Gasly as he redeems his reputation on a midfield team, including his unexpected first career F1 victory in light of Alex Albon’s struggles.
Episode 7 – Guenther’s Choice – accompanies one of the series’ beloved figures, team principal of Haas, Guenther Steiner as he endures the team’s poor results and struggling finances – eventually locking in two exciting prospects for 2021.
Episode 8 – No Regrets – observes the battle of the great working McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, as the latter announces a huge move to Ferrari for the next year.
Episode 9 – Man On Fire – is the longest of the season and covers the devastating crash of Romain Grosjean in Bahrain, as well as the unsure futures of multiple drivers who were not guaranteed to race in Formula One after 2020 – including Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Sergio Perez (and his first victory), and Alex Albon (and his first podium).
Episode 10 – Down to the Wire – goes to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi and summarizes the 2020 Formula One World Championship, preparing the fans for 2021.