Netflix has made a wonderful addition in its recently started sports docuseries, with worlds most expensive and glamorous Formula 1. The need for the series is the decaying following of the sport in the last few years. Although targeted toward new and potential F1 fans, it efficiently serves the purpose of connecting long lost fans with the sport again through a close look up at their last season.
As quoted by Luke Smith of crash.net, Formula 1 chose to go with Netflix over Amazon’s lucrative offer to gain guarantee engaged viewers, reach a much larger fan-base and expand its audience globally. Netflix is a hardcore streaming service that is available worldwide, while Amazon Prime is a sub-product of the eCommerce giant and is available in just a few countries.
The series first season is based on F1 2018 season and is beautifully divided into 10 episodes. There is quite a huge controversy regarding lack of participation from the top 2 teams, Mercedes and Ferrari, however, it helped Formula 1 in giving a well deserving focus on mid-tier teams and drivers, such as Renault, Haas and Force India.
All 10 episodes have special themes with a story around a driver and/or team. Each episode is 35 minutes long on average, the longest one is 41 minutes. I will review each of the episodes here now.
Episode 1: All to Play For
The first episode revolves around Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull Racing driver who finished 6th with 2 wins in 2018. Ricciardo is desperate enough to win a championship and is not satisfied with his current team. He is shown doing physical training and spending time with family before the start of a new season at his home circuit.
On the hand, the Haas F1 team’s progress is shown as the newest team on the circuit. However, their dreams shattered, when both of their cars retired from P4 and P5 at season opener Australian Grand Prix, due to the errors fitting the wheels in each of their pit stops. Their team principal Guenther Steiner’s role is praised by everyone, showing the real picture of the garage and when talking to the team owner. The most touching scene about the human element, which we could never experience just through the race is when the mechanic at fault, apologizes to Steiner with a distraught, and wet eyes.
Episode 2: The King of Spain
The episode showcases the Team McLaren that is struggling to regain its golden era which has been lost for many years. Zak Brown, relatively new executive director of McLaren Technology Group, is made the CEO of McLaren Racing who later becomes the Team Principal on the resignation of then racing director Éric Boullier. A little teammate rivalry is also shown between the veteran Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
We also see some personal insights from Carlos Sainz’s life, who idolizes Fernando Alonso and saw him winning the world championship at the age of 10. It was quite sensitive that he was competing with his model to be called King of Spain in F1 circuit.
Episode 3: Redemption
This episode covers the fierce rivalry between Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, which created a tense environment in the team. A couple of accidents were shown, especially at Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where both the drivers collided with each other while driving at P4 and P5.
Later, the buildup of the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix was covered with Daniel outperforming Max throughout the weekend. This intense rivalry was indeed a challenge for their team principal Christian Horner, who was caught saying “looking after donkeys would be easier than managing his two drivers”.
On the other hand, the tough times of Williams Racing are highlighted, with a question for their Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams if she is capable enough to uplift Williams team from the last position.
Episode 4: The Art of War
The fourth episode has the most interesting story about the difficult relationship between Red Bull and Renault off the track. Renault has been Red Bull’s engine supplier for 12 years and they have won 4 championships with it. But the relation hits its lowest when Red Bull team principal Christian Horner cancels their contract and opt for Honda for 2019 season, stating that Renault is incapable of competing with Mercedes and Ferrari. Meanwhile, Ricciardo decides to move to Renault for a fresh start, untrusting Honda and his troublesome relationship with a fellow driver.
One interesting scene that I bet all the viewers must have liked is when Renault’s team principal Cyril Abiteboul meet his counterpart Christian Horner after the press conference.
“You need a driver and an engine,” says Abiteboul, chuckling. “Yeah,” is all Horner can muster up as a reply. Horner later adds: “Have you got any money to spend on your engine now you’ve spent it all on your driver?” Abiteboul fires back: “We’ve got plenty of money” and then walks off.
Episode 5: Trouble at the Top
As the name suggests, the episode is about the team’s top management and investors. The story of three teams is exposed including McLaren, Force India, and Williams. McLaren’s story is connected with episode two with the change of top management and racing director. Furthermore, in the absence of any experience personnel, Fernando Alonso’s input is given the highest value that shows that he is running the team.
The episode also revives Vijay Mallya’s legal situation about his case of financial fraud. Although the team is doing great, there are rumors and speculation about selling the team, which Mallya keeps denying. His friendly relation with the crew and drivers is a highlight. The third scenario that is briefly discussed is the injection of funds to Williams Racing by Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll, whose son is on the driving seat on the basis of this investment.
Episode 6. All or Nothing
The episode gives special coverage to Force India team and its drivers, especially Estaban Ocon. Taken forward from the last episode, the progress of Mallya’s case is shown with the result of its team going under administration. The rivalry of Perez and Ocon is shown in multiple instances, which becomes more aggressive as the situation of team ownership changes.
A good proportion is given to Ocon, his personal life and how much serious he is for the career. Shown many times doing training and exercises to prove himself worthy of a seat here. On the other hand, Perez, an experienced driver, and a source of sponsors from his country is like the apple of the eye.
In the middle of the season, a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll bought the team and renamed it Racing Point. With this, it was clear that his son Lance Stroll will move here too, so there will be 1 seat and 2 drivers fighting for it, which we know now that Perez will resume.
I must say that, after watching this episode, my respect for Ocon increases as he is doing a real struggle, and proved himself quite well in the last couple of seasons. It was quite unfortunate for him that he will not be driving in Formula 1 this year.
Episode 7. Keeping Your Head
The seventh episode tells the story of Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean, who had been out of form for many years. His start of the season was not good and Steiner was not happy with that saying “He tries too hard. He wants to be faster and gets into a situation where the car can’t be as fast as it can go. You need to know how far you can go. He tries to go to the edge and a few times too often goes over the edge.”
However, he regains his confidence and starts scoring points in later races with his best of the season, P4 at Austrian Grand Prix. the struggles with confidence and nerves at the famed French Grand Prix.
Steiner hosts a dinner for the team after the USA Grand Prix, to thank them for their hard work. He didn’t let the moment go to taunt Grosjaen in his absence too. “Romain is not here, maybe he is not here because he doesn’t have any points. Or I didn’t invite him because he doesn’t deserve any food.”
Episode 8. The Next Generation
The most touching episode of the series eyeing the future of sports and revealing the struggles by young drivers with clear goals in mind. This episode is dedicated to Jules Bianchi who died in 2015 after a severe accident at Japanese Grand Prix. Some more deadly accidents were shown briefly including Senna, Kubica etc.
The rookie Sauber driver Charles Leclerc is focused in the episode about this mission to drive for Ferrari, which was a dream of his late godfather Jules Bianchi. Many of their photos are shared through which a viewer can easily understand the level of their relationship. His motivation, courage, and patience on the death of two closer people his father and Godfather at a tipping point of his career that makes him mature enough in quite a young age.
Sauber’s Team Manager and Principal were interviewed, they shared a history of introducing great drivers to the sports such as Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen that sums up 12 championship titles for drivers who started with Sauber. A little coverage is also given to Marcus Ericsson, who is trying hard to retain a seat in F1.
Besides this, an insight into the friendship of Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly friendship that exists from their karting days. Some old footages are shown, where they are racing as kids. Lecrec’s quote “This is very good to see, that the big teams trust young drivers,” was a key highlight for Formula 1.
Episode 9. Stars and Stripes
This episode explores the rivalry of French Renault and American Haas for the 4th position at constructor’s championship as there was only 8 points gap between them at the United States Grand Prix in Austin. If Haas is able to beat Renault, it will be an unbelievable result from a new team who are just in their 3rd season. Defending the position by Renault is a must otherwise it will be a complete embarrassment and loss of hope for all the Renault fans.
Kevin Magnusson improved performance is highlighted along with his rivalry with Nico Hulkenburg, who has replaced him at Renault in 2017. Furthermore, Nico “The Hulk” was praised by Cyril and others and calling him the championship material but for uncertain reasons, he was not picked by any top team that can help him become a champion.
Although Haas had a highly competitive car, due to its driver Romain’s performances and some silly mistakes by a crew member, it ended up just behind Renault with a gap of 29 points only. However, it already has a goal for next season.
Episode 10. Crossing the Line
The last episode of the series summarizes the previous stories and comes to the end of the season with the final race at Abu Dhabi. All drivers, the legends, rookies, and midfielders were focused to give their best shot to end the season on a high note and start working on new cars. Being the last race of Alonso, he was regarded by all the other drivers as well as fans. Besides this, it was the last race of many of the drivers with their current team such as Ricciardo, Lecrec, Stroll, and Raikkonen who were moving to other teams for 2019 season.
Some sadness was also depicted through the drivers who will not be there in next season mainly Ocon and Ericsson who tried very hard and performed well in tough situations but failed to impress any team.
A brief highlight was given to a new rookie driver Lando Norris, who was on-boarded by McLaren along with Carlos Sainz. It was a big risk taken by Zak Brown, if ends up successful, he will be a hero, otherwise, he could lose his position.
Being an F1 fan for around 2 decades, I think it’s a great step taken by Formula One, to commission such a docuseries, that will not only help attract a new audience but also keep the old fans tacked. I hope, it will be continued for a longer period and will benefit motor sports. If you have watched it, share your views about the series below in comments section. Lets see what the F1 fans think about it.