When I was eight, I prayed at mass that God would let Keke Rosberg win the Australian Grand Prix

The closest Formula 1 title race in years is also the first one I’ve followed since Eddie Irvine’s naughty days.

My interest in the tooth-and-nail battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton is due to a recent Netflix series full-blast binge-watch. Formula 1: Drive to survive, which goes behind the scenes of F1’s precarious, Darwinian glamor.

Oddly enough, Drive To Survive doesn’t really focus on Hamilton and co at the top of the F1 standings. It’s more by accident than by design. Mercedes and Ferrari did not participate in the first round and offered limited access thereafter. Instead, the show proves the old maxim about the best stories found in the Losers’ locker room.

Teams like Haas, Renault, McLaren and Williams fight for the respectability of the “midfielder” and bicker like little children over minor infractions of engine regulations.

Pilots at this level are constantly in danger of losing their seat for the next season, a fate they seem to fear more than the frequent and terrifying accidents.

I was hooked from the start, thanks to a scene where a Haas team mechanic fails to properly bolt a new set of wheels. The camera zooms in on the horrified guy’s face. We’ve all been there. Sure enough, the wheels fly off and team director Gunther Steiner, one of the stars of the show, rages like an Alpine Basil Fawlty.

Team leaders – think football managers, but with even more profanity – are in a constant state of bewilderment as to why an engine just blew up or a driver decided to plow a car worth it. millions in a nearby wall. All they can really do is hire and fire drivers, or preferably poach one from a rival. They mock and mock like minor royal courtiers.

There’s Red Bull’s charming but deadly Christian Horner, the pit lane Littlefinger who changes drivers more often than tires; Cyril Abiteboul, the former boss of Renault constantly on the alert; and the alpha dog of the paddock, Toto Wolff of Mercedes, as skilled as Don Draper and as Austrian as Arnold Schwarzenegger, except perhaps more skillful and Austrian.

But it is the conductors who seem to be toys for the gods the most. While they look more like exchange students with a backpack these days than the swashbuckling playboys of yesteryear, self-confidence remains a prerequisite. They are literally the 20 best motorists in the world. Still, there can only be three people on the podium, so most spend their lives dealing with disasters of all kinds, usually beyond their control. They usually manage their emotions by going jet-skiing in Monte-Carlo.

There is something inherently humiliating about your brake pads failing at 300 km / h. Despite all their arrogance and arrogance, they must submit to their fate. This also happens in other sports; but imagine the visual impact of Cristiano Ronaldo crashing into the Old Trafford hoarding with smoke and fire coming out of his ass.

Drive To Survive has been credited with bringing a new audience to the sport, especially in America. The Yankees were previously indifferent to its Eurotrashy charms, preferring their own rootin ‘, tootin’ varieties. But F1 TV audiences have doubled in the United States since Drive To Survive first aired in 2019.

You can tell that Drive To Survive is designed for Americans, as there are a few F1 journalists employed throughout to give VERY SIMPLE EXPLANATIONS of what’s going on. In addition, there is very little automotive jargon. Everything’s fine with me – the last car that I figured out the specs was owned by Fred Flintstone.

Before my DTS frenzy, Formula 1 had been idling in my mind for about two decades. I was a big fan. When I was eight, I prayed at mass one day that God would let Keke Rosberg win the Australian Grand Prix. He duly did so, and I have yet to find better evidence of a benevolent interventionist deity.

It was the glory days. Prost vs Senna, Jordan story, arrival of Michael Schumacher, Irvine winking at the pit girls all recorded by the BBC commentary team of Murray Walker and James Hunt, a mix high octane and sleazy – F1 encapsulated.

I’m not sure what happened then. Not enough overruns? Did Schumacher’s dominance take away the thrill of the chase? Of course, there are plenty of reasons not to like Formula 1. Sports wash, environmental concerns, primacy of dirty money – F1 has it all. But he most likely suffered from the greed of football on our attentions. Super Sunday took pole position. Like a latecomer overtaken by Lewis Hamilton, F1 has kind of been ousted, as far as I’m concerned.

The success of Drive To Survive shows how fickle attentions can be rediscovered. Of course, this is more “content” than journalism. There are freedoms taken with which the stories are followed, the drama is heightened by skillful editing, and occasional scenes are staged. Verstappen refused to cooperate this season, claiming the show was “wrong”. But most in the F1 circus recognize its transformative impact.

It’s not that there is something new about providing access and allowing skilled storytellers to do their jobs. This is how great sports writers and broadcasters worked in the 20th century, building legends by bringing audiences close and personal, without the headquarters defenses of modern public relations and media education.

Drive To Survive works because it’s less about machines and more about people. Even though his championship chances have diminished, Daniel Ricciardo is one of the most popular characters in the series, thanks to his sympathetic and silly personality. Pierre Gasly’s redemption after being dumped by Red Bull makes you beat the air. And when Romain Grosjean bows out after walking with a blazing fire in Bahrain, his tearful wife by his side, we want to give him a big hug.

You understand that when the pit lane engineer tells a driver, like a very calm midwife, to “push, push” he is asking her to risk her life. A show that makes you worry about arrogant rich young men who drive fast cars for a living: that’s good storytelling.

The only downside is that you are afraid to watch the championship in progress, lest it spoil your enjoyment of the next DTS season.

Spoiler alerts. Very Netflix.

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