With the COVID-19 quarantine in full effect, people are finding themselves staying at home looking for opportunities to occupy their time. Whether that be board games, puzzles, movies or other streaming options, everyone is seeking ways to prevent cabin fever. I have a recommendation on Netflix for anyone who loves documentaries, drama, sports, and most importantly, Formula 1 racing.
Personally, I have never before 12 months ago paid hardly any attention nor known just about anything of the international phenomenon of Formula 1 racing. Sure, I knew vaguely of the sports’ biggest and dominant superstar, six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, but nothing more than a few footnotes in a SportsCenter scroll. I stumbled across the first 30-ish minute episode of Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix and immediately fell in love.
The documentary showcases more than just race cars streaking across the screen or a surface level understanding of the superstar drivers who control these guided missiles — most importantly, it captures the behind the scenes excitements of the people who help coordinate, design, maintain these vehicles, as well as those in charge of making all the moving pieces come together in a new location for each race. These teams are comprised of hundreds, sometimes thousands of mechanics, engineers, and other personnel who not only work on the car, but help move an entire mobile racing operation from continent to continent for the 21 race Formula 1 season each year. The scale and logistics of Formula 1 are extremely impressive.
Even though this sport has been throughly dominated by one team and one driver the past six years, Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes Benz team, the drama and stakes of this sport is unrivaled in my opinion. Aside from the mortal danger of racing at these speeds (a Formula 2 driver, Anthoine Hubert, died on the track just last year), these ten Formula 1 teams and twenty drivers are cutthroat, each trying to best one another. Each team has high expectations of their cars and their drivers. The documentary does a fantastic job of humanizing the drivers and team principals (like the head coach or general manager in the NFL) so you actually root for their success and well-being, although you know they don’t stand a chance against the juggernaut of Mercedes and Ferrari.
In the documentary, we not only get to be behind the scenes in the lead up to events and the races themselves, but Netflix has the important figures in the sport sit down for candid interviews several times throughout the season. I believe one of the best components of the sport and the documentary is how completely real and honest these international personalities are, from drivers to the team principals — gone are the politically correct, canned responses that you see so widespread in not only American sports, but American culture. They speak their mind most often about races, the cars, team decisions — that is what makes watching the drama that much more enticing.
Before this documentary series, I even thought these drivers weren’t even that special, driving a car in a circle (though no F1 races go in a “circle” like Nascar) — big whoop. But these drivers are elite athletes, with crazy hand-eye coordination and mental focus, who endure so much sitting in a steaming hot rocket for hours holding themselves in this cockpit against the overwhelming amount of Gs that come with accelerating and braking at speeds over 200 mph.
If you don’t have any social engagements in the coming weeks — which undoubtedly none of you do outside of a few Zoom gatherings — this documentary is a fantastic way to hold your attention. Especially for all of us sports fans out there who no longer have the distraction of MLB, NHL and NBA contests, this documentary can help fill that void.