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I can’t be the only one who is obsessed with Netflix’s Formula One series


by Jennifer McShane
09th May 2021

NETFLIX

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Did I mention I knew zilch about Formula One (F1) before this, quite frankly, amazing sports documentary series from Netflix? I have been converted to a full-blown obsessed F1 fan (and I know so many others have too).

I’ve never been a sports fan, first of all. I’d rather watch something (anything) else. And when it comes to F1, the only thing I tended to think about was how the sounds of the cars zooming past at over 2oo mph reminded me of a box of bees from a much-loved Sylvia Plath poem. My dad always had it on in the background of a Sunday. When I was very young I thought the commentators all sounded the same and their voices, which peaked whenever a car was unfortunate enough to crash, sounded silly – wasn’t it all a bit OTT? And why were they always screaming?

So how then can I explain the fact that I’m now dreaming about race cars? Plotting about how I might go to one (or more) of the 23-season races in 2021 (which take place worldwide) if and when Covid deems it safe to do so? That I now scream at the TV screen like those I too-easily judged? That is what Netflix’s Forumla One: Drive to Survive does – turns you into an obsessive fan. You watch on the literal edge of your seat, breathe held, resisting the urge to Google what will become of your favourite drivers. I’m a nervous wreck, sweating, near tears as the drivers and teams are gutted as they either crash (the horror) or more frequently, the engine gives out at the very start, or often, at a crucial point in the race. The vital seconds lost when they have to Pit, how can the engineers even move with the pressure of it all?!

Never have I been more enthralled or engaged in a sports series. Wanting to know the ins-and-outs the history behind the cars, the competitiveness of each (Red Bull and Renault in series one) and that’s before you even get into the egos of each of the (beautiful) male drivers or the points they so desperately covet.

Each point scored is literally worth millions in terms of sponsorships, new cars, the best drivers and the key is, that you, as a driver, even in the top 20 in the world (in F1, there are only 10 teams with two drivers each), are only ever as good as your last season. You’re fighting to the very end, for your seat on that race track.

The documentary series is a rather genius move on F1’s PR team; generally, the sport has been consistently losing support over the years partly due to the hegemony of the top three teams, new technical rules and other factors, but here’s the thing: it isn’t about the top three (generally, these say the same), it’s about the underdogs. Haas so desperately wanting 4th place in the first season, Williams needing an overhaul if they are ever to come up from the bottom of the grid. The will they/won’t they get a seat drama from the drivers (the pressure!).

Quite simply, it is the best thing I’ve watched in a long time and in a post-Covid world is the one thing that has made me feel alive during the stagnation of lockdown.

There are three seasons of 10 episodes each (clocking in at a watchable 40 minutes) for you to get absorbed in now.

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More brilliant sports documentaries (for those who don’t like sport)  

Last Dance 

The hit docuseries on Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls is wildly entertaining, breathing fresh life into even the most familiar plot points of Jordan’s career. It’s skillfully made and one you’ll watch right to the end.

Free Solo

This academy-award winning documentary follows free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – without a rope. It’s mesmerising.

Last Chance U

This Netflix original series follows college football teams that aren’t major programs and don’t get much national attention. The six-episode first season explores the football program at East Mississippi Community College and is my favourite of the five seasons. It starts slow, but stick with it and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Tiger

Focusing on the rise and dramatic fall of the golfing superstar before he made a comeback no one predicted, this one gave me a differing outlook at the man primed from as young as possible to be an elite sportsman – and a new respect for the technical craft and precision required in golf.