Drive to Survive fans: In defence of a valuable F1 asset

Petty gatekeeping on social media over the new fans introduced to Formula 1 by Netflix's Drive To Survive series misses a key point over their value to the key stakeholders

Drive to Survive fans: In defence of a valuable F1 asset

While Drive to Survive has brought droves of new fans to Formula 1, boosting viewing figures and drawing in a younger audience, some are unhappy with its effect.

Complaints come from long-time fans, many of them moaning that newcomers ‘don’t know anything about F1 history’ or are only watching because of the overdramatised illusion given by the Netflix series.

But whatever their motivation, surely more fans can only be a good thing? Petty gatekeeping on social media is pointless. Whether you’ve been watching for one race or a hundred, we all share the same passion. After all, everyone has to start somewhere, whether that means they’ve watched F1 for 25 years or since the start of 2021 after stumbling across the series on Netflix.

F1 has undergone a huge image shift in recent years, bringing much-needed younger and more diverse fans to the paddock. My family are a prime example of how Drive to Survive has done its job well – having never been motorsport enthusiasts, they binge-watched all three series before the start of this season and are now hoping to go to a grand prix.

Drive to Survive might be exaggerated for dramatic effect, but it has to be in order to draw people in and create a narrative arc strong enough to keep viewers who might not otherwise watch F1 interested.

Lando Norris, McLaren, and Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren, on the grid for the end of season photo

Lando Norris, McLaren, and Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren, on the grid for the end of season photo

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It’s the stories about the people behind the on-track action which are so engaging and have contributed to the series’ success, even if some of the “rivalries” depicted - such as that between former McLaren team-mates Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr - are a little far-fetched. And it has clearly had an effect – last month’s Bahrain GP was the most watched race ever on Sky Sports, peaking at 2.23 million viewers, following the release of the third series.

PLUS: How Netflix built on a successful formula in Drive to Survive Season 3 

Without a new stream of fans, F1 would inevitably begin to struggle, and the introduction of sprint race qualifying this season shows the lengths to which series bosses Liberty Media are prepared to go to draw in even more new viewers.

Leading F1 figures recognise the value in Drive to Survive introducing more fans and therefore having as many people watching it as possible, with more viewers bringing more exposure to sponsors and thus more money to teams

Although the experiment will only take place at three races (expected to be at Silverstone, Monza and one flyaway event), its intention is to introduce an extra element of excitement to the weekend and pull in more punters on a Saturday afternoon.

As Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: “I’ve seen in other racing series, like DTM, that the audience almost doubled with having a Saturday and Sunday race, and that obviously can be monetised.”

In a similar way, leading F1 figures recognise the value in Drive to Survive introducing more fans and therefore having as many people watching it as possible, with more viewers bringing more exposure to sponsors and thus more money to teams. While Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said he “winced constantly” while watching the series, he recognised it was “very positive for F1”.

So, rather than criticising new fans for ‘not knowing enough’ or questioning their motive for watching – which is often rooted in sexism – these self-appointed gatekeepers to the F1 community perhaps should be embracing Drive to Survive fans instead.

 

shares
comments
Mercedes not worried about Red Bull's F1 recruitment drive

Previous article

Mercedes not worried about Red Bull's F1 recruitment drive

Next article

Williams: F1 Q3 slots and points still not "inevitable"

Williams: F1 Q3 slots and points still not "inevitable"
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Megan White
Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row? Plus

Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row?

Aston Martin claims Formula 1’s latest technical tweaks have cost it competitiveness – and that it’s the innocent victim of a regulatory stitch-up aimed at pegging back Mercedes. But is any of this actually true? It depends on who you ask, says STUART CODLING

How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean? Plus

How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been evenly matched so far in the 2021 Formula 1 title race. Neither has been afraid to get aggressive against each other on track, teeing up an enthralling contest as the year unwinds. But is their rivalry destined to end in broken shards of carbon fibre?

Formula 1
May 13, 2021
What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight Plus

What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight

OPINION: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have recovered from their pre-season woes to take three wins from the opening four races of 2021. But each time Red Bull and Max Verstappen have pushed them hard. So, what clues did the latest round of that battle – the Spanish Grand Prix – tease about the next stage of the season?

Formula 1
May 12, 2021
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Plus

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Plus

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Plus

How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
The toe-in-water origins of Lotus’s groundbreaking F1 journey Plus

The toe-in-water origins of Lotus’s groundbreaking F1 journey

In the first part of our history of Lotus, DAMIEN SMITH recalls how Formula 1 wasn’t an immediate priority for team founder Colin Chapman – but once he got a taste for it he just couldn’t stop…

Formula 1
May 9, 2021