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Formula One Drive to Survive season 4 plays it safe

The latest season of the Netflix-F1 series Drive to Survive still makes for compelling viewing ahead of the 2022 Formula 1 championships

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (centre) walks past Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (right) during the first day of Formula One pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in the city of Sakhir. (AFP)

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Right at the beginning of season 4 of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly poses an interesting question for the camera: “What are we going to talk about this year?”. A lot, Pierre. A lot.

The French driver is just one of the many faces that feature in the latest installment of Netflix’s documentary series – which gives a behind-the-scenes look into the races, drivers and key moments of the Formula 1 world championship – that dropped on 11 March. The fourth season of this series makes for compelling viewing ahead of the 2022 Formula 1 championship, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 18 March.

Also read: Why the F1 season finale left many wanting for more

The 2021 F1 season was probably one of the most intensely contested seasons in recent history, which saw Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ championship on the very last lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi. Exciting? Yes. Controversial? In many ways.

Season 4 of Drive to Survive (DTS) does well to capture that excitement and elements of controversy, going beyond the Verstappen and Hamilton rivalry. There is more focus, for example, on the battle for third place in the constructors’ championship between Ferrari and McLaren. It’s also well balanced in terms of the different voices that feature this time. You have everyone from Susie Wolff, CEO of Venturi Racing in Formula E and wife of Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff, Claire Williams, former CEO of the Williams F1 team, and more narration from F1 journalist Jennie Gow. You also hear from Michael Masi, Formula 1’s former race director, who was replaced after an FIA review of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Guenther Steiner, team principal of the Haas F1 team, is the biggest highlight of season 4 . Over the last three seasons of DTS, Steiner has become a much loved figure among F1 fans, thanks to his no-nonsense attitude towards the drivers and racing. His struggles to keep the Haas F1 team afloat and managing two rookie drivers in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin in 2021 show how ruthless—both from a financial and man-management angle—this sport can be.

Russian driver Mazepin’s difficulties while settling in at Haas makes for interesting viewing as well, given the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. Earlier this month, Haas announced that they had parted ways with Mazepin and their title sponsor Uralkali, the Russian company owned by Mazepin’s father, Dmitry. Danish driver Kevin Magnussen has now returned to Haas, signing a multi-year deal.

DTS season 4 is lacking in some places too. This new season could have definitely afforded more time to some other key moments from the 2021 season. The Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, for instance, was one of the most enthralling races—even for the neutral viewer—in recent memory, where Hamilton went from the back of the grid to bag a crucial win in his battle against Verstappen. Yet, it only finds very little air time. It is perplexing to think there was no mention of Finnish driver and former world champion Kimi Räikkönen, who left Alfa Romeo and retired from Formula One at the end of last season.

In all, this new season of Drive to Survive ends up becoming a dramatic review of the 2021 F1 season. But nothing will ever come close to the real thing.

Also read: Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling win is a lesson on life and longevity

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