Formula One at Monaco with fans watching

This article is a way of advocating for the continued production of sports documentaries like Drive to Survive.

Why? Because I love them. No, I joke. I do love them, but the real reason is that they’re a perfect way to introduce new audiences to the sports we love. They give unparalleled fly-on-the-wall access. Footage we haven’t even seen as fans. And they do so with Hollywood-esque storytelling.

Now that last sentence is where the controversy around Box to Box‘s Drive to Survive begins. So, here’s my attempt to explain why it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.

The controversy stems from one big question looming over Season 3 of Drive to Survive – who is the audience? The obvious answer to a lot of people would be F1 fans because it’s an F1 documentary, right? Nope. For me, the audience is the unconverted — the future.

Don’t get me wrong, F1 fans can get a lot out of the series. We see Seb Vettel’s awkward exit from Ferrari. And the relationship obstacles when Daniel Ricciardo announced he was leaving Renault. Events reported in the news but never genuinely understood at an emotional or intricate level.

But the true essence of Drive to Survive is storytelling. Narrative building. Creating heroes and villains. The aim wasn’t to satisfy the needs of the extreme race fan. Or to explore extensive technical analysis. The last thing the bosses of F1 want is to close off the sport to newcomers, to alienate the majority with technical jargon in an already complex world.

The aim was to conquer Netflix. To infiltrate the 200 million subscribers. To showcase the beauty and craziness of F1 to an audience that watches Bridgerton and The Crown, Stranger Things and Narcos. And to protect the future of the sport.

Formula One, like many sports, has to expand its fanbase. It can’t keep trundling along in the midfield. No sport can. When it comes to mechanical engineering, the sport is all about innovation. They need to replicate that with their marketing, and DTS does that.

The biggest indicator for me was this quote from Formula 1 managing director Ross Braun last year:

“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic. And that’s the type of initiative that we’re doing, we’re looking at taken an holistic view of how we can lift F1.”

As F1 fans, we’re already in love with the sport. We’re hooked on weekends watching Friday practice through to the chequered flag on Sunday. Drive to Survive for us is a bonus. A teaser to get us even more excited for the season opener.

For the new fan, it’s so much more. It’s the shop window. The perception destroyer. The clear message that Formula One isn’t a man’s game anymore. It’s open for everyone.

I hope Drive to Survive can continue to break down barriers and capture new audiences, even if storylines need to be stretched. Based on the latest Google Trend data, the show is only going in one direction right now.

The Google Trend data for all three seasons of Drive to Survive