Review | Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ season five gives thrilling recap on 2022 F1 season, but not much else

The fifth season came out Feb. 24 and offers audiences a look into the 2022 F1 season. While the show does a good job at keeping audiences hooked and entertained, it lacks important details.

Emma Gaughan, Arts Reporter

Drama, intensity, and enthusiasm — that’s what Netflix’s documentary series “Drive to Survive” aims to portray about Formula One racing. Season five, which came out on Feb. 24, is an epic retelling of the 2022 F1 season — or so Netflix hopes.

In the past, fans have complained about the series’ overdramatic nature and how it focuses on the drama — sometimes nonexistent in reality — between teammates and drivers. Even the drivers and teams principals admit in the series that they think the show can be too dramatic.

The first episode of the new season begins with F1 team Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff saying, “This is not a documentary.”

Regardless of any potential creative liberties taken by the show, the series marks an important development in F1: the increase in American fans. For those who have never heard of the sport, the show is an excellent way to get exposed to and learn about the teams and drivers. With many new fans and major changes in F1 regulations in 2022, fans needed a place to digest what really happened over the 2022 season, and “Drive to Survive” hopes to offer that.

The season does not follow chronological order. Instead, it focuses on one aspect of racing — typically a team or a particular issue — and jumps from race to race in each episode, often talking about the same race multiple times in different episodes. This is an inefficient way of retelling and often left me confused about what the episode was talking about. Information presented in one episode wouldn’t be applied to the next episode, which makes it an inconsistent and difficult watch at times.

I also felt that the fifth season was sometimes insensitive both about racing incidents and the drivers. In the second episode, the series covered Zhou Guanyu’s Silverstone crash, which saw his car flipped completely over. The shots of Zhou’s head inches from the ground while his car glided over pavement and gravel before slamming into the barrier were shocking — almost as shocking as watching during a race. Except during a race, it isn’t stylized — it just happens.

This addition to the show could have been displayed and discussed in a different manner. I thought the choice to show the crash in slow motion did not add any artistic value but instead sensationalized a real and dangerous moment.

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Additionally, while it may have been a minor detail, the music was sometimes distracting. I loved how sound was used throughout the show to foreshadow plot points, such as when dramatic music played before the show discussed F1 team Alpine’s contract issues or when it played the sound of someone receiving a tweet before discussing the retirement of driver Sebastian Vettel. However, I thought music was added in certain places only to make things seem more intense or dramatic when it didn’t really fit.

While the show has many issues, I did appreciate certain aspects. The show featured some truly beautiful shots of the vehicles, both stationary and while racing, that you don’t get when watching a race live. We were shown every angle of the F1 cars, cool details of the track and scenery, clips of the countries where the races were held, and scenery that added a nice level of context to the show.

The show concluded with an outlook on the 2023 season by showcasing brand new drivers appearing on the F1 grid, including American driver Logan Sargeant.  Ultimately, I felt that the season lacked the depth that one hopes for in a series about a sport with such deep history. But for those looking for a series with cool action shots and angles, “Drive to Survive” is perfect.