'Formula 1: Drive to Survive' season 6 — this Netflix show is reality TV for sports fans

Oscar Piastri in a McLaren F1 car in season 6 of Netflix's "Formula 1: Drive to Survive"
(Image credit: Dan Vojtech/Netflix)

"Formula 1: Drive to Survive" is back! For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Netflix and Formula 1 have partnered since 2019 to release a 10-episode sports documentary TV show. This year marks the sixth season of what's been a mutually beneficial partnership.

'Formula 1: Drive to Survive' season 6 — How to watch

Watch all 10 episodes of "Formula 1: Drive to Survive" on Netflix starting today (Feb. 23).

But while the show is nominally a sports documentary, it is really a reality TV show. There are characters, there's plenty of drama and there's a winner at the end. All the hallmarks of reality TV are there, and Netflix leans into it.

Each season of the show covers the previous year's F1 season to pair with the arrival of the new F1 season. This year is no different and as of today (Feb. 23), you can watch the entire 10-episode season 6 on Netflix in advance of the F1 season kicking off in Bahrain on March 2.

I was able to see the first half of the new season in advance and, surprisingly, I'm hooked. As a fairly avid F1 fan myself, I assumed that the show wouldn't prove to be an additive experience for me. After all, I already know how everything in the 2023 F1 season went.

However, I found myself learning new things and intrigued by certain storylines. Some, like the bottom-of-the-table battle between Haas and Williams, didn't quite resonate with me. But others, like the life-long battle between Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon had my full attention.

'Drive to Survive' season 6 works for racing fans and reality TV fans alike

I was surprised by how well the show worked as both a sports documentary and a reality TV show. Because at its core, that's what this is — reality TV.

Don't believe me? The show has villains. I get that the show wants us to like Lawrence Stroll, executive chairman of Aston Martin and CEO of the company's F1 team, but let's be honest: He's a multibillionaire who bought an F1 team for his son to play with, and he comes off almost as an affable James Bond villain.

Scratch that — he's what Logan Roy would look like if Logan loved Kendall.

The show also has other characters playing familiar archetypes. Alpha Tauri driver Nyck De Vries comes off like a wrestling heel, cocky about his past performance but his ineptitude just proves to be annoying. You almost want to see him fail because of how incompetent he is behind the wheel.

Then you have the rivalry. Some who follow the day-to-day of Formula 1 probably already know the incredible backstory of teammates and rivals Gasly and Ocon, but as someone who just watches qualifying and the races, it was new to me. Learning their back story got me deeply invested in two drivers I wouldn't have otherwise cared about.

Finally, we have the fan favorite. The show's hero. The people's champion.

I'm, of course, talking about Daniel Ricciardo. The one-time Red Bull driver is welcomed back into the family early on in the season and it's clear that he's been missed. While during the season his return to an F1 car felt much more in flux, while watching the second episode "Fall from Grace" it simply feels inevitable.

But this still is a sports documentary and we do get reminders of that. Race highlights, team radio chatter, footage of drivers on the test track and the simulator all remind us that we're observing sport in action rather than watching something scripted. Are you going to know how to build an F1 car after watching season 6? Probably not, but enough is going on to scratch the racing fan's itch for more.

Despite its flaws, season 6 is worth watching this weekend

I may be waxing poetic about the show's positives but I'm not blind to the show's flaws. This probably won't make my shortlist for best shows of 2024. There's shameless promotion of teams and sponsors, some storylines are much more compelling than others and occasionally an episode can drag.

Oh, and there's zero mention of Max Verstappen. I'm exaggerating slightly, but the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship Drivers' champion is essentially left out of the first five episodes and from what I've gathered, he doesn't get much attention in the next five either.

But to be fair ... would it be all that interesting if he was in the show more? After all, Verstappen dominated the season, winning all but three of the Grands Prix and securing the title with five races still to go. He never retired from a race and only failed to end the race on the podium once. He scored more than double the points of his teammate Sergio Perez, the second-place finisher in the standings. 

There's dominant seasons, and then there's what Verstappen did last year. So honestly, I didn't find myself missing him all that much. The show excels when it picks the interesting characters and storylines to focus on. And when it excels, it hooks you in. If you're looking for something new on Netflix to binge-watch it's definitely worth a shot this weekend.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.