When you start up Netflix to watch Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 5, you may come in with a set of expectations. Drive to Survive airs months after the F1 season of the previous year, and weeks before the new F1 live streams.
Some of my friends have said they always expect the series to offer a particularly unique edit of what happened in the season and explain their lack of love for the series that way.
This being my first time following throughout a season before watching Drive to Survive, I should have known I might become one of these grizzled young veterans of the F1 audience. But for the majority of the new season, I only shifted between hooked and casually entertained. All teams can't be filled with messy drama, alas.
And so, as I watched first eight episodes of the 10 episode season for this Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 5 review, I was in my zone. Sure, the series has its peculiar way of time-jumping for a slightly non-linear narrative, but that's what happens when episodes mostly focus on a specific team or few. But once episode 9 aired, and I realized what the finale would likely focus on (and I was right), I felt left in the lurch.
Overall, I recommend Drive to Survive season 5, but certain things here or there have me scratching my head, like Lewis Hamilton looking at his 2022 car. Wondering what could have been.
Drive to Survive season 5 review: The drama reigns supreme
This year is supposed to be a fresh start of sorts at Formula 1, as an overhaul of regulations are supposed to create an even playing field, but you know what they say about how the more things change, eh? The new Drive to Survive season opens up like a new year at school, with all the drivers and team principals back, and not exactly excited to be under the studious eyes of Netflix's cameras.
They still love to make jokes about it all, as Ferrari's Mattia Binotto tells Guenther Steiner that the Haas team principal is the true star of the show. Then, you see Mercedes' Toto Wolff declare that Drive to Survive is not a documentary, and more like a Top Gun movie. This is where you should start to wonder about the "edit" of Drive to Survive.
That said, the boys that drive the cars will distract you in no time at all, as you'll see McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris hanging out, and as the former dances and sings (those who saw his season's full arc unfold already will already be fretting).
And the big news comes quick and fast in the start, with a changed driver that results from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But Drive to Survive gives the spotlight to the fan favorite many want to see win, as Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton speaks about being here to make up for last year's bad ending. But the memories of ex-Formula One race director Michael Masi giving the year away to Red Bull's Max Verstappen will be replaced with new Sturm und Drang. Max, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner (often shown at home with wife and former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell), are — as you'll expect — the villains to all this year.
Struggle is often the name of the game for Drive to Survive season 5, as you'll see often. Sometimes, you're watching Yuki Tsunoda's immature nature play out to the dismay of the whole Alphatauri team, and other teams you're watching closely as Hamilton suffers a rough ride. The season gives him a seemingly kind edit, as he feels stoic and heroic, yet again under conditions that nobody would have asked for.
And throughout the season, crashes and betrayals repeatedly increase the chaos of Drive to Survive. Once the show hits the 'silly season' where drivers and teams look to shake up their lineups, it gets as riveting as the NBA trade deadline season on ESPN.
There's more that I won't break down here, such as Ferrari's struggle and the chaos at Silverstone. Basically, it's safe to say that if Drive to Survive season 5 feels like it's slowing down, imminent problems are on the horizon. All told with amazing vantage points, too.
Drive to Survive season 5 review: What's missing
That said, the drama at Red Bull is frustratingly minimized on screen. Yes, you get a lot of behind-the-scenes drama from Monaco, where the pressure was on Sergio Perez, but fans who followed the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix may be completely surprised by its absence. Yes, episode 9 focuses on Red Bull's big wins in Japanese and United States, and episode 10 (the finale) jumps straight to the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi GP. Brazil, which took place between the two episodes, is not here.
All the while fans hoping to learn more about the drama between Perez and Verstappen will be left rewinding to episode 7 — the Monaco episode. The conspiracy-minded viewers out there will run the tape back to that episode, to look closely at Verstappen's behavior — and wonder what was edited out.
There's no word on exactly why the drama from Brazil — where Verstappen refused to let his teammate pass him, which could have helped Checo's points total — was not included. But it's not difficult to guess that Red Bull has some control over what makes it to the final cut, and they might not have wanted more light shone on Verstappen's behavior. Perez has already said this all shows "who [Max] really is."
Maybe the lack of the Brazil drama's inclusion should have been expected, Verstappen has told the press that his reasons "stay between myself and the team." But for the entirety of the Brazil race to be scrubbed over felt like the wrong kind of needle scratch.
And while Drive to Survive doesn't erase Daniel Ricciardo's downward spiral, those scenes felt like they would have benefitted from more showing and less telling.
I also would have loved some sort replays of the big moments in the races. I found myself needing to rewind more than I would have preferred.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 5 review: Verdict
As this Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 5 review has detailed, the series does a good job of revealing much of the behind-the-scenes drama from the 2022 season. It will also get fans more than excited for the 2023 season, since you see a little of how changes to lineups played out.
But the lack of the penultimate Grand Prix feels like erasure, and looks bad — as if everyone's trying to make sure Red Bull golden boy Max Verstappen is protected.