Senna producer behind new Formula One series for Netflix

Real insight or a 10-part advert?

FORMULA One is coming to Netflix next month in a new 10-part documentary being executively produced by James Gay-Rees, who picked up an Oscar for 2010 film Senna.

Formula 1: Drive to Survive claims to have unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the teams and drivers of F1, thanks to what the makers call a “revolution” in the sport since its takeover by Liberty Media, in February 2017.

Prior to that point, severe copyright restrictions meant that footage from official tests was closely controlled, and even mobile phone footage shot by teams and drivers at official F1 races and test sessions was banned. However, a relaxing of the rules by Liberty Media has allowed much greater exposure for grand prix racing, and Netflix says the makers of the new series have taken full advantage.

Promising to “reveal the true story of the sport — not only the fight to be number one, but the battle for the heart, soul, and direction of this multi-billion-dollar business”, and with exclusive access to the top drivers, principals and owners, Formula 1: Drive to Survive is said to give “a deeper insight into the personal lives, the sacrifices and challenges of those who have dedicated everything to their love of the world’s fastest sport.”

Paul Martin from Box to Box Films said: “F1 has long been a world of colourful characters and super-sized egos, thrills and drama, victory and tragedy but until now that world has been largely hidden and secretive from fans.”

However, despite the unprecedented access and proven talent of Gay-Rees behind it, there may be questions over the series’ objectivity. Will it, for instance, examine fans’ concerns that there is not enough overtaking, or that excitement is lacking since moving from noisy V8 engines to quieter V6 hybrid powertrains? Given that the trailer was shared by the official Formula One Twitter account suggests Liberty Media may have at least some control on the content and tone.

Either way, the trailer itself indicates that there will be real Senna-like grit and insight within Formula 1: Drive to Survive, with plenty of thrills, spills and tantrums.

And it appears to have the backing of at least one former driver:

What’s more, Liberty’s opening up of the sport could be paying off; after years of decline, Formula One’s global television viewing figures held steady in 2018, according to figures from Nielsen Sports, with some races — such as the flagship Monaco Grand Prix — actually seeing strong audience growth.

Sadly, UK audiences will get a raw deal in 2019, with viewers needing to pay for a Sky Sports or a Now TV pass to watch all but one race live. Only the British Grand Prix will be broadcast for free, on Channel 4, although the terrestrial channel has struck a deal with Sky to show race highlights from each event.

Formula 1: Drive to Survive will launch on Netflix on March 8.

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Me and My Motor: David Coulthard, former F1 driver and TV presenter

Me and My Motor: Bruno Senna, racing driver