Daniel Ricciardo: Drive to Survive has changed F1’s fandom ‘massively’

Thomas Maher
Daniel Ricciardo with a big smile. Singapore October 2022

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo with a big smile. Singapore October 2022

Daniel Ricciardo has praised ‘Drive to Survive’ for making Formula 1 “accessible” to a whole different fandom – but admitted it has come with some changes.

The Australian driver said the success of the Netflix series has turned F1’s fandom away from being a “very niche” group of followers as the sport’s popularity worldwide continues to boom.

‘Drive to Survive’ began in 2019, with the first series reflecting on the 2018 season. Almost immediately, the series proved massively popular as it introduced a new audience to the world of Formula 1 with those fans engaging with the narrative-driven aspect of the show.

Three-and-a-half years on, the show continues to scale new heights – particularly after the on-track dramas of the 2021 season.

Appearing on the ‘Your Mom’s House’ podcast, Ricciardo was asked about his own popularity exploding as he was one of the stars of the first season.

He laughed with the show’s hosts Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky as they made off-colour jokes about the benefits of being a grand prix driver and a star of the show before he got serious about the Netflix effect.

“Massively, massively!” he said when asked whether he has seen a change in F1 fans over the last few years.

“It really has changed drastically since the series. Because it was a very niche group of followers that was…F1 is some people’s life. Like, it’s the only sport they love and they are into.

“But then there’s basically the rest of the world following every other sport except F1.

“It just wasn’t very accessible for many years. Even like the simple fact we wear helmets – you couldn’t really put a face to a name.

“So the show just lets people in. Personalities, stories…everyone can buy into that and it makes it seem normal to some degree.”

Daniel Ricciardo reaffirms he won’t be on the F1 2023 grid

The hosts then asked Ricciardo about his plans for 2023 as the Australian has eschewed the apparent opportunities he had to sign deals with other teams after McLaren bought him out of the final year of his contract.

“I’m not gonna race next year, I’m not gonna race F1,” he said.

He explained he is hopeful of finding a way back into the sport in 2024 as rumours link him with a potential reserve driver role with a leading team like Mercedes or Red Bull next season.

“My eyes are certainly still set on F1,” he said.

“But with everything that’s gone on, I need the time off. I think the way the contracts and everything shapes up, I think 2024 is potentially smarter as well for me to set my eyes on that and then get the time off to just reset and rebuild.”

Daniel Ricciardo ahead of McLaren team-mate Lando Norris. Belgium, August 2022.
Daniel Ricciardo ahead of McLaren team-mate Lando Norris at Spa-Francorchamps. Belgium, August 2022.

Ricciardo also spoke more about the ‘love/hate’ relationship he has had with the sport in recent years as his form dipped after joining McLaren, but said there are still plenty of things about the sport he loves.

The intensity of the competition – the tiny margins that separate the elite from the merely very good – is part of what continues to keep Ricciardo’s fire alight, according to himself.

“The crazy thing is like a tenth of a second is the margin,” he said.

“If you say a second is the gap – a second is the difference between me and you – it’s an eternity.

“In terms of the fine margins the sport works with is insane. For me, still, the craziest thing about the sport is there are 20 of us. That’s it. Twenty drivers in the world, obviously, in Formula 1.”

Has the Netflix effect been a good thing?

While F1’s popularity has exploded as a result of ‘Drive to Survive’, there can be little argument the change in fandom has had an effect on the tribalistic fighting between driver and team supporters that has spilled over into social media toxicity and, at the extreme end, outright hostility and hatred.

Earlier this week, PlanetF1’s Sam Cooper wrote an article addressing how this toxicity has ramped up in recent seasons, while newly-crowned F1 World Champion Max Verstappen also spoke about how social media hatred is something that needs addressing as he branded it “damaging and hurtful”.

This was following Red Bull’s boycott of Sky F1 after the team pointed out “unbalanced” commentary from broadcaster Ted Kravitz, which resulted in the pundit becoming the focus of a campaign of abuse on his own, and Sky’s, social media channels.

While vehement fandoms have existed throughout the sport’s history, the incessant and abhorrent nature of it has escalated in recent seasons – the timing of it being alongside ‘Drive to Survive’ attracting new fans being no coincidence.

Read More: Did Red Bull overstep the mark with petulant Sky F1 boycott?