‘Weird’ and ‘unrealistic’ – Sebastian Vettel’s harsh verdict on Netflix’s Drive to Survive

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Sebastian Vettel smiling at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has been frequently linked with a return to F1 since retiring at the end of 2022.

Sebastian Vettel has revealed he is no fan of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, admitting he found the F1 docuseries “a bit weird” when he watched one of the early episodes.

F1’s popularity has grown over recent years, with the titanic 2021 title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen attracting huge interest.

Sebastian Vettel on ‘weird’ Drive to Survive

F1 owners Liberty Media have made a concerted effort to improve the sport’s appeal since their takeover in 2017, with Drive to Survive emerging as a valuable tool since it first aired in 2019, Vettel’s penultimate season with Ferrari.

Ferrari, along with Hamilton’s Mercedes team, initially refused to take part in the filming for the first series of the Netflix hit, but have since allowed the cameras inside after witnessing its success.

Vettel brought the curtain down on his glittering career with Aston Martin at the end of the 2022 season, having become the sport’s youngest four-time World Champion during a highly successful stint at Red Bull by joining Ferrari.

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Asked if he allows his young children to watch Drive to Survive, Vettel told Swiss-German publication Neue Zürcher Zeitung: “They haven’t asked yet, but I’ve only watched one episode myself, back when the series came out.

“I thought it was a bit weird because it was so unrealistic.

“But of course I understand that it brought a lot of attention and a new audience to motorsport. You can’t do that with hours of explanations on how to adjust a damper.

“With Netflix, viewers feel like they learn more, also because there is more drama.

“But when I feel the need to find out more about the current Formula 1, I don’t reach for the remote control, I reach for my phone.”

Vettel’s comments come after Mark Gallagher, the F1 business expert, accused Netflix of providing a misleading view of F1 to potential new fans, claiming Drive to Survive gives a false impression of a level playing field after a 2023 season in which Red Bull won all but one race.

He said: “My view on it is that the series is a 10-part television commercial for Formula 1.

“One of the things about Drive to Survive is it democratised Formula 1, so one episode would be about Haas; another episode would be about Alpine; another episode would be about Alfa Romeo; another episode would be about Mercedes.

“It’s drawn in fans fascinated by these 10 teams and these 20 drivers – but then you go to an actual race and Max Verstappen wins and Red Bull totally dominates.

“There’s a couple of other quite competitive teams behind and then, quite frankly, the bottom end of the grid are also-rans.

“So you’ve got a sport which has presented itself as this level playing field where everyone is in with a shout on the Netflix series, but actually the sporting/entertainment side of it is the technical meritocracy that we all know so well.

“I think [2023 was] quite devastating for Formula 1. Brilliant for Red Bull, but devastating for Formula 1 because here we are [reflecting] on Max’s 19th grand prix [win] of the season.

“And all of a sudden, those records that we used to talk about from McLaren, winning 15 out of 16 races in 1988, has just all completely been blown away.

“Fans around the periphery, fans who have been initially switched on to Formula 1, for those fans to then be converted into diehard, that’s the next step and it’s challenging.

“There have been a few commentators – even in America – talking about the fact that Formula 1 has built this crescendo, but there’s now a threat hanging over it because the dyed-in-the-wool fans, the fanbase who really understand Formula 1 and have followed it for years and years and years will stick with it through thick and thin.

“Whereas the more transitory fans who have come into perhaps in the last two years may just suddenly now start to find that it isn’t compelling enough to make them want to watch all the races and indeed, in this case, turn up to Miami, Austin, Las Vegas and actually buy some tickets.”

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