The reach of Drive to Survive goes beyond F1 fans. Now other sports want to copy the show’s success
As a kid, Mike Janik spent his days smashing Hot Wheels cars together and playing racing games.
Now, two decades later, he’s ‘giddy’ knowing he’s attending this weekend’s 2022 Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal – and can check by looking at ‘the pinnacle of motorsport’ on his bucket list. things to do.
Growing up, Janik always followed the rally scene more. Until one day he came across F1 highlights on YouTube and his interest went “from zero to 100”.
“I went from no knowledge to…in the blink of an eye, in the snap of a finger, I’m logging into every race weekend,” Janik said. “I don’t miss a beat.”
From the Netflix series Drive to survive – featuring behind-the-scenes footage of usually secretive racing teams – debuted in 2019 as F1’s viewership exploded. In May, the show was confirmed for the fifth and sixth seasons. And Apple Studios has confirmed it is producing a racing film starring Brad Pitt, co-produced by champion driver Lewis Hamilton.
But that’s more than other studios trying to cash in on F1’s new audience. Other sports, like the PGA Tour, want to see if they can too.
As F1 focuses on high-octane racing, the show lifts the curtain on the drama and complexity of what makes a living as a Formula 1 driver.
“I think the most eye-opening part of this series…was kind of understanding the real team effort behind it,” Janik said. “Seeing these teams pull out all the stops to gain thousandths of a second and perform at this superhuman level, I think that’s really what sold me.”
Popularity as a driver of new content
The show’s humanity is part of its winning formula, says Adam Seaborn, sports media analyst and head of partnerships at Playmakers Capital.
It takes audiences beyond the track, giving people the chance to connect with drivers and teams – and it breaks down the complexity of racing for people who wouldn’t otherwise watch the sport, he said. declared.
“You can get a script,” he said. “You can know their back stories, you know the rivalries, where they grew up… So it’s easy to figure out who against whom every week.”
The popularity of the sport and its Netflix show has pushed the streaming platform into a bidding war for the racing rights to the F1 series – hoping to topple ESPN, whose TV rights are ending next season.
People also watch the show outside of prime time, averaging 200,000 to 400,000 viewers per run between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., Seaborn said. In Canada alone, the show’s ratings doubled from the previous year, he said.
“Netflix is in millions and millions of homes across Canada,” Seaborn said. “I think [Formula One] reached an intersection of digital media, social media and sport at the perfect time.”
Direction to stardom
In the past, movies like Rush and Ford versus Ferrari marked the start of the race’s growing media presence. But reality TV has boosted the visibility of Formula 1, straddling the line between sport and entertainment.
“What we’re obsessed with and interested in right now is actually piloting the content, which I think is so exciting,” said Alexandra Nikolajev, who started watching the show during the pandemic.
She became fascinated with the sport and its level of luxury and exclusivity. Only 20 drivers can compete, creating a world of drama, politics and teamwork between drivers and vehicle creators behind the scenes.
And F1 stars themselves are embracing new media, said Nikolajev, who shares pop culture analysis on TikTok with his more than 92,000 followers.
“They’re starting to do podcasts, they’re starting to do interviews,” she said, adding that fans are “starting to engage.”
Not everyone is on board with bringing F1 racing to the masses, Nikolajev said. There has been some backlash from legacy fans who would prefer the sport to retain its air of exclusivity.
“But I think the whole point of content these days is accessibility – and bringing us all together. And I think it’s…amazing that we’re still pushing that boundary.”
Drivers advocate for social change
Reaching this wider audience gave drivers a chance to push further boundaries.
Drivers use their celebrity status to advocate for human rights – and other causes they are connected to, said Shanika Abeysinghe, co-host of Get Checkereda Canadian Formula 1 podcast.
“Pilots are advocating for change, whether in their own little world or publicly or whatever,” Abeysinghe said.
Sebastien Vettel has advocated for the inclusion of an LGBTQ driver in Formula 1, wearing a rainbow jersey with the words “Same Love” on it at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton is the only black Formula 1 driver and created a non-profit organization identify and reduce barriers for black people in British motorsport.
But while the sport has grown in popularity, Abeysinghe said, it still doesn’t reflect the diversity of its growing fan base.
“It’s the powers that be, i.e. the FIA, that have to realize that we need a woman to drive, we need someone who identifies as LGBTQ to drive,” said she declared. “There are only 20 seats – so how can we create fairness in a sport that is inherently unfair?”
Inspirational Impersonator Shows
As Drive to survive is considering its next season, other sports bodies are exploring the possibility of using the show as a model for developing sports media.
The PGA Tour has struck a deal with Netflix to provide behind-the-scenes access to the sport, trying to recreate Drive to survive Hit.
“In many ways, there are a lot of similarities. It’s the athletes who are independent contractors who have great stories,” Seaborn said.
“You get them into the entertainment piece. It’s exciting, it should be fun. And if you become a real fan, you become hardcore.”