There’s no question Formula 1 Drive To Survive is maximizing the sport’s appeal. For all the elements of Netflix’s docuseries that remain off-putting to longtime fans — manufactured drama taking the place of actual drama, team radio snippets lifted from races out of context and those fabricated commentator calls — Drive To Survive is pulling in new fans who never cared about racing before, and encouraging them to stick around for the main event.
Naturally, other racing series are looking to tap into what F1 and Netflix have struck here. NASCAR is working on a host of entertainment projects, and now MotoGP may be preparing some type of documentary of its own — whether it’s a single film or a series, like DTS. Motorsport.com reports something is indeed in the works for premier-class motorcycle racing, and a tweet from MotoGP photographer Cormac Ryan-Meenan suggests that recording may already be underway.
If there’s any category of racing that I think could absolutely shine with a DTS-style effort, its MotoGP. That’s largely because MotoGP is one of, if not the most consistently exciting form of high-level motorsport out there today.
In 2020, nine different riders won MotoGP races, and the season was only 14 rounds long. The champion, Joan Mir, earned the title despite winning only one race — the third to last Grand Prix, in Valencia. In the first seven events alone, we saw six different riders on the top step of the podium. It was genuinely anyone’s guess who was going to break from the pack until the last couple of weekends.
And yes — that had quite a bit to do with Marc Márquez’s injury, which caused the six-time MotoGP champion to miss the entirety of the 2020 campaign. Márquez won all but three races in 2019; nevertheless, the action between the rest of the pack is still nail-biting to watch, even when Márquez is dominating. It’s much closer, with more frequent overtakes, than F1's best-of-the-rest battle has historically been.
But, of course, DTS isn’t really about racing — it’s about the interpersonal rivalries, the egos, the politics and those feel-good stories of perseverance and self-actualization. Until this latest era of F1 (or, perhaps, until Netflix gave us an opportunity to peek under the helmet) drivers were notoriously stoic and closed off. For whatever reason, that’s never, ever been a problem for MotoGP. Maybe it’s because the danger in MotoGP is generally higher, and that impacts the camaraderie of the pack, but these guys tend to have goofy smiles on their faces more often than not — even when things don’t go their way.
When they’re not smiling, their dispositions are still genuinely entertaining. I have a folder of Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez reaction GIFs on my computer, including classics like this and this, precisely for this reason. The tumultuous relationship between the two legends — and the media’s propensity to dig at how they’re getting on every single chance it gets — has produced some glorious facial expressions, mostly on Rossi’s part. For what it’s worth, Rossi himself is behind the documentary idea:
“I think now this format is very famous, this documentary is funny,” Rossi said.
“Formula 1 is funny and I think that it can be good for MotoGP fans that can understand better what’s happening behind the pit box.
“But it’s also good for people who don’t know very well MotoGP, and they can understand the way.”
And then there are the quotes you often hear in MotoGP, which never disappoint. This past February, Rossi told an Italian newspaper that Márquez’s behavior during the 2015 campaign — when he believes the Spanish rider willingly compromised his bid for the title to favor Jorge Lorenzo — was “unforgivable.” We’re talking six years after these events, and that one time in Sepang that Rossi may or may not have kicked at Márquez’s bike. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised to know there are more videos of that incident on YouTube, pushing every theory, from each available angle played back at the slowest speed, than there are of JFK’s assassination.
All of this, I feel, would make for pretty captivating television. Not every form of racing deserves a TV show, and the more that crop up, the more fatigued we’ll likely all be about the format. But if I had to pick one more to get the DTS treatment, it’s MotoGP.