Why You're Not Going to See Mercedes or Ferrari in Netflix's Formula One Documentary

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Drive to Survive, Netflix’s documentary about the 2018 Formula One season, is finally slated to hit TV screens on March 8—but, apparently, with some glaring omissions. Like, y’know, the entire championship battle between Mercedes and Ferrari.

If you’re thinking that it should be impossible to document a racing season without depicting the whole point of the season—the friggin’ championship—you wouldn’t be the only one. But only eight of the ten Formula One teams agreed to participate in the ten-part documentary, according to Telegraph.co.uk. Ferrari and Mercedes were the two who didn’t agree.

The purpose of the documentary is to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to contest one of the most difficult championships in the world. The agreement between Liberty Media and Netflix required the filmmakers to have an unprecedented amount of access to every team because the purpose of the series is to show the candid moments you’re not going to see on TV. But Mercedes and Ferrari weren’t okay with those terms, according to executive producer Paul Martin:

Mercedes and Ferrari wanted to operate under different terms to the rest of the teams, and us, as producers, and Netflix as the broadcasting platform, didn’t feel comfortable with that.

It was going to be all-or-nothing and if those terms were good enough for the eight other teams, it should have been good enough for Mercedes and Ferrari, too.

My view is that they did a slight disservice to the fans and the sport by not taking part.


As a result, the documentary barely even looks at the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton for their fifth championship title and acts like the two teams don’t exist as much as is humanly possible. Instead, Drive to Survive fleshes out the nuance of the season: Daniel Ricciardo’s rivalry with Max Verstappen and eventual exit from Red Bull Racing, McLaren’s tragic performance, and Gunther Steiner’s brutal regime at Haas.

In one sense, the withdrawal of Mercedes and Ferrari is incredibly frustrating—how can you honestly depict a racing season without two of the main competitors? On the other hand, though, the team behind Drive to Survive seems to have done a great job making do with what they had, weaving narratives out of the underdogs. It could be a blessing in disguise. Instead of hearing the same stories we usually do, fans are given a deeper look into what it’s like to show up at every race knowing you’re competing for best of the worst.


At the very least, the documentary promises to be interesting—even without the two championship contenders of the season.