Netflix’s ‘Formula 1 Drive to Survive’: Season 5 Story Edit

Co-executive producer Tom Rogers talks about how “Drive to Survive” keeps pace with each season of the docu-series in real time.

Racing car driving is far more complicated, exciting and potentially heart-stopping than a bunch of left turns. Formula One, the international motor racing series with the fastest cars still on the road, has delivered dynasties, rivalries, chess-match tactics and epic overtaking for more than 70 years. But at least in America, sports has long been a tree falling in the forest, and no one can hear whether it makes a sound or not. From now on, every F1 season is a tree falling in the forest, filmed from every angle for the Netflix documentary Formula 1: Drive for Survival.

“We’ve always wanted to make a show that transcends sports, which doesn’t mean we don’t want our existing sports fans to love the show. We definitely will, but we wanted something that was accessible,” co-executive producer Tom Rogers told IndieWire. “I am a lifelong Formula 1 fan. But many of our team were new to F1 and it’s about creating a show that appeals to all kinds of demographics. And I think with the growth of the sport globally, obviously you can’t say it’s all Drive to Survive, but hopefully Drive to Survive played a role in that process.”

‘Formula 1: Drive for Survival’ produced by sports documentary specialists Box To Box Films million viewers watching every single F1 race in the US. But just like the drivers themselves, the team behind the series has to work fast. Very fast.

Season 5 dropped on February 24th, less than a week before the season’s climax at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and filmmakers are already building the building blocks for Season 6. It’s a huge editing challenge that “Lead to Survive” takes on with many, many hands and many people. a little guesswork.

“The tricky thing is that to create a satisfying beginning, middle and end episode, you have to know how that person’s trajectory is going throughout the season,” Rogers said. “So even with an (early) episode, you almost have to know what’s going to happen with that character towards the end of the season. We try to start editing early enough so that we don’t do everything too late in the season and it’s a lot of pressure. But inevitably you want to see the whole season.”

For example, Season 5 will see the American Haas team in the spotlight in Part 1, much earlier than usual, Kevin Magnussen’s surprise return to the F1 driver’s seat and Mick Schumacher’s younger driver’s struggles in the second season – all under the signature of team boss Guenther Steiner. sincerity. This episode works as a strong season opener while effectively foreshadowing Haas’ Schumacher cut at the end of the season, but the surprise pole (first starting position) that Magnussen wins at the Brazilian Grand Prix is ​​grafted onto the end of an entirely separate episode. It maintains the feel of a series that recreates the arc of actual Formula 1, and speaks to how little time ‘Drive to Survive’ has to pack in any end-of-season surprises.

Drive to Survive S5.  Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda in Drive to Survive S5.  BC Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

“Form-1: Drive to Survive”

Courtesy of Netflix

For each episode, Rogers points to the “massive” editing teams at Netflix, Box to Box and Formula 1, most of which are approaching the final episodes of the season. “Once you see the episodes on Netflix, if you go to the secrets, you can usually find out which episodes were later in the schedule,” he said. “The list of editors is getting longer and longer, and they are supported by a team of editor-producers who are like story producers, team researchers, loggers, story producers, a very large team of assistant editors and post-production workers as well. .”

The editorial team must react quickly to the twists and turns of the unfolding F1 season, while the producers must make strategic guesses about where to allocate time, resources and focus. The driver contract carousel known as the ‘crazy season’ towers over the fifth and sixth installments of this season, which is fitting given the sparks sparked by Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri jumping ship from Alpine to Aston Martin and McLaren respectively.

Fernando Alonso entered "Formula 1: Drive to survive"

“Form-1: Drive to Survive”

Courtesy of Netflix

Of course, nobody in the world of Formula 1 thought that the 2022 season would happen, but the docuseries team developed strategies to clarify the areas of focus and log the right level of coverage. While Rogers said the show’s trick is to create the perception that cameras are everywhere, “Drive to Survive” during the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that embedding shooters in teams, sometimes just a with a team in a competition, it produced a better result. results than trying everywhere at once.

“One of the principles we had to embrace (for COVID) was to integrate into teams and become part of the healthcare bubble,” Rogers said. “And we found that by reducing the footprint, but giving the crews more intimate access, we got a better level of content, and that’s a principle we’re still trying to use going forward.”

With the number of teams and drivers relatively controlled, “Drive to Survive” treats drivers, race engineers, strategists and mechanics with the same care and emotion as a long-running series. Daniel Riccardo is probably feeling good about being paid $18 million right now no They drove to McLaren in 2023, but the Australian’s absence from the grid ultimately spelled the end of “Drive to Survive” season 5, including a montage of Riccardo from the Netflix show’s entire run.

Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Riccardo and Sergio Perez were on the grid in season 5 "Formula 1: Drive to survive"

“Form-1: Drive to Survive”

Courtesy of Netflix

“It’s Danny’s voice that we hear in the first episode (season 1) talking about what it means to drive a car. We spent time with his mom and dad during a race, and I think the beauty of a show like ‘Drive to Survive’ is that we’ve been on that journey with Daniel,” Rogers said. “He was a huge part of the success and the journey of the show. And it definitely leaves a big hole. It felt right to mark that exit, and it was actually quite a cathartic process for us too, because you forget some of the great moments in those five years.”

With Rogers and his team already looking ahead, do they have an idea of ​​where Season 6 might take viewers? After all, they knew at the start of Season 5 that Miami would be one of the races that warranted a bigger footprint.

“Everybody’s talking about Vegas,” Rogers teased.

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