I like people to like sporting events, but that’s not for me. I’m only able to follow the game as a story, and even then I’m not particularly good at it. The characters change too quickly! There’s too much ! I love sports documentaries and fiction films precisely for this reason: the directors hone the narratives and do a ton of hands-on through the game elements. That’s why I started watching Netflix Formula 1: drive to survive. The reason I kept watching, however, isn’t because it’s a fun show about race car drivers roaming around a track, although technically that’s true. I kept watching because in four episodes I realized that deep down, it wasn’t a sports docuseries. Fundamentally, Drive to survive is a secret, unofficial, thinly disguised real housewives franchise.
Several seasons later, I still only understand the basics of how Formula 1 racing works, but if you really don’t know anything about the sport, here’s what I’ve gathered: a bunch of guys (still guys) drive ultra-fast and highly technical cars on twisty circuits around the world. Something to do with points? Ultimately, it’s a race to see who goes the fastest: which specific driver wins the most races but also which team car design performs the best. Until I watched this unfold in an ongoing reality TV series, I hadn’t realized that the particular quirks of F1 are primed for Housewife-style storytelling. The first is pure lifestyle: it’s an exclusive sport played almost entirely by people whose wealth and privilege mean they live in a separate and totally disconnected world. It costs several hundred million dollars to run an F1 team, which means that many of the central figures are either billionaires buying their place or people with slightly less stratospheric wealth trying to keep their sponsors. happy.
Drive to survive is at least 30% jaw-dropping lifestyle. These are designer watches and clothes and lively jaunts past your childhood school in Monaco; these are short restorative trips to fabulous English mansions or glorious seaside holiday homes. Housewives The series needs a distinctive background texture of blatant and shameless luxury to an absurd degree – furs, parties, mansions. Drive to survive has it all in spades. A scene from season four that made me laugh: Christian Horner, the team principal (like a trainer but also a CEO) of Red Bull Racing, taking a casual moment with his lovely wife to ride their beautiful horses in a lush British countryside. Another motif that cracks me up: shots of fans watching and cheering from their yachts.
However, any show could be about wealth. It is not the essence of real housewives; it’s just the setting. It’s really about scale, personalities, and a structure that invites conflict between those personalities. The first thing again Housewives franchise will emphasize that while the scale seems large, encompassing an entire city or state, the world is actually infinitesimal. There are only a handful of key players which means anyone new to this world can pick it up very quickly but also they all know each other and have known each other for years. F1 has ten teams and two drivers per team. Even when you add the team principals and some of the loudest owners, the sport is so insular that everyone is constantly in everyone’s business.
The tiny, hyper-focused scale makes Drive to survive a greenhouse for drama. Everyone goes to the same parties; everyone shows up at the same press conference and has to give excruciating quotes about their teammates. And like all great Housewives scene, Drive to survive lives and dies on tiny reaction shots, little moments when a person looks at someone else and flinches in horror or gasps in dismay. F1 is exceptionally well designed to support this: Although the drivers themselves wear huge face-closing helmets to protect themselves when they inevitably crash, there are huge support teams that pass every race. watching the monitors follow every little movement, their faces swinging wildly between joy and dismay. (There’s a scene in season four where Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, wears an expression that makes it look like he’s about to rip his skin off and turn into a robot. apocalyptic fight.)
For Drive to survive, the personality issue almost takes care of itself. Nine out of ten people who sign up for the sport are thrill seekers with more money than they know what to do with, and the drivers tend to be attractive, selfish young guys with a nagging need to do their thing. evidence and no awareness of their own mortality. Some are better on TV than others, of course. Daniel Ricciardo is charismatic and full of spirit; Max Verstappen’s brooding aggression makes him an easy villain. the Housewives castings are necessarily limited to women who want to see themselves on television and are therefore almost guaranteed to be messy; participants on Drive to survive tend to be people whose brain mainly manufactures zoooooooom zoooooom noises and who are ready to make deals with the Russian oligarchs so that they have enough money to run the cars fast. Huge and ethically uncomfortable waste!
The moment I realized it was really the same show, however, was when I figured out something very simple and very bizarre about how Formula 1 racing works. It’s a team sport where both drivers drive identical cars to contribute to the total team points. But there’s very little benefit to supporting your teammate, and in fact most teams are made up of two drivers who want nothing more than to crumble to dust. It’s fun to watch in as much as a gladiatorial battle is fun, but because pilots are constantly switching teams and working to get more lucrative contracts, it also has the appeal of a deep political thriller. Crew chiefs say things like “Hey, guys, let’s go” and then with the inevitable sunrise in the morning, the pilots crash directly one in the other. “We are teammates but also mortal enemies” is a familiar trope in other sports, but Drive to survive doesn’t even pretend that the team element makes sense. It is totally devoid of warm, gooey sentimentality or the facade of sportsmanship.
Let’s count it. Drive to survive is a series that follows a group of insular and extremely wealthy people. There are rivalries between them that go back decades, but every moment the drama is also painfully simple: did you win the race? Did the car crash? Who is standing on a podium and who is not? Many of the participants are charismatic, smug ninjas whose entire field of vision is consumed by their own desire to dominate. And – not to be too literal about it – it’s a show where you win the race by being the fastest person to go around and around and the same fucking circuit that you’ve been circling for hours, hoping each time you gain just a little more ground on your rivals. It is the best physical manifestation of a real housewives conflict I’ve ever seen.
It goes without saying that a comparison between these two series is not meant to belittle either side. What compliment could be higher than “This show is as addictive as real housewives”? But this is a comment on the structure of Drive to survive, which is not a traditional “rah-rah athletics and team building” sports narrative (or the equally familiar story of “sport as a way out of poverty”). This is a ruthless and limitless slime throwing contest. He is real housewives, except the cult of Mary Cosby has been replaced by a weird obsession with Ferrari, and everyone’s secret money comes from billionaire oil barons. So let this serve as a recommendation for both parties: if you are a Housewives person, consider a version in which their arguments sometimes end in real fire accidents. But if you are a Drive to survive spectator, you are not going believe What happened Salt Lake City this season.