Sports and TV inherently have a ton in common. They both leverage drama and key players (whether it be actors or athletes) to captivate audiences to keep viewers craving more and more. In situations like Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive series, the two are combined, creating a product that has helped the popularity of F1 soar to new heights. Formula One has always had a presence in America, with the United States Grand Prix being held on and off since 1908, but the introduction of Netflix’s docuseries in 2019 has undoubtedly increased the country’s interest in the sport.
Since its inception, Formula One racing has been one of the most popular sports around the world, captivating audiences from different continents, breaking language barriers, and pushing the limits of what is truly possible on a racetrack. In recent years, F1 has grown increasingly more popular here, as the 2023 calendar will feature three races across the United States, more than any other country around the globe.
“In the US, Netflix, in general, is very big,” two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen tells Complex. “To get a bit more of an insight into Formula One was incredibly important, and I think it brought a lot more younger fans.”
Moments after Verstappen, his teammate Sergio “Checo” Pérez, team principal Christian Horner, and team reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo unveiled Red Bull’s 2023 RB19 car for the upcoming season, the reigning champion explained how important it is for F1 to continue to grow in the United States.
Before Drive to Survive, Formula One drivers were known to be a bit mysterious, always wearing helmets during races, and not really opening up too much to fans. Ricciardo emphasized that drivers are encouraged to open up more now and show their personalities, falling right in line with the popularity of the series.
“America responds to sports so well,” Ricciardo says. “I feel like it was inevitable and only a matter of time, and the Drive to Survive series really accelerated the growth in the States.”
While the show has had a primarily positive impact on the sport, a number of drivers, including Verstappen in previous years, have expressed unhappiness with it, stating that it skews reality and exaggerates things for TV.
“You have to remember that it’s a TV show,” Horner says. “It’s there to entertain. Obviously, the edit will make drama out of something that perhaps wasn’t as dramatic.”
While the drama will certainly be there, one thing that Netflix can’t fabricate is the dominance Red Bull displayed during the 2022 season, with Verstappen winning his second straight Driver’s Championship and the team winning its first Constructor’s Trophy in eight years.
Between Season 5’s Netflix premiere set to debut on Feb. 24, the RB19 car reveal on Friday, Feb. 3, and last season’s success, the hype around the Red Bull Racing team is at an all-time high.
“It’s not about the fame,” Ricciardo says. “It’s about sharing the sport I’ve done my whole life and my passion with a larger audience and then recognizing that this is a sport and these are athletes and getting that respect as well. That makes me really happy.”
Watch the first five seasons of Formula 1: Drive to Survive streaming now on Netflix.