The Quarantine Stream: Netflix's 'Formula 1: Drive To Survive' Is One Of The Greatest Sports Documentary Series Ever Made

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Series: Formula 1: Drive to SurviveWhere You Can Stream It: NetflixThe Pitch: A documentary series following the drivers, engineers, financiers, and team principals of Formula 1 racing as they struggle to achieve victories on and off the racetrack, complete with harrowing racing footage, seemingly unlimited access, and brutally honest interviews.Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: If you're feeling cooped up in your house, nothing will be more refreshing than watching a talented group of people drive really fast. And if you feel like the news cycle is full of half-truths and questions without answers, the often unrelenting lack of bullshit from the subjects of Formula 1: Drive to Survive will be a breath of fresh air. You don't need to care about racing at all to find yourself caring about the subjects of this series, one of the crown jewels of Netflix's original programming.

I have never watched a Formula 1 race and I'm not sure if I ever will. However, I have devoured both 10-episode seasons of Formula 1: Drive to Survive in only a handful of sittings, cheering and screaming and wiping away tears of frustration and joy alongside the people on screen. Although certainly produced for viewers familiar with the ins and outs of motorsports, the true miracle of this show is how it boils everything about this complex world (with its technologically advanced cars, thousands of complicated rules, inside-baseball politics, and longstanding rivalries) down to straightforward human stories that rise above it all. Yes, this is a series about racing cars, but it is really a series about the hopes and dreams of the people who drive those cars, design those cars, and maintain those cars. And through the lens of the series, their hopes and dreams look an awful lot like our own.

It's hard to imagine how Drive to Survive was even made. The glossy production values are often astonishing, blending thrilling footage from the driver's seats of racecars going hundreds of miles an hour with stirring drone photography and exceptional fly-on-the-wall footage of the various teams at work and at home. Imagining the production process is enough to give you anxiety. The fact that the show looks this good and is paced with edited with such ferocity is a bit of a miracle on its own. The fact that the subjects prove themselves so fascinating – so human, so relatable, so tragic, so heroic, so conniving – and speak to the documentarians with such candor is an even grander accomplishment. This isn't a promotional video, telling you how great Formula 1 is. This is true-life drama on a grand scale, a blend of tragedy and triumph that allows you see how the glory of a first place win comes from so much pain and so much money and so much effort.

(For the record, I would watch an entire series about Guenther Steiner, the Team Principal for the Haas F1 team, and Toto Wolff, the team principal for the Mercedes team, playfully insulting each other on their way to group events.)

Perhaps the greatest strength of the show, beyond the production values and beyond subjects willing to speak their minds, is a structure that values clear storytelling above all else. Rather than explore a season of Formula 1 racing in order, each season jumps across the timeline, isolating certain subjects or rivalries or friendships and building episodes around them. Each episode is its own short story, its own single subject. This means there is no wasted time, no poor episodes, no entry where nothing happens – every episode of Formula 1: Drive to Survive matters in a way that puts so many shows, non-fiction or not, to shame.

I don't care if you don't like racing. You're reading a movie website. You like stories. And let me tell you, this is some of the best storytelling streaming right now.