Formula One, Sports

‘Drive to Survive’ Season 4: A pit stop before the 2022 season

On March 11, Netflix released the fourth season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive (DTS), a 10-episode docuseries on the 2021 F1 season. With most episodes highlighting a different team or race, the series draws in avid fans and curious newcomers alike to explore the ups and downs of the intense world of F1. Despite criticisms of the series’ deceptive dramatizations, season four only adds to the hype surrounding F1 as the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first race of the 2022 season on March 20, quickly approaches. 

The starting grid of the 2022 season features some changes from the 2021 lineup. One of the biggest changes is the roster for Mercedes, the winner of the 2021 Constructors’ Championship. In Sept. 2021, George Russell announced that he would be leaving Williams and instead signing a contract with Mercedes, joining seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. Depicted as a promising young driver dealing with a struggling Williams team, Russell has been a member of the Mercedes junior programme since 2016. This move left Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas without a team for the 2022 season, until he announced that he had signed with Alfa Romeo. Bottas will be joined by Guanyu Zhou, China’s first ever F1 driver, at Alfa Romeo. Filling in the gap for Williams is the ex-Red Bull driver Alex Albon.

Apart from these changes, the majority of F1 teams are maintaining the 2021 status-quo. Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Alpine, AlphaTauri, and Aston Martin have kept the same roster of drivers. The most notable difference is also the subject of the season’s fourth episode: Haas dropping driver Nikita Mazepin, the son of Russian oligarch Dimitry Mazepin—the owner of fertilizer company Uralkali, a former sponsor of Haas. F1 and Haas’ decision comes amidst a growing movement in the world of professional sports to prevent the participation of Russian athletes and Russian events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Haas broke ties with Uralkali, removing its logo from its cars and merchandise, and designed new livery without the colours of the Russian flag. With a new vacancy on the Haas team, Mick Schumacher will be joined by Danish driver Kevin Magnussen. Eyes will be on this team as they hope to bounce back from a disappointing 2021 season by attempting to build the perfect car as per the new 2022 regulations. As it stands, Haas remains optimistic after outstanding times in recent practice events in Barcelona and Bahrain. 

The new season of Drive to Survive also reminds viewers of the fiery rivalry between 2021 World Championship winner Max Verstappen and runner-up Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen refused to appear on the show, leaving Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to speak for him and his team. The drama climaxed with the championship-deciding Abu Dhabi GP. F1 race director Michael Masi elected to speed up the end of the procedure, and a controversial safety-car restart toward the end of the race resulted in a frantic final lap where Verstappen pulled ahead. The situation left Hamilton disheartened with the sport, stating that he lost faith in its ability to police races fairly. He has since stated that he is “coming back stronger” and is ready to reclaim the championship title. Verstappen’s blistering practice times and Hamilton’s reinvigorated spirit indicate that this rivalry will be very much alive for the 2022 season. 

Practice times, however, are not necessarily an accurate prediction of how the season will play out. The 2022 season will see a new fleet of cars transformed in light of some serious regulation changes that were curated to ensure better and more exciting racing. In short, the changes feature an aerodynamics overhaul that creates a vacuum beneath the floor of the cars, facilitating passing and leading to a drastic increase in downforce that permits drivers to closely follow other cars. With Mercedes dominating previous seasons, it is expected that these changes will shake up the standings. As F1 embarks on a new era with its latest cohort, next week’s race in Bahrain marks the beginning of a new season of drama and intrigue.

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