Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I talked about secret gardens with a review of a couple of movie versions based on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and a look at a documentary that visited lesser-known gardens in Britain.
A review of a documentary series about Formula One, the international league for the fastest racing cars in the world, may seem a bit of a stretch for a British Isles Friday post. I think it works because there are a lot of Brits and British places currently involved in Formula One.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive is a series on Netflix that covers stories about the teams from behind the scenes. I just watched Season 3 that covered 2020 — a very eventful year. The pandemic was a logistical nightmare for a sport that brings teams from many countries to compete in places all around the world. Seasons 1 and 2 covered 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Here are the reasons that this series will please those of us who appreciate international stories, but especially if they have a sizable British component to them.
Lewis Hamilton, from Hertfordshire, has dominated this sport for years, winning seven World Championships, so far (tied for the most ever). He holds the record for most race wins in the history of the sport. As I recall, Hamilton didn’t participate in Season 1. I suspect Netflix didn’t have enough money to get the best team to be part of the show. Oddly, it worked in favor of the drama of the series, since they were forced to focus on the teams in the midfield that were competing with each other. Hamilton shows up more in Seasons 2 and 3. His interview, as the only black driver in Formula One, was especially poignant from last season after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Three current Formula One teams are licensed as British. For the 2021 racing season, the names are Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point and, before that, Force India), McLaren, and Williams. During the series, we get to visit the headquarters in Britain. McLaren has a gorgeous modern building in Woking, Surrey. It was kind of eerie in 2020 when it was virtually empty with everyone working from home.
Red Bull Racing is licensed as Austrian (where the Red Bull brand of energy drink originated). The racing team’s headquarters, however, is in Britain. The manager, Christian Horner, lives in a lovely golden stone Oxfordshire house that we get to see, occasionally, in the series.
Both Christian Horner and Lewis Hamilton have received British honours. Christian Horner was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours. Lewis Hamilton received his MBE from the Queen in 2008 and, this past December, was given a knighthood, which means that he is now properly addressed as Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Finally, there’s the Silverstone Racing Circuit in Northamptonshire, home of the British Grand Prix. The track was built on the site of RAF Silverstone, a World War II airfield for Royal Air Force bombers. In the same month that Lewis Hamilton became a knight, the part of the track known as the pit straight was named the “Hamilton Straight.”
Formula 1: Drive to Survive shows very few women in this male-dominated sport. The two who get the most screen time are both British — Claire Williams (also OBE) of Williams Racing and Jennie Gow, BBC F1 correspondent.
So, I think I’ve made the case that there are reasons for Brit-watchers to enjoy Formula 1: Drive to Survive. I’m a little less convinced that you’ll enjoy this series if you’ve never had an interest in automobile racing. If you like dramas among men, you might want to give this a try. As a behind-the-scenes documentary, there’s only a small amount of actual racing. I had to use Wikipedia to figure out what happened in the races because the show gave me all the personalities and not all of the results.
Did I convince you to give Formula 1: Drive to Survive a chance?