Drivers Wanted: Netflix, Drive to Survive, and the New Cult of F1 Fandom

In 2019 the French Formula One driver Esteban Ocon found himself locked out of the competition. The year before, the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll had bought Ocon’s team, rebranded it, and dropped Ocon as one of the organization’s two drivers in favor of his son, Lance. The world of F1 is small, with only 20 drivers competing for 10 teams each season. Ocon wouldn’t be one of them.

Then his star began to rise.

Ocon had featured prominently in the first season of the Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive, which began filming in 2018. The show offers fans a previously unseen level of access to the most rarefied of motorsports, stretching its global reach in the process. The drivers who had participated in that first season were no longer just semi-interchangeable athletes behind mirrored visors at the wheel of multimillion-dollar cars, but protagonists in a high-stakes (and soapy) drama set against the backdrop of a tour that spans five continents each season, with stops in Singapore, São Paulo, Barcelona, and more. Formula 1 meets fast styling at Vanity Fair.