Netflix’s ‘Drive To Survive’ series has made a profound impact on Formula 1 in recent years. Since the show’s initial release two and a half years ago, a 99% increase in social media engagements has been charted across the sport. In fact, ‘Drive to Survive,’ which provides a behind-the-scenes view of F1, has been credited with igniting a motorsport boom.
It is therefore fitting that F1 has produced its most compelling storyline for years in 2021. Indeed, the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for the drivers’ championship title has been more captivating than anything that could be scripted with the two rivals heading into the final race of the season this weekend level on points - 369.5 points apiece.
Those looking forward to viewing the 2021 title race through the prism of their Netflix account might be somewhat disappointed to learn there might not be much behind-the-scenes insight offered by Verstappen after the Dutch driver refused to take part in filming this year due to his belief that the show’s producers fake rivalries between drivers.
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However, no faking will be required when depicting this year’s duel between Hamilton and Verstappen. There has been more than enough evidence of it on the track, with the two drivers coming to blows more than once over the course of the season, most recently in Saudi Arabia where one was handed a time penalty and penalty points for causing a collision with the other.
This came after Hamilton was handed a similar penalty for forcing Verstappen off the track at Silverstone and after Verstappen’s car ended up on top of Hamilton’s during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Tensions are high between the two drivers, and between the two teams who are separated by just 28 points in the constructors’ championship.
The fight for the 2021 drivers’ title has been so dirty it has even been suggested that Verstappen could use one last ploy to ensure that neither he nor his rival finish the race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. After all, if both Hamilton and Verstappen fail to see the chequered flag, the latter will win the championship on the number of races won.
“You want to win on the track, not in a stewards’ room, not in a gravel trap. You want to win it,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insisted when asked if he cares how the championship is clinched. “It’s been a tough fight all the way through the year. There’s been some fantastic racing between these two drivers and I hope it’s a fair and clean race in Abu Dhabi.”
There is no doubting Verstappen’s ability as arguably the best pure racer on the grid, but the 24-year-old can sometimes cross the line of what is acceptable and what is dangerous. Similar used to be said of Hamilton earlier in his career, but this season has pushed both drivers to their limits, and frequently beyond them.

Max Verstappen v Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia

Image credit: Getty Images

Three straight race victories in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have given Hamilton momentum. What’s more, no driver has won in Abu Dhabi more times (five) than the Brit has. The Yas Marina circuit should suit the Mercedes W12 car more than Red Bull’s Honda-powered RB16B, particularly given around six seconds has been shaved off the lap time since last year.
And yet Verstappen can take encouragement from his victory in the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Red Bull have flipped the script on Mercedes more than once this season, like in Austin where Verstappen won on a circuit that should have favoured the Silver Arrows, and so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could do the same again this weekend.
Whatever happens at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, the 2021 season has been among the most memorable in F1 history. Hamilton and Verstappen have put on a show Netflix won’t have to work too hard to dramatise. And like all good TV shows, there will be a must-watch finale.
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