I am not ashamed to admit it: I jumped on the Formula One Netflix Drive to Survive pandemic bandwagon.
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It didn’t take long for me to catch that first love that I often associate with fanatics. You know the ones. Those who excessively love their team, their community, their cause, their brand, their jam! Often, with their whole entire being. At times to the point of even being mistaken for mad. Meanwhile no-one questioning them because it’s just who part of who they are. Yes, that kind of love.
Je suis québécoise.
It wasn’t my first go-around at the motorsport. Growing up on the south shore of Montréal in the 1980s, everyone knew Gilles Villeneuve. French Canadian pride runs deep. Every June, the noises of engines blazing along the otherwise nicely paved street we “biked fast on” in the summer were a cyclical reminder of a global community’s gathering. Right in my otherwise quiet suburban backyard, for la semaine du Grand Prix, the energy was electrifying. For the love of motorsports.
More recently, in March 2020, like I believe everyone else in the world, I was desperate to find ways to connect with those far-away people I love.
“Bro, how do you keep track of all these shenanigans?!”, I’d one Sunday asked my brother Alexandre, a born ride-or-die F1 fan. On his recommendation, I watched my first episode of Drive to Survive. No, let me be correct, <this is LinkedIn:> I binged the first season. He was right. I loved it.
Stories Build Intimacy.
It is absolutely no surprise to me that more than half of F1 fans in 2022 attribute their affiliation to the sport to the hugely popular Netflix series. In each 40~ish minute episode, viewers go behind the scenes with one team. The season narrative is masterful stitched together based on the race calendar. By design, all of the storylines support the viewer’s discovery of both a complex and hyper-competitive sport through the lens of team and individual dynamics that make up its culture, and its rules. It’s a front-row seat to a carefully orchestrated circus.
We’ve seen drivers rest and train in their home countries with their families around during the offseason. We have also seen them soak in garbage can ice baths behind pit road. We have seen what it’s like to commute to the race in Monaco by boat and in Mexico by car service + helicopter. Our hearts have softened with George’s tears after a personal best with Williams last season. And we still giggle at hearing Gunther curse like a sailor, season after season. We all have an opinion about Lewis ♥️ and there is no deny it, the whole world loves Ricciardo 😁.
We know what emotional Raceday radio exchanges sound like and we are listening for that human drama. For stories. It’s how we get close. And we are craving that closeness more than ever in our lifetimes right now.
If Miami, Austin and a pre-party in Vegas this year are any indication, we are ready for even more, right here in my adopted America 🇺🇸. Bring us big drama Stefano, make us feel close and we will meet you anywhere you like!
I’ll be watching for how the 2-way street between F1 content production and fans further evolves and grows in the coming years, especially following the extension of its content distribution rights contract with ESPN.
To my Drive to Survive fans, not to worry: we are good for 2 more seasons with Netflix, for now.
In general, I explore the world looking for places where I see evidence of equality. While we collectively have a lot of road to travel on that journey, I am super delighted with what I see in F1: women! In key leadership roles: in charge of team marketing and media, guiding athlete performance, crafting sustainability strategies and managing investor relations, running their own team, broadcasting, everywhere! And more often referred to and seen on tv in their roles in the garage and “everyone back at the factory”.
I am especially inspired this week, with the announcement of the all-female driver F1 Academy. The trend is catching on: more women is better for business! With the US market’s surge leading to unprecedented growth in the sport, more visibility, opportunity and coverage is big progress for diversity, everywhere. Period.
Next, can someone please give Danika a permanent microphone for 2023?! She is fresh, experienced, prepared and asks the best questions with her unique perspective and voice.
Sustainability Beyond Commitment.
Coming out of my Cambridge sustainability studies earlier this year, I had to look into it. How could a traveling act that literally burns fuel and rubber all over the globe week in and week out market itself as sustainable?! Uh huh. There is that…. As an emotional human being, I wanted to redesign everything from scratch right now, because, well, it’s urgent! Reality is Formula1 is an American corporate Liberty Media asset, last valued at $8B. It’s big business getting bigger. And it, ironically in this case, kinda moves slow.
The good news is that publicly, the F1 community’s commitment to sustainability is documented and accepted. F1, like many corporations globally the last 3 years, has declared and published its agenda. Its overall theme is clear and its logo everywhere, as a constant reminder of its vision.
It goes without saying that carbon emission neutrality is at the core of its 2022 strategy. Via engine innovation, alternative power and fueling sources, credit offsets, material choices, etc. Remarkably, F1 have managed to engage all key stakeholders in their ecosystem: teams, manufacturers, promoters and partners are “onboard”. They have considered their race impact with logistics and travel, workplaces, offices, facilities, venues, etc. And thought about how they want to impact the world outside their bubble.
While goals are necessary, just like on the track and in life, it’s the results that really matter. And so far, I see F1 activating initiatives on its ambitious goals. The aforementioned progress towards gender equality and relatively swift rule changes in support of key priorities, like the switch to E10 fuel this season, give me hope.
Many teams have followed F1’s leadership, with their own commitments. Mercedes Benz AMG is an example of excellence to revere, as usual. Noteworthy, their second report published in August, also showcases progress-to-date.
Even as a new fan, the impact of these changes is palpable. I constantly hear collective commitments referenced in interviews and commentating. Everyone is gearing up for this 2026 engine interim, all in it together. With team captain Christian Horner making sure everyone and the media knows which rules are applicable and when. 🤣
I jest. But we are talking about it. And we are bringing the sustainability discussion to the people. We are only getting started over here and a good example is hard to find. All press for sustainability in America is good press. By infiltrating American homes, with viewership is up 33% since 2020, F1 can help us hear and see examples of sustainability. We need all the help we can get to accelerate this movement on this side of the Atlantic. 🙏🏼
As the Season Wraps.
On the day of the last race of the season, I wear my fan attire proudly. For this motorsport, it’s no surprise, I am a Mercedes Benz fan. 🖤❤️💛
And for now, we rest. I’ll miss fresh F1 content again this offseason. Until the Drive to Survive Season 5 binge. ✌🏼
Caroline Trudeau is a marketing executive, an experience innovator and a writer. She has spent 25 years delivering of first-of-kind digital products, services, brands, campaigns and culture transformation initiatives at some of the world’s most powerful brands, including: IBM, Slalom, BMW, Volkswagen, ExxonMobil, Omnicom, Capita, Hilton, lululemon and AOL. She is Co-Founder of pageight, a female-led experience strategy consultancy dedicated to exponentially growing the diversity of C-Suites everywhere.