Hello friends from weirdly warm PA, where all non-life-sustaining businesses are closed and the announcement made it extra clear that this includes professional services like accounting and legal, and tbh I’m pretty sure they said that because we’d get all “but SURELY they cannot mean MEEEE” and then Governor Wolf is like “did I stutter” and it’s a whole thing. So yeah. Home and working from here and socially isolating because I’m a good citizen and also starting tomorrow morning it’s against the law.
Mostly, for this post, I just wanted to write about a show that I’ve been enjoying, but considering that many of you/us are working remotely, or asked not to come in, or simply just quarantined based on symptoms or exposure, here’s a show you can spend some of your time on. Post title reflects this. Stay healthy and safe if you can and watch this in your down time if you can’t or won’t leave the house. Holding you all in my hearts, and if you’d like prayer on something specific please do reach out. Any way, here we go.
I am not what you’d call a “car person.” The extent of much of my automotive knowledge is “that certainly is a car, wow, look at it go” and I can barely drive stick (like I *probably* won’t stall it instantly and I can get you from one end of a parking lot to the other). Loud noises stress me out. Danger stresses me out. The only thing I know about engines is that the War Boys in Fury Road did that V8 thing with their hands and also that V8 is a rarely-delicious beverage. Cars, to me, are get-my-body-to there-machines with some very needed padding. I know just enough about cars to not get totally screwed over by an unscrupulous mechanic (if you try to tell me that my 12-year-old Camry needs a new flux capacitor I will bid you an uncomfortable goodbye and leave the premises) but not more. And, sure, I’ve watched a decent amount of Top Gear and The Grand Tour but boy howdy do I zone out on the tech stuff big time. My expert analysis when they test out a new supercar is “wow fast” and scene. I still hear the awful Sascha Baron Cohen French accent from Talladega Nights say “Formula uuuhn” when I read it. Now you are doing the same thing, and I’m not sorry.
Anyway, all of this is the lead-in to “please go watch Formula 1: Drive to Survive right flippin’ now” because it is great and it is so great that I am now a person who cares about Formula 1. The first season of this show was released in March of 2019 and I watched it all almost straight through having had no idea about anything. Definitely go watch the first season, and then come along with me and watch the second season which I’m halfway through. And if you’re wondering, yes, it covers the previous year’s race season, so the first season covers 2018, and the current one covers 2019, and the 2020 season is, well, on hiatus. Races are postponed, and they are trying to set up a virtual race series, and I am getting way ahead of myself sorry ANYWAY
“Wait, what even is Formula 1,” I hear you saying. “I really want this lady with basically negative amounts of car knowledge to educate me on its finer points,” you say. I hear you; let’s go.
Formula 1 is the highest level of open-wheel (tires do the sticky-outie thing to the sides vs under the car like your Hot Wheels probably were, like the car is a lizard rather than a moose, I am incredible at automobile mechanics) racing in the world, and there is a bonkers amount of money in it. Throughout a season, there are 21 Grands Prix, and the goal for everyone is to win points at each of these races. There are ten teams, each with two drivers/two cars each, so there are 20 total drivers at any given time, no more. The championships for which they are competing are both the driving championship, and the manufacturers’ championship. So, for example, last year (and a whole bunch of years before) Mercedes won the prize for being the best car maker, and Lewis Hamilton, on the Mercedes team, won the prize for the best car driver.
The way they do that is by earning points, and you earn points for finishing the race fastest, and I can feel you rolling your eyes at me, it’s fine, I know, just give me a goshdarn second to explain details, okay? Each race has trials the day before, which is where you (either by yourself or with not as many cars) get to go around the track and try to set the fastest time, which earns you (stop giggling) pole position. That gets you the best spot on the track for the real race. You can also lose spots by doing dumb shit, like hitting other cars or cutting corners or not parking your yacht correctly (that one is only at Monaco and I think I’m joking but I cannot confirm). When that happens, even if you were fastest, you get knocked down some spots. It’s not impossible to win from a very far back spot, but it sort of ends up a self-fulfilling prophecy: you did worse at trials because you are worse so you start worse and you stay worse.
And the points available aren’t like 20 for first place, 19 for second, 18 for third, all the way down, etc. Nope. You gotta be in the top ten to earn any points, so if you zoom around forever and cross the line 11th, that is unfortunate and you stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks and you get nothing, you lose, good DAY, sir. And it’s not even a straight shot for those top ten places: you get 25 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, then 12, 8, 10, 6, 4, 2, and 1. You can see how those podium finishes can just catapult you comfortably to the top and you can stay there. Sometimes the drivers’ championship is wrapped up with like 3 or 4 races still left in the season because no one can catch the guy in first. OH, and if you’re in the top ten and get the fastest lap, you get an extra point. It’s like a little extra bonus award but if you aren’t in the top ten you can’t get it because they don’t give points to losers. I’m kidding. I think. But seriously I think it is so that you don’t go careening off the track in an attempt to get the fastest lap? You are not here for my editorializing, it’s like the zoomiest guy can have a little a point, as a treat, no I cannot stop being Extremely Online sorry not sorry moving on
You get those points for you and for your team, so while each team’s best interest is to have two good drivers, the drivers themselves are frequently trying to edge out the other guy on their team since there’s a championship just for them. Like, sure, it’s good for Mercedes to have a one-two finish regardless of which driver gets which place, but it’s good for Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes to be in that first spot.
So yeah, the sport is fast cars and lots of money and very good-looking men (I genuinely don’t know if there’s like an in-writing requirement but a number of the drivers have model-level good looks and can you please leave some beauty for the rest of us, no really, go look up Carlos Sainz, he drives for McLaren and his eyelashes deserve a sonnet where was I) but why should you watch this show, specifically? Here, you can get some additional reasons that I like it, which are the correct reasons.
Cool thing number 1 about this show
The races are really, really cool to watch in the way that Netflix filmed and edited them. Really. And again, even if you are not a car person and the idea of watching a motor go around a track a bunch of times sounds awful, they only put the best and most exciting parts on-screen. Their film crew is amazing and the shots are all amazing and they ZOOM SO FAST, GUYS. SO FAST. It’s easy to like any sport when you only see the exciting stuff, and that’s what happens here.
You also have a lot of shots from the driver’s point of view, and while the film isn’t as high-quality, it’s still very much like you’re a screaming terrified passenger along with the driver for the race. That’s me, I’m the terrified passenger.
There are also aerial shots of these tracks and some are like, rolling hills and sunshine and some are twisty-turny streets and it’s like that joy you felt when picking a map in MarioKart in N64 that was a thing right sorry I only ever played at friends’ houses Monaco :: Rainbow Road I think
Cool thing number 2 about this show
It is multilingual as heck and yes a large number are European languages but there are also a bunch more (a few teams use Honda engines, for example, so there’s some Japanese) and it’s delightful to listen to and yet another plug for my using subtitles. It also just Smackdowns you to the floor re: your level of accomplishment and while that might not be your thing, it is mine!
It is a nice reality check for me/most Americans that we are absolutely atrocious with language. Leaving aside the gross nationalistic “speak English” stuff that your least favorite cousin does, we are so flippin’ lazy it is borderline humiliating, and basically every minute of this show is a strong reminder of this fact.
All these dudes speak at least two and sometimes three or four languages. The drivers from France and Denmark and Spain and Monaco and Germany and Finland and Brazil and Italy all do their interviews in English, and very good English, at that. The Brits and the Australians are kind of like us, so we aren’t alone in our monolinguality, but it is just comical to see these extremely talented people who are already so impressive at driving and managing the press also switch flawlessly between entire languages. I took like 8 years of French and my skills include “that fuckin’ r sound” and “saying French words really pretentiously in the middle of English speaking, i.e., Grands Prix.” Charles Leclerc, for example, is an infant who is allowed to drive a car worth a million dollars and can speak to Netflix about his emotions surrounding being partnered with a four-time world champion on the Ferrari team when at the Italian Grand Prix in English despite it being his third language after French and Italian.
It’s fine, go drive your little Hot Wheels or whatever, I’ll be over here resentfully pronouncing Lacroix as “lah-CWAH” and forgetting I’ve left the parking brake on
Cool thing number 3 about this show
The speed at which these drivers and teams do anything is also just staggering. Their average pit time is two seconds. TWO. SECONDS. I can’t even remember the last time I had a thought that only lasted two seconds, and these people take off one set of tires and put on another one in two goshdarn seconds. There’s a segment of the Mercedes episode where one of the cars is pitted for almost a minute, and the announcers are treating it like they’re announcing the Hindenberg crash. It sounds ridiculous until I remember that a minute is thirty times longer than the average, and that these races have gotten down to thousandths of a second, and a minute is basically the Hundred Years’ War being fought mid-race. Everything is fast, all of it, even these drivers with their little go-karts they drove as kids. When I was 12 I was an incompetent little doofus trying my best to not fall over when I got up from the dinner table. These kids get the keys to the rocket launcher.
Cool/mildly depressing thing? number 4 about this show
Not joking, they are all infants. Infants! One of the drivers that is winning all the time is 22 and he won the very first race he entered and he was EIGHTEEN. ONE. EIGHT. At 18 I tried to find a whole-ass cookout during college orientation and failed. This kid maneuvered a ground spaceship past 19 other ground spaceships in his first spacerace.
That kid I mentioned above, Leclerc? They have a scene with him and Sebastian Vettel, his Ferrari teammate, driving up to one of the races in the same car. Vettel, who is 32, my age, turns on music, and “Come Out and Play” by The Offspring comes on, and Leclerc has no idea who they are, and then I remembered he said his birth year earlier in the episode, and it’s 1997, and then I looked up the release date of the song, and “COME OUT AND PLAY” IS THREE YEARS OLDER THAN HE IS. I appreciated Vettel very much in that moment for lightly ribbing his teammate for not knowing anything because instead of a dried-up, irrelevant skeleton shouting “you gotta keep ’em separated!” I was a cool, relevant beacon of maturity like 4-times Formula One Champion Sebastian Vettel. And then I remembered that they were about to race against Max Verstappen, who made his Formula One debut at age 17, and then my decrepitude pulled me horizontal once again.
Yeah, watch the show
It’s interesting, it’s fun, it has soap opera levels of drama, it has guys you love to hate and guys you love to love, it has interviews, it has zoomies of the highest caliber, and you’ll be able to use it to make European friends, or something. I don’t know.
Stay safe, stay home, I’ll post another couple of things like this while we’re all trying our best.