I started watching Formula 1: Drive To Survive thanks to a short blurb in The New Yorker boasting a “Real Housewives” atmosphere, but with fast cars. As a fan of both sports and drama, I couldn’t find a reason not to give it a chance. Plus, it’s ranked in Netflix’s Top 10 shows and with five seasons already, how bad could it be?
In the words of Bill Hader’s Saturday Night Live character, Stefon – it. has. everything. Attractive, young men from across the globe have come to the screen to steal my heart alongside adrenaline-pumping races following one of the most difficult sports known to man. Cue the eye rolls.
These drivers have become the newest trend in sports. They’ve earned TikTok thirst traps and mashups, fanfictions galore, and throngs of fans everywhere they go. My entire For You Page consists of Daniel Ricciardo's best interview moments and Charles Leclerc slo-mo getting out of a car. Alphatauri even debuted their new car at New York Fashion Week this year – these boys are everywhere.
There are only 20 drivers in the world who can operate a Formula 1 car for 50-70 agonizing laps. It’s a male-dominated sport – few women are ever even interviewed in the show – but the majority of the F1 fandom is composed of women thanks to the Netflix series.
But the Formula 1 Fever isn’t by accident. In 2016, it was purchased by Liberty Media for $4.4 billion. The sport was in major need of a revamp with a 40% drop in viewership from 2008-2016 – they desperately needed a younger generation of fans despite the sport’s resistance to change. When Liberty Media stepped in, a Netflix contract followed soon after, and the rest is history.
The Cut reports, “The 2022 F1 season was the most viewed, ever, in the U.S., and the largest demographic growth was seen in young people, aged 12 to 17 and 18 to 34, and women. Women made up 352,000 viewers per race, a 34 percent growth from 2021, meaning they made up 28 percent of the 2022 audience.”
Teams and drivers were now allowed to take to social media to promote their season – the ultimate power move to reach wider audiences. TikTok found these handsome faces and shiny new personalities and suddenly Formula 1 had a fanbase foaming at the mouth.
The Cut brings up a good point: Formula 1 is easy enough to follow with fewer rules and less players than the National Football League and other popularized American sports. You no longer have to ask about positions – the only positions that matter in F1 are where the drivers are starting and finishing – or pretend to care about a 50-person roster. Something so new-feeling in the United States also invites more women to watch, as football can feel like an even less inviting boys club.
And although DTS fans aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by long-time Formula 1 fans, it’s a hell of a lot easier than making a jaded effort to talk football with a bunch of guys who have been watching the sport “since day one.” The Netflix series makes F1 easier to digest. I already know that Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes is the Tom Brady and New England Patriots of Formula 1… and that Max Verstappen for Red Bull is the one to watch.
The Ferocity of a Fangirl
Being a longtime fan of Harry Styles, I’m no stranger to being called a crazy fangirl. The condescending term has since been attached to new Formula 1 fans who came for the hotties and stayed for the sport. In situations where women show unyielding support and come together to push something into uber-popularity, the term “fangirl” is meant to embody the hysterical, unstable female.
And yet, because of these inconsolable women, Formula 1 is becoming insanely popular. Brands like Pacsun and Abercrombie debuted their own Formula 1 clothing lines and Netflix launched Full Swing, the golf version of the show. So pray tell – what, exactly, is wrong with fangirling?
If you put 80,000 screaming men in a stadium, some of whom have flown across the country and spent half their paycheck to see their favorite player, you’d call that Football Sunday. But if you put 80,000 screaming women clawing after a boy band, it’s worrisome.
Harry Styles said it best himself:
“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? … You’re gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”
The fervent support of women to any format – music, sports, etc. – brings viewership, money, and popularity to anything they get behind. Why anyone would want to hide Formula 1 from this success is beyond me. At the end of the day, Formula 1 – and everything else – may very well be for the girls.