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It's Time to Talk About That Car Show

Howdy, hi, hello. Welcome to Engine Failure, a culture newsletter that dives into what the fuck is really going on in Formula 1. It’s written by me, Lily Herman.

Folks, it’s almost time: The 2023 Formula 1 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain. I’ve been very dramatic for the past three months acting like F1 was never gonna come back, but here we are.

I’ll have a bit of a season preview later this week before the race shenanigans kick off (I mean, it’ll be my version of a season preview), but before we get to that, let’s discuss what we all really want to talk about right now: Season five of Drive to Survive. I'm fired up 'n' ready to go!

Oh, and this week’s housekeeping: If you want to get in on the fun, I put up a season kickoff Q&A on EF’s Patreon. I’ll accept Qs from patrons there through this Sunday night, and then I'll give 'em my answers by next weekend. Folks have already written in with EXCELLENT inquiries (a group of Discerning Haters™ in the best way!!!!), so it’ll be a good time discussing practically everything. Plus, folks are fishing for The Good Goss™, and I’m here to deliver.

Now without further ado, let’s listen to me yell about Drive to Survive for longer than is probably (um, definitely) necessary!!!

A (Too) Comprehensive Review of Drive to Survive Season 5

Sit your asses down and grab the best matcha lattes on the market, because we’ve got a lot to work through. To get this squared away at the top: I’m not going to waste too much time recapping every little thing about the show or just endlessly pointing a lot of random shit out, because many of y’all have likely seen all 10 episodes already. (If you haven't watched and you choose to read everything below, that's your decision!) Besides, there are plenty of other sites recapping DTS in earnest if that really matters to you. Instead, I’m doing my Nuanced Biddy™ thing and skipping right to larger takeaways, observations, and themes, and then I’m going to rank this show a bunch of different ways, because nothing brings me joy quite like being extremely judgmental for an extended period of time.

Drive to Survive has been around for five seasons (with a confirmed sixth one already greenlit by Netflix); that’s no small feat. Think of how many of the most successful shows nowadays have never and/or will never reach a benchmark of 50 episodes. Succession! Fleabag! Insecure! And think of how many shows Netflix cancels every 30 seconds. (Literally all of them except goddamn Outer Banks!!!!!) Yet here we are watching these silly rich men plagued with Daddy Issues go vroom.

It feels like with this fifth season, the show has crossed some sort of television Rubicon. It’s been around for half a decade. It helped build a sport into an even larger global and cultural phenomenon. It makes people feel a lot of feelings. And as such, I think it’s much more helpful to take a broader view of where we’re at with Drive to Survive and how it’s shaped not just Formula 1 as a sport but F1 culture and commentary as well.

Lastly, before we dive in, this is a quick reminder that it's okay if we all feel differently about this show. Such is life! All right...let's gooooo.


Part I: Is Drive to Survive Season 5 “Good”?

I’m getting the big stuff out of the way first: I thought season five was…fine. Pretty good. Decent. Some episodes and moments were far more riveting than others, but I didn’t walk away wanting to gouge my own eyes out like I did during large portions of season four due to all of the lopsided storytelling and pacing.

Overall, I believe the role of the show — in terms of F1 itself and the fandom as well as its work as a widely available educational and promotional tool —  has shifted over the last five years, and Drive to Survive’s producers haven't quite figured out how to pivot and acknowledge that the series simply hits differently, especially as it exposes more people to Formula 1 and has more viewers who are existing fans following the sport’s actual racing.

Back in 2018 when DTS’ first season was filmed, no one knew what they were doing, and this whole idea of providing paddock access to fans via a reality TV docuseries was brand new. In fact, the two top teams that year (Mercedes and Ferrari) declined to participate, and to me, that was one of the greatest gifts that could’ve been given to the show: It was forced to put its focus elsewhere and actually cover the wide array of other drivers, teams, and personalities who make up this traveling circus. Now, in season five, the show and the sport have risen to loftier heights than anyone could’ve dreamed; that requires a different kind of program and some retooling along the way, which it doesn’t appear Box to Box Films has done quite yet. (If anything, they’ve closed ranks even more in terms of who’s featured and who gets to have a “starring” role on the show, creating storytelling that can not infrequently feel constricted and narrow in scope.)

One prime example of this problem: Season five spent tons of time looking forward to the future instead of focusing on the present. Over half of the episodes concerned themselves more with the drivers market for 2023; even the actual racing was framed as “so-and-so needs to do well to keep his seat” more than anything else. There seemed to be little room for other endeavors at times, and in some cases, we didn’t even see the resolution after all of that hullabaloo. (Um, we got an entire episode on Mick Schumacher’s attempts to stay in F1 and they never even fully explained that he…didn’t keep the seat????) There were so many threads that were pulled and yet were never quite untangled.

To a certain extent, I feel for Box to Box Films in that the bigger the project gets and the longer it goes on, the more stuff becomes canon to follow and expand. This has happened with Engine Failure quite a bit in a different way; issues were maybe 1,300-1,500 words when I first started writing it, and now issues are considered “short” when they’re 5,000 words. But unlike EF (where I can just talk forever and ever and fucking EVER and no one can stop me — mwahahahaha), Box to Box doesn’t have the luxury to just expand the series if they want to fit more stuff in or speak with more nuance. (They are not often Nuanced Biddies™ these days!!!!!)

All of these problems are starting to make me wonder: Do we need DTS after its confirmed season six? And what does Formula 1 as a sport and an attraction look like in a post-DTS world where such an obvious marketing funnel isn’t churning out new ~content~? Even if the show gets renewed for a seventh season after this year, it’ll have to stop at some point. That’s where a lot of my attention is turning nowadays, though I don’t quite have the answer yet as to what I think will happen.

Part II: What Did We Lose When DTS' Narrative Structure Changed?

One other aspect of this show I’ve been thinking about is the series’ slow shift away from storytelling chronologically with the F1 season for the most part to focusing on a specific team, driver, or phenomenon and watching it play out over several races — or the entire year — in a single episode or two. 

There are pros and cons away to both structures, but the Box to Box Films team very much leaned into the latter for most of season five, and that’s why we kept getting footage of the same few races (Zhou Guanyu’s Silverstone crash, Checo Perez’s Monaco quali fuck-up, etc.). Honestly, the best episodes of the season, for me at least, were the ones that were better tied to chronology (such as the first and last ones and the silly season ones), and that might be where the show is better able to execute in the future. I wonder if some day we'll get a return to the old way of doing things, but I'm not sure if the current setup really fits the series.

Part III: A Quick Note on Max’s Return

As I watched the series unfold, I thought a lot about what Paul Martin said to me about how there was no negotiating involved to get Max Verstappen back (he reportedly decided to return on his own) and that the series just does what it wants, even if drivers and teams don’t like it. 

What I observed: Max got a super positive edit — and what was probably one of the most egregious moments of the season (That Radio Message™, which was RIPE WITH DRAMA) didn’t air. He also helped essentially narrate part of Mick Schumacher’s story, and according to the show's retelling, the source of spectacle on the Red Bull team seemed to lie with Checo more than with Max. (On top of that, the show didn’t even lean into what was the most absurd part of Checo’s season…but we’ll dive into that below.)

I’m not accusing Max or producers of anything nefarious. (After all, this is a reality TV series on a streaming platform; it's serious but it's not that serious.) I’m puzzled, but I believe that has less to do with Max's edit itself and more that it illustrates how some priorities this season on the part of producers were very different from those of the fanbase.

Part IV: An (Not-So-Brief) Episode Ranking

Now that we’ve spent way too long going over big-picture stuff, let’s get to The Judgment™. For those who want my thoughts on the individual episodes, I took the liberty of ranking them with a little perspective on my rationale:

P1: "The New Dawn" (Episode 1). Kicking off the season with Guenther Steiner and Mattia Binotto driving a rickety car through the Dolomites and getting wine drunk was an inspired choice. So too was the weird cinematic Kevin Magnussen flashback to his life in Denmark in the middle of his first race weekend back in Bahrain. When I saw an advanced screening of this episode and talked to Paul Martin about it, I mentioned to him that it gave me season one vibes. The storylines felt balanced, there were really great touches of emotion and humor, and I walked away feeling really satisfied.

P2: "Pardon My French" (Episode 5). Personally, I thought some of the best storytelling this year revolved around silly season’s musical chairs. (It was just as fun to watch in real time!) Almost everybody was both a villain and protagonist at different points over this two-episode storyline, and the drama was delicious even if quite a bit had to be cut for time. I also feel like I got to know Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer better; the opening with his ironing and morning routine and skinny cappuccino with a bit of cinnamon was hilarious; for a Leo, he very much acts like a Taurus. The battle between McLaren and Alpine felt a little more interesting and earned than most of what we were seeing at the top of the field. (Also, how does Checo always get roped into these goofy staged phone setups? His faux surprise at Seb’s Instagram retirement announcement was humorous in a cringe way.)

P3: "Like Father, Like Son?" (Episode 4). Thank god we got a Haas episode that didn’t have a single mention of those fucking Sochi Clouds™. I actually think this narrative on Mick Schumacher shows something DTS can do best: Provide a new perspective on a well-worn storyline. During the 2022 season, we talked at the time about how cool it was to see Max and Mick battle it out midseason in a race due to some #shenangians, but having the context that their families used to vacation together when they were kids added an extra element; Max’s continued defense of Mick throughout the episode whenever mention of his seat at Haas came up was definitely humanizing. Plus, seeing Mick himself tear up a little bit in his confessional made me a lil’ emo. He just wants to make his dad proud!!!!!

P4: "Alpha Male" (Episode 8). I was beyond excited when I saw there was going to be an AlphaTauri-centered episode this season. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda have always been a compelling and intriguing pair; I’m glad we finally got to see some of that in a variety of ways, including watching them sing Adele’s “Hello” for the team’s new podcast and Yuki farting in a car while Pierre had to suffer through it and drive. The stakes never felt impossibly high, and it was a welcome shift, though Yuki can sometimes still sound like a brat on the radio. (I'm also not so sure about this whole "he's the new team leader!!!!" bit.)

P5: "Nice Guys Finish Last" (Episode 6). While I liked this episode quite a bit, Drive to Survive has always struggled to put its finger on why exactly Daniel Ricciardo performed so badly during these last two years at McLaren; in their defense, I think Daniel himself has struggled to articulate that (or hasn’t wanted to), so the episode was much more awkward and muddled than it needed to be.

P6: "End of the Road" (Episode 10). Unlike last year, we got more of a highlight reel of the season, and it was perfectly adequate. I loved the bits at the beginning where drivers said random shit in their confessionals. Honestly, I was just pissed that we got to the end of this episode — and the season — with little more than a few scattered confessionals from Sebastian Vettel and not a single iota of a sendoff. (I do wonder though how much of this was due to Seb’s own decision on his DTS participation, especially because we all know he’ll never show us a single speck of his personal life. Still, it was…weird how little he was involved.)

P7: "Over the Limit" (Episode 9). I don’t think we needed what was essentially two episodes about Red Bull in a row at the end there, but I did appreciate the series bringing up the budget cap cheating scandal in some capacity. It was around this point in the season that I remembered that above all else, Drive to Survive isn’t particularly good at capturing winners; it thrives on telling underdogs' stories.

P8: "Bounce Back" (Episode 2). There was nothing especially wrong with this episode, but despite talking about Mercedes’ major porpoising issue, there also wasn’t anything super memorable for me other than finding out that George Russell has apparently watched at least one clip of Pimp My Ride.

P9: "Matter of Principal" (Episode 3). Similar to my Red Bull issue, this Ferrari-centered episode wasn’t heinous by any stretch, but it was just…a lot of what we’d already seen. See my above point too again about how DTS is at its best when covering underdogs, not winners or supposed-to-be winners.

P10: "Hot Seat" (Episode 7). As an actual F1 fan who followed the season in real time, this episode irked me the most given that the conflict was manufactured to a comical degree, and I feel like this episode’s real estate could’ve easily been spent on plenty of other things. I’m not saying there weren’t some rumblings about issues with Checo at the start of 2022, but the whole time I was watching, I was like, “What alternate universe of the season was this in???” Additionally, last year’s Monaco Grand Prix (the centerpiece of the ep) was the site of Checo’s infamous (alleged) infidelity incident (made worse by the fact that his wife had just given birth to their newborn son only weeks prior), so this episode left a bad taste in my mouth. Producers adding in all of the stuff about Checo doing everything for his family — complete with a clip from his 2018 wedding to Carola Martinez — was aggravating AF. I know Paul Martin said the Box to Box Films crew doesn’t pay attention to a lot of the internet drama and what not, but to me, this felt like a big miss.

Now that I’ve complained a lot, let me move on to telling the producers what they should have done…

Part V: What Would I Have Covered in a 10-Episode Season?

Let’s pretend for a second that I had the power to tweak this season of DTS myself. (I would totally be very good at it!!!!) Here's what I would do (and if someone at Box to Box Films could tell me where to send my invoice for all of this labor, that’d be great):

Episode 1: The same episode as the actual season. Hey, I loved the first episode! Part of this was likely because I got to experience it on a giant screen with a bunch of DTS nerds, but I still thought it was a real return to form for the show!

Episode 2: Mercedes arc contrasted with Red Bull's and Ferrari’s start to the season. It was a rough time for Mercedes at the start of the year, and I think everybody was shocked (even The Haters™) by how much they struggled. (Let’s not forget the time Lewis Hamilton asked if you score a point for coming in P10.) I think it would’ve been easier if there were more direct contrasts between Merc and its two rival teams.

Episode 3: Red Bull ascent and Ferrari’s slow descent into chaos. Again, I think having an entire episode dedicated to what this team was up to all season was okay! That made sense! They did win everything, after all! I don’t think we needed two Ferrari episodes so close together in actual DTS, so I would’ve just done one episode that spells out the team’s rise and fall more clearly.

Episode 4: Sebastian Vettel’s retirement (also serves as an Aston Martin episode) and the kickoff of silly season. Probably one of the greatest travesties of season five is that there was practically nothing about Sebastian Vettel the entire time. Of course, as we touched upon earlier, part of that might’ve been his choice. We know Seb is notoriously private away from the track, and maybe he was just like, “Eh, I don’t want my retirement to take away too much focus from everything else for an entire half-season.” But even if it was his decision, I’m sure DTS producers knew they’d get dinged for it.

Episode 5: A conclusion to the silly season drama. I liked that this DTS season had a two-episode arc on the silly season fuckery, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Episode 6: Alfa Romeo episode and Haas episode. I don’t think we needed an entire episode on Alfa Romeo, but it would’ve been nice to see them acknowledged a little more. Also, we could’ve had some interludes of Tiff and Val’s various non-F1 shenanigans. I’m not mad about the actual Mick-centric episode though.

Episode 7: AlphaTauri episode. This was one of the strongest eps of the season, so I’m not mad about leaving it as is.

Episode 8: An Interlagos episode. Too much happened at that goddamn race (as usual), and I want ALL OF IT unpacked. KMag's pole position! Max's radio message! George's win! Basically every single second of that weekend!!!!!

Episode 9: A Williams episode and an actual introduction to our Fish Guy™. It was really bizarre to me how the show basically tried to appeal to Americans so brazenly with that third episode using the footage of the Miami Grand Prix; I was rolling my eyes the whole time. Logan Sargeant is still trying to learn how to become A Real Boy, but he would’ve been a solid fit for discussing American fandom and the sport’s growth in the States. Plus, I think Nyck de Vries’ drive at Monza for Williams was one of the most compelling arcs of the actual racing season. Why couldn’t that be a focus for the team???

Episode 10: Red Bull wins (but with lots of questions about cheating at the end there), Mercedes figures their stuff out (...kind of), and Ferrari tries to decide how to rebuild (eh). I know Paul Martin mentioned that the final episode of most seasons tend to be a wrap-up of highlights, and I think there could’ve been a little more finality here.

Also, I’ve wondered for the past year and a half if Drive to Survive really needs 10 episodes. Every go-around, there seems to be one or two that are completely unnecessary, so we either need a full network order of 22 eps (bring back pointless filler episodes where nothing important happens!!!!) or something short like eight.

Part VI: Annnnnd Here's a DTS Seasons Ranking

*takes deep breath* Okay, let’s continue to rank things! Here’s where all of F1’s seasons fall for me now:

P1: Season 1. I mean, it’s the season that started it all. There’s a reason why this series is so successful, and I believe it hinges on the utter fuckery (in the best way) of these initial 10 episodes. The first episode alone tells you everything you need to know about F1: Daniel Ricciardo is the grid’s smiley sweetheart, and Guenther Steiner seems to never like his job but keeps doing it anyway.

P2 (tied): Season 2. This season brought us the likes of both Mercedes and Ferrari in addition to the other teams, and while the championship battle wasn’t particularly interesting, there was still plenty of madness. That said, I had to run through all of the titles when making this ranking because I straight-up forgot half of the season.

P2 (tied): Season 3. Season three was sort of a weird one because it took place during 2020; any plans and storylines that the Box to Box Films team had going into that year were obviously completely thrown out the window as soon as the pandemic hit. There are still some wild moments (ummmm, Romain Grosjean’s crash, for one????), but I’m mad two years later at the fact that they only gave Lewis basically 12 seconds to discuss systemic racism and how George Floyd’s murder affected him.

P4: Season 5. My feelings on this season put it closer to how I felt about a lot of season three than how I felt about season four. I certainly didn’t think we had a dumpster fire on our hands this year, and some episodes were a return to former glory. Still, the show is trying to figure out its next phase: What does it mean to be in the fifth year of this series that helped explode a sport’s popularity?

P5: Season 4. The fourth season showed us that the worst thing that can happen to Drive to Survive (according to Paul Martin himself) is for there to be an actual championship battle. This season featured way too much Christian Horner for even the most staunch Red Bull fans I know, plus a lot of Toto Wolff, some Sochi Clouds™, and not much else. It was lopsided from start to finish.

Part VII: A Short Meta Analysis of Major DTS Reviews on the Internet

As we know, I love to avoid responsibility and spend my time going down rabbit holes, which means I think I’ve read every single DTS season five review from practically every remotely legitimate media outlet. I’m not going to summarize all of them, because y’all aren’t paying me enough for that (though you can enter a recurring tip in my Patreon), but here’s a rundown of the best and most interesting points I’ve seen:

1. My favorite analysis: Emily Leibert over at Jezebel has written a number of bangers (including this recent deep dive into the complexities of the Hot Jewish Girl), but her coverage of Formula 1 in particular has been top notch. She did an exquisitely thorough deep dive into Jamie Chadwick’s *waves arms* situation, and I appreciated her questions when we chatted about my podcast over the summer. Her review of this season of Drive to Survive is just as thoughtful and goes far beyond the question of “Did I like this show?” Given that Jezebel isn’t a sports outlet (though it does cover intersections of athletics and feminism) and has gone through some shenanigans in recent years, I presume that ramming these pieces through the pitching and editing pipeline took some elbow grease on Emily’s part, and I appreciate that as a fellow writer.

2. I sprinted (no walking here, bitches!!!) the second I saw Elizabeth Blackstock's review go up on Jalopnik, and we definitely overlap in our questions surrounding why exactly DTS chose to leave out some of the best drama of the season, such as Max’s radio message at Interlagos. I too had a lot of…inquiries.

3. Former Sports Illustrated reporter Madeline Coleman is only a week into her stint over at The Athletic (yes, the outlet that hired a guy with no F1 experience to run their F1 beat), but she’s already come out with this delightful list of takeaways from the fifth season. Among the many great points in here: I liked MC's reminder of the fan and driver abuse (both in person and online) that we saw unfold over the course of the actual season; it feels very odd that the show didn't touch that whatsoever.

I also read reviews from outlets like AV Club, Digital Trends, Tom’s Guide, Motorsport Magazine, and Motorsport, among others, and the general consensus seems to be that while season five was definitely a step up from the much-maligned fourth season, the show is starting to sputter a bit. Some folks were a little more optimistic than others in terms of the future that the series has in the sport and the public consciousness, but many had the same line of thinking I did above about where exactly DTS goes from here. Has it made its point? Is it time to call it? We'll see.

Part VIII: How Do the Additions of Break Point and Full Swing Change Drive to Survive?

I spent most of February comparing and contrasting Break Point and Full Swing (you can read those issues here and here) with Drive to Survive, but it’s time to turn the tables. For now, DTS is the superior series in my opinion, but part of that is due to the fact that it was The First™ in this cadre of projects from Box to Box and it’s been around for a lot longer, so we have a real body of work to pull from; it’s hard to compare five or eight episodes in these newer series to 50 in the case of their F1 counterpart. I believe though that both series have shown some deficiencies within DTS — and some strengths.

For one thing, DTS’ obvious lack of voices — diverse ones but also just…in general — has become an increasingly big weakness, especially since shows like lackluster Break Point and much richer Full Swing do an infinitely better job at this. We hear from a lot more outside perspectives in those shows that we do in DTS; for instance, Will Buxton is pretty much our only consistent non-driver and non-team principal along with a few brief asides from the delightful Jennie Gow in season five. We also only continuously hear from an even smaller number of drivers and team principals throughout the season than in some previous ones, so it sometimes feels like we’re really missing the overall feel of the paddock as a result.

But on top of that, diving into my earlier point about the show being at a turning point and not really knowing where to go, this season solidified the idea for me that DTS is at its best when it’s not necessarily covering the top teams. Because this season still had to focus quite a bit on Red Bull and Ferrari (with a little bit on the issues at Merc), we were sometimes robbed of opportunities to talk about some of the zaniness happening elsewhere. But in watching shows like BP and FS, especially in sports where there are so many variables as to who plays every weekend and how they advance through those tournaments, we got to see numerous sides of participation in professional athletics.

Moreover, out of the 23 episodes of Box to Box Films-produced programming I’ve watched in the span of one and a half months, I can say without a doubt that the downright best episode of television that production team created was the Joel Dahmen episode in Full Swing. To me, it showed the epitome of what these shows can do: Introduce you to a new group of characters, a new perspective on a sport, and a new outlook on what it means to even make athletics your job.

Lastly, since I know you biddies toooootally want another ranking, here are my top seven favorite 2023 episodes across all three series in so far:

P1: “Imposter Syndrome,” Full Swing. Joel Dahmen’s episode is the benchmark to beat in 2023 as another round of sports series from Box to Box drops this spring and summer. It had everything: An ultra-compelling (and in this case, likable) protagonist, a delightful series of supporting characters (Geno and Lona have my heart!!!!), hilarious twists ‘n’ turns (ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws, am I right?), and a heartwarming ending (he got 10th!!!!).

P2: “The New Dawn,” Drive to Survive. As I explained above, I think this episode really had all of the elements of a classic DTS episode: Great racing, multiple team and driver arcs to follow, Guenther muttering “fucking hell” at least 100 times, the list goes on and on.

P3: “Pardon My French,” Drive to Survive. This is another one I explained more above, but the battle between Alpine and McLaren during the 2022 silly season was a sight to behold in real time, and while the show certainly couldn’t get to all of the shenanigans, I felt like we got several new perspectives out of this ep.

P4: “Golf Is Hard,” Full Swing. This is a thoughtful look at two very different rookie experiences on the PGA Tour. While I wish we’d gotten a little more detail on Mito Pereira’s background (why did he quit golf for a while?!), I found myself rooting for both him and Sahith Theegala, who had their own profound moments of triumph and depressing stages of setbacks. The issue I had with several other episodes of Full Swing was that I was infinitely more interested in one golfer over the other (and almost every ep was about two people), but these guys were equally interesting for different reasons. (In contrast, as much as I loved learning about Matt Fitzpatrick, I personally couldn’t give two shits about Dustin Johnson. The portrayal of DJ reminded me of every dude I grew up with in the South, and then he went to the LIV Tour to basically make a shit ton of money; I respect his honesty I guess, but I was unamused, and learning more about him since watching the show hasn’t changed my opinion much.)

P5: “Like Father, Like Son?”, Drive to Survive. While I didn’t love the ending of this episode (especially given that it wasn’t quite fully resolved), I did love this as a standalone look at Mick Schumacher and the pressures put on him. It’s the Haas episode we should’ve gotten last year.

P6: “The Maverick,” Break Point. I’m not surprised that a new series about tennis decided to open with one of its great current provocateurs, Nick Kyrgios, at his home Grand Slam. The show didn’t dive too much into the psychology of Nick, which was a bummer (and left me with more questions than answers), but overall, it was a fun arc to follow.

P7: “Great Expectations,” Break Point. To be honest, I didn’t care too much about the show’s portrayal of Paula Badosa’s story (oh no, a conventionally attractive woman lost at something!!!!), but I did love how the show unpacked some of the layers of Ons Jabeur’s life and legacy, even as she still plays. Aside from Nick Kyrgios, she received probably the most complete portrait.

Okay, I’m done talking about these series forever!!!! Or at least until next week!!!!

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Friends, something terrible happened, and it’s about to ruin my street cred (*peeks around* *lowers voice*): I didn’t hate Ferrari’s latest Milan Fashion Week show

I know, I know!!! But I couldn’t lie to y’all!! And with that confession out of the way, we can talk through this collection and what actually worked this time around.

To recap what I wrote last year, Ferrari’s last fashion show in September was so absurd that it almost seemed like the brand was trying to parody itself. Among the more egregious points: Models went down the runway in replicas of Charles Leclerc’s and Carlos Sainz’s racing suits, and clothes looked like they were made from fake car materials but in a way that reminded me of a Project Runway challenge. Oh, and Ferrari talked about its collection using some of the worst copywriting I’ve ever seen in my life. (It reminds me of Moira Rose trying to do the Herb Ertlinger Winery commercial.)

This time around, the brand went for a different and suuuuuuper novel approach: Making shit that’s pretty damn wearable. Whodathunkit? “Beauty in Motion” was the theme, and it was reportedly inspired by creative director Rocco Iannone’s love of travel. I wanted to slap myself over how much I loved so many of the coats in this line, and even the edgier, more avant-garde pieces were still generally cool to look at. There was also a jumpsuit in the mix (made in both a men’s and women’s cut) that was incredibly reminiscent of the one Yuki wore a few weeks ago.

But lest you think the brand has turned a completely new leaf, they made sure to remind you of who they really are by keeping up with the absurdly hideous copywriting. It’s like the world’s most frustrating game of Mad Libs trying to figure out what any of this is supposed to mean.

Thanks to Ferrari’s F1 team, history tells me to be pessimistic when it comes to questioning whether or not they’ll be able to keep this going consistently. But hey, a win is a win!

Speaking of Fashion Week(s), Carlos Sainz’s GF Isa Hernáez and Esteban Ocon’s girly Elena Berri were all over the place in February. (George Russell’s partner Carmen Montero Mundt also made a single appearance at the Brunello Cucinelli show — because of course she did.)

As I pointed out last week, Isa’s style has been reinvigorated by her recent brunette dye job, and we’re slowly starting to see a bit of a style evolution. Gone are the days of only looking like something out of a Madewell catalog (I mean that in a good way!); she’s beginning to take a few more risks.

Perhaps the bigger sartorial winner of the past week though was Elena. She was spotted at a number of Milan Fashion Week shows, including Jimmy Choo and ANNAKIKI; it appears she’s making some sort of move in the space. Good for her!

(And while we’re on the topic of Elena, we’re once again on somewhat of a Breakup Watch™, as she and Esteban haven’t been seen together in a while, they’re liking fewer of each other’s photos on Instagram at the moment, and Elena is back to posting about reading self-help books. I’m going to keep writing about her for the time being since we have no confirmation, but whew, these two can be cryptic AF. I guess we’ll see what happens during the first race or two.)

GQ interviewed man of the hour Joel Dahmen. A truly wild look at late-stage capitalism and “late-stage Formula 1.” A human rights group accused Formula 1 of sportswashing. Every F1 team as Taylor Swift eras. What the NBA can learn from Formula 1. Valtteri Bottas does his preseason media day. There’s a feud on Tumblr between Lewis Hamilton fans and Hamilton fans. Now the LPGA wants in on all of this glitz ‘n’ glam the PGA Tour is getting. Surprise, surprise: Brooks Koepka wasn’t happy about his Full Swing episode. The Spurs and F1? Toto Wolff is confident that Mercedes can deliver Lewis Hamilton an eighth world title. Alex Albon is in The Players’ Tribune and on their YouTube channel. The Wall Street Journal wrote its own “is Full Swing gonna be the next Drive to Survive?” article. Haas saved $250,000 but became the butt of every internet joke in the process.The Athletic’s F1 hiring announcement got the Vanity Fair treatment. The BBC wants to know if the F1 Academy proves that Formula 1 is finally taking women seriously. Dustin Johnson refuses to watch himself on Full Swing. Jenson Button broke a Guinness World Record. Here’s what Formula 1 can teach agencies about productivity. Red Bull may sell the AlphaTauri F1 team. Did Lewis Hamilton save F1? Ferrari has a new head strategist. Mets reliever John Curtiss is a big Formula 1 fan. I love it when NBC politics reporter Sahil Kapur randomly covers F1. How did DTS remake America? Lainey Gossip is all aboard the Lewis Hamilton fashion train. Behold: Valtteri Bottas and a ton of stuffed animals. Paul Martin talked about DTS season five to another outlet. Esteban Ocon is on Vanity Fair France’s YouTube channel. McLaren takes you inside the business of Formula 1.

Thank you to everyone who wrote into last issue’s Conspiracy Corner question: You can choose only one F1 driver as your single source of paddock gossip during the 2023 season. Who do you pick and why?

This was officially the most responsive Conspiracy Corner I’ve ever had, and here’s just a small smattering of the submissions:

  • Hannah: Lando. That poor kid is criminally lacking in media training and has a tendency to speak his mind without fully thinking through the implications. I just want all the messy details that other drivers might have the forethought to not air.

  • Catie: Logan Sargeant. He has the personality of a Soggy Sock™ but I think he'll know all the drama.

  • Julia: George Russell. He gets access to Lewis and not many people do, he is British and every Brit loves gossip, he is always involved in everything with the other drivers (that being press, dinners, you name it), he is tall (best view), and he seems like he wouldn't miss a detail, so you get the full version of the juicy stuff.

  • Andrea: Although Lewis was downright gleeful after the RBR radio fiasco fallout last season (so I know he loves to hear gossip), I’m going with Charles. He seems to have his tentacles in all the friendship groups. And that brilliant masterminding move he pulled dictating the text to Carlos to find out Lando’s contract? He’s actively going out and getting that dirt. Not to mention, he’s likely to be in the very spotlight of much of the gossip as a title contender and now eligible bachelor.

  • Emily: The smooth operator, of course. He's got the inside scoop on sweet. sweet Charles and wtf is going on at Ferrari (which is hopefully sheer perfection in 2023 but not holding my breath), and is BFFs with the other LOML Lando. He's got the chisme on my faves, and that's all I need this season.

  • Justin: It has to be Fernando Alonso. The man has been collecting receipts for 20 years, and we know it's going to pay off because he keeps delaying his book RACER until his contract is up. He is supremely talented, completely egotistical, and has burned every possible bridge.

  • Pippa: Oscar Piastri. Whilst there are many other more established choices (and he has a few enemies without even setting foot on the grid), I'm hoping his age and rookie status will grant loose lips in his vicinity. Also, he's not enemies with his teammate (yet) unlike half the grid, so I'm on for secondhand Lando gossip too. Plus that tweet tells me the man has a penchant for meticulously executed drama.

  • Candace: Pierre! He looks like a messy bitch who lives for drama. He'll have all the Red Bull tea from his time at AlphaTauri and through Yuki. He'll have all of the Ferrari tea through Charles. And I know he'll have thoughts on Alpine (and Estie Bestie). Plus, someone who is on social media that much must have a knack for the juiciest gossip! Case in point, Max (minimal social media presence) looks like he's always gossiping, but it's probably something boring, like who brakes too early. Pierre would be able to say, "Oh yeah he's (early braker) off his game because his ex just soft-launched a new bf yesterday and it's [famous person]."

  • Larissa: Nyck De Vries. He's worked in so many garages, he'll get the paddock tea from the teams before anyone else. Also, I need all the juicy details of personal betrayal behind that financial lawsuit.

  • Andie: This is extremely tough for me, but it's Alex Albon. I think that platinum blond hair is full of secrets.

  • Hannah: George.This man definitely read one article about the power of gossip and now believes gossip is mightier than the sword. Just in case anyone ever wrongs him, he most definitely does reconnaissance in other garages and keeps his juiciest findings in his back pocket. I have no doubt that he wields this gossip with stealth. Big "you didn't hear this from me" vibes and "How to win friends and influence people" energy from GR!

  • Sean: It's always the quiet ones who have heard the most (or like to hear the most, speaking directly from personal experience), so we've got a few options in the paddock. I think Lance is a good one because he's usually somewhere floating around people in the paddock who are chatting too much (but never enough!!).

  • Alexandra: Is it cheating to say Danny Ric? He's buds with everyone, so you know he *knows* the gossip, and this year he's just a happy little marketing Muppet (said with affection!!), so stakes are low and happy vibes are high. I think he'd be willing to dish!

  • Jon: Charles is the secret messiest. Remember when he and Carlos were on camera when Lando's extension came out, and when Carlos solicited what congrats to send, Charles told him to ask him for the $ deets?

  • Libby: Valtteri has that quiet-Finn-in-the-corner-always-paying-attention-to-everything vibe going, but now that he's an honorary Aussie too, I think he'd be real chatty. I bet he has observed some of the silliest moments off-track and never forgets a single thing.

  • Faith: Lance Stroll, because that man is still at Aston Martin for some reason and it’s not his driving. He’s got to have dirt on more than just his daddy.

  • Daniel: Yuki Tsunoda. I think he'd be the easiest to get talking about anything and everything over a nice meal of his favorite food.

  • Jade: Estie Bestie! Something tells me he's going to be grouchy this season...which lends itself well to a very loud mouth.

  • Melanie: Lewis. Remember when he brought up Sophie Kumpen entering the Max/Checo drama last year? The man not only finds the gossip entertaining but he’s willing to share!!

  • Sarah: Fernando Alonso. He’s decided that 2023 will be his last year on the grid (for real this time). He’s already burned bridges with McLaren, Ferrari, Alpine, and inevitably will with Aston Martin by the end of the season. He wants to finish with no stone left unturned and is on a mission to burn bridges with the remaining six teams on the grid; his only way to do so is through the power of pure hot tea.

  • Katharina: Pierre! Between the French beef (should it be bœuf?), the not-a-teenager-anymore girlfriend, and the pettiest team boss there is, who else could it be?

  • Ravneet: Guenther Steiner. I know he gives off the energy that he’s above it all, but I feel like there is a gossip inside of him that is waiting to be released. Also, because he has such a close relationship with Ferrari (but Haas is at the back of grid), he might have heard or seen more Ferrari tea then we think he has. I can imagine us sitting over a table of some fancy Italian food with him pretending to be hesitant but then immediately spilling the gossip.

  • Liz: Max's mom...for obvious reasons.

Also, because I’m a nice person, I put the drivers who got the most responses into this very adorable bar graph. Look at me!!!! Using math!!!! (Disclaimer: Some people tried to submit more than one person or suggested someone not on the current grid; those answers were left out of my tally.)

Today’s question: The 2023 F1 drivers have decided to form a Dungeons & Dragons group, and they're trying to decide which one of them will be Dungeon Master. Who among them should they select for the role of DM and why?

Submit your answer here.

This issue was published on February 28, 2023. Photo credits: Formula 1, Isa Hernáez, Ferrari, and Elena Berri.

Copyright © 2023 Engine Failure, All rights reserved.

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