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"The 'Fair City' Of Sport" - F1 Coach Patrick Harding On 'Drive To Survive'

"The 'Fair City' Of Sport" - F1 Coach Patrick Harding On 'Drive To Survive'
By Eoin Harrington

The impact that the Netflix series Drive to Survive has had on Formula 1 has been undeniable. The fanbase has boomed in the wake of the series' release, with some reports suggesting that viewership in the United States increased by 99% during the 2021 season.

It has drawn both praise for its intimate access to the paddock and its focus on smaller teams, alongside criticism for its over-dramatisation of narratives. Suggestions have even come from former race winners that controversial real-world decisions such as the infamous title decider last year were influenced by the "show".

Last week, we spoke to Irishman Patrick Harding, personal coach to Alex Albon, and asked him for his thoughts on the series and its impact on Formula 1.

Patrick Harding on Drive to Survive and its massive impact

Laoisman Patrick Harding has been Alex Albon's personal coach for four years now, and the pair are preparing for Albon's return to Formula 1 in 2022 with Williams.

When we got the opportunity to speak to Harding last week, we asked him for his thoughts on Drive to Survive and its impact on Formula 1 as a sport.

Being honest, I've never watched it, just because I don't want to watch myself in it!

But you cannot underestimate the amount of attention and the amount of new fans it has brought to F1. It's been incredible. It's a sport that relies heavily on fans and on sponsorships and on merchandising.

From a sport development point of view, it's been really incredible, especially for some of these smaller teams to get fans on board.

Look, it's the Fair City of sport. They create a storyline and you don't know how it's going to come out at the end of the season. The guys who run the show and are in the paddock are really good.

Albon has been a major focus of multiple episodes of Drive to Survive, with Harding himself briefly appearing alongside him.

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The attention that that has brought has manifested in unexpected ways, with Harding telling us that Albon was recognised on a recent trip Stateside - not as a Formula 1 driver, but as a Netflix star.

It's crazy, we were in LA for a training camp at the start of the year for two weeks. The amount of people who came up to him and said, 'oh, you're that guy from that show!' It's like their connection is with a TV programme and not with you as a sportsperson. I guess that's the Netflix generation.

It made us laugh, and Alex was like, 'it's like I'm some sort of actor. It's like it's not a sport I'm doing, it's like I'm playing a part in a TV programme!' Probably eight out of ten people that was their first sentence: 'oh, you're that guy from that show on Netflix!' Well, yeah, but first and foremost he's a racing driver!

Formula 1 has always had a reputation as a glamorous sport, with many drivers buying their way into the sport (and becoming known as "pay drivers"). Most drivers will live in Monaco, creating something of an aloof image for the sport.

Patrick Harding thinks that one of the strengths of Drive to Survive is that it has shown us that not all of the drivers have come from money. Alex Albon himself had quite a tough upbringing and the series has not shied away from showing us storylines such as those.

The reason that we connect with sport is that we connect to the emotions of either a team or an individual - F1 has been guilty at times of being seen as a little bit of an elitist sport. You know, "They're all rich kids, they all come from money, they're just driving cars really quickly on a track."

I think what Drive to Survive does, especially with someone like Alex, is show that he's actually just a normal kid and his life has been pretty difficult at times. Through all of that adversity, he has still become a Formula 1 driver. It gives you a perspective you wouldn't have had.

We'll be intrigued to see if Alex Albon's return to F1 is featured in the upcoming fourth season of Drive to Survive. Given the series' continuing success, however, we firmly expect to see a fifth season following the 2022 season, and we'll surely see Albon's return featured then.

SEE ALSO: 'An Au Pair For An Adult': Laoisman Patrick Harding On Being A Personal Coach For An F1 Star

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