(Reuters) – Leading Formula One drivers defended the popular Netflix “Drive to Survive” fly-on-the-wall series on Thursday after Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen said he was snubbing it because he felt some of the rivalries were “faked”.
The docu-series, now filming its fourth season, has been credited as a big factor in fuelling the sport’s growth in the United States.
Dutch 24-year-old Verstappen earlier told the Associated Press that he recognised the importance of the series but did not like being a part of it and would not be giving any interviews.
Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen’s title rival, told reporters at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, that he had noticed a surge in interest in the country.
“In this last couple of years it’s been the steepest rise and more and more people are talking about it, more and more people engaging,” he said.
“The amount of emails and messages I get from people I’ve known for years in the States and who never knew what I was doing and now are hooked and can’t wait to come. I think a lot of them are coming this weekend.”
Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, a two-times race winner who featured heavily last season, said he respected what the documentary was doing.
“What it has done for Formula One is tremendous. It’s really something I appreciate,” he said.
“The way they sell the sport is a bit of a drama. It is a show but at the end of the day it is good for the sport and is good for the fans so I am happy with it.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris, voted the second-most popular driver after Verstappen in a fan survey published on Thursday, also appreciated the show.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I think it’s a cool thing. Coming to America there are so many people who are now into Formula One just because of watching ‘Drive to Survive.’ I think I come across on it alright.
“I think they do a good job. I can’t really speak on behalf of Max.”
His Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo agreed: “Most of us experience the effect it’s had on the sport. There’s certainly been a lot of growth and I honestly see that most in America.
“There’s times where you want a little bit of space or privacy but I do think if you let them know no cameras in this room they are pretty good with that.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Stephen Coates)