Next week there’s Rush, the Ron Howard-helmed dramatic retelling of the rivalry between Austrian Niki Lauda and Briton James Hunt.
But just in time for F1 weekend is 1, Paul Crowder’s “action documentary” tracing the history of the sport. Sure, it does have a rather unexciting, or even pretentious, title (and might confuse some One Direction fans), but this film looks absolutely brilliant on the big screen. And yes, there is a lot of action in this documentary.
The film focusses on a few main things. For one, the changes to the sport, particularly over safety issues.
Much of the attention is centred on the “killer years” of the motor sport — when, as one interviewee put it, drivers would head off to the races on Friday, not knowing if they would return alive or in one piece on Monday. With no safety belts, no track barriers and almost no concern for life or limb from the race organisers, the drivers could only rely on their skill and hope that their machines don’t fail them.
Some of the incidents are given more play: Footage of Jochen Rindt’s starting crash for example, or Lauda’s Nurburgring disaster in 1976, or Lorenza Bandini’s fatal accident in Monaco in 1967, are all pretty much in your face.
But others are more subtle: Francois Cervert’s death, for example, is told through what happens at the pits, where you can see the Tyrell team reacting to the news. And there is footage from Aryton Senna’s car cam, just moments before his fatal 1994 crash at Imola.
Then there are the intense racer rivalries, with the focus primarily on those in the ’70s, such as the one between “the two Jackies” (Briton Jackie Stewart and Belgian Jacky Ickx) and, of course, the Lauda-Hunt rivalry. Glaring omissions include the ones between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, Alain Proust and Nigel Mansell, and even Alain Prost and Senna.
And of course, there are the stories of the glory boys — Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Stewart, Hunt, Cervert — and how they lived the “work hard, play hard” adage while coping with the stress and excesses of the circus show known as the F1. Some would party late into the night — or into the wee hours of the morning, as the case may be — and still climb into the racecar and take the checquered flag.
The plethora of interviewees, including F1 bigwigs Max Mosley, Ron Dennis and Bernie Ecclestone, driving legends of yore like Stewart, Lauda, Mario Andretti and Schumacher, and more recent champs such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, provide an insight into what goes on in the drivers’ minds when they were called to suit up, climb into that cockpit, flick the ignition and hurtle down the tarmac at top speed.
While it does gloss over some details, this is one movie that anyone who wants to know more about the sport can appreciate — even if it’s just to bone up so you can impress your friends come race-day this weekend.