Coronavirus might mean uncertain times for Formula 1 with the world’s sport postponed indefinitely, but there is still plenty of ways for fans to get a regular motorsport fix. In the last 10 years alone a wide range of F1-based documentaries have hit the market and now is the perfect time to capitalize on the recent craze for motorsport films.
For F1 fans, re-watching a classic such as Grand Prix or discovering a new favourite in Ferrari: Race to Immortality is guaranteed to alleviate self-isolation cabin fever. These films are all available without leaving the sofa to stave off the motorsport withdrawal symptoms, with options suitable for the die-hard devotee all the way to a casual F1 viewer.
Grand Prix 1966
This Oscar-winner tells the story of a fictional season of grand prix racing, intertwining action sequences with a melodramatic trio of love stories. While the plot itself has garnered some criticism over the years, it is the racing that makes it one of director John Frankenheimer’s biggest hits. Partially filmed at tracks during actual F1 race weekends, Grand Prix combines nostalgia for the golden age of motorsport with racing sequences that stand up against even its most technically advanced modern counterparts. This is the classic – it is a must-see for all F1 fans.
The story of Bruce McLaren is told through new dramatized footage alongside the original film and supported by interviews with those who knew him. What is most striking about the documentary is it makes clear the astounding dedication and loyalty he inspired in those who worked for him on his journey from humble beginnings in New Zealand to the top echelon of motorsport. As McLaren continues to fight back from a tough couple of years in the present, the journey of its pioneering founder continues to be poignant.
Life on the Limit
Life on the Limit has the ultimate bragging rights when it comes to interviews, with a plethora of racing stars from John Surtees to Lewis Hamilton having their say on the dangers of motorsport past and present. The journey from the early days of racing to modern F1 has been a long one and the fight to improve safety measures has been just as lengthy. Combining rare and archival footage, the documentary emphasizes just how difficult it is to balance safety and thrills in a sport that is inherently dangerous.
Ron Howard’s cinematic recreation of the 1976 F1 season is worth a watch for both F1 fans and non-fans alike. Rush perfectly captures the intensity of the battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda for the title while remaining unafraid to delve into the sheer brutality of Lauda’s recovery after his life-changing crash at the Nurburgring. This film has all the Hollywood glamour (starring Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as Hunt and Lauda respectively) but that does not take away from its racing spirit.
More than anything, Williams is an intimate look into the heart of the Williams family. A combination of new and archive footage tells the story all the way from Frank Williams founding the team to his daughter Claire taking hold of the reigns today. At the focus is Virginia Williams, wife of Frank and mother of Claire, and the part she played in the family’s success. Interviews with Nigel Mansell and Sir Patrick Head, among others, helps to bring the tale of a true family business alive.
Weekend of a Champion
Roman Polanski had the good fortune to be close friends with Sir Jackie Stewart, making his 1971 documentary covering Stewart’s Monaco Grand Prix weekend a real insight. With so much access to the star himself the documentary gives fans a window into life as a racing driver during a grand prix, from the seriousness of racing to light-hearted moments of fun. For those wanting to be a fly on the wall of a world champion, now is your chance.
Crash and Burn
Tommy Byrne has dropped out of the public consciousness but Crash and Burn is doing its best to reverse that. The Irish racer was once mentioned in the same breath as Ayrton Senna and this film considers the reasons he never became a household name. The inaccessibility and snobbery of F1 takes a kicking, as does Byrne’s fiery temper and the culmination is a potential unfulfilled. The film leaves you with no doubt that it was a loss to the entire motorsport world that this colourful character could never find his fit in the shiny world of F1.
Ferrari: Race to Immortality
Ferrari: Race to Immortality documents the golden era of the 1950s when Ferrari was rising to prominence. Tragedy and triumph occur side by side with Enzo Ferrari at the centre building his empire. By telling the story of how Ferrari became legendary, the documentary highlights the team’s rich motorsport history, from cinematic drama to heartbreak and success tinted with sadness.
There’s no one in motorsport who captures the imagination quite like Ayrton Senna. This documentary covers his life from 1984 to his death in 1994, making use of an abundance of previously unseen footage. Everybody knows what happened that weekend in Imola but following Senna through a decade of his life makes its sudden end shocking and deeply moving. Senna is gone but not forgotten, and the success of this documentary shows how much of an appetite there still is for an insight into legend.
Photocredit: Moviedom / Motorsport Network
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