The five things that made me an F1 fan

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The first F1 race I saw on TV was the 1989 British Grand Prix
The first F1 race I saw on TV was the 1989 British Grand Prix

It was pure chance that I happened across a live broadcast of the British Grand Prix on BBC Grandstand in 1989.

That first glimpse of Formula 1 captivated me, aged seven, and over the coming years the sport got under my skin.

How did I turn into an F1 fan? Here are the five things that first fired my passion for F1.

Nigel Mansell

In 1989, Mansell-mania was as strong as Hamilton-mania is 20 years later.

The moustachioed Brummie didn?t have a world championship to his name at that stage, but he had been through two heart-breaking near-misses with Williams before leaving them for the most evocative of F1 teams – Ferrari.

The Ferrari 640 was a competitive car ?ǣ when it went the distance. By the time of the British Grand Prix Mansell had only finished one race ?ǣ the season opener in Rio de Janeiro, which he won.

At Silverstone he chased the dominant McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in the early stages. Senna spun off with broken transmission, but Prost gave Mansell the slip after the Ferrari suffered a puncture. Mansell chased Prost hard, but unlike his famous win of 1987 he wasn?t able to catch his rival this time.

Of course, I became an instant Mansell fan. I was indifferent to his histrionics and whingeing ?ǣ and utterly thrilled by moments like this:

Senna vs Prost

F1 in the late eighties and early nineties bore witness to one of the greatest rivalries of ny sport: Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost.

It wasn?t until much later that I appreciated the complexities of their rivalry: cool, calculating, political Prost versus the brutally fast and uncompromising Senna.

But even a seven year-old couldn?t miss the ferocity of their battle was: particularly when Prost bundled Senna out of the title decider at Japan in ?89, and Senna returned the favour in even more shocking fashion 12 months later.

Murray Walker

It?s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses at the years when I discovered motor racing. But it wasn?t all Mansell?s swashbuckling and the bitter enmity of Senna and Prost: there were some crashingly dull races, just as there are today.

The difference was we had Murray Walker. I doubt any other sporting commentator is remembered with such affection by so many.

No matter how poor the race he could summon up seemingly limitless reserves of enthusiasm. And when the dramatic moments came, he left you in no doubt you were watching something truly special.

??Geoff Crammond?s Grand Prix??

Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix (Microprose, 1992)
Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix (Microprose, 1992)

Watching Formula 1 on TV is one thing, but getting stuck in for yourself is something else.

Computer gaming was in its infancy when I first discovered F1, but in 1992 Microprose produced the first instalment of a series which became the benchmark by which all F1 racers were judged (and often still are).

??Grand Prix?? may look hilariously simplistic by modern standards but, equipped with my Amiga 500 Plus, it took my enthusiasm for F1 to a new level.

It also taught me a lot about the sport: not just what all drivers? names were, and what their cars might look like from a great distance away, but about aerodynamics, suspension and gear ratios

I hope when Codemasters? new F1 game finally sees the light of day they aim for the kind of detail ??Grand Prix?? had rather than the by-the-numbers efforts Sony churned out.

Knockhill Racing Circuit

My family moved to Dunfermline in Scotland shortly after I discovered Formula 1. This made the logistics of getting to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northamptonshire rather problematic, but fortunately Scotland?s best motor racing track, Knockhill, was only a short drive away.

Climate experts will tell you otherwise, but I know from personal experience that Knockhill is the coldest place on earth. But if you can stand the chill (and hardy Scots certainly can!) it is a spectacular place to watch racing from. Especially if you head up the hill in the middle of the track, which affords a great view of the undulating circuit.

Sadly you’re more likely to see sunbathers than F1 cars at Knockhill, but watching touring car and junior formula races there was my first taste of the sights, sounds and smells of motor racing.

I was hooked then, still am now, and probably always will be.

How did you first discover Formula 1? What turned you into a fan? Share your memories in the comments.

Image (C) Honda

83 comments on “The five things that made me an F1 fan”

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4
  1. That first Grand Prix game was absolutely fantastic. A friend of mine and myself really made a sport of setting the fastest practice lap at Spa or Suzuka. Grand Prix 2 was good, too.

  2. it seems my comments are not getting posted here :(
    well may be because I was out of the topic :)

  3. Ye, I remember the game too, good times! Though I remember it mainly for the sprint off the line and trying to cause as much destruction as possible into the first corner. It was great because you actually saw ‘bits’ flying off!

    The only circuit I really remember playing was Phoenix, no idea why.

  4. F1GP was the very first thing that got me interested and at the same time, Damon Hill was challenging for the 1996 World Chamionship. Been watching ever since, though my interest waned in the schuey/ferrari era.

  5. I’d add to this Eurosport pair: Ben Edwards & John Watson. In Poland we didn’t have Murray but this two Eurosport guys were awesome !

  6. Whewbacca the Cookie
    12th March 2009, 12:29

    I watched my first GP (Argentina, Laffite had won that day) back in 1979. I was merely 7 yrs old but luckily a lot of folks around me liked F1 quite a bit, so I got involved very early. Later on I became a strong Senna fan but cheered for Prost as well.

    As for games, Crammond’s games were absolutely fantastic. I still own GP4 and GP3… F1 Challenge 99-02 by EA wasn’t that bad either. But my very first F1 stint was on Pole Position on Atari :) Then came the Pitstop series on Commodore 64. Ah, those were the days…

  7. My first memory (probably not the first race I’ve seen though) is from the wet Grand Prix in Japan in Fuji 1976, where Lauda lost his worldtitle to Hunt.

    I became a Lauda fan the year after.

    Also I’ve been to a couple of Grand Prix in Zandvoort (Holland) between ’79 and ’82.

    About the games I would say Pole Position on the Commodore 64 was the first F1 game I played a lot.

    1. I also admired drivers like Villeneuve (going around Zandvoort on three wheels!), Jan Lammers, Piquet, Mansell, Senna, and Alesi because of their driving style.

      Just as I liked the fierce fights between Mansell and Piquet and Senna and Prost.

  8. Mansell’s defining quality was drama. The likes of Senna, Prost and Piquet won more titles but Mansell was the best for sheer entertainment value. In many ways, he made things harder than he could have done – but it more than made up for the whining.

    The last race I saw him in, the New Hampshire CART race as part of a holiday in ’93, was one of his special performances. The Penskes of Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy were clearly better than anything else in the field. Convention dictates that if you try to bully your car on an oval then you hit the wall – but Mansell drove out of his skin, was utterly relentless and he won in real style ahead of two drivers with faster cars. It was a jaw dropping performance.

    I understand exactly where you’re coming from on Knockhill – motor racing venues usually flout established patterns of climate! My local track for many years was Thruxton, and I’ve never ever felt colder in my life – despite frequently resorting to Nomex underwear. The memory of Damon Hill demonstrating the ’93 Williams, possibly the most sophisticated F1 car ever, around the UK’s fastest track is not one that will easily go away.

  9. the first race i saw (or at least remember) was the infamous 1994 San Marino Grand Prix… i remember being playing with Legos in the kitchen’s floor while my dad was having breakfast and pretty much white when Senna crashed, i remember he knew something was horribly wrong inmediately…

    Then my first “bright” F1 moment, when i was about 5 years old the 1996 Montmeló Grand Prix, which Schumacher won in style! i loved it, and although i’ve been watching national racing for years by the time, i pretty liked the shape and colours of F1 cars.

    Then at school, i had a couple of friends that loved Mika Hakkinen, i didn’t know why, because at the moment he was battling to win his first race, that he eventually won.

    But i became a huge Schumacher fan, but F1 at that point was still the 2nd thing i’d watch on sundays. National racing was much in my hearth.

    For a couple of years, i forgot about F1. Tho in 2003, i watched the entyre Brazilian GP. And felt in love (yeap, sadly) with Giancarlo Fisichella xD… I remember i loved the Jordan with the snake-painted nose, and i used to play with that car in the Nintendo F1 Grand Prix game (that one that had missions to do, targets to reach reminescent of the 1997 season, a great feature Codemasters SHOULD include!).

    So, from 2003 to 2007 i watched EVERY race and qualy. Live. If they were racing at Asia, i woked up at 3 am. Yeah, quite mad because 90% of the time, the races were horrid, and Fisichella failed to succed.

    That’s my F1 experience :P

  10. I couldn’t even begin to list 5 things that made me an F1 fan, I can’t remember when i first watched an F1 race, but I do know that i was watching them regularly and knew who the drivers and teams were by 92 when Mansell finally won his title (I was 11 at the time) so I must have been in the 7-9 age range when I started paying attention.

    The earliest specific event I can remember in f1 was Senna’s death – I can still remember what I was eating at the time (apple crumble and custard after Sunday roast) and I remember that I knew what a big thing it was at the time. I can remember various other things before that (like I remember watching when Mansell won but can’t remember the specific event if that makes sense).

    I have watched every race I can ever since and haven’t missed a race since Indy in 2005 (what a race to miss) – although I have had to resort to taping some of them.

  11. My first grand prix was sometime in 1997. I saw with what brilliance Schumacher had beaten the Williams, and I instantly became a Schumacher and F1 fan.

    1. Mouse_Nightshirt
      13th March 2009, 3:11

      What, you mean when Schuey drove into the side of Villneuve on purpose and was disqualified from the championship? :D

  12. I remember watching Grand Prix all my life, but it was Mansell mania that made it for me. He was just so exciting to watch – whereas Senna and Prost were absolute masters, Mansell had a do-or-die mentality that meant he was always fantastic to watch. Hamilton is the first driver in a long time to recapture that feeling I had as a lad watching Mansell.

  13. hamilton wc 09
    12th March 2009, 13:22

    i knew about f1 before this and had heard of several drivers names likes schumacher hill and villeneuve but the 1st race i watched on tv was the 97 spanish gp. i dont even know why i was watching it (sunday afternoon boredam after playing football in the morning i guess) i watched in amazement as schumacher went from 7th on the grid to 2nd by the 1st corner. from that race on i either saw every qualy and race live or taped them until the end of the 04 season. didnt bother wachting anything in the 05 or 06 season execpt for the 06 brazil gp because it was schuey’s last.

    i think what made such a huge f1 fan was watching schumacher battling villeneuve in a much superior williams in 97, and them the mclarens in 98 and 99.

    having seen lewis hamilton in a karting magazine about 10 years ago the news that he would be driving in 07 got me intrested again and im now completley hooked again.

    ive been lucky enough to go the british gtwice in 02 and last year and im going this year too.

    long live f1

  14. I got into formula one around the same time as Keith. The first full season I watched was Nigel Mansell’s winning year in 1992. I didn’t realise til years later how much he struggled to win a championship and what it meant to him.

    A friend at school was a big Senna fan and we used to have endless discussions as to who was the best driver.

    I was also into the early F1 games on the good old Amiga. If only I still had it.

  15. hamilton wc 09
    12th March 2009, 13:24

    oh and best f1 game, by miles f1 97 for playstation

    i remember going barrichello in the stewart once and it was really hard to keep ferrari’s williams’s bennettons etc behind cozx they were so much quicker down the straight, thats the sort of realism the codemasters game needs, all the sony games you could win if you were super aguri.

  16. Keith, I echo your comments about Knockhill – I went on a track-day there a while back in my dad’s Porsche 924, and I guarantee it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on! I love the track; quite similar to Brands Hatch (the short indy loop) I think.

  17. Mansell-mania also made me an F1 fan. I don’t know for certain what the first F1 race I saw was but I defiantly remember watching the 1991 British Grand Prix when I was nine which Mansell won in the Williams and then memorably gave Senna a lift back to the pits when his McLaren ran out of fuel on the last lap, but I think I probably started following F1 a little bit before that.

    The only races I have missed since then have been for reasons beyond my control such having no access to a TV on holiday etc

    I don’t see how I would have started following F1 if there wasn’t a high profile British driver at the time as none of my family or friends followed F1 then or now.

    Forget a country hosting a GP or having a team the quickest way to make F1 popular in a country is if it has a successful driver, just look at Spain with Alonso and Poland with Kubica in recent years.

  18. 5 things that made me an F1 fan :
    Nigel Mansell
    Nigel Mansell
    Nigel Mansell
    Nigel Mansell
    Nigel Mansell

  19. Nigel. Watching Mansell miss out in the last race in ’86 really got me hook, line and sinker. It really was amazing how Senna could still win in an obviously inferior car ( obviously I don’t mean that race ).
    Sunday afternoon on a race day weekend was always MY time on the TV. My sister and the rest of the family never had the courage to challenge me on Sunday afternoons. That was the best thing. Nigel, Prost and Senna. Aggression and mistakes vs the professor vs raw talent. Hamilton has reawakened the raw emotion of F1. The penalty after Spa was the worst thing I have ever seen to date. I saw Hamilton in 2007 at Fuji in Japan. Class performance. I find it shocking how much negative reaction there has been to Hamilton. Ten years ago it would not have happened.

  20. I remember many discussions at secondary school about who’s best and supporting Alan Jones in 1980 before he won the title that year, while all my mates were Prost/Piquet etc fans… but don’t remember watching though am sure I must have seen the races. My memory really kicks off though in ’86 and Mansell and watching every race possible with my mates round.

    Senna v’s Prost… Awesome! and all playing out in front of the fans, not of this behind the doors nonsense!… but let’s not also forget Prost Vs Senna Vs Piquet Vs Mansell… those were great times!

    Murray Walker is F1, nae doot!

    Geoff Crammonds Grand Prix… the original and still the best F1 game.

    What really started it all for me though, was at probably the same age as Keith… getting my first SCALEXTRIC set in the mid/late ’70s… at a time when the toy was coming into it peak, what with the Scalextric Club, the catalogues and cartoon strips, loads of cars, loads of track, any toy store anywhere…

    …ah the memories!

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.