The documentary Senna, which appeared in cinemas in 2010, has sold 700,000 copies in the UK since going on sale on DVD and Blu-ray.
Granted, Senna is probably the most famous racing driver of all time. But there must be a market for similar videos of other world champions and famous F1 figures.
As Formula One Management hold the rights to practically all F1 race footage from the early 1980s, we can only blame the near-total absence of such products on them. Do FOM make so much money from flogging television rights they don’t feel the need to supplement them with productions beyond the annual F1 season review videos?
It’s another example of how FOM fall short in promoting Formula 1. Happily, Duke Video have stepped up to fill the gap, at least for a dozen drivers whose careers pre-date Bernie Ecclestone locking down Formula 1 television coverage.
A new series of DVDs named Grand Prix Heroes profiles 11 major characters from F1 history. Most are drivers from the seventies, but there’s also videos on Frank Williams and Mika Hakkinen.
The series uses material from the Brunswick archive – the same crew who shot the footage for Duke’s 1970 to 1980 F1 season reviews. The 11 new discs, narrated by Stirling Moss, feature a substantial amount of new footage, and some of it is very interesting indeed.
For example, highlights from the Niki Lauda profile include a young Luca di Montezemolo in 1974 and footage of Lauda testing at Fiorano in 1976. At Monaco in 1975, six of his mechanics appear to be engaged in setting a record for ‘most people perched on an F1 car’ as they perform a slow victory lap of the track.
The Jackie Stewart video has some excellent behind-the-scenes footage of him conducting the safety briefing for Formula Ford drivers at the Austrian Grand Prix. At the Nurburgring one onlooker asks him “have you prayed?” before he ventures out onto the notorious track.
As you’d expect the James Hunt feature contains some amusing and candid interviews. Most of the discs benefit from the inclusion of contemporary interviews with their subjects.
According to the publishers the Ronnie Peterson documentary has been the most popular one with buyers so far. An interesting feature of this disc is the inclusion of some apparently contemporary commentary by Moss on Peterson’s win in the 1976 Italian Grand Prix.
However it also exhibits some of the problems with the original material – footage of a conversation between him and Colin Chapman at one race is completely drowned out by a loudspeaker.
The producers’ ambitions have been constrained somewhat by the limitations of the footage, most of which was shot between 1970 and 1980. Drivers whose careers extended past 1980 tend to have their final years narrated in a hasty voiceover at the end.
Lauda’s return to F1 in the 1980s is shown through his pre-comeback test for McLaren at Donington Park. This is a great piece of material, but it doesn’t make up for the absence of footage from his last four years of competition, all of which is locked away in the FOM archive at Biggin Hill.
In other cases the videos come to a hasty conclusion after the subject has reached the peak of their career. The Emerson Fittipaldi feature ends at 1974 and therefore overlooks more than half of his F1 career and his successful move to IndyCar racing.
The uniform length of 52 minutes – imposed with one eye on potential television releases in markets where the DVDs are not being sold – leaves some of the features ending rather abruptly, particularly those drivers who enjoyed fairly long careers.
Mario Andretti’s career is shown up to the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix – shortly before he clinched the title at Monza in a race that claimed the life of his team mate, which is a very odd omission. His subsequent seasons with Lotus and Alfa Romeo are not shown.
Although Moss’s presence adds gravitas to the production, he stumbles over the script in places and makes some repeated mispronunciations – notably ‘Montezemula’. In places the script could do with being more tightly focused on the action, and trimmed of irrelevant details about what was happening to other drivers.
The concept behind the videos is stretched too far with the addition of one showing Hakkinen’s “Road to Formula 1″. This does have some interesting sequences of his testing for McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti. But the shortage of race action makes it rather dull in places. The notorious collision between him and Michael Schumacher in the 1990 Macau Grand Prix does not feature.
But I can forgive the productions niggles, the lack of chapters on the discs and the misspelling of Jody Scheckter. It does little to detract from some truly fabulous footage, much of it never released before. I especially enjoyed the chance to watch features on drivers other than world champions such as Clay Regazzoni and Peter Revson.
They’re not perfect, but until FOM finally get around to re-releasing the earlier season reviews in digital format (don’t hold your breath), they’re certainly worth a look.
The discs are priced at £19.99 each or you can gorge on ten of them (minus the Hakkinen DVD) in a £149.99 box set.
F1 Fanatic ratings
|Grand Prix Heroes: Niki Lauda||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Niki Lauda|
|Grand Prix Heroes: James Hunt||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: James Hunt|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Jody Scheckter||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Jody Scheckter|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Ronnie Peterson||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Ronnie Peterson|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Clay Regazzoni||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Clay Regazzoni|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Peter Revson||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Peter Revson|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Mario Andretti||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Mario Andretti|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Jackie Stewart||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Jackie Stewart|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Emerson Fittipaldi||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Emerson Fittipaldi|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Frank Williams||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Frank Williams|
|Grand Prix Heroes: Mika Hakkinen – The Road to F1||Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Mika Hakkinen|
Grand Prix Heroes
Published by Duke Video
£19.99 each / £149.99 for ten-disc set
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