“If you’re not winning …you’re not trying” review

Review

“If you’re not winning …you’re not trying”, the insightful documentary on Lotus’s 1973 world championship campaign, has been re-released on DVD by Duke Video.

The video gives a first-hand account of most of the season’s races from a perspective far closer than any film crew is likely to get these days. We hear from team owner Colin Chapman and manager Peter Warr, and see them discussing set-ups and tactics with drivers Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson.

The film reveals the tension of following a race in the days before live sector-by-sector timing and pit walls festooned with TV screens. The first a team learns of a driver hitting trouble is when he fails to come around at the start of a lap.

It also shows a camaraderie between team principals that has been eroded by the intensity of modern F1 competition. Chapman and Ken Tyrrell, the men whose cars won most of the races that year, are often seen sharing a joke.

There is much candid footage of Colin Chapman making the kind of blunt assessment of his drivers that you would never hear from one of today’s team principals.

Asked if Peterson should be sent out during practice at Monaco Chapman replies, “no, he’ll only wreck the thing” and tells the mechanics to give Peterson the same settings Fittipaldi is using as “he’ll drive whatever we give him”.

Later on Chapman remonstrates with Jean-Pierre Jarier, a future driver of his, for dragging gravel onto the circuit ahead of the start at the Osterreichring.

The race footage isn’t comprehensive but it shows some interesting moments and angles – including a view of the first-lap shunt at Silverstone that year which came close to wiping out the cameraman.

The tragic end to that year’s championship means the film has a poignant end. There is a dreadful sense of the unfolding horror at Watkins Glen as drivers return to the pits with grim news about Francois Cevert.

This film gives a fascinating glimpse into how the sport was almost four decades ago – still amateurish in so many ways, but with visible first vestiges of the coming era of ultra-professionalism.

It’s a shame the publishers didn’t take the opportunity to add to it for its DVD release, by way of new interviews or a DVD commentary. It could have helped add to the aspects of the season which are not well covered by the narration, such as Fittipaldi’s growing unhappiness which caused him to move to McLaren for 1974.

That aside, this is a video that any fan of the period would enjoy. For those that are, make sure you check out Warr’s recently-released memoirs as well.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating four out of five

Buy “If You’re Not Winning, You’re Not Trying” DVD

“If you’re not winning …you’re not trying”
Duke Video
??17.99
Running time: 60mins

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13 comments on “If you’re not winning …you’re not trying” review

  1. matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th April 2012, 10:44

    Where’s the title quote from?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th April 2012, 11:15

      @matt90 Chapman himself – he says it in the video.

      • Talking about F1 (@talking-about-f1) said on 29th April 2012, 11:32

        Yes, Colin Chapman says it near the start of the film, something to the effect of ‘the success you get in F1 out is equivalent to the effort you put in, so if you’re not winning you’re not trying hard enough’. I guess it’s ironic given what happened to Lotus’s fortunes in subsequent years!

        Good review Keith. I managed to get my hands on this DVD at the Autosport Show a few years back, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the history of F1. It’s a fascinating, warts-and-all insight into how F1 teams used to be run, and especially into Chapman and Peter Warr, and how they worked together. As you say though, you’re left wanting more to some extent at the end!

  2. Glyn (@clerkofthecourse) said on 29th April 2012, 11:21

    Is it too early for me to start writing my Christmas list?

  3. …tells the mechanics to give Peterson the same settings Fittipaldi is using as “he’ll drive whatever we give him”.

    Kind of reminds me of Helmut Marko’s “He just needs four wheels…”!

  4. If it can be as good as the Senna movie then it’ll be a worthwhile investment.

  5. pH (@ph) said on 29th April 2012, 19:53

    “he’ll drive whatever we give him”
    There might be more to this than meets the eye.
    Niki Lauda shared some time in March with Peterson and in his memoirs (My years with Ferrari) records his surprise at how insensitive Peterson was concerning setup. According to Lauda, Peterson would happily drive an almost undrivable car without complaining, which does not exactly make a good development driver. Lauda also wrote that he found it hard to believe that Peterson could drive total beasts so fast.

    • TimG (@timg) said on 30th April 2012, 9:50

      Peterson’s ability to drive around handling problems without much regard to the finer points of chassis set-up is fairly well known.

      He had enormous amounts of natural talent, but his lack of ability as a test and development driver did him few favours. (Mika Hakkinen was very much like this in his early career, according to people who worked with him in F3, often relying on his ability to get him up to the front and sometimes not putting in the hard work.) His initial impressions of the legendary March 721X (the pug-ugly, polar movement of inertia car which he and Lauda drove in 1972) were favourable, even though it was a complete and utter dog. In fact, Lauda’s observations about the 721X were much more accurate but they were largely ignored because Niki was much slower and the team assumed he was making excuses.

      Ultimately, of course, Peterson ended up alongside Mario Andretti in the wonderful Lotus 79 – but it’s often speculated (though not confirmed, to my knowledge) that in recognition of Andretti’s work making the 79 such a good car, Peterson was contractually required to follow him home.

      • melthom said on 30th April 2012, 17:55

        Lotus needed to sell sports cars in the USA so it was very important that Peterson stayed behind and Mario won. That’s why he wanted to move to McLaren the next year should he have lived.

        Later CC was tangled up in the DeLorean business and made a mess of eveything.

  6. I just hope they’ve dropped off that ridiculous song about Emerson while showing footages of the Brazilian GP.

  7. Mariano (@mariano) said on 30th April 2012, 3:20

    Keith, you did a very good review of this unique documentary. When I watched it a couple of years ago, it brought me back a lot of memories of my life as I graduated at law school back in 1974. Collin Chapman was a genius indeed and I always admired him.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 30th April 2012, 13:41

    There’s also nowhere near enough flat-caps in F1 these days.

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