F1 season review videos

Top Ten: F1 season review videos

Top TenPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

We’re mired in the depths of the off-season: it’s a month until the first test begins and two months off until the first race.

It’s time to dust off that collection of Formula One videos, fill in the gaps and ease the withdrawal symptoms.

But where to start? Here’s F1 Fanatic’s verdict on the ten best official Formula One season review videos.

1982

The Formula One Constructors’ Association (now FOM) began producing official season review videos in 1981. Their first effort was a rather haphazard affair, but for 1982 they hit upon the apparently-not-obvious idea of showing highlights of each round in chronological order.

In an inspired move, they also hired Clive James – already a well-known author and television critic – to lend his wit to the voiceover. James narrated three such videos, all of which appear in this list and are littered with his dry-witted gems. “The Brabham drum majorettes did the dance of the pneumatic wrench,” he intones as Bernie Ecclestone’s crew scamper around Nelson Piquet’s BT52.

It’s not all laughs, though. Two drivers were killed during the 1982 season and both crashes – Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium and Ricardo Paletti in Canada – are shown in the video. James strikes a suitably remorseful tone but it’s remarkable to see that even as recently as the early eighties it was thought appropriate to include the material to begin with.

1984

Skipping over the so-bad-it’s-bad 1983 review video (seriously, don’t bother), the return of Clive James makes the 1984 video another must-watch. But while the 1982 season served up a record 11 different winners, 1984 was a McLaren benefit. Even so, this was the closest championship of all time – Niki Lauda pipping Alain Prost by a mere half-point.

Another colourful and dramatic chapter of the turbo era, highlights include the rise to prominence of young rookie Ayrton Senna and a crazy race on a disintegrating track in Dallas.

With James on hand to lend a wry view on the year’s proceedings, this is another welcome reminder of the days when F1 didn’t take itself excruciatingly seriously.

1985

Truthfully, the 1985 video drags in places, but it gets a place on this list for its concept: instead of bringing in a narrator to describe the events of the year, have the drivers do it themselves.

The results are variable at best, but with the likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell narrating the races there are some real highlights – including Senna narrating his first F1 victory at Estoril in 1985. The dependable Simon Taylor fills in the story between each round.

Inevitably some drivers clearly put more effort into preparing for their stints on microphone than others (Piquet), but that adds to the entertainment. And while you wouldn’t want an entire season of races to be covered this way, this is a concept which should definitely be revived as a ‘DVD extra’.

1986

Clive James-era F1 season review videos are as quotable as cult films like Withnail and I or Happy Gilmore. The last of them is arguably the best as the 1986 championship was resolved in a stunning three-way fight around the streets of Adelaide which was decided when Mansell’s tyre blew.

The Williams driver was at the heart of many of the dramatic moments captured in this video, including his clash with Senna in Brazil, the photo-finish between the pair in Spain and Mansell’s simmering rivalry with F1’s other top Brazilian of the time, his team mate Nelson Piquet.

The dodgy gender politics of mid-eighties television is also in evidence here, but while that may not be missed sadly the services of Clive James were not called on again after this tape. However he did return to front a hilarious one-off F1 special for ITV in 1997.

1987

“The Chinese have a lot to teach the Germans about walls” mulls Peter Ustinov in his off-the-wall introduction to the 1987 season review which sets the tone for what is to follow. The video concludes with him standing besides Checkpoint Charlie impersonating a two-stroke engine.

In between these bursts of randomness are well-chosen highlights from a season which was increasingly dominated by Williams and Honda, but still featured some memorable races – not least of which the Mansell-Piquet showdown at Silverstone.

Technological advances in the shape of early onboard cameras and even a smattering of Senna’s team radio at Spa make this feel more like a contemporary review in places – right down to Ustinov’s unwillingness to elaborate on the reasons behind the cancelled Canadian Grand Prix.

1990

The 1990 season will forever be remembered for the title-deciding crash between Senna and Prost at Suzuka.

But it also featured one of the greatest overtaking moves of all time by Mansell in Mexico City, a pair of surprise wins for Piquet and a real oddball race at the Hungaroring, won by Theirry Boutsen. Unfortunately the golden age of tail-end Charlies – Coloni-Subaru, EuroBrun, Life… – is given very little coverage.

The commentary is more functional than stylish, but a decent helping of interviews with the drivers adds some much-needed colour. Add it to the 1988 and 1989 reviews for the complete Senna-vs-Prost trilogy.

1993

Skip the serviceable 1991 video and dreary 1992 Mansell-fest in favour of the last F1 season review video to feature a truly entertaining commentary. Jonathan Ross is the surprising but amusing choice of narrator for a season which began well before lapsing into race after race of crushing Williams dominance.

Virtuoso Senna drives at Interlagos and Donington Park are the highlights but it’s his brief encounters with Michael Schumacher which leave you wondering what might have been in the second half of the nineties.

Ross keeps things light with the commentary but the intense behind-the-scenes political wrangling which led to an overhaul of the rules in 1994 is largely ignored. That does make it easier to appreciate the action, though.

2008

Endless shots of refuelling pit stops and jarring ‘as-live’ commentary explain why we’ve jumped forwards 15 years. Though at a pinch the 1997 and 2003 videos are worth a look, and the early DVD reviews of 2000 and 2001 which were packaged with the official games of the time are intriguing curiosities.

Things took a step forward in 2008 when top commentator Ben Edwards was finally allowed to use the past tense. On top of that the review added a stack of previously unseen footage and a raft of bonus features. The season itself culminated in one of the most stunning races of all time.

Aside from the predictably dreadful title – ‘Luck Does Not Come Into It’ – the 2008 review was a long overdue return to form.

2010

Formula One Management still hadn’t got around to broadcasting the races in high definition by 2010, so this is the final review which is only available in standard definition.

Much as with the 2008 review, this was a polished product which told the story of a particularly excellent F1 season. The post-refuelling, pre-gimmick 2010 season saw four drivers arrive at the final race with a shot at the title and Sebastian Vettel snatch the crown from a stunning Fernando Alonso.

The modern reviews may lack the humour of the early ones, but the huge amount of footage FOM now shoots every weekend means there’s invariable new material to discover. The extended onboard highlights first seen on the 2010 disc are a great example of that.

2012 (Blu-ray)

The sprawling seven-hour high-definition review of the 2012 season marks the high point of recent reviews (the much shorter DVD version is to be avoided).

Of course it helped matters that the championship went the full 20 rounds, culminating in an even more intense finale than the one four years previously.

Over the past 35 years Formula One’s official season reviews have mirrored the championship itself in becoming more polished and professional but also somewhat colourless and bland. And they continue to lag behind the times when it comes to distribution – the videos are not available to stream or download, cutting F1 off from a generation of on-demand television viewers who may not own video tape, DVD or even Blu-Ray players.

Over to you

Which of the official F1 season reviews do you own? Which are your favourites?

Do you have a top ten of your own? Share your views in the comments.

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52 comments on “Top Ten: F1 season review videos”

  1. Jonesracing82
    20th January 2016, 12:24

    1983 = i disagree, yes the commentary is horrid to say the least but the actual footage (especially the cars sliding through casino square in wet Qualifying) are a highlight for mine.

    i have them all (incl the 1970’s DVD’s) & they are great to watch in order.
    what this article maybe proves is that the 80-early 90’s F1 is much better entertainment than what we see now which is sad.

  2. I’m ashamed to admit that I have them all.

    The best season review is probably 1995. It’s the right length and has the right features. Some of the more recent ones are just too long or they have that weird issue where they talk about races in either the past or future tense when everyone knows the commentary is recorded after the event.

    1. Jonesracing82
      20th January 2016, 13:18

      ah the sound of the ’95 Ferrari makes that review worth getting all on it’s own

      1. Yes, but from memory the ’95 review, superb though it is, has this strange audio overlay of random engine noises superimposed throughout the review. Nevertheless, absolutely loved that review. Does anyone remember buying the review videos in the shop and then sending the little slip of paper inside to Duke video to receive the catalogue through the post, or am I just showing my age? :-)

    2. @joshgeake So do I, yet I feel no shame :-)

  3. Paul Craddock
    20th January 2016, 13:08

    I’ve all the videos/dvd’s from ’82 to present. The old one’s were produced by people who cared and put “proper” coverage to “film”. With the likes of Clive James narrating, you couldn’t fail to be gripped and,yes Bernie, entertained!

    The dvd’s have never lived up the videos. There may be more actual race footage, but the coverage and overall entertainment quality is zero.

    I had hoped, with DVD and Blu-Ray, we would get more. But sadly FOM don’t have a clue regarding presentation. Get an outside production company (Sky,RTL etc) to do what they do best.

    I used to excitedly wait for my VHS from Duke to arrive. Now, I’m buying more out of loyalty with a “meh”, than I am of excitement and anticipation.

    1. I’ve always considered the choice of Clive James for any kind of commentary to be one of the most blatant acts of miscasting ever!

      His dull, disengaged and deadpan delivery may work ok for a little light weight satire, but is so out of place for any kind of competition reportage…

  4. The Jean-Michel Jarre-esque intro alone, should earn the 1991 a spot in the top 10. Love it, my favourite review.

    1. Hey, yeah great intro… Who was that music by, anyone know?

      1. Is it a Jean Michelle Jarre track or is it a session track made to sound like a jean Michelle Jarre track? It’s poignant footage with this song when you watch it now

        1. It’s a library track, called “Electrosphere” :). You might be able to find it on Universal production music’s website.

  5. “It’s not all laughs, though. Two drivers were killed during the 1982 season and both crashes – Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium and Ricardo Paletti in Canada – are shown in the video. James strikes a suitably remorseful tone but it’s remarkable to see that even as recently as the early eighties it was thought appropriate to include the material to begin with”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Personally, I prefer acknowledgement of reality than today’s Orwellian PR propaganda re-writing of history to eliminate the unpalatable or anything that might be deemed remotely controversial.
    Such events can be tastefully covered. In some ways, it’s an insult to the memories of drivers to have them airbrushed from history. We are not children who need to be protected from the knowledge that the world is tainted by horrific events that happen at random.

    1. I agree with you here @tonybananas, but I think there is probably a happy medium between completely forgetting that anyone has ever died and watching the marshals helplessly fight a fire against a car full of fuel. Paletti was stuck, legs broken, inside when he was engulfed in flames for a good 20 seconds, which could well have been left out imo.

    2. @tonybananas @rbalonso I know what you mean but surely if you put a video on sale which includes footage of someone dying, you are directly profiting from their death?

      1. Bit extreme there Keith “profitting of someone’s death”.

        Censoring history should be avoided, why not show the crash, it happened. Don’t have to do it in distasteful manner off course.

        1. @maxv I’m with you on the point about history (it was my degree!) but at the same time I don’t think it’s at all “extreme” to point out it’s distasteful to sell a video of someone being killed. I don’t believe it happens in other sports (though my knowledge of non-motorised sport wouldn’t fill the back of a postage stamp).

          Moreover, it’s not as if the footage we’re talking about has never been shown – it was screened to journalists during the Russian Grand Prix weekend last year. So from the point of view of serving the historical record and – more importantly – answering questions over how the accident happened, that’s been done.

      2. No not really, it’s not as if an annual review is purely about the death of a driver or drivers. Surely you would then have to say the movie Senna is morally wrong as it “profits” from his death, or any autobiographical literature. Where do you stop, are news bulletins concerning fatal events by private corporations “profiting” from death?

        I think you can see where this unrestrained rampant political “correctness” leads – to a surreal world where reality cant be acknowledged for offending the sensibilities of the perpetually offended. Therefore a review of 1994 F1 season cant mention the single most significant and far reaching event of that or any season for over a decade. No please treat us as rational adult human beings please

        1. Errr, dont people tend to still be alive when they write their autobiographys. Writing from beyond the grave is quite hard, unless you know the ‘ghost adventures’ / ‘most haunted’ people!!

        2. @tonybananas Let’s not confuse this with political correctness which is something completely different (curiously enough, this came up in an article last year).

          Nor is it true that the 1994 review ignored the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger. Indeed, it shows the incidents prior to the moment of impact, but no more. I think that is probably a reasonable distinction to make.

          And keep in mind at the time the 2014 review was published Bianchi’s eventual fate was unknown.

          1. It’s worth noting that an alternative version of the 94 review exists, with Simon Taylor narrating, a recording of which is on Dailymotion (or was, I haven’t looked for a while). Unlike the one released on VHS, both fatal accidents are shown.

    3. I tend towards the opinion that if something would not have been shown on replay in the year in question on grounds that remain applicable at the time the general season review was created, it shouldn’t be in that review. Similarly, if it was deemed proper to show on replay at the time and still considered so when the review was made, it should be considered for inclusion. After all, a season reviewer of a particular year cannot be expected to predict how their coverage will be regarded by future generations.

      A more specialist video would also be another matter – a fatal crash that would not belong on a general season review DVD made today might become appropriate on a DVD which was just about the driver/team in question, or motorsport safety, depending on other factors (because a viewer would reasonably expect more detail, and depending on exactly how much that viewer knew about the subject, may have more precise ideas about how they’d expect it to be covered). But, in general, there is no need to put anything graphic on a general season review; it is perfectly possible to tell the tale of a year in F1 while maintaining conventional levels of discretion.

      As such, I see no problem in the 1982 review video showing the Villenueve and Paletti crashes and the 1994 video only showing the build-up to the Ratzenberger and Senna crashes. The changes in editorial simply reflect what was deemed acceptable to be deliberately shown between those eras. I am happy to live in an era where fatal crashes are seen as sufficiently emotion-provoking by broadcasters and video-creators to warrant this sort of question arising in the first place.

  6. This might be an isolated opinion, but I loved the late ninties and early noughties reviews. The scenes of Patrick Head going to the Ferrari garage and accusing Jean Todt of bad sportsmanship when Ferrari asked Sauber to delay one of the Williams drivers while lapping them; Michael storming into Mclaren garage after his Spa shunt with DC are iconic! It is good to see the human side of all these guys who are in the F1 paddock.

    1. The official 2000 review on VHS (Titled ‘They’ve done it at last’) was quite good I thought. It felt well paced compared to the other late 90s/early 00s reviews, particularly compared against 98 which felt rushed and chaotic at times.

      The worst one for me is the official 2001 review on VHS titled ‘What a class act.’ Every race has a poorly edited and overdramatic music montage at some point. Australia for instance has all the build up before Villeneuve and Ralf’s accident, feels as if Jaws is about to attack them, then they show the aftermath of the accident first before playing the accident itself.

      1. Jonesracing82
        21st January 2016, 0:10

        loved the quali segment on the ’00 review where the cars are sliding out of the last turn from the onboard footage, show the drivers actually “driving” the cars

  7. Any review which features Clive James is perfect to me! I watched the 1982 review last night and was in stitches laughing at his turn of phrase. As I have watched most of the races in full, that review has my favourite style of commentary. I like to be able to get a general feel for what happened, but also feel that it is not a lecture, more a gentle reminder.

    1985 for me is also great. A hybrid of the two would be perfect for 2016. The problem lies in finding someone as good as James. I can imagine David Croft, for example, being given the job and hopelessly failing.

    If it was upto me, I would release 2 copies, one with humour and the driver’s perspective, and one with highlights of the live coverage. They could also feature a link to watch the full races online somewhere. I am but a dreamer.

    1. With Blu-Ray, I think it would be entirely possible to have the “humour and driver’s perspective” as an alternate audio track on the same disc as the “mainstream and fact/event-based” journalistic review. Full races, alas, will likely have to wait until FOM decides to have them in a centralised location.

  8. I have ’81 to 2011 and would consider getting the newer ones but they became so uninspiring, which has left me in no rush. I’ll probably get round to the recent reviews eventually but I miss the old days. It’s a question of stamina too. I grew up on 16 races per season with short build ups and now once the season’s over I almost feel relieved. It’s like what Eddie Jordan said when he criticised Schumacher’s comeback; you should always leave them wanting more.

    The VHS era was, on the whole, great, but ’81 was absolutely insane. From memory it was about 40 minutes of talking complete nonsense, whereafter a short review followed. ’83 had this crazy, blatantly sexist commentary at the beginning of the tape that one would never play on today but ultimately these videos were unrated so theoretically they could do whatever they wanted. The Clive James reviews, as mentioned, were very entertaining but his views, particularly the way he glamourised smoking for example, might be additional grounds for FOM not to upload the old reviews for streaming. Apart from ’92 and maybe ’96, the reviews of the 90’s were all great. Since then it’s pretty much always been Ben Edwards, who I think is a good commentator but it’s well beyond time for a change, particularly given the amount of footage they have at their disposal now so they really should be doing a better job of making an entertaining product. That said, I can’t really comment on the last few years. On a side note… if I had stopped buying them a year earlier, my collection would be entirely DRS free. An opportunity missed perhaps? :-)

    1. There’s nothing stopping them from putting any sort of bizarre or ridiculous thing in the reviews now, at least in the UK – as documentaries, all F1 reviews are classified E for exempt in the UK. I’m not sure how many countries have a similar concept for documentaries, though…

  9. I would add 1994 to this list. Although the year was dreadful and tragic, the way it handles most of the events of the season is great and hits just the right note.

    1. I agree, 1994 was a well put together video. The music matched the mood of this very memorable and tragic year.

  10. The beginning of the ’81 review was very informative if one had never been exposed to the sport before…at least that’s how I felt when I first viewed it. Yes, its 35 years old now, but what was discussed still holds some relevance today regarding the background of the sport and what makes F1, F1. The footage was spectacular for the 80s as well, unbelievably smooth VHS quality, although, rather short.

  11. I did enjoy the 1989 review. Lots of detail and interviews, Bob Constanduros and Tony Jardine provide a decent commentary. There’s a rather funny bit where Martin Brundle commentates on one of his laps at Monaco and it happens to be the one where he spins at the swimming pool.

    1. @brickles Ah I’d forgotten about that! Good bit of early Brundle commentary.

      1. I have most years reviews except for 2011 onwards. Had them and sold them. My favourites are definitely 1994 & 1995. Full grids (up to Monaco 95 anyway after which SimTek disappeared), colourful liveries (I loved the Footwork 94) & a great soundtrack by Gary Scargill & Peter Oldroyd amongst others make those 2 my favourite F1 season reviews.

        I watched the 94 review the day I had my driving test, to calm my nerves and I passed..

  12. 1991 is brilliant also, probably my favorite. As already mentioned on the comments the intro is absolutely amazing.
    I really like the reviews from 86 and 87, especially the first. The only down from those two years is the exageration of Mansell worship.
    I have them all, from 81 to ’14. Soon will get the ’15 one.

    1. Well, he was the one leasing the standings, the one putting the show, the one that arrived to F1 with huge difficulties and the one to get observed to win the title.

      Yet, remember, also the one in 1987 to came back after an almost paraplegia accident at the end of ’86.

      Not bad. Now if we consider how much worship to Senna there was since ’87-’88 we can see that worship has been always around and, specially with Ayrton like now with Ham by instance, sometimes it was even way too much.

  13. Nobody’s mentioned the unusual Jonathan Ross ’93 one! It’s not as bad as one might imagine.

    Most of the 1990s ones were great and I think they stand out as having most of the review depth of the later DVDs together with the charm of the 80s productions.

    I’d completely forgotton about the sexist stuff from the 80s reviews!

    I do however remember the 1985 review tape and how rubbish it was. The driver’s were basically forced to talk about the races afterwards when they clearly fancied doing just about anything else – they all sound so dull!

    1. Loved the 93 review. At 90 minutes, it’s a bit short, but Ross doesn’t do too badly as an F1 reviewer.

    2. @joshgeake

      Nobody’s mentioned the unusual Jonathan Ross ’93 one!

      Pretty sure I did :-)

  14. I disagree with the idea that fatal crashes should not be shown. One of the most touching racing videos I’ve ever seen was one fan created f1 crash video which also included that desperate video of a guy trying his all to put out a fire that eventually claimed his fellow driver. The music was spot on and I was in tears when watching it (the whole video). Not only was the video very very touching but it also made me understand at very fundamental level why safety needs to be the most important thing in motor racing.

    Whenever someone says F1 is too safe I look back at that video and a shiver goes through my spine. Too safe? With this amount of money thrown at it it can never be too safe. Hiding the brutal nature of the history of the sport is not the answer. Showing the history in its all is as long as it is done tastefully.

    We adults should not be pandered to like children. I think it is perfectly valid to say political correctness is the same thing as treating others with respect – I also think that adults need to be shown adult content because the end result is so incredibly important. This doesn’t mean showing those burned bodies or deformed victims of high speed crashes. But showing the crashes themselves is very important. Otherwise people will safety just as a hindrance to working hard which it should never be. It needs to be shown why safety is important. One of the classic rules of story telling: Show, do not tell. It also applies to motor racing coverage.

    1. Jonesracing82
      21st January 2016, 0:20

      let’s face it, for the accidents not shown the 1st thing we will do is head to Youtube to see the accident then watch the rest of the review. it’s not dramatising it’s telling the story as it is & as it happened.

    2. Agree with you guys. Racing is a dangerous sport and everyone should know this. We can’t be very or over-sensitive and politically correct all the time. As @socksolid brilliantly said – show, but not sell.

    3. If adults were the only audience who watched F1 season reviews, the concept of “not treating adults like children” idea would probably work better. However, some children also watch the reviews, and I don’t think a current F1 review compiler would want to risk reducing their audience given how much trouble F1 has getting one at this point.

  15. 1999 should be right up there in the top 10, One of the 1st season reviews i watched and must have watched 1000s of times, Stilll one of my all time favourites, I personally really enjoy the 1991 one brilliant music used in the intro, 1992 is another one of my favourties, 2002 is another really good one consdering it was a crap season, I don’t buy the latest ones now as Sky do such a brilliant job of the coverage!

  16. Something that I liked about the earlier reviews is that they tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end. If I’m going back into the depths of old reviews, I’m not going to know who the drivers were so need some reminders, and reminders if any major rules have been changed. The later reviews for me rely too much on extra features which does not make a good environment to tell a story. I want a review to introduce the drivers and then tell the essential stories of the racing!

  17. I like the description of 2010, “post-refuelling, pre-gimmick”.

  18. I just own Mansell-Fest 1992 since 1993.
    1991 should be a great add to the list!

  19. When I was a kid back in the 80’s I used to buy mine by filling out the little ordering forms you’d get in Autosport and sending off a postal order!

    1 – 1982
    2 – 1986
    3 – 1984
    4 – 1981
    5 – 1983
    6 – 1985
    7 – 1987
    8 – 1990
    9 – 1989
    10 – 1988

    Obviously F1 was way better in the 80’s and early 90’s. Better to the power of infinity! Back then my heart rate used to be over 100 during every race. Now I usually just fall asleep. I won’t even bring up Group B, Group C, CART etc compared to the dull spec car crap we’ve got got today. Just a sad fact I’m afraid. I guess if you didn’t live through it you wouldn’t understand.

  20. I have the 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2010 F1 season reviews, and like the 2003 one best because of the storytelling aspect. There is, however, no way to make that aspect work convincingly in situations like the 2012 Blu-Ray with its 7 hours of film – most people are only going to be watching the highlights of the highlights and therefore any storytelling element would have to be restricted to single-weekend components.

    (I also have the 2015 WEC review, but since I haven’t even started watching that yet, I won’t attempt a comparison ;) )

  21. 2012 in my humble opinion one of the best seasons in the modern age. 7 different winners in 7 opening GP’s, and the best Samurai showing ever. Vettel’s name may be on the trophy, but Alonso, for me and many I’m sure, was the Champion in Spirit!!! Way above everybody else!!!

  22. Rhys Benjamin
    13th March 2016, 1:47

    2006 I particularly liked, particularly as boring races got a bit of music played on top of it in a montage-style.

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