Things that I think and do
I am not a fan at all of Formula 1. I was shocked to discover today that races only last for about ninety minutes; whenever I’ve watched even half of one it seems like about four hours. To my uninitiated and untrained eye, F1 amounts to a long and tedious car chase in which one bloke gets the lead within the first two minutes and stays there for seventy laps.
Apart from the first couple of corners in the first lap, where there may or may not be a crash (and more often than not there isn’t), the only reason I can see for watching F1 is if you happen to have an irrational love for watching a slightly faster-moving queue of funny-shaped cars.
A trip to the cinema this week, however, would entertain even the most outspoken critic of Formula 1.
One of the bigger film releases this month was Rush, an action-drama-biopic-thing charting the rivalry between two drivers in the 1970s, Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
Both of them seemed to be very frowny and serious, apart from when they were with their impossibly attractive wives or girlfriends (which frankly wasn’t surprising). They also both had a bizarre habit of wearing faeces-coloured suits with wide flares, but I suppose that was big in the 70s anyway.
The two drivers were also implausibly full of deep and philosophical quotes, some of which were pretty mind-blowing – my favourite being Lauda’s, “a wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool does from his friends”. If he said that in real life, I’d be very surprised.
But the best thing about the film, apart from Daniel Brühl’s German accent, was the dramatisation of the racing itself and the portrayal of the huge risk the drivers were taking each time they sat in their funny little cars.
At one point in the film, Lauda says that there’s always a 20% risk of death whenever he gets into his machine. While this might be a little bit of an exaggeration – and some people have decided that it might be – it still looks bloody dangerous to have been an F1 driver in those days.
In those days a driver had to be very good and very lucky to get through a season unscathed by some sort of fatal mishap. The film claims that one or two drivers died every year. Considering that the last F1 driver died in 1994, that statistic is pretty horrific (if indeed it is true).
The film remains enjoyable for both fans and complete non-fans. Weirdos who like to watch nothing happen for two hours will go misty-eyed at all the old-fashioned cars in the golden era of motorsport, and appreciate the dramatisation of the lives of two big names in the sport.
Others, who would usually prefer to watch paint dry than sit through the Silverstone GP, will get fully involved in the tension of the drivers’ rivalry off the track and admire the huge collars and lapels of the 70s. And gawp at how stunning Lauda’s wife is.
Having never heard of James Hunt and only vaguely heard of Niki Lauda, I had no idea what was going to happen throughout most of the film, which made it much more entertaining and involving.
It’s this unpredictability that modern Formula 1 totally lacks. The biggest drama you get now is when someone deviates slightly from the racing line and puts a tire in the gravel in lap forty-nine.
Back in the 70s they had five moustachioed mechanics and a small radio in the pit garage. These days each team has enough technology to power a small space station and a team of at least eighty ‘engineers’. And none of them have moustaches.
I watched the start of the Singapore GP this afternoon, and within one lap the cars were all evenly spaced out and the leader had gained a four-second lead. He was clearly going to win and there were still sixty laps to go. I’ve just checked and the top ten drivers have not changed since the start at 1pm.
I know, I know that Rush is a film and only shows the entertaining bits of races. But those few minutes of overtaking and cornering at silly speeds were still more enjoyable than two hours of watching the same bloke win each week.
Which is why you should all go and see Rush as soon as possible. Go to the cinema for two hours and you’ll see more overtaking, track drama and tension than ten races in the current season.
You’ll also see far more flowery shirts, suede suits and facial hair. The day Lewis Hamilton grows a handlebar moustache and wears dark brown flares is the day I stop switching channels as soon as I see a Formula 1 car.