Over the weekend, with Formula 1 being in Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, I was thinking about classic Formula 1 race weekends where the entire weekend has told a story, whether it is about a driver, a team or a championship rivalry.
Which led me onto a series idea for Sky Sports F1 that I have. The idea is derived from the concept of the Senna film which was in the form of a documentary, except instead of covering a driver, it would cover a race weekend, from a documentary stand-point. The only problem here would be gathering up all the footage from a weekend from Formula One Management in Biggin Hill, watching it all, finding the best camera angles and editing it into a one-hour show which tells a story would be time consuming to say the least (although I would totally envy the person up for the task!).
I do think, as a concept though, it would be a brilliant, although potentially unrealistic, idea. As an hour programme (or 45 minutes without adverts), it could be edited down into:
0 minutes to 5 minutes – introduction
5 minutes to 10 minutes – Friday
10 minutes to 20 minutes – Saturday
20 minutes to 35 minutes – Sunday
35 minutes to 40 minutes – aftermath
By no means would it be a fast paced show, it would not be. The purpose would be to take you right into the heart of a race weekend, to put you into the shoes of X or Y driver. As an idea, I love it. In reality? The time consumed to look through the masses of footage for an hour programme deems this idea highly unlikely, especially considering their unwillingness to screen Classic F1 races.
In any case, we will roll with it. Pretending it was a six part series, I would use the following races in Formula 1 history to use:
1994 Australian Grand Prix
The first of two championship battles between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill in what had been a mentally draining season on all concerned after the death of Ayrton Senna. The programme would look at Schumacher’s and Hill’s mindset going into the race weekend, and the possible influence of Nigel Mansell in deciding the destiny of the championship. From there, the swings and roundabouts of Friday’s and Saturday’s Qualifying sessions from Schumacher’s and Hill’s perspectives would be looked at in detail. And then, the race itself. Lap 36 of that race is one etched in Formula 1 history as Schumacher and Hill collided, handing Schumacher the championship. The immediate second by second aftermath would be analysed as Hill’s championship dreams were crushed and Schumacher’s were turning into a reality.
1997 European Grand Prix
Schumacher vs Villeneuve. Like 1994, this was another title battle involving Schumacher with a controversial ending. Before that, the programme would look at the respective Friday and Saturday performances from Schumacher and Villeneuve, and the dramatic Saturday Qualifying events that seen them both (along with Heinz-Harald Frentzen) record identical times. The race itself would keep track of Schumacher’s and Villeneuve’s progress and those outside of Ferrari and Williams who attempted to influence the outcome of the championship, namely Sauber and their driver Norberto Fontana. We would then get to the moment. The collision. This time, the Williams, however, did not retire. Villeneuve continued, and Schumacher was beached. From that, minute by minute we see Schumacher’s lonely walk back to the pit-lane as Villeneuve on track slowed, handing the lead to Mika Hakkinen.
2000 Japanese Grand Prix
The championship decider which left Michael Schumacher with his first championship since 1995 and Ferrari with their first in 21 years. But it was not all about Schumacher. Qualifying and the Race saw him in a titanic battle with Mika Hakkinen. There was no overtaking, but there did not need to be. The story here is “what you can do, I can do better”. And Schumacher did exactly that. The programme would look at the above and jump into the Ferrari celebrations after the race and the McLaren heartbreak. A tale, of two halves.
2002 Austrian Grand Prix
The pass. You can’t call it an overtake. It wasn’t. The programme would start exactly twelve months earlier, when the same happened as Rubens Barrichello let through Michael Schumacher for second on the final straight. It would then go onto Barrichello’s incredibly foreshadowing during interviews on Thursday before going through Qualifying and then a processional race, albeit with a horrifying crash from Takuma Sato. Afterwards, the aftermath would be felt up and down in the paddock, and later in front of the courts.
2005 United States Grand Prix
Possibly one of the more controversial Grand Prix’s in Formula 1 history. It would not be a lot about the racing, but the programme would dive into the uncomfortable setting that surrounded the Grand Prix, featuring comments as the events unfolded in a documentary style format from Friday through to the aftermath on Sunday evening as Formula 1 attempted to recover from the PR disaster.
2008 Brazilian Grand Prix
The greatest championship decider that I will probably live to ever see. Lewis Hamilton versus Felipe Massa. The dramatic build-up and their previous clashes would be outlined as well as Hamilton’s Qualifying problems. The race would be seen from unique, never before seen camera angles as Hamilton and Massa battled the elements. Massa was comfortably winning, and Hamilton was sixth. With one lap remaining, that was… and then in turned on it’s head. Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the final bend, winning the title. As in 2000, one side was celebrating, and the other was heartbroken. Except this time, it was role reversals.
As well as the above, you would get ‘as live’ quotes from the personalities involved, unique camera angles that captures the imagination and did not make it to TV as well as never before released footage from the FOM archive. Regarding the choices, you could have a lot more, but I wanted to stick to six recent ones that all Formula 1 fans, irrespective of age would remember instantly, everyone knows the races behind the moments. The documentaries, however, would dive deeper into the race weekend looking at unreleased footage to give the viewer an all rounded version of the weekend from a never before seen perspective.
Would you like to see a documentary series like this in the future if it was feasible enough?