The Ben Evans Column: F1 review videos

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We’re only one month into the off-season and already Ben has re-watched all his F1 review videos.

So what makes a good review? Ben has a few ideas – not least of which putting out two reviews for each season. Read on to find out why…

As we enter the Christmas season F1 fans have little to celebrate: The odd test session, driver move rumours, but no action.

In these bleak times when there’s no racing to watch (except A1GP, but that’s usually on long before I’m awake), many of us turn to our video collections to ward off impending social engagements, or interminable Morecambe and Wise repeats.

Certainly this is the path that I’ve trodden in recent weeks, and you know what, most of my F1 videos are actually a bit rubbish.

The end of season review has long been a ‘must buy’ for your average anorak, and why not: A 90-minute to 3-hour film that encapsulates all the season’s action into one sitting (except for 2002 as that season’s highlights barely run to 5 minutes).

Yet many of them leave both the casual follow and the hardcore fan feeling ever so slightly disappointed.

I can’t speak for the Brunswick Films 1970’s reviews as I haven’t seen them, but the feedback I’ve had has been mixed.

But of the official FOCA tapes issued since 1981, I would say that there are 4 only really good ones that are worth returning to again and again.

These are the three Clive James tapes from 1982 (not for kids), 1984 (funny narration, dull season), 1986 (if you only ever buy one F1 video, this should be it) and the 1993 review narrated by Jonathan Ross, which is about the only review which captures all the action and keeps the viewer entertained.

As for the others, well they’re a mixed bag.

The 1980s tapes are of variable quality, 1981 is dull, 1983 has narration even worse than a James Allen commentary (yes that bad), 1985 is narrated by the drivers which makes for an interesting curio but crap review, 1987 suffers from the Simon Taylor effect (as 1981). 1988 and 1989 are worth hunting down, though.

The same goes for 1990 and 1991. 1992 is a Mansell eulogy, and 1994 was overshadowed by Imola. I have a soft spot for 1995 which covers the Hill vs Schumacher battles well andalso features Taki Inoue’s greatest hits.

The remainder of the 1990s reviews feature some great scene setting shots and pitstop coverage but little else. Note to producers (and Bernie for that matter) – if the public found tyre changes exciting there would be rabid hordes outside Kwikfit daily. That there aren’t suggests the on-track action is what holds the appeal.

Into the ’00s and well, frankly, there hasn’t been a good review yet, they’ve all been overlong, overearnest and mainly set in the present tense.

Furthermore as the running length has increased, so have the number of build-up shots, and whilst Bono at Monaco is mildly diverting (if only in the hope somebody would run him over), Magny-Cours is not – there are only so many shots of rustic fields you can stomach (clue – its less than one).

So I’ve had my moan, but what does the perfect season review look like? Well firstly there would be two (as Duke traditionally issued for the Isle of Man TT).

One would be 90 minutes or so long, and would be narrated by either Clive James, Jack Dee or Jimmy Carr and would condense all the action into bitesize chunks whilst ripping into Kimi Raikkonen’s monotone and Vitantonio Liuzzi’s hairstyles. This would appeal to the fair-weather and casual fan who wants to watch some F1 to be entertained, not to have a technical lecture on tyre compounds.

The second would be for the hardcore fan, ideally narrated by Martin Haven and David Addison (easily the two best UK racing commentators), and would span over two disks with copious race coverage (at least 15 minutes of action from each race). It would also come loaded with extras (such as a driver’s viewpoint from Anthony Davidson), and lots of short clips to save you rummaging through the disk – such as all the crashes/amusing moments of the year collected into a 10 minute montage.

It would also have a multi angle option on all the key incidents – do you want to go onboard, helicopter, or trackside (this is available on Moto GP reviews)? Put simply it should be a feast for the F1 fanatic and provide the most comprehensive, yet entertaining review of the season.

So come on FOCA, please provide the fans and the sport with season reviews it deserves, that will effectively document F1 for fans of the future to watch as they come into the sport, whilst giving the current fans something to whet their appetite with over the long, warm winter.

Oh, and while you’re at it, how about re-releasing the 1980s and 1990s reviews on DVD? But do sort out that ’83 review commentary??????

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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5 comments on “The Ben Evans Column: F1 review videos”

  1. Great post! The new reviews just offer what we have otherwise seen on TV – so there is no real point in getting them.

    I think the 1991 review is good. There is a lot of unseen footage and mainly action from practice and qualifying sessions that the public (especially in the UK) are denied access to.

  2. Well the postman brought the 2006 review DVD today so we’ll have a review of that up soon.

  3. You’re right about “all over down under” – far and away the best season review video I’ve seen. The 1983 commentary is appalling, but on the other hand, it was quite an interesting season.

    Must hunt down the other Clive James narrated reviews sometime.

  4. on your list of the reviews you have forgotten the ’91 review! and also the ’00 VHS version!
    i agree that the ’83 review commentary is woeful but i think it is one of the best reviews in terms of “on track entertainment”
    highlight is at monaco during wet qualifying when marc surer comes over the crest completely sideways! and u can hear the engine screaming it’s head off! and in ’00 review (VHS) when at france quali session becomes a drift comp out of last corner! hope max has seen it as it is what we are missing with the TC crap!

  5. I am of the opinion that Bernie has such a high price on F1, no TV companies can afford to re-run ANY F1 races for the fan’s pleasure. Have YOU ever enjoyed, for instance, ITV re-running Monaco 2006, 2005 or 2004?

    I was VERY disappointed when, 2 years ago, my wife bought me the F1 DVD. A handful of out-takes (although I do revel in the fact that I was AT SPA, on the Kemmel strait, when Hakkinen overtook M.Schumacher) but it’s nothing like a true document of F1 should be, over 30 years.

    Actually being at Magny Cours, Spa or Estoril (showing my age), is worth so much more than 17 races in your living room.

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