Hunt vs Lauda: The True Story DVD reviewed

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Just how many different ways does the story of the 1976 Formula One season need to be told?

As well as being the focus of last year’s feature film Rush it also forms a significant part of the recently released 1: Life on the Limit.

Taking advantage in the surge of interest in the remarkable story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s fight for that year’s championship comes another documentary, appropriately titled Hunt vs Lauda.

The 52-minute feature originally aired on the BBC last year and has now been released on DVD. As documentaries go it’s fairly typical – classic race footage, a few contemporary interviews and a smattering of new material.

Having recently sat through 1: Life on the Limit, in which it seemed nearly every living world champion was wheeled out merely so their names could appear in the credits, I especially appreciated the choice of interview subjects being kept to a minimum of well-chosen figures.

Lauda appears, as does his 1976 team principal Daniele Audetto, and Audetto’s opposite number at McLaren Alastair Caldwell. All contribute much of interest, but it’s hard to say the same of Hunt’s sister Sally Jones. Veteran Formula One correspondents Simon Taylor and Peter Windsor (the latter also a consultant for the programme) provide the necessary expertise.

For Rush, scriptwriter Peter Morgan and director Ron Howard chose to sacrifice or embellish some elements of the Hunt-Lauda story in the process of converting it from reality to cinema. The product was a dramatic vision of their rivalry which was not wholly authentic but successfully reached an audience beyond dedicated Formula One fans.

I thought that film’s divergences from the real story were sparing and generally respectful to its subjects. But if Rush took too many liberties with the truth for your taste, or if it left you wanting to know more about that season, you should enjoy this video.

Hunt vs Lauda fills in the blanks left by Rush: details such as Lauda’s tractor crash early in the season which left him with broken ribs, Hunt’s controversial win at Brands Hatch and its later annulment after Ferrari’s appeal, and the dubious circumstances of Hunt’s relegation to the back of the grid at Monza – though the latter tale could have been fleshed out a bit more.

The undercurrent of respect between the two protagonists comes across better here than it did in Rush, as does the growing rivalry between two of F1’s great teams. It may say Hunt vs Lauda on the box, but the story inside is as much McLaren vs Ferrari.

Being a short, made-for-television documentary it proceeds quickly, and only the most significant races from the season are featured. There isn’t time for much pre-1976 background either.

One factual error stood out in the script – Hunt needed to finish fourth, not third, to win the title in the deciding race at Fuji following Lauda’s retirement. Oddly, the same mistake appeared in 1: Life on the Limit as well.

That aside this makes an excellent companion to Rush, adding in much useful information for those who want to learn more of the full story behind one of F1’s most remarkable seasons.

F1 Fanatic rating

Buy Hunt vs Lauda: Grand Prix’s Greatest Racing Rivals – The True Story (DVD)

Hunt vs Lauda: Grand Prix’s Greatest Racing Rivals – The True Story

Publisher: Delta Leisure
Published: January 2014
Running time: 52 minutes
Price: ??9.99


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Hunt vs Lauda: The True Story DVD reviewed”

  1. price seems reasonable, for once
    I wonder why there’s this common mistake around the 4th/3rd place

    1. Probably because he finished third the assumption is made that he needed to finish third. If he won by 1 point then you that means Hunt would’ve won a tiebreaker on wins?

      1. Yes, Hunt had six wins to Lauda’s five.

  2. “The 52-minute feature originally aired on the BBC last year and has now been released on DVD. As documentaries go it’s fairly typical – classic race footage, a few contemporary interviews and a smattering of new material.”

    Sums it up perfectly.

  3. I watched this on BBC last year, and I enjoyed it immensely. For me, it was the perfect antidote to the strikingly terrible Rush. OK, we must thank Mr Howard for bringing F1 to the floor among modern film audiences, but he really should have done it in a better film. The degree to which the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda is made so deeply personal it is utterly cringe-worthy, the over engineered cinematography of the infrequent on-track sequences broke the 1970s escapism and although Daniel Brühl was quite simply spectacular, it soon emerged that Hemsworth is to acting what Pierce Brosnan is to singing (see the equally terrible film, Mamma Mia, for details). In fact such was the discrepancy between Hemsworth and Brühl that, even though Howard tried to comprehensively explore both characters, one could not help but instantly side with Lauda, although the fact that film portrays one of the greatest racing ever better than a mere alcohol fueled pretender is one of the film’s better features.

    OK, it was never going to be another Senna, and it was quite clearly a film not remotely aimed at F1 fans, which is absolutely fine, but why then did Howard feel compelled to jump on to the petrolhead bandwagon and pop up on every gridwalk and even in the reasonably priced car? Ron, why did you bother selling it to us if you quite clearly didn’t have us in mind whilst you were making it? Would you motto be “take the money and run” by any chance?

    Thank goodness that someone at the BBC twigged that with Rush steamrolling an actually quite fascinating subject matter without telling its audience much more than Driver A had a crash, and Driver B liked smoking, drinking and air hostesses, there was a call for a rather fascinating documentary. In terms of documentaries, yes, it was rather typical, but it was also rather excellent, and was probably the most interesting 52 minutes I had in 2013: not that that is much to shout about.

    1. Regardless of your personal opinion about Rush it’s hardly fair to accuse the film of not being “remotely aimed” at F1 Fans. I’ve followed F1 since the early 90s and loved the movie, despite its inaccuracies (it’s not meant to be a documentary after all). It’s understandable that someone who has experienced the real story unfold at the time would be more critical, but pleasing everyone is impossible anyway (it’s not like Senna was universally loved either) , and I personally think Rush did a pretty good job bringing across the passion of F1.

    2. OK, it was never going to be another Senna, and it was quite clearly a film not remotely aimed at F1 fans

      Just because you didn’t enjoy it doesn’t make that statement true.

    3. @marucat – Why isn’t it fair to call Rush a film not aimed at F1 fans? It is little more than a film in which the backdrop is F1, but it is certainly not a film about F1. However, that is not why I didn’t like it, I appreciate that not everyone spends their evenings watching classic grand prix reruns, so I have no problem with Howard diluting the F1 flavour to target a wider audience (which is why it is not necessarily a film for F1 fans), but what resulted I though was utter rubbish. Not because it wasn’t factually correct, not because it wasn’t overtly about F1 but simply because it wasn’t a very good film. Howard hypes up the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda to ridiculous levels, all the while omitting the genuine respect there was between them simply to portray both drivers as intense chisel-jawed competitors. Reality, as Senna proves, doesn’t require embellishment in a high drama sport like F1.

      @matt90 – Just because you did enjoy it doesn’t make my statement untrue. I would say that Rush is a film set against the backdrop of F1 in the 1970s, but not a film about F1. Howard, quite validly, chose to aim for a broader audience by focusing on the Hunt-Lauda rivalry exclusively, however that is not why I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it simply because it was a poor film, and I still have issues with Howard desperately trying to pitch the film to us petrolheads, but when we watch it we find ourselves with a conventional Hollywood action-drama. Ron, if you didn’t have us in mind during production, why did you so desperately try and sell it to us?

      1. Just because you did enjoy it doesn’t make my statement untrue.

        You’re right. The fact that lots of passionate F1 fans besides me enjoyed the film makes your statement untrue.

        1. LotsOfControl (@for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge)
          19th January 2014, 18:57


          You’re wrong. His @William Brierty statement is true, as is yours.
          I also felt left down by “Rush”. In fact “1” is much better in my opinion.

          1. The idea that it isn’t remotely aimed at F1 fans is incorrect. Just because some people didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it was aimed at them. The amount they got right, the lengths they went to with a lot of details and more all shows that they wanted people who know the sport to enjoy it.

          2. Just because some people didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it was aimed at them.


          3. @matt90 – You are a) overestimating how well the film was received by F1 fans and b) failing to ascertain why my suggestion that it wasn’t aimed at F1 fans is so incorrect. The film left so many holes in the chronology of the 1976 season in its pursuit of an analysis of racing competitors that anyone expecting watch a film about the 1976 F1 season, i.e. F1 fans, would have been profoundly disappointed. Some may have enjoyed it for other reasons, like you clearly did, but the fact that the Hunt’s alcoholism got more coverage than the Ferrari 312 T2 rather demeans the suggestion that it was a film aimed at F1 fans. Howard quite clearly was aiming for a more mainstream audience during production, which is fine, and what I was fully expecting; I didn’t like it simply because it wasn’t a very good film.

          4. You seem to think that a film about F1 should only include racing footage, and that if it includes other things then it can’t be aimed at true fans. I quite simply don’t understand that. And I haven’t seen anything suggesting that I overestimated the films popularity among fans. It sounds like what you wanted was a play-by-play account of what happened, covering every round. It sounds like you expected and wanted to watch a documentary and not a film.

          5. For me Rush was OK.. i really loved the start of film mainly of the sound. Either way we own a thx to howard for this mainly because it attracted out of F1 people to watch it. Adv is always good

  4. This is on again tonight, 7pm on BBC2, or ‘after some closing ceremony thing at the F1 track in Sochi and before Top Gear’.
    Sounds like it’s worth a look to put the story straight after seeing Rush.

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