“F1 How It Was” video reviewed

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It is widely believed that Formula One Management has failed to tap the potential of their video archive. F1 How It Was, a new video which promises “never before seen footage” from races spanning three decades, may be a sign that is changing.

The FOM archive at Biggin Hill contains all the footage generated since it took control of F1 broadcasts in the early eighties. Third parties have tapped the reputed treasure trove of footage has already been tapped for projects such as Senna and 1: Life on the Limit, but at a price. “Give us all the money you’ve got and we’ll see what we can do” was what Bernie Ecclestone told Senna author Manish Pandey when he asked for access to the archive.

But with F1 How It Was, Formula One Management appears to have finally realised the potential value of producing its own documentaries using previously unseen footage as a starting point. The concept behind it is simple: ten drivers tell the story of notable moments from their careers.

The selection includes the sizzling 1986 and 1997 title-deciders, the warring Williams drivers at Silverstone in 1987 and a few quirky choices too: Stewart’s only grand prix win in 1999 and David Coulthard’s defeat of Michael Schumacher at Magny-Cours the following year. Each is accompanied by narration from one driver at the heart of the action plus a voiceover.

The programme makers have teased out some new anecdotes from a roster of world champions and race winners. Most tell interesting stories and a few are especially engrossing: Jean Alesi’s account of his 1990 scrap with Ayrton Senna emerges as a surprise highlight, and Jacques Villeneuve’s assessment of his run-in with Schumacher in the final race of 1997 is characteristically frank.

Races covered

1984 Portuguese GP: Niki Lauda
1986 Australian GP: Alain Prost
1987 British GP: Nigel Mansell
1990 United States GP: Jean Alesi
1994 German GP: Gerhard Berger
1997 European GP: Jacques Villeneuve
1999 European GP: Johnny Herbert
2000 French GP: David Coulthard
2007 European GP: Fernando Alonso
2011 Canadian GP: Jenson Button

Others needed a bit more help in the editing room. Nigel Mansell’s account of Silverstone 1987 is too plodding for such an enthralling race. And someone might have pointed out to him that the sunglasses perched on of his head made him look like he was wearing a hairband.

While the box promises “never before seen footage” it doesn’t state how much. The reason for this soon becomes apparent. There is very little.

If you’re hoping for revealing new angles on Jos Verstappen’s 1994 pit fire or Michael Schumacher swiping into Jacques Villeneuve, forget it. What little new footage there is, seemingly no more than a few shots per segment, is mostly behind-the-scenes stuff rather than race action. Those hoping to savour the sounds of F1 engines past will be disappointed the incessant and bland incidental music.

Not much thought appears to have gone into this production beyond ‘let’s offer as little new material as we can and flog it’. There’s no theme connecting the selection of races so the film lurches randomly from one to the next.

The choice of drivers appears to owe less to significance and more to who was conveniently available: i.e. active racers and those involved with current teams or broadcasters who could be interviewed at race weekends. The absence of Nelson Piquet is conspicuous when the first three segments all mention him at length. There’s an obvious anglophone bias in the line-up.

The narration is functional at best, the bland script is of a ‘what I did on my summer holidays’ standard. This being an official FOM production you get a clear feeling the ‘party line’ is being put across.

Coulthard’s middle-finger gesture to Schumacher at Magny-Cours in 2000 is censored, unlike in the original season review video. We’re shown Alonso’s post-2007 European GP row with Felipe Massa, but without audio or subtitles. And when car after car spins off during the same race in a deluge the shot of Vitantonio Liuzzi almost hitting a tractor the way Jules Bianchi did is noticeably absent.

Sections of F1 How it Was are lively and interesting. In other places it drags and fails to live up to its billing. The box boasts “never before seen footage… you will want to revisit again and again” but there’s not enough here to stand up to more than a one-off viewing.

F1 Fanatic rating

Buy F1: How it Was (Blu-Ray)

Buy F1: How it Was (DVD)

F1 How it Was: Formula 1 Drivers Past and Present Re-capture their Iconic Moments

Publisher: Formula One Management
Published: 2016
Price: £16.99


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Author information

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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26 comments on ““F1 How It Was” video reviewed”

  1. Those hoping to savour the sounds of F1 engines past will be disappointed the incessant and bland incidental music.

    Why oh why do all motorsport videos insist on doing this.

    1. I agree.

  2. It is widely believed that Formula One Management has failed to tap the potential of their video archive

    That is just a fact, belief or not!

    1. @pastaman Well, until we’ve seen what’s in there we can’t be sure. Maybe it’s just shot after shot of Michael Schumacher looking bored. Or, more likely, Erja Hakkinen.

      1. Erja! I was thinking about that for a while, old Hungarian commentator always referred to her as “lady Erja” which sounded pretty weird back then, but I couldn’t remember the name.

        1. Yees, there was “Lady Erja”… plus referring to Anthony Davidson as “Mr Davidson” all the time, pronounced with a horrible Hungarian accent… the good old days :)

  3. I see the same person in charge of naming the season reviews has been put to work again here. Lamentable.

    1. @john-h The Past: It Happened.

      1. andrew carter
        17th October 2016, 13:37

        @keithcollantine The Past: It Happened. can I nominate you for your first comment of the day?

        1. You could, but I think the editor’s biased against me…

  4. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    16th October 2016, 14:07

    There is so much untapped potential here, so many possibilities overlooked by a blinkered, small-minded FOM. There are thousands of stunning documentary hours just waiting to be used in the Biggin Hill archive, which could be released either as a digital download or through dedicated platforms like Sky F1. Top tens, great races, technical pieces, team biographies, onboard camera flashbacks, “old versus new”…

    …the remarkable thing is, this is cold, hard cash being neglected, and all it would require is some documentary-making experience and a copy of Windows Movie Maker. A weekend at Biggin Hill, a Sean Pertwee voice-over and my decrepit laptop and I would be fairly confident of emerging with a fairly decent feature! But in all seriousness, a regular series of well-produced documentaries could do wonders for fan engagement, and would likely yield excellent revenue. Are you listening Liberty Media?

  5. Sounds like a big money grab attempt from FOM. And as expected, it falls short. FOM could take a hard look at NFL Films here in the States and learn how to market their sports archive profitably.

    1. @photogcw
      SKY Sports have been showing a series of documentaries about the history of the NFL for the last few years, and while I’ve never been a big fan of the sport, they’re really interesting and get me hooked whenever I see one on.
      They’ve got a great balance between explaining things so that people like me who don’t know a lot about the sport can understand what they’re talking about, but with enough detail that my friends who are knowledgeable fans still enjoy them too.
      Great behind the scenes footage, mixed with match highlights and really good interviews with the players, coaches, officials, and other people involved with the sport make for great viewing.

      A series like that for F1 would be awesome.

      1. Here’s a good example of what they’re talking about.

        It’s a short film about two receivers on the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team so mediocre that it pays them to play a home game each year on a different continent. These are two guys most NFL fans haven’t heard of. The film intelligently starts with that as the theme, opening with them introduced to a crowd in London. By the end of the film you’ll be thinking, “if this is the kind of talent on a crap team, the league must be amazing” (either that or you’ll be confused as to why Jacksonville isn’t in Super Bowl contention).

        Watch it for the reactions from the opposing teams, the use of sideline audio, and the way they set up a story. Then imagine the same group producing a film of, oh, let’s say Kvyat’s career this season.

        1. A great show of how one can have both a great amount of incredible footage from all over the grid to fill all those empty hours on dedicated F1 (and sports) channels. And a great show of how even the “losers” are still great sportsmen (-women) and worthwhile to follow @agoodall, @beneboy!

          Exactly the kind of thing that could help F1 make an incredible amount more from the sport than is done currently without even having to add races or change the cars, tyres, rules etc.

        2. I’ve been following the NFL and F1 since the early 60’s. NFL Films is widely acknowledged as instrumental in the rise in the popularity of the sport. In the early days, before video tape, when only a handful of games were televised, the NFL Films weekly highlights film elevated sport documentary into an art form.

          If FOM could do something similar, it could go a long way toward expanding the F1 fan base.

  6. Well, pretty fun this…

  7. Sometimes something will happen in sports that makes me absolutely go through the roof. When schumacher blocked dc and dc made his gesture i probabbly registered on the richter scale!!!

  8. Good start but hardly surprising that the quality seems suspect. The previous job of an FOM key figure was running a kung-fu studio. Perhaps it was a chain of them… Nevertheless, food for thought? Or, yet another Mr. E genius stroke — bodyguard and commercial director in one!

  9. I love how the FOM DVD titles are directly translated from French as if it works the same in English.

    The chasm in quality and output between FOM and NFL Films for instance is staggering and is as good an indicator as any as to why Liberty will have looked at F1 and seen a growth opportunity.

  10. What a shabby quality-looking product. That cover looks like a mid-2000s pirate DVD….

    1. or, a kung-fu film!

  11. I was in the process of chucking my notes from watching this and thought the individual observations I’d made on each section might be of interest to some:

    1984 Portuguese Grand Prix, Lauda
    “It was for me one of the worst races”
    Piquet offered to help him, then afterwards checked he’d won. Nice little story at the end.
    Steady narration adds little drama

    1986 Australian Grand Prix, Prost
    First race has some introduction, this doesn’t
    Annoying music in the background – let us hear the engines!
    Not much new footage so far. Shots of talking heads too long.
    Mansell sliding off in background behind Prost looks new. Perhaps another ‘behind the scenes’-type shot too.
    Rosberg “stopped in the race because of a brake problem” – then shows him stopping with a delaminated tyre
    No narration from Mansell despite him being fairly important in the race…

    1987 British Grand Prix – Mansell
    “I was given the largest lawsuit about two minutes before the start of the race.” Then someone made disparaging comments about his family to him, which Mansell reckoned Piquet had instigated.
    Music really irritating
    Peter Windsor suddenly appears!
    This chapter seems much longer than the other two.

    1990 United States Grand Prix – Alesi
    Alesi’s narration is great. Detailed, pithy, emotional. Make a video just about him.

    ‘1994’ – Berger
    This also has more of an intro and good background from Berger.
    then ‘German Grand Prix’
    Nothing obviously new of Verstappen fire. Detail of it largely ignored
    Some celebration footage looks new
    Rather flat ending

    1997 European Grand Prix – Villeneuve
    Everything covered in detail, Williams-McLaren collusion rather downplayed. Good piece

    1999 European Grand Prix – Herbert
    One of the less significant races?
    Dull bit on aborted start
    No team radio

    2000 French Grand Prix – Coulthard
    Just not very interesting
    Finger-waving business censored

    2007 European Grand Prix – Alonso
    No mention of Spygate of course
    Team radio – Winkelhock pitting
    Lots of shots of cars going off at turn one but Liuzzi’s near-miss with the tractor is overlooked, perhaps unsurprisingly given Bianchi
    More Peter Windsor
    Great footage of Mike Gascoyne with Winkelhock pre-restart
    No audio or subtitles on post-race argument

    2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Button
    Some team radio includes no explanation of who’s speaking

  12. As FOM opens up their archives, I was wondering has there been any official (or unofficial) info why their older 4:3 footage has been “reverse pan and scanned” (not sure if this is the correct term), i.e. the top and bottom have been cropped out to make the footage look like it is widescreen, thus actually losing a large amount of the screen. I’d much prefer to see the full picture with black vertical borders around it rather than losing image quality.

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