July 19, 2024

I finally was able to go and see the long awaited and much hailed Ron  Howard Formula 1 epic about the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, culminating in the fight for the 1976 Formula 1 world championship.


ferrari-312-t2-05This was very dear to my heart, since back in 1976 I was following Formula 1 very intensely. From the 1973 Dutch a Grand Prix, in which Roger Williamson so tragically lost his life, I was getting more and more involved with it. I started building the Tamiya 1/12 scale models, which were so accurate that I could actually measure them down, in exacting detail, to draw them myself, and based on that information started to design my own Formula 1 cars from chassis, suspension through to engine, gearbox, aerodynamics.

moremsportshistoryIt was a very exciting time, since everything was still so in its infancy, and innovations were relatively easy to come up with. I loved that pioneering era, and it had a profound influence on me and my career. Niki Lauda, and his analytical approach, his drive for perfection, his skill to work through problems and come out victorious, also were guiding lights for me.

So it might be obvious that I was really looking forward to this movie. Having been skeptical about Hollywood being able to capture F1, unless some really passionate people were involved like way back when in the movie Grand Prix, and knowing maybe a little too much about the specific era, I held my breath as I saw all the previews heralding James Hunt as the playboy ‘wunderkind’ full of pure talent, able to beat the best, the man he never was.In the movie the Niki Lauda character is getting close to the real one I remember so well. Even his typical Austrian phrases he used to write in his column at AutoRevue made their way into the script. Mariella Von Reinighausen, Lauda’s first girlfriend when he started out until the 1976 season, was suitably left out. Also the first test sessions in a Ferrari at Fiorano were in the really under performing B3 in 1973 guise, not the 312T, but all in all a fair representation.lauda-31218

moremsportshistoryJames Hunt at that time was good, but certainly not the best. He happened to fall into the McLaren seat vacated by Emmerson Fittipaldi, a winning seat in 1975 already, and he had the luck of Lauda’s tractor accident plaguing him with broken ribs around the Spanish Grand Prix, the famous Lauda accident in the German Grand Prix, eliminating Lauda from competition for the German, Austrian and Dutch Grand Prix, as well as restraining him upon his return Italy, and I am sure the next few races after that.

P0005690So Hunt beat Lauda by 1 single point in 1976, Lauda who drove with broken ribs, who was out for 3 races and recovering for the last few races of that season. That hardly makes Hunt the hero, does it? Of course, he is British, which the Americans love because they can understand their lingo, or at least think they can. The Brits just give them a pity smile, and say “sure, you’re right..” as long as the Amis pay the bills, generously..

That all aside, what really annoyed me throughout the movie was the details. So they go through the expensive process of creating this epic, convert cars to resemble the real things for certain skidding and crash scenes, and have some of the actual cars from that season take part in starts and driving scenes. What bewilders me is then, that in going through all that effort, the get simple things wrong, cheap things, things that are in your face with the close up cams used, like the Italian flag lines on the 312T2 which had bands of exactly identical widths, never more white than green and red. Niki Lauda’s helmet sticker had his first name on top and his last name on the bottom, just as clearly readable as the wide version made up here.

Niki Actually also used the ‘King Rat’ title as his name during that season, which would have been a nice reference in the plot that he didn’t take that nick name as an insult.

Niki’s 1976 AGV helmet was of very distinctive design and most likely cause for it to fly off during his accident, so why not use one of those there? James’ helmet was thoroughly modern day, not at all close to what he was wearing then. Some of the drivers’ overalls during the GPDA meeting were clearly not correct either. It’s small things, but things that were annoying to the passionate me, since it wouldn’t have cost the world to get that correct, merely a little effort.

Aside from that I enjoyed watching the movie, loved the ‘drive’ and passion in Lauda, loved seeing how the actor brought Lauda to the screen so accurately, and loved seeing those cars from that era on the big screen. Yes, I will buy the DVD when it comes out, and yes, I will watch it a lot, I am sure.

As an aside, I think this movie also helped get EA Sports to include some era F1 options in the latest version of their PS3 Formula 1 game, something that I have been wanting for a long time. So all is well that ends well.

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