Formula One Racing documentaries, from the first days to the present
March 23, 2014 9:44 AM   Subscribe

It's only one race into the 2014 Formula One season, and if you're interested in knowing more about this world of specialized racing cars, there was a roundup of documentaries on Reddit last year. While the links are all dead, it's a handy guide to films you can find online. For your viewing pleasure...


Champions Forever: The Quick And The Dead (part 1, part 2) (1977/8)
Originally titled One by One when it was released in 1975, the documentary was reissued in 1978 and renamed The Quick and the Dead and Champions Forever: The Formula One Drivers. The documentary is about the deadliness of Grand Prix racing, including footage of fatal racing accidents. The 1978 re-issue including the death of Tom Pryce at the 1977 South African Grand Prix.
Ferrari In F1 (blog post overview; incomplete documentary in parts: part 1, part 3, part 6)
An hour-long documentary once available in 7 parts, available from Duke Media.
50 Years Of Formula 1 On-Board & FIA F1 World Championship Drivers (2004)
Breathtaking on-board, in-car rides with Formula One legends Fangio, Moss, Stewart, Senna and Schumacher driving their exotic Formula One machines at historic Grand Prix circuits from the Nurburgring to Monaco, Spa, Suzuka, Monza and more. Featuring narration by Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, and Mario Andretti.
Grand Prix: The Golden Years
John Watson presents this look back through the golden era of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing, the 1970's.
If you're not winning... you're not trying (Duke Video about the 1983 GP Season with John Player Team Lotus, not online)
The behind-the-scenes story of the epic 1973 Formula One Grand Prix season is revealed in this extraordinary fly-on-the-wall documentary, following JPS Team Lotus through a year of triumph, tragedy, frustration and elation.
Lotus F1 Goes The Turbo Way (1983)
A short documentary, including Chapman announcing the Renault engine deal, design and build of the 93T at Ketteringham Hall and quite a lot of on-track with Elio.
Monaco - Race Of Kings
This enthralling film attempts to explain the Riviera's fascination with fast cars, the importance of Monaco as a location and the magic of this last urban racetrack. Amongst the yachts, casinos, nightclubs and hotels, death-defying racing cars rocket through the narrow streets at an unbelievable 300km an hour. At a time where wider tracks and better adapted circuits have been purpose-built for safety reasons, Monaco appears to be a dangerous relic. Despite its difficult and unforgiving track, the Monaco Grand Prix is the highlight of the Formula 1 racing calendar. Stirling Moss believes it is the extra danger that makes Monaco preferable to other circuits. With previously unseen archive footage from the 30s to the 80s we see this event attract great actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Sellers and we speak to motor racing personalities such as Jackie Stewart, Bernie Eccelston and Ayrton Senna.
Racing Through Time - The History Of Grand Prix Racing (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)
While the same principles will always apply in motor racing, some things have changed dramatically over the past hundred and ten years. The circuits, the cars, the race formats and the technology have evolved from "the horse and cart age" to "the space age." However, one thing has remained a constant: the drivers and team's unrelenting ambition to be the best. From the origins of motor racing and the UK's first purpose built race track at Brooklands, all the way through to the advent of commercial advertising, computer aided technological advancements and the Formula One World Championship.
Red Bull Racing Story: 2005-2012
The film tells the fascinating story of Red Bull Racing becoming the leading team in the Formula One circus. From the very beginnings to the first victories. An inside look into the team and the people behind it. More information on
Supercharged: Grand Prix Cars 1924-1939 (1984, BBC Horizon)
Warning: This film contains graphic racing accident footage including 2-3 probable fatalities.

Supercharged: Grand Prix Cars 1924-1939 is a vintage film that covers some of the formative years of Grand Prix racing, it’s a fascinating look at some of the most technologically advanced engineering from the era – ending with the onset of World War II in 1939. The film contains a remarkable amount of race footage – including some of the first drifting ever caught on film, there’s also some great video of the Auto Unions displaying their trademark power sliding in the late 1930s. (source)
The History Of F1 Cars, 1945 - 1964 (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)
An in depth look at the mechanical development of the Grand Prix car 1945 - 1965
Le Mans: 100 Years of Passion (2006)
A documentary retracing 100 years of the history of the Le Mans 24-Hours race. The story begins with the first Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France in 1906, the year in which the Automobile Club de l'Ouest was founded. Seventeen years later, the same association decided to create an international endurance race. The first-ever "24 Heures du Mans" was held in 1923, and in 2012 the race will be held for the 80th time.
Hitlers Rennschlachten Wie Die Silberpfeile Siegen Lernten (German, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)
Autotranslation of the title: Hitler's race battles: How The Silver Arrows victories successful trainees


Gentlemen, lift your skirts (1981, BBC Horizon / IMDb)
Williams Formula One team Winter testing with Alan Jones driving in December 1980 at the Paul Ricard circuit in Southern France. The day before testing started Goodyear Tyres had decided to quit F1 due to the ban announced by the FIA on "skirts". The FIA being based in France were subjected to increasing pressure from the Goliath corporate car manufacturers Ferrari (Fiat) and Renualt to ban skirts as their engines were the wrong shape to fully capitalise the use of ground effect in the design of their cars. This was the year before the Turbo revolution hit F1 and there is a brief look at the development of Turbo.

Also features an in depth look at the Ford Cosworth engine and you are taken around the factory, design, hand building, performance and development of the engine.
Grand Prix - The Killer Years (2011, BBC documentary)
In the 60s and early 70s it was common for Grand Prix drivers to be killed while racing, often televised for millions to see. Mechanical failure, lethal track design, fire and incompetence snuffed out dozens of young drivers. They had become almost expendable as eager young wannabes queued up at the top teams' gates waiting to take their place.
This is the story of when Grand Prix was out of control. (Previously, with dead video link)
F1 1975 - "A Special Breed" (part 1, part 2)
Two part documentary that takes an inside look into the running of a top rank Formula 1 team circa 1975
Le Mans: The Deadliest Crash (2009, BBC Four)
At 6.26 pm, June 11th 1955, the world of playboy racers and their exotic cars exploded in a devastating fireball. On the home straight early in the Le Mans 24-Hour race, future British world champion Mike Hawthorn made a rash mistake. Pierre Levegh's Mercedes 300 SLR smashed into the crowd, killing 83 people and injuring 120 more. It remains the worst disaster in motor racing history.

The story was quickly engulfed by conspiracy theory, blame and scandal. Was the mysterious explosion caused by Mercedes gambling all on untried technologies? Did they compound it by using a lethal fuel additive? Have the French authorities been covering up the truth ever since? Or was the winner, the doomed British star Mike Hawthorn, guilty of reckless driving and did his desire to win at all costs start the terrible chain of events?
Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections - Formula 1 (BBC One)
Richard Hammond reveals the surprising engineering connections behind the Formula 1 car. The stars of the most glamorous, and expensive sport on earth wouldn't even cross the starting line without inspiration drawn from a revolutionary 19th-century cannon, ancient sailing boats, jet engine fan blades, body armour and a technique practised by blacksmiths for thousands of years.
The Secret Life of F1
A Discovery programme revealing the history, technology, drivers, engineers and fans of Formula 1 racing. See how the technology, drivers and everyone involved has been developed over the years.
Turbo F1 Engines - How They Started (part 1, part 2)
"A couple hundred formula 1 engines do not warrant the investment of computer aided design." (source)


"The Great Race": Phillip Island & Bathurst 1960-1966 (part 1, part 2)
Television Highlights of the original 500 mile races at Philip Island and Bathurst.
1973 Nürburgring Nordschleife
1973 German Grand Prix, rare footage without commentary. For commentary, here are two clips with Sir Jackie Stewart & David Hobbs as commentators, looking back 30 years later
1984 Monaco Grand Prix (Senna's 1st shot in F1)
A low-resolution video of that rainy race
Truth in 24
"Truth in 24" chronicles the Audi Sport racing teams as they attempt to win a record fifth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans. The films gives viewers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes view of the strategies engineers and drivers use as they set out to make history against local favorite, Team Peugeot. "Truth in 24" rides alongside drivers Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello as they prepare for the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans contest.

And in following these various links, you also have a number of rabbit holes of racing videos and information to fall down. Tread carefully.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Oh. Boy.

Good riddance, Sunday productivity!
posted by glaucon at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

As an aside, I frequent a forum devoted to Indycar racing, which also has had a history of killing-off drivers over the years. One of the primary complaints a lot of the people on the forum constantly voice is that today's version of Indycar is too sterile. They openly long for the so-called glory days...50's, 60's. 70's...when danger (and, yes, even death) was ever-present and the only constraint to speed was the nerve of the driver.

Only when called-out about how that formula also resulted in carnage do they amend their words to include "Of course, modern safety standards would apply".
posted by Thorzdad at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems as good a place as any to post this: CGI-heavy explanation of 2014 rule changes to the cars.
posted by vanar sena at 10:10 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

my inner ten year old is delighted with this post, while the fifty-four year old is rather shocked at how many of these things he's actually seen, at least in part. Particularly anything that focuses on 1969 onward, because that's the year I saw John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix.

I also notice that somebody's got Steve McQueen's Le Mans posted
posted by philip-random at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also highly recommended...Senna.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thanks, filthy light thief! This is super cool!
posted by but no cigar at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2014

Awesome. Forwarding to my F1-loving husband.
posted by percolatrix at 1:32 PM on March 23, 2014

This is great. Thanks.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:34 PM on March 23, 2014

Nice post, flt! There are also complicating issues with F1, not the least of which includes the massive circus that follows each race and situations like Bahrain's race.
posted by spiderskull at 1:52 PM on March 23, 2014

Fantastic post, flt! Some form of 21 V8 salute is called for.

Senna is currently on Netflix, if you have that option available to you.
posted by arcticseal at 5:17 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Awesome! In fact, so awesome I'm even going to refrain from complaining about the sound, or lack thereof, of this year's cars, and how ugly they are.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:17 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grand Prix - The Killer Years.

Is that the one where towards the end of the documentary, there's a clip of an F1 driver is trying to flag down other drivers to help him rescue a driver from a burning wreck? Yeah, don't watch that.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:10 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nice job, FLT! Wish I'd known we shared an interest in F1 when we met last week!
posted by Runes at 7:34 AM on March 24, 2014

"Yes, the's a banana type of, uh, nose, maybe,'s an appendage of a sort." Some of the designers are dealing with the new regulations better than others, and it's fun to hear announcers try to describe how different the fronts of the cars look regardless. It's also really weird hearing the brakes on F1 cars squeal during the race, so quiet are the new engines.
posted by but no cigar at 10:36 PM on March 24, 2014

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