Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

You'd think they don't like money - A rant about the lack of Formula One video available to fans

Published by Daniel Shires

Did you enjoy the Senna movie? I bet you did, went down smooth didn't it? Not only was it emotional and touching, it showcased some of the most amazing footage from Formula 1's 'golden generation' in spectacular quality. It was so good it made me go home, slip into something more comfortable and reminisce with my old season reviews in stunning high definition.

Except... wait, that didn't actually happen.

Why the lie? Indulge me. Since 1980 an official F1 review has been released each winter to round up the action, excitement and inevitable controversy, providing perfect Boxing Day viewing over a cold turkey sandwich. Since 2003, they've been available on DVD and before that your granddad's choice, VHS.

So imagine you're a young F1 fan, getting into the sport after the amazing 2010 season and now wanting to learn some history, you'll just pop in a DVD of the 1989 season won't you?

Sadly no, as that particular DVD doesn't exist. In the world's most technologically advanced sport, the only way to see its history is poor quality clips on YouTube, or by getting historical yourself and dusting off some tired, antiquated old video tapes...

By now, you probably get the feeling I'm speaking from experience; well tip of the cap to you sir, you're right. I find the fact that F1 doesn’t provide easy access to it's history totally astounding. So last summer I decided that as Bernie was unlikely to re-release these videos on DVD any time soon, the only thing I could consider would be 'format shifting' them from VHS, in the same way you would a CD to your iPod for personal use.

After scouring charity shops for a VHS player, I picked up a kit that said it would make transferring old tapes 'easy' and began the epic process of recording them to my PC. After more than 30 hours work over a couple of weeks, the result was poor, but honestly the best I had expected. My girlfriend and I sat down to watch Damon Hill's 1996 championship victory and slowly the horror that is out of sync audio and video began to emerge... Gerhard Berger looked like he belonged in a badly dubbed kung-fu film. I checked all the others to find they were all exactly the same.

Unable to live with this I cried like a small child, then, after composing myself, set about working out what had gone wrong. I should explain that whilst I'm a confident computer user, video editing and restoration was totally new to me, so many hours of work were required. I tried programme after programme, each causing more problems than the last solved. Ready to give up, I remembered my grandfather's saying 'you can fix anything with money' and decided to give a different video capture device a go... success!

All the footage I'd worked so hard to save was right there on the big screen

I was delighted, well, until three months later when I saw Senna. All the footage I'd worked so hard to save was right there on the big screen in high definition... and it looked amazing. This led to the question I'd asked myself many times during this process, why couldn't the F1 reviews be re-released on contemporary formats? The fact is, people are generally happy to re-buy media when an improved format is released; just look at Nintendo, they've happily sold consumers the same thing over and over again since the 1980's!

Whilst I'm sure the official point of view will be put down to licensing, I'm convinced millions of F1 fans would love to be able to again own and watch this classic footage currently locked away on age-old VHS tapes.

Joe Saward has repeatedly pointed out how F1 fails to market itself properly and I think this is a prime example. When I watched the Senna film recently, a dad had brought his young son, as they left, the boy asked “do you have any DVDs of Senna, Dad?” to which the father replied “no, they don't make them and I got rid of my old tapes years ago”. Aside from poor quality internet clips, how can that boy see more footage of his newest hero?

A company that knows how to properly lean on its history is WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). WWE (formerly WWF) uses its history is as a marketing tool, so new fans immediately have recognition for products featuring 'legendary' faces. They release multiple DVDs on an almost weekly basis, featuring current events, biographies of their athletes past and present, plus countdowns of 'greatest moments'. When WWE took over their rivals World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, the only asset they truly coveted was their respective tape libraries as WWE knew the value of being able to re-release them in the future.

You want a complete Hulk Hogan Anthology? You got it. History of the WWE Championship? Of course. The Story of Wrestlemania? Here you go, take two for your trouble.

But what about F1? Okay, Michael Schumacher's Greatest Victories? Nope. The 50 Greatest Overtakes of All Time? Sorry. The Story of Alain Prost? Negative.

FOM is sitting on an absolute goldmine at its tape library at Biggin Hill, it's frankly begging to be remastered, packed in a racecar shaped boxset and given to the F1 fan in your life this Christmas.