Grand Prix: The Killer Years BBC 4 27th March


Here be dragons.
It is, indeed, a bit of both. Personally, I like to see them as very brave men who had a passion for racing. Heroes is too strong a word as it suggests selflessness to me. However, their passion wasn't always confined to racing and those that weren't seen off in their car quite often died by other means attached to their enthusiasms.

A lot of humanity used to like testing their own mortality (particularly the younger amongst us) and if they hadn't we would not have aviation, locomotion or space flights - these were all fraught with danger in the 'early days'. Medicine has progressed because doctors and scientists tested drugs/inoculations on themselves.


Too old to watch the Asian races live.
I have to agree with Galahad--both terms apply.
There is another aspect to be considered as well. As the late great scribe Henry Manney said "all drivers are a little bit odd, but they might be REALLY strange if they didn't have racing".

By the way, Stewart's pseudonym was" A.N. Other"


A fine chap if ever there was one.
I think there has to be a level of self-obsession for anyone who is absolutely at the top of their game. It can go wrong, though, that's for sure. My grandmother (!) was very well acquinted with Bette Hill and my grandmother was unimpressed to say the least regarding the financial situation that Graham left Bette in after his death. So I have to disagree with Galahad's comment "they knew what they were getting into", most relationships have things in them where one partner wishes the other would do something differently, part of love is having to put up with them. ;)


Not a Moderator
Valued Member
most relationships have things in them where one partner wishes the other would do something differently, part of love is having to put up with them. ;)
I think you've put it very well. I didn't intend to mean that they were all happy with it, more that they accepted the rough with the smooth if you like.


Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
My points cover both really.

What struck me watching this documentary was fire. The worst bit for me was watching the driver helplessly trying to save his mate who was burning to death (I have blanked the names from my mind, it was that harrowing to watch).

What came across was how horribly let down the drivers were by the authorities and the team owners they drove for, by modern standards. These were young men with a dream and a talent, living in a world numbed to the pain of death by 50 years of war (WWI, II, Korea, Vietnam...). At the same time, we were sending men into space on missions that we weren't sure they would come back from.

For the drivers themselves, it was Russian Roulette. The winner gets the money and the girls, the fame and fortune they could never attain elsewhere, where the alternative might have been a job in a factory. I don't think you can call the drivers selfish personally - they were where they were, on a conveyor belt, if you like. I doubt many an up and coming driver thought, "oh good he's dead, so I can have a go".

Some drivers had the courage to speak up as we saw on the film. They are the true heroes - they went against the establishment to make the world a better place and their actions have undoubtedly saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

Why didn't they all speak up? Tell me this, how many times have you disagreed with the boss at work and kept your trap shut? We have all done it and although the decision for the drivers might be life or death, the cost to them of getting sacked was also life changing.

Dealing with the wives for a minute, I think most of them met their husbands when they were drivers. I don't think you can say that drivers were selfish towards their wives, I think they were all victims of the power of the authorities, teams and circuit owners not having a sense of responsibility to protect human life.

The show was voyeuristic - I'm sure some spectators came along just because there might be a crash, and they were also at risk, lining the trackside, like they still do in rallying. Danger is intoxicating for everyone who witnesses it.

Faster cars mean greater danger as a general rule, but things got way out of hand. It was inevitable that we found the limit, but someone needed to act much earlier than they did to slow cars down, make them stronger and less likely to catch fire.

Thankfully, attitudes have shifted over the last 40 years and F1 has moved with the times. You can limit danger by asking the right questions and solving the right problems: how do you stop the car catching fire? how do you make sure the car absorbs the impact and not the driver? The world has moved on and modern standards are modern standards. We are still on a conveyor belt, but at least this one doesn't take you through the rifle range.


Points Scorer
You have to ask the question. Is it more selfish to have been a racing driver in those days, with the dangers clear for all to see, or would it have been more selfish to deny someone who wanted to do it more than anything else? In my view, life is too short to not do the things you really want to do to feel most alive, and generally the feeling of being alive comes when there is at least an element of danger.
Top Bottom