Formula One, Letters, April 1972

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Sir,

I must congratulate you on February’s Editorial; at last somebody is questioning the image of Formula One. I would agree with you that from a commercial viewpoint the “fatal crossroads” are only just around the next bend, however, I would qualify this and add that from an enthusiast’s standpoint I think the crossroads have been reached. Formula One has today, taken on the image of big business and is now associated with the commercial flippery appropriate to boosting the sales of tea, tobacco and after-shave.

There was a time when the announcement of a new Fl car would have everybody wondering what type of engine it would use, whether fuel injection or carburetters would be employed etc., etc. Today, however, one can only speculate on it’s colour, how many beer labels it will have stuck on it and whether it will take on the appearance of a packet of cigarettes or perhaps a toothpaste tube (apologies to Connaught). Add to this the ultra efficiency of today’s cars and the rather clinical way in which the big meetings are run and one can see that there is something missing.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing to equal the exciting spectacle of really hairy machinery (and hairy does not only refer to sheer speed) getting into it’s stride, especially after a pit stop. Remember the delight at seeing a 250F bellowing out of the pits, the magaphone exhaust making a fabulous din, the tail virtually on the ground, rising momentarily on gear changes while the De Dion tube worked overtime? While this spectacle was entertaining the gallery the driver would often use both his hands to adjust his goggles; but what am I saying, they don’t wear goggles any more.

You talk of inferior tyres and brakes of old; you can say that again. One only has to see the W125 standing on it’s original Engleberts in the Daimler Benz museum at Stuttgart and contemplate the car turning out 646 b.h.p. and running at 180 m.p.h. at Spa. OK, some might consider this foolhardy, but what anticipation, what a spectacle, it brought tears to the eyes, if not due to emotion due to the potent brew it ran on.

Today’s crowds don’t seem too worried about current trends as a trip to Brands Hatch for a big meeting will reveal. There are the hard core of enthusiasts of course but it seems to me that for the majority it’s a toss up between the racing circuit or the Zoo. There’s nothing wrong in this of course but the enthusiast is bound to suffer as the audience becomes more easily satisfied. We’ve more leisure time these days and this together with almost universal car ownership by those who want one puts the racing circuit on the rota of the other Bank Holiday diversions.

In my opinion it is due to these trends that Formula One now constitutes no more than a bread and water diet compared with the steak and burgundy fare previously offered. Thank goodness for saloon cars, sports-cars and historic car races.

Bromley. Graham Warren.