Next month’s issue of Motor Sport will, I hope, become one of the more collectable editions. To celebrate fifty years of Formula One and as part of our preview to this year’s Coys Historic Festival we have selected a Grand Prix car from each of the five decades that F1 has been with us, taken them to Silverstone and driven them, back to back, for a day. What’s more, Martin Brundle came to help with the driving. Martin, thank heaven, is a rabid enthusiast, more than capable of appreciating any racing car; it was fascinating to see him hop from a 3.5-litre 1990s F 1 car into a 2-litiv ’50s machine and see him return, grin undiminished. He was also illuminating on the subject of modem F1 or, rather, its drivers and how they compared to those he encountered in his 13 seasons. He was surprised, at first, by my contention that now there is just one driver viewed as a demi-god by the public whereas his career was peppered with the likes of Senna, Prost, Piquet and Mansell. He thought fora while, then ventured the following:
“I guess it’s like the royal family. These days everyone knows what all the drivers are doing all the time; there is data acquisition on every move and you cannot run and hide; then, there was very little exposure and that created a mystique around the top drivers. When I got my first podium in ’84, they pulled a truck up, Piquet, de Angelis and I got on, waved to a few mechanics, wives or girl-friends and that was it. That was the procedure.
“What I absolutely refute, however, is any suggestion that the drivers today are somehow less talented than those who were driving when I was in Fl. It is the way they are portrayed that changes people’s attitudes to them. Maybe now there is too much exposure…”
There may be a number of wondering whether it is going to be worth going to Le Mans this year. Most of the traditional works teams are staying away, after all. Historically, in fact, that is one of the best reasons for going to Le Mans. Works teams do not guarantee good racing; often in the past they have done precisely the reverse. The history of the race is defined by periods of works domination and, often, processional racing. On the other hand, look at the best race of the recent past and you will note there was not a single official works team on the grid. In 1995 various private McLawns GT cars thught through the night with a Courage-Porsche prototype in a truly epic battle. And even amid the mutterings about just how private an entrant the eventual winner was, it was proven that a good Le Mans does not need vast factory efforts behind it. Besides, there is also the new historic Ferrari race before the 24-hours kick-off, and the chance to see the 512s back in their element is not one that I, for one, feel inclined to miss.