Brabham review - A brief look at Australia's F1 champion


Brabham is an honest if not perfect look into the career of Australia's first F1 world champion

Jack Brabham

Brabham looks at the Australian's journey to Formula 1 fame

Grand Prix Photo / Dazzler Media

The tale of Jack Brabham may be well known, but it doesn’t get tired: the son of fruit and veg shop-owning parents who made a name for himself in midget cars on dirt tracks, who left his family in Australia to chance his luck in Britain, where he fell in with the Coopers.

He won two world championships; and then went on to set up his own team with old dirt track rival Ron Tauranac, becoming the only man to win the F1 title in a car of his own construction and name.

It would be easy to simply repeat the story but a new Brabham documentary resists the pillar-to-post retelling and analysis of the Brabham journey. The film is more of a retrospective jump around the timeline of the three-time world champion and the post-Formula 1 journey of the Brabham name.

While it is fairly simple to fill in the blanks for a knowledgeable viewer, those first-time viewers will have little to go on beyond the surface-level introductions and explanations offered throughout.

Keystone moments in Brabham’s career from the influence of Charlie and John Cooper on his F1 beginnings to the third title in eponymous machinery are split up with interspersed interviews and period footage.

The likes of Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees and Ron Tauranac chronicle the influence of Brabham as well as offering insight into his character in and out of the paddock.

Previously unseen interviews from Bernie Ecclestone and Ron Dennis also add to the scene, offering a unique perspective on the rise and fall of Brabham as well as the personality which drove the team on from the top.

A few non-racing driver interviewees fit in awkwardly and their input feels out of place at times on the back of colleagues recalling their battles with Brabham but, overall, their profile of Brabham is at least honest, particularly those of friends and family.

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A spotlight on the tensions between Brabham and Tauranac is one of the more introspective moments of the Brabham story but is unfortunately never dwelled upon too much.

Interviews from the Brabham family about his influence or lack-thereof over David Brabham’s childhood in particular shows the reality of grand prix driving at championship level during a time in which drivers perished with grim regularity.

Bernie Ecclestone’s cartoon depiction as a thieving goblin-like figure, tricking an innocent Conan the Barbarian depiction of Tauranac into selling Brabham is a highlight but the Ecclestone era of Brabham is never focused on.

What some may take umbrage with is the artistic style of the film and re-use of several shots throughout. A ‘60s aesthetic is distracting at points and does feel slightly inconsistent with the modern-day interviews.

The post-mortem of Brabham’s story after F1 is a great note to end on. A final portion transfers focus onto David Brabham’s efforts to win back the name and reinvigorate Brabham into an automotive company and how his father’s influence has shaped his endeavour, rounding off the story nicely. But it doesn’t go on to document the Brabham Automotive debut of the BT62 at Britcar’s 2019 ‘Into the Night’ endurance event.

The Brabham film is an easy hour and 20 minutes reliving the success of Australia’s F1 world champion, the journey and sacrifices it took to get him there and his influence on those around him without becoming a cumbersome watch.

While not at the same level of Senna in terms of gravity or production, the film hits a niche between that and the spare-no-artistic-license Drive to Survive Netflix series which a lot of potential viewers will surely appreciate, even if the end product is a little rough around the edges.