Formula One Heros

Cars People Culture

This started out as a simple, celebratory post to do with the start of the F1 season.

I had intended to upload a bunch of retro F1 images, images from a time when I was truly intoxicated by the style, colour and panache of the sport – an era long past, before the technology and the corporatisation had really taken hold.

But I started googling around for nice images to share with you and I soon realised just how many of our heroes had died in pursuit of their passion. It wasn’t long until I thought of the great Michael Schumacher, who is as I write languishing in a coma in a hospital bed. It’s a horrible irony, of course, that he should have wound up in this position on the ski slopes.

But the fact doesn’t make it less tragic.

I never used to like Michael Schumacher. Like many Brit race fans, I felt ambivalent about what we perceived as his cold, Teutonic perfectionism. But that changed after Senna died. It was at the press conference at Imola in 1994 that horrible weekend when both Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives.

I believe Schuey had won his first title (or was it his first GP victory). Anyway, when the reporter asked the first question to Michael Schumacher, supposedly this cold-as-steel automaton of a driver, burst into floods of tears. You could see in an instant how deeply he had felt for his colleagues and mentors – and what was for me just a carnival of testosterone and colour became something deeper, more visceral and emotionally wrenching. Google it. You might feel the same.


The fact is, F1 is undoubtedly less stylish, glamorous and cool-looking since the days of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Big business and technology HAVE changed the sport into a technical, big money affair that sometimes feels excluding to normal people. But thanks to people like Jackie Stewart and others – tireless campaigners for putting at the forefront the ability of drivers to survive a shunt – the horrible rate of attrition amongst top-line talents has slowed down. The money in the sport has probably been the prime mover in the safety issue, and for that, we must be grateful.

So, this is just our little tribute to everyone who has paid the ultimate price for our entertainment and diversion and inspiration.

Here’s hoping we have a safe 2014 season.