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Last week I spent a most enjoyable fifty minutes on the phone with a regular reader who, courtesy of the fact that his father was a leading motor sport journalist way back in the golden era, got to see many of his heroes up close and personal.
While I recalled the days when, for a couple of quid, one could gain admission to the paddock where you could see your heroes in the flesh - sometimes literally - get their autograph and ask them all manner of (silly questions), my new friend was able to go one better, recounting the time he attended Piers Courage's memorial service and ended up sharing a hymn book with the legendary Pedro Rodriguez - the brilliant Mexican who was destined to die just a year later.
Then there was the time my friend stood in line at the burger bar in the Brands Hatch paddock, just behind Jo Siffert. The Swiss, aware that the two boys behind him were ogling his Heuer watch allowed them a closer look. Less than an hour later, the legendary F1 and Sports Car star was to perish in a horrendous accident in a race held to celebrate Jackie Stewart's second title.
The wonderful shots that accompany the into to Sky F1's coverage - albeit accompanied by the most insipid and uninspiring of backing tracks - will have all fans of a certain age dewy eyed. From the gum chewing, arrogant strut of (Sir) Stirling, the mighty Fangio, 'Black Jack' Brabham, uber-cool Jackie, playboy Hunt right through to Mansell's (ever) melodramatic collapse whilst pushing his Lotus to the finish line in Dallas. So many iconic images and so many more we could each add.
Today, despite the fact that there is so much more money available, so much more technology, despite the blanket media coverage, taking one closer than ever thought possible, one has to ask one's self is it really any better. Is it a case of 'nostalgia not being what it used to be' or has the sport, in its eagerness to win over TV fans, sacrificed too much in terms of the show.
While Sky's dedicated F1 channel gives fans more than ever before, one wonders what they make of the insight into drivers such as Andretti and Surtees, indeed, as we await Ron Howard's highly anticipated movie based on the 1976 duel between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and with continued talk of a Gilles Villeneuve biopic, one has to wonder whether today's version of the sport will ever inspire writers and directors to the same effect.
What do you think, as we head to two of the most iconic and historic tracks on the calendar - both of which have been radically altered over the years - do some of us spend too much time dwelling on the past or is contemporary F1 really missing something.
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Joe Angers - Ayer, MA, USA
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