No matter how hard teams, circuits and governing bodies work to make F1 racing safer, the fact remains that motor racing is an inherently dangerous sport. Thanks to better components, stronger cars and energy absorbing barriers, F1 racing today is the safest it’s ever been. That’s a good thing, but it’s also taken away something from the sport. Take a look at the video below, and tell me that todays drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are cut from the same cloth as men like James Hunt, Nikki Lauda or Jackie Stewart. Climb in an F1 car today, and chances are good you’re thinking about things like telemetry, contract negotiations and whether or not you should sell that condo in Monaco. A few decades back, you’d have been thinking about coming to terms with God before the green flag dropped.
I’m glad racing is safer, and I don’t mean to take away from the accomplishments of today’s stars. They’re fast and they’re skilled, but they lack the swagger of F1 drivers from the golden era. Can you picture Hamilton in pre-grid, with his arms around a pair of blond flight attendants? How about a bare-chested Jenson Button, rocking a man sweater, as he sits in a garaged car? Unless he’s willing to get sponsor tattoos covering his upper body, his contract would never allow for it. The F1 of years past is gone, and that’s a good thing, but it’s still worth remembering that today’s drivers stand on the shoulders of giants.