Summer break: Surviving a month without F1

With Lewis Hamilton’s victory in last week’s Hungarian GP, the summer break is here – all told, there is a month between the Hungarian and Belgian races.  The key is not only to get through a month without F1, but to get through it without having to watch a NASCAR race to get your motorsport fix.

Luckily, TPL is here with some tips for killing the time until Free Practice 1 at Spa-Francorchamps.

First, read a book.  Not only will it keep your brain from getting too mushy with all the summer humidity, but you could learn some interesting facts and stories from F1’s rich history.  TPL‘s favourites include:

  • Robert Daley’s Cars at Speed – Daley was one of the first North American writers to cover Formula One and he wrote this book in 1961, covering the entire history of grand prix racing.  It is organized around the 1960 F1 calendar, but there are also chapters on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Targa Florio, and other non-F1 events.  He knew all the drivers, and their stories are worked into the chapters on the various races, along with many personal stories.  If you can’t name an F1 driver older than Michael Schumacher, this book will get you up to speed on F1’s roots.
  • Gerald Donaldson’s Gilles Villeneuve: The Life of the Legendary Racing Driver – This is the definitive biography of one of the greatest racers in motorsport history.  Although he only had four full seasons in F1 before his death at the 1982 Belgian GP, the enigmatic Canadian made a lasting mark on the sport.  He won six races, including the inaugural race at the circuit that now bears his name in Montréal, and finished second in the 1979 world championship behind Ferrari teammate Jody Scheckter.  Donaldson’s book is an intimate portrait of Villeneuve that does not pull any punches, but includes numerous touching and enlightening anecdotes.  You will not be disappointed.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 8.24.17 AM

Or maybe reading is not your thing.  And let’s be honest, no book can completely capture the speed, drama, and noise of Formula One.  In that case, here a couple documentaries that are well worth your time:

  • Senna (2011) – Even though you know the ending – a fatal crash at the 1994 San Marino GP – when it happens, the outcome still feels unbelievably tragic.  Ayrton Senna is widely-acknowledged as the fastest man ever to drive an F1 car: in 161 grand prix starts, he had 65 pole positions, won 41 races, and finished on the podium 80 times.  This film includes home videos from the Senna family and plenty of race action and behind-the-scenes footage from Senna’s 10+ F1 seasons.  Captivating from start to finish, this is a compelling look at what life is like not only as a grand prix driver, but as the best driver in the world.
  • Grand Prix: The Killer Years (2010) – This might as well be the sequel to Cars at Speed.  Focusing on the 1960s and 1970s, this documentary traces the early years of F1 when death was a regular occurrence on the track.  It features interviews with most of the star drivers who survived the period, including world champions Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, and John Surtees, as well as the wife of posthumous 1970 world champion Jochen Rindt.  Again, there is lots of race footage from the period, including numerous horrible accidents which shockingly convey the danger faced by the men who took the wheel in those years.

sennaPhoto credit: Dave Pinter via Flickr

If you would rather a bit more action than reading a book or watching a film, you can always play one of the excellent F1 video games or, if you live or are vacationing near a track, perhaps you can even do a few laps in your own car.  TPL recently visited the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montréal, which you can drive for free, any time.  The old Nürburgring is also open to the public.  Other current F1 circuits often have specific days set aside for the public to use the track.  But even if you can’t actually go for a drive, you can often take a tour, like at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas or Silverstone in the UK.  And don’t forget former grand prix tracks, many of which are still in operation for other motorsport series (e.g. Mosport, Magny-Cours, or Imola).  And if you can’t find a track open to the public, no one can stop you from renting a car and driving around the streets of Monaco . . . or the Caesars Palace parking lot.

Finally, if you need some live racing, your options are very limited, as nearly all racing series are on holidays for most of August.  Your best bet is the next DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) series race at the Nürburgring on August 18.  The series features a number of drivers with F1 ties, including Timo Glock, Gary Paffett, and Robert Wickens.

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