Have you ever watched a show or movie and found it entertaining, insightful or enveloping? Maybe you saw the most recent Star Wars and used its predecessors to determine how much you enjoyed or disliked it and the reasons you did. Perhaps you watched a documentary on the planet or solar system and compared it to other documentaries about the earth or universe in which to measure its efficacy.
I have a problem…I just watched the Amazon Prime show called Grand Prix Driver which follows McLaren during the off season and first test of 2017. I would like to tell you how good, mediocre or bad I thought it was but quite honestly, thanks to some genius of the filmmaker (Manish Pandey of Senna movie fame), McLaren, Zak Brown and the marketing and communications team at McLaren, I have nothing to compare it to. This is unprecedented for F1.
I’ve not seen anything quite as revealing, honest, and self-deprecating as this in Formula 1. The closest I can come are some past features and documentaries on Ferrari or other teams or the sport of Formula 1 but to be fair, they aren’t quite the same. F1 is locked down tight, or has been, and it is rare to get an inside look at a F1 team such as this series gives you.
It starkly portrays the journey of Stoffel Vandoorne as a new driver and offers insight to his life-which, as a guy whose day job is with a company based in Stoffel’s hometown of Kortrijk, was terrific fun to see-and then centered on the massive let down McLaren faced with the new Honda engine during testing last season.
I’ve not spoken to Manish about this show but if he was simply trying to be a fly on the wall and give fans an unvarnished, real look at how hard work, thousands of hours, marketing programs and hope can all be killed nearly instantly, he did a fabulous job.
We all knew McLaren were in trouble last year during initial testing and the team were equally frustrated but the “Straight Talk” meeting was a powerful manifestation of the sheer disappointment as the entire company circled around Jonathan Neale as hope lay bleeding in the center of the room and the anguish on the faces of McLaren employees was heartbreaking.
I am a Ferrari fan but I have always had all the time in the world for McLaren and its employees. I love the team and it pains me to see the gutted looks on the faces of the men and women of McLaren who damn well know how to win races.
Sure, the documentary is going to talk about McLaren and deliver its marketing message, but you would expect that. Very much like the recent Williams documentary, both films were stark, revealing, sad and an incredibly rare look into the world of a Formula 1 team. If F1 wants to anchor its fans into the sport and find new fans, these types of films should be a real key initiative with their marketing folks.
I’ve said for a long time that F1 should do a complete series like The Deadliest Catch where they follow several boats during the crab season and then put it all together in a terrific show on Discovery. Amazon could have a terrific series on its hands as it documents several teams for a season and then weaves all the ups, downs and strategy that went behind the year.
I digress…this show is terrific and one of my favorite parts is seeing my friend, Jason Swales, at the dinner table, after testing, already explaining precisely what happened, what could happen and what they should do. He’s a Delphic Oracle that Jason-and yes, I use the word friend liberally as I suspect I like him far more than he likes me because I am the president of the Jason Swales fan club.
I also enjoyed the brief scenes of Kortrijk Belgium which I’ve been to a couple of times and wandered around those streets and walked back and forth to the HQ of the company I work for. It’s beautiful there and the people are wonderful…yes, including all of my co-workers.
If you get a chance to watch the film, I highly recommend it and would love to see McLaren do another one with a Renault lump in the back and a much happier Fernando and Stoffel…then again, I think everyone would. Bring on the Papaya!
PS- One last thing…I was just watching the show but even I could see the cultural gap between Honda and McLaren and feel the tension. Not good.