And we’ll call it ‘

In­volved right from F1 Rac­ing’s in­cep­tion, Steve Cro­p­ley, re­calls the ex­cite­ment of launch­ing a mag­a­zine ded­i­cated solely to the world’s great­est sport

F1 Racing - - F1 20 -

It was the sim­plest idea in the world, and ev­ery­one in our Hay­mar­ket pub­lish­ing busi­ness knew it. F1 was the most spec­tac­u­lar, most watched and most in­ter­na­tional sport of the age – an age in which glossy month­lies like GQ and FHM were thriv­ing. And we were al­ready do­ing well with our week­lies Au­tosport and Motorsport News. So why on earth was there was no proper F1-based monthly mag­a­zine in our line-up?

The ques­tion be­came even more ur­gent when we con­sid­ered that on the race­tracks of the world, F1 was rid­ing a wave. Best of all for a UK-based mag­a­zine, there were prom­i­nent Bri­tish stars – Da­mon Hill and Nigel Mansell, for two – to pro­vide ex­ploits that kept in­ter­est strong. What bet­ter time to launch a fea­ture-based mag­a­zine that would get un­der the skin of the sport? And what bet­ter mo­ment to pub­lish the huge, emo­tive pic­tures no one else had time or space for?

Hay­mar­ket was in­volved in motorsport to the ex­tent that it em­ployed a cou­ple of dozen ex­pert hacks who had the con­tacts and knew just how to get a pit­pass. And it had a terric edi­tor in Mike Herd, who had won his spurs on Au­tosport, to build a staff and pull the thing to­gether.

The stick­ing point was the busi­ness case. If this were to be a glossy monthly, it would need in­vest­ment – mean­ing loyal and well­heeled ad­ver­tis­ers. But where car mag­a­zines have car com­pa­nies and deal­ers as com­mer­cial sup­port­ers, glossy rac­ing mags do not. How could this be over­come? Dis­cus­sions raged on.

Hacks tend to shy away from lthy com­mer­cial ar­range­ments, but two ways were found to make F1 Rac­ing wash its face, nan­cially speak­ing. One was to strike an­nual deals with ad­ver­tis­ers, as race teams do with spon­sors – and spon­sors were nan­cially healthy at the time.

The sec­ond was to pub­lish a Ger­man edi­tion. Michael Schu­macher and Fer­rari were F1’s big­gest names, and there had been a huge up­surge in the sport’s pop­u­lar­ity in Ger­many as a re­sult. If we could tap into that, we could make the glossy mag idea y. If the in­ter­na­tional model worked, we could try it else­where.

Work be­gan in 1995 to give com­mer­cial types time to do deals with ad­ver­tis­ers for ’96. We pro­duced a 132-page dummy ‘is­sue zero’ (pic­tured above) so peo­ple could see what they were sign­ing up to. It was dated Novem­ber 1995. The rst is­sue was given the go-ahead to be launched at the start of the 1996 sea­son.

Is­sue zero was brave. We de­bated whether there ought to be a car on the cover as well as a per­son (which was our ex­pe­ri­ence with other motoring mag­a­zines) but, in the event, the cover fea­tured only a smil­ing close-up of Schu­macher with the big cover line ‘Mr Bloody Per­fect’, which we edi­to­rial types thought per­fectly ad­ver­tised the mag­a­zine’s pur­pose. Other ti­tles would never have done such a thing at the time.

There were other chal­leng­ing cover lines: a Martin Brun­dle story: ‘How to do a balls-out lap’, and a Ger­hard Berger piece: ‘Hill has no hope’, which sort of went to show how easy it was writ­ing cover lines for dummy is­sues.

The rst real is­sue, dated March 1996, had a some­what tamer cover. Schu­macher was there, but this time we used a side-on hel­meted shot, with his eyes barely vis­i­ble. I don’t re­call why (I sus­pect our con­cerned bosses might have felt it was more ob­vi­ously ‘about rac­ing’), but it seems a poor de­ci­sion now. We made up for it on the con­tents page, though, with a head-and­shoul­ders pic­ture of Schumi in a bub­ble-bath.

There was a furore in Ger­many over the UK cov­er­lines. We ran ‘Fer­rari & Me, by Michael Schu­macher’, but when we tried the same in Ger­man, our Ger­man coun­ter­parts, Katja Heim and Matthias Pen­zel, protested, in­sist­ing that such word­ing wouldn’t be per­mit­ted in Ger­many be­cause Schumi hadn’t phys­i­cally sat down and writ­ten the story (that job had been done by F1 ex­pert, Ger­ald Don­ald­son). This was the start of our re­al­i­sa­tion that in­ter­na­tional edi­tions can never be slav­ish trans­la­tions of the home ver­sion.

Still, things went well. The mag­a­zine gained trac­tion with its au­di­ence and among the F1 peo­ple who were the source of the sto­ries. We be­gan to no­tice an en­hanced will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate on projects – some­thing teams are hardly famed for. Mike proved adept at at­tract­ing the best au­thors, and com­mis­sion­ing imag­i­na­tive sto­ries. Art edi­tor Tim Scott de­signed pages that got peo­ple’s at­ten­tion, while Jed Le­ices­ter (now a top-class sports pho­tog­ra­pher) found and chose the im­ages that dis­tin­guished them. We even got our F1 re­porter Tony Dod­gins into an ac­tual Tyrrell F1 car, and printed a piece of teleme­try in­ter­preted by leg­endary tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Har­vey Postleth­waite.

F1 Rac­ing has grown up. It knows more about the sport than we did. More than ever, you read it for in­side sto­ries oth­ers miss, gloss over or don’t have space for. And those of us who helped cre­ate it ad­mire the way it con­tin­ues to pro­mote and ex­plain F1, while stay­ing close to its roots. We’re a lit­tle bit proud as well.

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